After almost a decade in Asia - vacationing in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, etc - I am firmly settled into the US of A and changing gears. My first vacation/trip from this side of the globe: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
And you know what they say is absolutely right: It's not where you are, it is who you are with that is important. By this measure Winnipeg is the equal of a beach in Bali or a mountain in Thailand: my trip reunited me with Julien Bedard, an old and dear friend with whom I whiled away many a Korean night over beer and Jja-Jjang Myeon (noodles in black bean paste - tastes MUCH better than it sounds)!
Julien and Annabel, his witty, intelligent, attractive and charming partner, put up with me for a full week in their cozy home. I can only imagine that Annabel must have thought SHE was in Seoul after the number of stories she heard during the week~!
Now before going any further let's get one thing straight for those who are a little lost geographically - Winnipeg is in the prairies of Canada, the bread basket of the British empire such as it was/is. We are talking flat land here. Period. I spent a fair amount of days in the desert while traveling Egypt, Jordan and Israel - and this is eerily similar but for the slight difference of vegetation!
But to quote Blue Rodeo, one of the greatest Canadian bands (fairly out of context but accurately) this is a land that makes you imagine you could go on forever "Into that never ending sky / Into wide and endless nite".
Well straight from the airport and into the breach! A quick stop at the liquor commission for 50 bottles of beer, a dash into the Superstore for sausages and buns, and within two hours flat a blazing fire was going in the back yard, and I was quaffing ales with a raucous band of French Canadians I had heard tales of for almost a decade: here were, among others, Christian, Eric, Remi, Annabel (of course), Marie Chantal, Michael - and of course the dog and two cats to boot!
What a party - its no wonder the hangovers the next morning kept us from leaving for breakfast and our planned camping trip until well after 4:00pm!
I had not been camping in at least 10-12 years - the last time was a trip to Kejimkujik in Nova Scotia with my brother Jan-Mark. Too long my friends, too long...
A fire under the dark sky that graced us with a showing of Aurora Borealis that was no polar region dance of colors and shapes, but was beautiful nonetheless - patterns of green sifting across the horizon in a display that I had hoped for but not expected. Friends dropped by with a guitar and many more beers to pass the evening with socialist songs of times past and stories of adventures from other days.
Riding Mountain National Park was beautiful, and I had a great time camping - but I have to tactfully inform the Manitoba public in this forum that despite its beauty and wonder, the park could be more appropriately named "Riding Hill National Park". I guess a mountain is a state of mind, however, and context remains king!
After three days of fires, hotdogs and swimming at Crystal Lake, we retired back to Winnipeg to relax, see the city a bit and eat some prairie-style Korean food. I also played my first ever round of Frolf, which is frisbee golf - they have official courses in the city and it is a totally rocking game that I recommend highly!
And around it all - the beers, the fires, the frolf and all - was the chance to settle back, relax completely and relive the past while discussing our lives as we find them today and th directions we are headed.
I am so happy to find one of my best friends settled with a wonderful woman he loves, into a job that challenges and rewards him, and a community of friends and family that care for him. This is really living the dream Julien - thank you, thank you Annabel, thank you Balzac (mong mong) and thanks to the purring furballs who also put up with my presence!