Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some pics..

.. to illustrate the last post.

Our caravan of kayaks:

The night before:

Happy to be rescued:

View from our campsite on Gambier Island:

Monday, September 03, 2007

Our Kayaking Adventure

Gale force wind : Average surface wind speed of 34 to 47 knots (63 to 87 km per hour or wind force of 8 or 9 in the Beaufort Scale). -

This weekend I went kayaking. The plan was to go from Bowen Island to Gambier Island, camp one night on the shore of the latter, and paddle back to Bowen the next day. There were seven of us. Two doubles and three singles. A mixture of experience levels from beginner to intermediate. The designated course was to cut up along the west side of Bowen, make a dash across the open ocean (Howe Sound) after letting the ferry pass, and dock at a small cove that had campgrounds (Halkett Bay).

Everything went as planned on Saturday. We took our time, mooring on a stony Bowen Island beach for lunch, and paddling hard across Howe Sound after letting the ferry pass. The waves were fairly big across the open area, but not that much of a hinderance. I was in the back of our double, steering, and I got a bit wet because my skirt was of a different, more shoddy construction than everyone elses'.

Despite the waves and lots of wakes from boat traffic, it was so peaceful and beautiful on the water.. we could see the steep cliffs and luxurious, precariously perched houses on Bowen Island behind us, the zig-zagging shore of Gambier ahead of us, and the Sea to Sky highway cutting into the mountains to the right. Other little islands dotted the ocean here and there.

We found the perfect camping spot just 15 metres from where we landed, with no other campsites or people nearby. We stepped over dozens of little crabs, carried the kayaks up onto a grassy knoll and set up four tents. Later on at night we decided we wanted a campfire. The waterproof matches failed to work, so with collective brainpower and a few hours of trial and error, some flint, a knife, sparks, shredded toilet paper, and gas from a stove, we finally made a fire. I'd never seen fire made from a hand-generated spark before and we all cheered when it finally lit. Part of our group went on a small hike and found a dead deer.

In the morning it was rainy but the water looked the same, and we set off around noon, aiming to be back to Bowen before 5. The wind was in our favor this time, and we barely had to paddle.. just coasted along. We were chatting and joking, all five kayaks close together, when suddenly, the waves picked up and one of our single kayaks flipped. He was okay, and smiling as he hung on to his kayak. We circled around him. I grabbed his paddle and hat. Because the waves were so close together though, he found it impossible to get back in, even though he was a strong, experienced outdoorsy type.

The waves started to peak and grow white caps. They were meeting together from two different directions, making it impossible to angle perpendicular to them all. 'Confused water,' they call it. The two weakest paddlers, forgetting to paddle, started to drift far away in their double kayak. Luckily, a large white motor boat, which was pulling into the cove, saw our capsized member and pulled a U-turn to help. We saw him pull up close to our friend and grab a ladder. It was a struggle to stay in one place against the waves, and our double kayak started to drift away a bit too. From what we pieced together, the boat had managed to pick up our friend and tow his kayak.. but to where we didn't know.

One of the more experienced girls went off in her single kayak to chase the two weaker kayakers, who were drifting farther to the open ferry course and choppier waves. Her boyfriend who was the most experienced and thus our inofficial leader, went to pick up the paddle float our capsized friend had dropped. Then he followed us towards the shore and pointed for us to go there. But then for some strange reason we saw him change directions and head towards Bowen. We waited until we were certain he was not coming back, and satisfied knowing all four friends were continuing towards Bowen, we made our way back to Gambier to find our capsized friend and the motorboat he was on. While focusing on bracing against the waves, we had forgotten to watch where the boat went. But we were very sure we'd seen it go toward our campsite. Because of the winds, it took us an hour and a half to return.

Needless to say, we were exhausted. We had kept drifting farther west when we wanted to go east. It started raining. Salt water stung our eyes. I had to stop to pump water out of my kayak; the waves had been washing right in and I was sitting in a few inches of water. I couldn't find an ideal place to store our capsized friend's paddle. Everyone had scattered; we saw nobody. As we finally reached the little cove where a few boats were moored, we asked the only man we found whether he'd seen our friend's boat but he hadn't. I wanted to camp another night as I was too tired. Just as we were pulling up to the shore, a large white boat pulled into the cove, honked at us and a guy hung over the railing, waving emphatically.

