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Archive for the ‘U.S.’ Category

The Windy City

In U.S. on May 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Street Art

Time for a quick break from life at home so I took off to Chicago to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in 12 years.  I’d seen a good number of landmarks last time I was there so this time was pretty much just a social catch up session.  Nevertheless there were some good sights to be seen as the architecture is awesome.  And remember to always look up…

Oh, the People You’ll Meet

In At home, Canada, U.S. on August 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

Earth, Wind & Fire on stage. They may be old but they still know how to put on a show.

This past July my brother and I headed to Chateau Ste Michelle in Woodinville, Washington to catch the Earth, Wind & Fire concert.  They’ve been around for more than 40 years and still rock it out.  Overall it was an older crowd but our age demographic was nicely represented.  Good friends, good food, great music.  At the end of it all, Andrew and I decided to hang out in the parking lot and wait til everyone else had left.  It was still a nice evening in spite of the earlier rain and there’s no point in idling in a car for 45 minutes going nowhere.

As we sat talking and watching the cars, another couple came round to talk.  The funniest people I’ve met in ages.  BC is from Colorado but is a raging Tragically Hip fan and couldn’t get over that we were Canadian.  His wife, Tricia, was a little more subdued but still hilarious.  We probably talked for about half an hour before security came to tell us to leave as we were the last cars there.  Only problem was Tricia’s car keys were in her jacket which was still inside on the field somewhere.  The jacket couldn’t be found so they jumped in our car and we drove them home, 45 minutes south of the venue and very much south of Canada.  Still, it was the most entertainment of the evening and by the end of it I wanted to be BFFs (consider this a formal request…)

Cover art for Kai and the Magic Jacket

Fast forward to now when the children’s book Tricia wrote is about to hit the stands.  It’s called Kai and the Magic Jacket and has already been receiving great reviews.  It’d have been nice if the magic jacket had some car keys in it, but if it had we would never have met them.  You can buy the book here.  Congrats Tricia!

Our new BFFs, BC and Tricia, hanging in the parking lot.

Howdy Denver!

In U.S. on January 21, 2012 at 4:34 am

Colorado’s State Capitol building with 24 carat gold leaf dome, Denver

Nothing’s better than a spontaneous trip at the last minute. My sister’s down here for a few weeks working and invited me to join her for the weekend so I hopped on a plane yesterday afternoon and landed in lovely Denver last evening.

First things first, this is the friendliest city I’ve ever been to. I was here about 17 years ago and that was the overwhelming impression – the people all smile and are nice and pleasant and all around lovely.  Nothing’s changed, it’s still the same that way. I think it’s partly because they make everything around you pleasant.  Like as soon as you land at the airport, which is huge, you have to get on a train to take you to baggage claim.  The doors to the train open to a lovely little ditty, last time it was Yankee Doodle, I didn’t recognize it this time.  Then as the doors are closing a nice male voice comes on a politely tells you where you’re off to.  Then you get to the parkade and instead of the floors being called P1 or P2, they are the Cowboy Boot level, or in our case, the Horseshoe Level.  Then we get in the rental and turn it on, and happy little tune goes ding ding ding.  How can you not smile with all that cheer around you?

Today sister was at work so I took myself off to check out the things I missed in downtown last time I was here.  Some Chatty Cathy male started talking to me about half way in and now I know his birthday is Feb.14, his mom’s is Feb.21, he’s originally from California, lived here for 12 years, and wants to move to Missouri next year because it’s quieter and there are more there.  I started my tour cruising up 16th Street Mall and decided to duck into the Federal Reserve for a free tour.  The security guards, who were so pleasant and cheery and not menacing at all, laughed when they heard I was from Canada and then asked me politely to go through the scanner and then told me to have a great day.  I was disappointed at how small the museum was but the upside was I got to “make” my own money and then left with a bag of shredded cash which every tourist is entitled to.  It’s worth about $165 but it wasn’t accepted at Starbucks 😦

Then I headed south to go to the Mint but no way would they let you in without a reservation so I had to scratch that from my Capitalism tour.  I managed to get in to the State Capitol just in time for the almost last tour and enjoyed checking walking around and hearing about how heavy all the chandeliers are in the Supreme Court, the House of Representatives Hall, and the Senate.  They weigh a lot.

A bit of shopping later and it was back to the burbs where we are staying while we’re here.  Spent a nice evening having dinner and then going to see “Mission Impossible”.  Du-umb.  Tomorrow is as yet unplanned but I’m sure there will be more happy people and cheery little tunes all around.

Our Sponsors Take Us to New York

In U.S. on July 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Thank goodness for mom and dad’s timeshare!  They got it specifically to entice their children to vacation with them and so far it continues to work.  They only book where they think we’d like to go and then we join them, it all works according to their cunning plans.

