Friday, March 31, 2006


I just went to a drive through ATM. Now, sure, thats not too unusual. Its very convenient, but not unusual. But there was something about it that caught my eye.

The buttons all had BRAILLE underneath.

That means there are people who are BLIND, driving up to these ATMs and drawing money. Its not a regular ATM that happens to be labeled drive though. Oh no. This is a purpose built, tilted up and with wide buttons and convenient goodies ATM. Its only for drive through. And they put braille on it. What in the hell?

I wonder if someone was trying to make sure they didn't get sued for discrimination or something, you know it gets. But come on now?! Either that, or there is a secret amazing super-duper car that drives around by itself.

The blind dude driving just needs to wear glasses with magazine cut-out eyes stuck on the front so noone suspects.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

If you have no friends, make some...

Ha ha ha ha. I can't help but laugh out loud. That would be such a sad thing if it were true. Okay, so you have already scrolled down and seen the photo, so you know what this is about, but pretend that you haven't.

I got dirty today. Or at least I would have, if I weren't playing in something which is inherently clean (except if its yellow). That's right, snow. We are slowly losing it to the greedy atmosphere and I realised this morning while taking out the rubbish that I hadn't yet done something we all believe we will do:

Build a snow-dude.

We see kids doing it on movies and tv shows our whole lives. We imagine that we could, if we so wished, build a snowman any time we like. Just a few technical things, like sometimes the snow isn't quite the right consistency (its too watery - like in Cape Town) or its too far to carry into the garden (like 14 999 871.63 metres - our garden in Yorkton to our back garden in JHB - I measured). But asside from these little things, its a pretty easy thing to do, right? You take a snow ball and roll it around the garden until its a big snow ball. Do this twice more, a few nice round pebbles and a carrot from Mum, and we're done. No-mess-no-fuss.

Lets just come back to reality. Its really more like building a sand castle and takes quite some time. It took about an hour and a half to build this dude, but that did include de-capitating him to build up his body some more and replacing his head. And let me tell you, snow is heavy. Today its nice and sticky (I think it has something to do with it being old snow) so packing it was quite easy. You get knee deep, and having a snow-shovel really helps. Unlike sandcastles however, I haven't got any sand in my jocks. Also, I'm not sun-burned.

The onc surprising thing was just how easy finding pebbles was. I thought I was going to have to make do with something else, like pistachios (dirt cheap here - so I can use them as dirt), but they are all over the show. Not gravel, pebbles. Next time I'll make a Calvin-esque Snowman scene. I will need to do some planning though.

Oh, and I wanted this picture to be a time-lapse sequence, but alas I can't do that on this blogger thingie.

And our builder. Look how pretty he is. He has Massive Attack in his ears.

That is all.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Much to our dismay, everything is melting. The snow is becoming water, and the ice is becoming... water. And the water. Its staying water. So with all this water around, when the temprature dips down again, all the slowly dripping water freezes again. The results have been quite impressive so far. Take a look at this:

That's not even lens trickery. Those bad boys are half a metre long. There are also icicles at night.

Pretty, no?

That is all.

Accidental Support

Well, we are mucking in. We are getting down with the locals and their activities. Even if it is by accident.

Sunday nights is when the big rink is open to the public (I know - once a week?) so we had our skates sharpened (something we didn't even know you had to do), and headed over. Last time we went, it was the two of us and three other people, so imagine our surprise when we arrived and fought to find a parking space. It was a mini ice-capades. We threw caution to the wind, paid our money and went in to find some seats. It has been said that if you are going to a capade, make it an "ice" one. Just make sure it really is a capade, and not really a childrens play on ice.

Imagine watching a child walking around waving their arms a little and falling down quite a lot. That's pretty much what it was. Yes, very cute. I mean, the 5 year old boys slid around dressed in their little matching spiderman outfits while their mummies cheered them on. The girls did a little CareBear number, and we had several movie soundtracks help along the 10-12 year old individuals.

I've also discovered that the products here can be quite rude. I mean, look at this bottle of headache tablets? I have a headache and now I need a bottle telling me this? Honestly.