We squinted: was it the boat that had picked up our friend, and now it was returning to get us? It wasn't. It drew closer and we saw a friendly and concerned-looking older man inspecting us and asking many questions. It was the owner of the kayaking rental place, riding in his friend's boat! They asked if we needed help. I didn't want to cause trouble so I said we'd just camp another night and take off early next day when the water was calm. I stayed quiet and let my friend do the talking because I didn't want them to see how cold I was.

On account of finding the rest of our party, we ended up loading our kayak into the boat, the end of it sticking out over the stern. My friend was a bit annoyed at having to give up our day of kayaking so early, but I was secretly relieved to get a lift back. The boat was almost yacht-like: a handsome leather-seated alternative to our wet kayaks. They gave us some jackets to wear and we set off to find our friends.

We were almost 100% certain all of our friends had reached the Bowen Island coast by now, as that was the direction we'd seen them leave. There was no way they could've returned, especially the novices, as they had been so far out. My friend and I scanned the Bowen coast, while the kayak rental owner scoured the Gambier coast and the boat owner drove one handly and binoculared ahead with the other. No more than 10 minutes had passed before we spotted a double kayak on the Gambier coast. I was shocked, having never thought the girls with the least experience would be able to get where they were. They looked very tired and were slow to respond. They might have been experiencing the beginnings of hypothermia.

We had no room for their kayak so the kayaking club owner yelled at them to meet up at the campsite in an hour or two. We motored on for another 10 minutes and saw nothing. Then another 5 minutes. Finally, the boat owner spotted what looked like two kayaks beached on a stony shore. There was only one person standing beside them and we couldn't see who it was. Finally we saw that it was indeed one of our friends; the girl in the single kayak that had gone to chase the double. But where was her boyfriend? 'Where's Chad?!' we yelled, from where the boat idled, but she couldn't hear over the sound of the engine.

More gestures and yelling. Suddenly, we saw Chad running down the stairs that led to houses up on the bluffs. We were relieved. Then another, smaller motor boat pulled up behind us and two bearded men, apparently two of the residents on the bluff, said they had come to help. Chad had gone knocking on the doors asking for help and they'd left their campfire burning to come help. But the kayak club owner said we'd be fine and he had a plan to tow all of the kayaks in a single line. There was only one dock along the rocky cliffs and it said 'No trespassing; Private Dock.' There was no way for our boat to get closer, so the kayak club owner waved to the house above and yelled ' Can we tie on for a few minutes?' He then got our friends to paddle out to the dock.

The boat pulled up beside it, and our two friends jumped in their kayaks and met us there. As we pulled up the first, he told us his girlfriend had simply stopped paddling and 'burst into tears' at one point because she was spent. Being the two with the most experience, they were surprisingly the most shaken up. Almost hysterical, but deservedly so as it's a lot harder to turn single kayaks against the wind. We pulled them out of the water, the men tied the kayaks together, and I held the rope to prevent them from banging against each other, the dock and the house owner's boat as everyone lifted our double kayak out of the motor boat and down into the water. The three kayaks bobbed along in single file behind the boat as we motored back to the campsite to find the first two girls. The girls were helped out of the water and the fourth kayak was tied onto the caravan.

It took us a long time to get back to Bowen. The boat went slowly so as not to upturn the kayaks. Still, the front kayak overturned twice, and we had to circle back to grab a cushion that fell out, the kayaking club owner leaning far off the starboard side as Chad held his legs. The whitecaps made even the 30 foot boat sway. Six out of the seven in our group had been found; the only person left was our capsized friend whose misforture had started the whole adventure. As we slowly chugged into Snug Cove in the the anything-but-snug downpour, our capsized friend waved, casually leaning against a railing in an undercover area, in warm dry street clothes, sipping a coffee.

The boat that had picked him up had turned out to be a taxi. It had, like we'd thought, gone back to our campsite cove, but then it had left and made several other stops along Gambier before bringing our friend back. So our return to the campsite had been in vain. On the other hand it was perfect because we had run into the owner looking for us there (he had immediately left when our capsized friend had returned, and told them there were six of us out there). It also kept us from reaching the 45 knot winds and waves around that troubled corner.