This summer’s adventure courtesy of mom and dad took me, Andrew, and the parental unit to New York City and a beautiful hotel right next to Central Park.  The first night there we went for a walk in the park.  The sun was setting and a jazz musician was playing his trumpet in an open field.  The place was magical, it was actually twinkling!  Then Andrew burst the bubble and pointed out the sparkles were only fireflies.  But still, I’ve never seen so many in one place.  As we wandered through the park we came across ballroom dancers, beat poets, a hip hop party, and lots of ice cream vendors.  Fortunately the park was cooler than on the streets as the biggest heatwave in 10 years thumped the city.

Despite the heat we all walked everywhere we could, mostly because we love walking and it’s a great way to see the city, but partly because we’re Mennonite and therefore cheap.  At any rate I was impressed with how my parents, firmly in their 70s, trekked everywhere we did.  No naps, no moans of aches and pains, just a willingness to see everything there was to be seen.

Over the course of the week we went to the Carnegie Deli for the grossest sandwich I’ve ever had in my whole life.  5 pounds of gross meat between two papery slices of bread.  Ick.  We watched the Fourth of July fireworks on the Hudson River, ate cheesecake numerous times, went to the U.N., checked out the Guggenheim (depressing), the MOMA (depressing too) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (stunning).  We did the Circle-Line cruise of the island, went to the top of the Empire State Building, cruised through Rockefeller Plaza, walked to Brooklyn and back over the bridge, and ate at the Olive Garden 😦  Why?? when there are so many great restaurants to try… (obviously a sort spot for me)

I had an extra day in the city as my flight left after everyone else so I headed to the Garment District to check out the fabric shops.  Coming from a city where there are only 2 1/2 fabric stores to really choose from, I was overwhelmed at the colours, quality, and infinite styles to look at.  I left the first shop after 20 minutes because I was overwhelmed.  I calmed down at the spandex store though, that’s a whole lot of ugly to bring you back to earth.

Thanks again to my parents for making sure we are still thoroughly entertained and well taken care of!

Mom and Dad Forever

In At home, Canada, Family, U.S. on July 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Mom and Dad on a date in 1958

This past June we celebrated my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Although they don’t like big celebrations in their honour, at our prompting they hosted a small reception for family and close friends to mark the occasion.

Can’t find a shot of the parents together but here’s a nice one of me ‘n my hot mama 🙂

A few weeks later we celebrated just as a family when they took all of us on an Alaskan cruise.  We boarded the ship at Canada Place on a sunny Sunday afternoon and slowly headed out under the Lions Gate bridge for a week heading north.  What a nice way to hang out together, no meals to plan, we’re all in the same place, and some excellent sight-seeing opportunities.  A very different experience from India, it’s a bit of a culture shock really…

Andrew. Ketchikan

What Andrew saw.

Old Juneau

Ice flows on the way to the Sawyer Glacier

People crowding on deck to check out the glacier

Up close and personal with the Sawyer Glacier

Turquoise water at the Sawyer Glacier

The port in Skagway.

My sister and three nephews on the train in Skagway


In U.S. on September 4, 2008 at 12:02 am

I flew down to San Francisco last week to start my holidays.  I try to give myself a little extra time to make it through immigration these days since the Americans take great interest in my Syrian visa.  And sure enough, they liked it so much this time I got taken aside for questioning.  I got my passport stamped by unhappy guy, who was actually flagging everybody who went through judging by the number of people going to Room 2.  They all passed through in 30 seconds, I got to stay for questioning by two officials for about 10 minutes.  Here’s the abbreviated version:

Them:  Syria, whoa!!  What for?
Me:  Learn the language
Them:  Why?  Why arabic?  Why not here?
Me:  Can’t learn it here, easier and cheaper there.  Syria’s nice, has sun, nice people, no other tourists.
Them:  Study at a mosque?
Me:  No, Damascus University.
Them:  That a private place?
Me:  No, it’s a government funded university.
Them:  What’s it called again?
Me:  Damascus University, think of Dam U if it helps you to remember it.
Them:  blah blah blah…  Would you go back?  Afraid of being kidnapped???

Me:   ???  blah blah blah
Them and Me:  blah blah inane blah blah stereotypes blah blah blah for 8 more minutes
Them:  K, stay here.

Guy #1 takes my passport behind some door with one-way glass.  Comes back 10 minutes later.

Guy #1:  Do you know why we questioned you?
Me:  Syria’s a hostile country?
Guy #1:  No no no (laughing).  We were afraid you converted to Islam or something.

Yes, oh yes they can say that.  Not sure what the fear is though.  Maybe converting to islam automatically makes someone a bad guy?  Nice to see we don’t easily give up erroneous pre-conceived notions.