That is all.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Friday Night in Yorkton

So, yesterday was Friday, the beginning of the weekend - party time right? We had decided earlier in the week that we need to get ourselves involved in the activites of the town. So when a nurse at work suggested that we join her at a bar last night, we decided the time had come. The place is called "Pockets" - its a pool hall/sports bar. We were actually pleasantly suprised, we were expecting something ultra lame, but it was okay, and actually looks lke if it got packed it would manage to muster a vibe. No news cafe. Kind of like that sports bar that was in the atrium for a few months (okay - people who went to UCT might remember, but i forget the name). They even had a cocktail menu - nothing special, but all the staples, served in a normal water glass. The nurse we were meeting is a 30 something divorcee and she brought her friends - 2xmarried 40 somethings, 1x50 something mother of children older than us and 1x20 something married with kids-chubby-never been out of yorktoner. Another lady came over to say hi, I helped with the delivery of her grandchild earlier in the week - got to love a small town. Weird mix, but I think that's what happens here. You all know how Andrew can talk - so that helped, and being from deepest darkest africa and having lots of stories helped too.

So now we've gone to a canadian bar with real canadians. Tick. Jokes, it was actually a little fun - like one of those christmas cracker spinning tops. I'm glad we have eachother so it doesn't matter so much if the people we have to socialise with are actual grandmothers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ol Bol

We are very sad right now. Some stupid %$#@ing moron ran over Claire's folks little doggie, Oliver. He isn't looking too good right now, Wendy informs me. We are all hoping he will be okay. Why are people so unbelievably selfish and heartless. The tool hit this tiny little animal and then drove off. DROVE OFF!? So who knows how long Ollie was hurt before the kind neighbour found him. I have a special love for dogs, especially ones as cute and lively as poor little Ollie.

So if you ever see someone hit a dog and drive off, chase them and run them off the road. Then kick their asses for Ollie.

Thats is all.

Dead Animals

I haven't worked out where they come from, but they must be around. They sneak into your house in the dead of night, and crawl into your mouth while you're sleeping. IT'S TRUE!!! How else can you explain the taste in my mouth every morning? Coffee does the trick though. We've found a coffee that tastes pretty good. Its called mega-death-deep-roast (maybe not - but its the strongest they have). I taint mine with hazelnut coffee creamer. Flavours are pretty huge here. I think Claire has mentioned it, but the "Cappuccino" thats advertised all over is really just a flavoured hot drink, which is almost, but not entirely unlike cappuccino.

So I'm embracing and getting hazel-nutty.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My first Canadian call

Well, this morning I came home from my first Canadian 24 hour emergency room stint. I underestimated the traffic through a small town emergency room. I was rushed off my feet from 8 in the morning til 3am the next morning and then I was up at 6 again. Okay, internship was busier, but I was spoilt last year with 12 hour shifts. I am exhausted today and I still have to work a full day in the office.

For those of you who have never worked a 24 hour, or for that matter a 12 hour call in an emergency room - let me try and paint you a picture. The day part always feels really long, even if you are really busy. By about 3 in the afternoon you start losing hope. Mostly because you have 10 patients waiting to be seen, some old biddy who's hard of hearing having a heart attack, the first drunk teenager of the day has just arrived and the nurse you need is on tea. Its universal. Eventually you find time to eat and the world suddenly becomes a better place. Your stack of unseen patients slowly dwindles and your old biddy stabilises. When you finally see that last file, around 3am - usually someone with a sore throat, and there is no-one waiting, you feel like a champion. Now you make your way to your room, usually somewhere in the darkest depths of the hospital, and usually once you lie down you get paged for something else. Most nights hold haemmorhoids, lacerations and a cold. It continues like this all night, but I think almost every doctor will agree with me - the night's are much faster.

Then comes morning. Glorious morning. The silence that usually accompanies it is so peaceful. A clean slate, a new day, another chance to try again. In South Africa often broken by the songs and morning prayers of the nurses. Then 10 minutes before you go home, you are delerious with the thought of a hot bath and warm bed and it seems like it wasn't so bad. You made it. You helped. You rock. You'll be back.