Our capsized friend told us a number of other kayakers had been stranded on the island because of the windy weather, which had arrived a day earlier than forecast. One was a tour group; the leader had been able to judge the waves and turned the group back early. We were the only group who had attempted and gotten separated. The kayaking company owner was so concerned about us, even apologetic for the weather, even though we thought we'd get a lecture. And the boat owner donated a lot of time, and the use of his boat to gather us all. We plan to go back and bring them a gift to show our appreciation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July Ho Hum Diddly Dum

I have a decision to make. Go back to working at the greenhouse part time in Sept, and also teach? Or just teach? I just found out today that there will be a lot of teaching hours available nearby me in Sept. And I've saved so much gas this summer not having to commute to Aldergrove. I was always so tired and hot and sweaty having to go from greenhouse to teaching.

On the other hand I learned so much at the greenhouse. I wouldn't have known what lobelia, bacopa, potato vine, or lysomachia were, or the numerous ways to treat aphids, or how to plant a hanging basket. Maybe I should work there two days a week to keep my knowledge up? I really do learn best by doing, rather than reading books.

Teaching English doesn't educate me as much, but I earn 2.5 times as much money doing something twice as easy, and I could spend the extra time saved by reading books about landscape design and gardening. Then I could send myself to school later....

I still have a month to hum and haw.

July is being a bitch. It rained this weekend and hiking plans were thwarted. It feels like summer never really came. And it's already half over. Two measly months of the year, and one of them is gone already. On a lighter note, BC roadtrip and another annual surfing trip to Tofino is in the cards. It'll be my fourth summer in a row going to Tofino! Can't wait.

Other things that are new that nobody wants to hear about: The washing machine is clogged. Lady is shedding a lot. Everything in my garden is producing fruit and veggies like they should. The aphids are pretty much non-existant. Even the strawberries are starting to grow again. Julian's back from training in Cupertino, California. So far he likes his new job at Apple. And he's turning 30 this weekend. And we're gonna go see Daft Punk in Seattle! Yes indeed, we are.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh joy!

Today I made a mental note: blog that I am really happy and lucky that I have not one, but two jobs that I enjoy. I am also lucky that I like all my supervisors. I sure have had some crappy ones in the past (as well as good ones) and I definitely can appreciate the value of a good one. Both jobs are also 100% flexible with each others' time tables, so I've chosen to drop the greenhouse job for July/Aug and just teach fulltime at this summerschool program that'll be starting up.

I've been learning a lot this week as far as the greenhouse job goes.. mostly the names of plants, and how to divide tufts of grass. Today I learned what thrips look like. Apparently they are not good insects at all. My mom and I went to the Van Dusen garden show on the weekend. We frolicked around like crazy monkeys and both bought 8 watergarden plants.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Big Musical Update

I've gone to three concerts in the past month and I want to quickly write about them before I forget! The first was Cocorosie, and it was the best concert I've ever been to.

It's hard to summarize them but.. two sisters, raised by artists in a burnt out station wagon in the desert, where they shot at tin cans. Separated for a decade, one went to opera school in London, the other showed up at her sister's door one day and they moved to Paris and started making music using kitchen utensils, household objects, kazoos, harps, and children's toys. This song summarizes them perfectly:

At their ethereal yet intimate concert, held at Richards on Richards, older sister Sierra, wearing a long black sleeved dress, unzipped at the side, sang bits of haunting opera, while sister Bianca, dressed in hiphop clothes, a beret, and a baseballcap on top (yes, two hats) did most of the singing in her croaky 'japanese anime' voice. Here's a clip from the concert:

Both girls wore entirely too much blush, which looked perfect on them, and Bianca had a shaved head and two long braided rat tails. They did covers of various mainstream songs such as Akon's "You Wanna Love Me," which were amazing. The visuals contained corrupted files of My Little Pony porn, glimpses of Britney Spears' shaved head, disturbing clown loops, and religious and political icons. After our concert they flew to the states, where they promptly got arrested and their whole US tour was cancelled. Nobody knows why. Words cannot express how much I love Cocorosie.

The second concert I went to was Bjork, at Deer Lake Park.