For the record, entry into Canada took less than a minute.  Immigration guy looked at my picture, asked me how my trip was, and waved me through.  O Canada…

San Francisco

In U.S. on August 24, 2008 at 8:00 pm

It’s the end of summer and time for one last holiday.  I am meeting my sister, brother, and nephews in L.A. for a few days at Disneyland but on the way I stopped in San Francisco to greet my friend from Syria.  Meena’s finally arrived after her mom’s efforts to get her into school in the U.S.  She’s part of an American initiative to help Iraqi students complete a university education in relative safety.  This is her first time in the U.S. so I thought I’d hang out for a few days and help her acclimatize.  We’ve been touring the city and hanging out a little in San Rafael where she’ll be going to school.  Touring over, now onto L.A…

Horror of horrors, my rental car for the weekend. Nothing screams “Tourist” louder than a pumpkin orange HHR.

Another architectural shot. Can’t remember what we’re looking at here.

There’s always something odd to be viewed by the water.

Flowers at the conservatory in Golden Gate Park.

North of San Francisco in Bonita Cove.

Not So Different?

In U.S. on October 21, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Just got back from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after spending a week down there with family.  It was a balmy 90 degrees and sunny everyday except for yesterday, very unlike Vancouver. I was there for Stephen Colbert’s big announcement that he would run as a candidate for both the Democrats and Republicans although it didn’t seem to rock any boats down there.  Of course we were with a lot of senior citizens who were more intent on floating in the pool or winning blackout bingo.

Differences between here and Canada: the huge, flatscreen television in the registration area was showing a Joel Osteen sermon, yes, in a very public place.  Can’t see that happening up here because it might offend someone’s senses, although I do find Joel Osteen offensive anyway.  And one day when I was out in the pool the staff were piping another Southern Baptist style sermon through the PA system.  Again, that would never happen here.  It felt more like being back in Syria, or any other country in the Middle East for that matter.  No matter where you were – on transit, in the market, in a shop or restaurant – there’s some sermon blasting from somewhere.

The biggest similarity between here and there, the value of the dollar, for which the whole family is very grateful.

On the East Coast

In U.S. on September 5, 2006 at 8:57 pm

Our sponsors have booked us a lovely little time share on Cape Cod as the last holiday of the summer.  Andrew and the parental unit flew in on one flight, I met them a few hours later.  We started off with a few days in Boston sightseeing and catching up.  The highlight for me?

The real reason I came to Boston.

At least I know my name.

We did an evening cruise of the harbour and took in the city as the sun set.

Marriott Custom House Tower

We also headed out to Newport, Rhode Island, to see the summer “homes” of the deceased rich and famous.

The Breakers, a Vanderbilt Mansion in Newport.

The Breakers

Honestly, all that money for only a few months spent here?  Nevertheless, a grand place indeed and only one of the many mansions we checked out that day.

We finally headed out to Cape Cod where we based our local excursions from.  One day on Martha’s Vineyard enjoying the petit island, another heading north to Provincetown to see the town.  We celebrated my birthday at a little pub on the way back to the apartment, passing through cranberry fields en route.  We only spent a little time at the beach as the weather was generally overcast and cool, but the rest of the trip was lovely.  Thanks mom and dad!

The beach closest to our apartment.

The birthday girl’s beach look

Hangin’ at the Mall

In U.S. on November 6, 2005 at 5:28 pm

This was on the same work trip in Virginia.  I was staying close to D.C. so I rented a car for my excursions and drove into the city the day after Baltimore.  I thought I’d take an hour to cruise the National Mall, check out a Smithsonian, and look at the White House.  The Mall is HUGE and absolutely stunning.  I spent the entire afternoon strolling slowly from monument to monument to the White House and then finally ending up at the Capitol.  By far that is one of the most beautiful structures in the U.S. and I was glued to it for about a half hour, taking photos as the sun set.  It was a beautiful late autumn day and the temperature was in the low 20’s (celsius).  People had crowded onto The Mall to enjoy a free movie, picnics, kite flying, and lazing around.  It was absolutely packed.  Until I turned around after sunset and nobody was left.  It was as if they were anticipating vampires and the crowd skedaddled out of there before the sun was gone.  I had to walk back to my car, in the dark, alone, and it was parked about halfway up which is quite a distance.  It was fun and jovial before, now it was just eerie.  I got back ok, jumped in and took an evening drive up the alphabet streets.

On a side note, I was writing postcards home to each member of my family.  I filled one out at each stop of interest so if you put them all together it would tell the story of my afternoon.  I wrote my brother’s from the White House and mentioned how dumb I thought George Bush was.  All the postcards were delivered except that one.