So I feel at home. I have found something familiar, even if it is the ER.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Lost and Found

Today I found my glove. Normally it wouldn't be an eventful thing to happen, except that I lost it about two weeks ago. Somewhere near the outdoor ice rink. And today I found it lying in the street. Honestly. I was actually not quite lying in the street. It was actually frozen to the pavement. This place is crazy. Bet you've never found your glove frozen to the pavement.

That is all.

Slice and Dice

So I keep banging into stuff and falling down and slashing myself open. Three days ago it started with something uniquely,... well, its not South African. A Smoke Alarm. I immediately fell in hate with our one when it went off without warning (and without smoke, I might add) while we were sitting around minding our own business. They are LOUD!! And when I say loud, I mean LOUD. I thought the windows were going to explode.

So I ran upstairs, and jumped around like a moron trying to reach the stupid thing SCREAMING on the ceiling. Unsuccessful, I scambled around, fingers jammed in my ears and found a little chest of drawers. I lept up on top, and discovered that it wasn't built to hold an 85kg man. I was thrown down the nearby stairs, only narrowly avoiding death by catching the railing (honestly, it was my life's most heroic act). I wasn't lucky or quick enough to dodge the flying wood and screws and now sport a rather impressive gash in my leg and another gash (okay the second one is a scratch) on my tummy. Also I banged my heal. Owie.

Since then I have burned my hand, twice, and cut both my thumbs (on separate occations), ... okay so that's it. But thats a lot for three days.

On a lighter note, we can both now skate backwards. I can go fast (sort of) and Claire can go slowly, but baby steps. I fall, Claire doesn't. I can also stop and spray snow, but only on my left. I rule. Oh, and I won't be a fireman. They never needed one - just guys to carry stuff around for them, basically for free.

That is all.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The weirdness of Canadian food

I think the combination of canadian and ukranian is the reason for all the weird food around here. Firstly I don't understand the Canadian obssession with shrimp. Where we are is about as far from the ocean as you could get, but yet there is a dedicated freezer at super store, dairy queen sells popcorn shrimp and you can get a side of shrimp kebabs with almost everything. Its really weird. I have tried it once since we've been here - was nothing special, and then I spent the whole night vomitting it up. I'm not going to try it again. I think the long commute from the sea really doesn't do sea food any good.

Other weirdness on the shelves include - huge jars of pickled sausage, perogies - which are some kind of cabbage wrapped ukranian delicacy. Cheesey everything - sausage stuffed with cheese, then fried in cheese, then had some cheese grated on top. The strangest thing to me is your choice of side dishes here. In South Africa its usually chips or salad, if you're really lucky a baked potatoe. Here the weirdos offer you all of those, about 12 differnt types of potatoe and salad plus soup or pasta. So you can have your pasta with a side of pasta. Wendys is trying to market salads at the momen, but the only one I've seen people buy is their taco salad. Basically tacos, with lots of cheese on a few shredded greens. I don't think that qualifies as a salad - what's next? A donut salad?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


We have come to be quite comfortable with our little town, Yorkton. It's little and ill equipped for city folk though, so we decided to take a little trip out to Regina, Saskatchwan's capital. Its about 180km and that translates into a 2 hour drive. It has been warmer here over the past few days, and then cold at night, and the affect on the trees on the road was spectacular. The extra heat caused the snow on the branches to melt slightly and then the cold re-froze it, making each tree appear to be made out of crystal. Beautiful. We foolishly decided to stop for photos on the way back, rather than on our way into Regina, and the ice had melted by then. I will not make that mistake twice. The single most spectacular winter thing I've seen so far.

We met up with Chris in Chapters (a huge bookstore). He is a friend of Claire's from Baragwanath who moved to Moose Jaw at the same time as we came here. Moose Jaw is about 80km further from us than Regina, and about double the size. The name is three times as silly, though.

A couple of amazing cappuccinos later (I'm sure they were mediocre, but our perspective is completely screwed) and we took a drive through town to find somewhere for lunch. I will leave the details of getting lost, driving the wrong way down a one-way street three times, and walking several meters through the -20degree weather out of this post, but we did find somewhere pleasant to eat, drink and merry our way through the afternoon.