It was a sunny evening, perfect weather. The crowd was as diverse and unique as Bjork. Many hippies, old and young. Newborn babies too. The old hippies were wearing kitschy outfits, like paper mache'd strawberry hats, or teletubbie-esque outfits. As Bjork played, the sun set the moon shone overhead, and the strobelights fired away to the accelerated versions of her songs. Inyeob and I moshed to it.. it was more like a heavy metal show!! Even the spotlight men hidden behind the curtains were tapping their feet. She introduced the band, which she called the Icelandic Orchestra. The keyboardist was the only Canadian. I have a newfound love for her song Hyperballad.. look up the lyrics, they make you wonder. Like my friend Ross says, 'Bjork is Bjork.. a magical pixie.'

Hyperballad at Deer Lake:

Human Behavior Video, directed by Michel Gondry:

Everything is Love Video:

Finally, I went to Dubforms 3 at Open Studios on First Avenue, featuring Kode 9. Dubstep. It's slower than most techno and has lots AND LOTS of low growling bass. It's big in Southern London and New York, and not that well known here. Wiki article on Dubstep . It was the second dubstep event I've been to and apparently only the third live dubstep performance ever in Vancouver.

First, the venue. It was great. So hidden, a warehouse amongst warehouses.. that I drove by slowly about ten times and then left, thinking nothing was there. The doorman made fun of me, saying, YOU DIDN'T LISTEN! Which was obvious because the whole building was vibrating with so much bass, they gave out complimentary earplugs. I didn't care that the friend who came with me left early and I had trouble locating the others for over an hour.

I just stuck around.. and I've never stuck around at a club by myself but the music was just too good. I can listen to it for hours. Eventually Martin and Lauren showed up, and I met some other people I knew by chance, and we danced, and the room got more and more filled with weed smoke and hippies and dreads and smiles. And then slowly it thinned out. I left alone, with a big smile on my face. Oh yeah, there was also a lyricist for most of the time.

Some pics from Martin's cam:

This isn't from the same night, but it's representative of the awesomeness that existed. Minus the sketchy looking Dutch barstars:

Finally, I'll briefly mention the concert I WANTED to go to, but decided not to, since I'm not made of money, and also because it was the day after Bjork.. the band was The Arcade Fire. It was also at Deer Lake Park, and thankfully, most of the concert is on Youtube. Here is my favorite song, called Rebellion. A must-see, it's just so good. I want this song played at my funeral should I ever have one:

After the song played, the band walked off and the crowd hummed the ending to Rebellion, until the band came back for an encore. Makes me sniffle a bit.

That's it. I've been spoiled by good music the past few weeks and I rarely put the energy into posting about music that I love. So it's nice to finally share.

Extra video by Royksopp who also played here recently:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Today's task: chopping petunias..

I haven't updated this week in the greenhouse because I've basically been doing repeat tasks, like seeding herbs. Today's task (click to see larger pic) :

See all those flowers? I have to chop each one off. The plants are perhaps a foot tall and we're hacking them down to 2" as they've grown out unevenly. Then they'll grow back nicely and flower again later. That cart thingy in the distance is the monorail, which I put buckets of chopped flowers on, and send them hurtling down the aisle to dump on the compost heap..... Petunias are STICKY. They have some kind of sap on them that builds up and gets all over everything.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greenhouse Entry 3:

Friday! I spent the whole day doing one fairly brainless task, which helped compensate for the brain overload the day before. A couple hundred flats of herbs (basil, dill, mint, cilantro, petgrass, etc) had to be de-potted and thrown out because they were either too 'leggy' and 'droopy' or too underdeveloped. I was given three ladies to help. A cart with a base and four support rods on the side is wrapped around with saran wrap to make temporary walls, and the dirt is thrown in.

The tractor guy accidentally got his tire stuck in the ditch after bringing me two pallets to stack the empty trays and pots on. They kept revving and couldn't get it out, and it smelled like burning. The depotting is a slow process. Part of my task is to supervise the East Indian contract workers who work with me. I'm supposed to tell them to hurry up if they're slow and give instructions. I don't really like bossing people around though, cuz I want everyone to like me. :| And plus I'm new and most of them have worked there longer than me. Sometimes I tell them to do something and it ends up being the wrong thing, so then I feel like an idiot.

So I learned to start things myself, and after I've figured out how to do it, then ask them to help. And also spy on them from a distance, and come show them the technique that works better. If I just tell them, it doesn't work. Showing works better, a la Montessori. Learning their names is also super hard.. they all end in jeet or deep.