Although it was just a short visit, we've already decided we are definately not small town people and can't WAIT for our next step out into the real world, with Starbucks (or Tim Hortons) on every street corner, not John Deer dealerships.

I will update you on my experiments with the cold. My first showed that it takes 20-30 minuted for a shallow dish of water to freeze completely in -16 degrees.

That is all.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bob Le'Ponge

Well, its official. I now love Canada completely. It makes me happy in my heart. Why, you ask? Because they have SpongeBob EVERYTHING!! I know I should have told you all about this before, but we have had spongebob coming out of the weirdest places since we left SA. First it was in Paris, and hence the new name, Bob Le'Ponge. Now in Canada, its just ridiculous. We couldn't resist these beauties, and Claire is now sporting them proudly.

Unfair that they didn't have my size though. Notice that he is in his Jammies, and has little slippers of his own (with Patrick on them). Genius.


So we actually did go to the Curling. To be honest there were two motives. The first was obviously to see what this Curling stuff is all about, but the second was that we want the Lady who invited us to like us. She is important and we think its probably a good idea to get in there with her.

It was a "bonspiel", which means Tournament, apparently. The Ladies husband was the captain(or skip) of the team we were supporting and they ended up winning, but it was tight, and, dare i say it, a little exciting. Don't get me wrong, its still quite ridiculous in that people sliding 20kg granite balls along the ice. They have "sliders" on one of their shoes and move around by sliding themselves with their other foot. So they pitch off a "rock" towards the big target looking thing and then two teammates sweep in front of it. The idea with the sweeping is to make the rock slow down less and go straighter (they curl - but only a little). Its quite strategic with various restriction on the first two rocks and distances from stuff, but I won't go into that.

The point of the game is to have as many of your stones closer to the "button" (centre of the target) than any of the opponents. However many stones are closer than his closest determines your score for that "end". A lot like bowls, yes.

Just look how exciting it looks. I must admit though, I've watched chess before, so perhaps I'm not the best person to determine exciting. (In fact, I nearly didn't get a second chance with Claire because I was watching Chess the first time we met. Lucky I'm so hot).

That is all.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Outdoors with blades

We bought ice skates yesterday. Its part of our "embrace the cold" programme. Also, we aren't finding a lot of ways to exercise comfortably, so this is another way to get out and about and hopefully burn a few calories at the same time.

It is an absolute BLAST skating outside with noone else around. I have a tendancy towards falling on small children when I lose my balance, so having only Claire around was much better, particularly since she was staying clear of my while I tried to do those quick stops like the Hockey players do. The dorks who zip in and out of people on the rinks in SA, making them fall, also do those stops, usually to try and spray snow on the unconcious small children I leave littering the ice.

We can both skate (its a bit like riding a bicycle), but only forwards and stopping involves gripping the sides, but we will be experts soon enough. More on our progress as we improve.

We might be going to some Curling tonight. The agent who got us here is taking part in a "bonspiel". For those who don't know - here is what "How to be a Canadian" has to say about it:
Canadians invented it (maybe), developed it (certainly) and refined it (the shot clock and drunken bonspiel), and Canadians are the best in the world at it. Forget hockey. Curling is the answer. Curling is the cure. Curling is Canadian

And what is curling, exactly? It is a sport of great skill in which players compete to see who can drink the most and still stand on ice. <...> In what other sport can you drink beer and smoke while playing the game? Even bowlers have to occationally put down their glass and butt out their cigarette in order to participate. Curlers do not. In fact, curling is the only sport in the world where you can win while you are taking a leak.

Sounds fun, no? We will give you the full account over the next couple of days. Until then, enjoy your days/nights/sunshine. We are still enjoying the snow and ice and chilly toes.

That is all.

More Native Stuff

We've been busy getting into all the Canadian things we can. They are people worthy of respect, and obviously know what they are doing.

From "How to be a Canadian": There are 30 million people in Canada - all of whom have, at some point, frozen their tongues to the side of a chainlink fence or flagpole. Indeed, at any given time of the year, it is winter somewhere in Canada and someone, somewhere, is stuck to a flagpole. "Hap me, hap me. Tumbuddy, pwease hap me."

There is a widely held belief that they are the best in the world at two sports. Hockey and Curling. However, it has recently come to my attention that they aren't as good as they used to be at the former. None the less we decided to go to the local junior team's big game against on of their major rivals. Yorkton Terriers versus, ... the guys in the red.

Our team (we adopt very quickly) lost. The people were VERY upset. I couldn't believe just how insane the fans were. The refs got so much abuse I thought they might cry.

There are actually three refs on the ice at a time. One guy blows the whistle and the other two rush over every time it looks like there will be a fight. Needless to say, they are very busy guys. I mean, the rule about ramming or charging or whatever it is only applies if you change direction to slam someone into the wall. If you are skating alongside a guy and feel like it, you are more than welcome to hammer his head into the plexiglass - its legal.

I had to read up on the rules before we went because I didn't really know how things like offside and scoring fouls and things worked, but it was a really good time. Oh, except you can only buy beer during the 15 minutes between the periods. I think hockey would be infinately better if you could be plastered. I would have joined in with the shouting at the ref.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Okay, so here's the thing. I don't have everyone's email address. If you think I might not have it, please add a comment with your email address. Geoff, this is mostly for you, but any of the famn-damily I don't have too.

Okay that is all. Its snowing. :D

Sunday, March 05, 2006

canadian coffee

There is no such thing
They have : luke warm, brown water
milky, milky, far too sweet trying to be cappuccino
english toffee, french vannila, mocha flavoured shit
almost black, tastes like wet sand stuff
but no coffee. None.
NO such thing as esspresso here, and ask for a cappuccino - well no one knows what that is.
The search continues. So far the best I can find is in the nurse's station in the maternity wing of the hospital.

Snowboarding. Well luckily I already knew that I don't like to do things that I am not immediately good at. This was one of them. Andrew on the other hand - a natural. I spend the entire day on the "bunny run" with 5 year olds, falling on my bum, my head, my knees, swearing at my shoes or blocking the slope for everyone else while I gave up for a moment. My family will agree that if it wasn't for Andrew telling me to get up and do it again, I probably would have lasted maybe 20 min. So I kept trying. And trying. And trying. Anyway I ended up having fun and actually being able to go all the way down without falling. Still don't know if its for me. Hope I'm better at skiing:)


Today we went snowboarding. Oh my word, we actually went snowboarding. About 100km from us is a hole. Thats kind of how things work here. In Saskatchewan(where we are) and Manitoba(where we went to ski) its so flat the the only place to ski is a big hole in the ground.

So we drove out there this morning and hooked ourselves up with some smelly gear (okay, it didn't smell, but it was rented - think ice rink and bowling - yum). We got ourselves some lessons. Then we got ourselves some stiff joints.

Good lord its tough on the body. Okay, so the falling down and rolling about has something to do with that, but I thought snow was supposed to be soft. Its not always soft, and sometimes its sticky (aparently that makes better snowballs and men) and its always slippery. I made a fool of myself because I wouldn't go slow so that I wouldn't fall, and had such an awesome time doing it. Claire enjoyed it too, but she can tell you about it. She hurt her knee.

Oh, and on the way back, we found the old guy's place...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pictures of Stuff

First, Lets play a little game called "Spot the Tourist". One of the people in the image below is a tourist. You have three guesses.

It was shortly after the above image that we returned to our hotel room to find a lovely chilled bottle of Champagne. Thats right. Champagne. The real deal. Sister-wonderfulness had found out which hotel we were staying in and phoned across the channel to arrange it. WHAT A SURPRISE. It was another example of how small the world really is if you make an effort. Awesome. So we had some.
And smiled.

Okay, so its not chronological, but I got hold of a panorama tool, so I took some images from our Paris experience and stitched them into an impressive pic. Notice the COMPLETE lack of supporting columns (Rich, this is for you - concrete is indeed amazing). Its awesome to stand under it (thankfully this was as we arrived so we didn't hate Paris Airport just yet). Click these pictures to see much bigger ones.

And here is a nice panorama view of the inside of the much talked about louvre pyramid (the Parisians don't much like it. I think it rocks a fair amount)

That is all.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

from Claire, sorry its been so long

Hi guys, its me, from a cold, cold Canada. Just a quicky today, very late here, need to get to bed. People here are fat man! Fat, fat, fat. Easy to understand why. Cheap fast food is everywhere, and how do you excercise in this weather? We tried to go for a jog the other day and nearly wind chilled our faces off. They have an indoor running track, nothing special and they charge R600 a month to go there.
We are staying in a really lovely house at the moment, well heated and cozy, with the biggest TV I've ever watched. Drove myself into a snow bank yesterday - these roads are slippery. Work fine, much the same as at home, only patients all speak english and I have to say RAAAWsin for them to understand. Also I work on a computer so things are slower, cause I can't really type.
So for now things are not bad. Not yet great, we're living out of suitcases, drive into snow banks, haven't got a friend and people keep taking our money. But I suppose I have faith that things will work out in the end. They always do. I want a gym. I want Sandton. I want my friends.

Dont go to America

Well, thanks everyone for the comments. It helps to know there are people back home who care. Well, people who like to follow a story, anyway :). We certainly had our share of stories getting here. Here is a brief summary of the second day of paris and getting to canada.

Day two of Paris was pretty much walking and looking and walking. And some looking. Then some eating. We started by visiting the arc, then walking the Champs, then browsing some priceless art. That Michael-angel-something guy was pretty good at chipping stone, eh? Oh, and we saw some stupid lady try take a picture of the mona lisa and get her camera taken away. HAHAHA!!!

I enjoyed seeing and hearing a Renault V10 F1 engine (graphite frikkin EVERYWHERE!!!) and Claire enjoyed the Arc. We stopped in on a cathedral here (Notre), and another there (Sacre) and then passed a Dali Exhibit. All in all a good bit of tourist-ing. We even got shouted at by a rude frenchie. How more authentic could it be?! We trusted the Rough Guide recommendation and had the most incredible meal at a tiny place hidden down a back-alley (they were friendly this time). So when we went to bed we were feeling pretty good. Little did we know that the losing of my left glove the next day was the first of many things to go wrong.

So the glove. And then, in the queue to check in, the dude (security or something equally unimportant) informs us that I need a visa to TRANSIT through America (Marc, you were right - not that we could really have done anything about it that late...). The ticket office says we can't reroute our flight, I should try get an emergency Visa. The Visa office says it will take 4 weeks, I should try popping to Norway quickly instead(He was american, so we know his geography isn't so hot). So we resign ourselves to flying separately and I buy a NEW ticket directly to Toronto.

We go to check Claire in. They decide her work permit papers aren't good enough to transit through the States either (something to do with needing originals which were in Canada - prats). So we (crying and stuff) RUN back to try get another new ticket on the same flight. Thank the Pope (see all that cathedralling helps) we manage, but are now out a BUNCH of cash. A long, but fairly comfy flight later, we find ourselves in the 60s (otherwise known as Toronto Airport) and pick, honestly, the slowest queue in the place. Okay, so that's not an exciting detail, but it pissed us off, so I'm sharing. We get through the customs and what-not and go to try find a flight to saskatoon (don't forget we lost our connections through the states). It's here that we make the discovery that I had, in the frantic panic in Paris, lost our travel card containing another whole lot of cash. Another bunch of cash later we're on a very friendly (albeit slow as hell) flight to Saskatoon, due to land 15 minutes before the flight we were originally scheduled on. Thanks again to all thing heavenly and holy (and lucky), since Claire has a meeting the following morning and we had a hotel booked.

So we landed and taxied (in -17 degree weather - GOOD LORD THATS COLD) to a lovely warm down duvet and the first of our beautiful snowy days in Canada. We had arrived. We looked a lot like this:

More on what went down since then tomorrow. We are happy and healthy and cold occationally. Getting used to the weather and stuff, but as I say, more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Slow updates

Sorry for the delay in posting. We're staying somewhere temporary and will have a connection soon. Later