Jun 12, 2005

Rayg bless Canada.

I have a strong feeling I am going to fall in love with Canada.

...Based on what I have seen of it so far, at least, which isn't much. Still, first impressions count for something. We crossed the border at around 9 in the evening, so what I have seen of the scenic landscape was drenched in lovely twilight... and ironically, the overcast sky began to burst open immediately after we reached 'the other side.' There's nothing like just entering a country for the first time, when the twilight is just fading into dusk, and the music of Underworld is playing from the dash while cold raindrops splatter against the windshield. It was a very surreal experience. Darkness had fallen by the time we reached Vancouver, B.C., and I was greatly impressed with the view of the city's skyline. Downtown happens to be surrounded by water on all four sides, and our hotel is located on the northern end. We checked into the Renaissance a few hours ago, and it happens to be a tremendous step up in quality from the last hotel we stayed in. Complimentary valet parking, a ritzy-looking building, a 14th story view of the waterfront and northern Vancouver (not to neglect mention of the town of Whistler, located way up in the distant mountains- their lights can be seen from the window), a mini-bar, Internet access (how else could I post this?), and a pool, spa, and sauna... whoa. I am going to savour such luxurious amenities, as very seldom do I ever have the chance to experience such a thing. The room itself is nice, but what takes the cake is the view. The sliding glass doors open on either side, enabling me to step right up to the glass railing right outside the centre of the room and take in the view. It's a vast array of glimmering city lights on the other side of the water, with gas stations for mariners actually located in the middle of Burrard Inlet. Admittedly, it seems rather strange to see a 'Chevron' sign protruding from a vast body of water, but I have also gotten used to it. With the doors open, the cool Canadian air drifts into the room, and it feels... soothing. It's also raining... lightly, but steadily.

As for the city itself, I plan to spend a considerable portion of tomorrow traipsing about the downtown segment. I'm sure I am going to discover plenty of interest... from what I have seen of Vancouver so far, it's a beautiful city, and seems to have much, much more character than a typical U.S. city. However, I should mention that I am truly fond of Seattle. I spent Saturday wandering about a few of its parks, and I was thoroughly impressed with the natural beauty I found. It was a very damp and rainy day, and the sky looked simply magnificent, especially as I walked the paths in Magnusin Park. I found the colder, temperate rain to be quite pleasant. A nice quality about Seattle is that since it is surrounded by several bodies of water, it cannot experience the same kind of widespread suburbanisation trends that many other American cities become victim to. Cities like Phoenix (shudder) which are built on wide open tracts of land continue to expand and expand until they become one gargantuan spread-out city, while Seattle and Vancouver can only expand upwards or on the other side of the water. This makes them much prettier, in my opinion.

Before we left Seattle, we decided to pay the astronomically high fee of admission for elevating to the top of the Space Needle. The view was excellent and the day was only partly cloudy, so I got plenty of photographs, which I will gather together and post in due time. Afterwards, at Pike's Plaza Marketplace, I enjoyed the best Chinese food I believe I have ever had. I know for certain that I have never had better tofu. We also toured Seattle Aquarium, which turned out to be a little too heavily orientated toward small children for my liking. The highlight of the tour, however, was watching the sea otters swim about. They are such delightful creatures, and I can see why a couple of my online furry acquaintances take after them so strongly.

I feel as if it's been a week since I left home, but in reality, it's only been three days. 'Tis quite strange, how that works. But it feels so right to not be in the United States, eh.

I try not to get too long-winded with these journal entries... it hardly feels right to be staring into a computer monitor while undergoing this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Well, perhaps it isn't once-in-a-lifetime... but summer of 2005 could be something I vividly remember 50 years from now, my finest summer ever, and I find it satisfying to preserve these memories in writing.

Jun 10, 2005

"The air... it feels so different."

We made it. The going was rough at times, but we found our way.

I am sitting in a fourth floor hotel room at the Courtyard Marriott in Lynnwood, Washington. It is only 10 in the morning, but it feels much more like 6 in the evening. Jet lag, I adore thee so. The normal check-in time is 3 pm, but we wanted a room earlier than that. The best they could do was give us a smoking room, which we quickly settled for. The entire room possesses a slight foul odor of stale cigarette smoke, but it's tolerable, and quite frankly, I don't think I would have been up to running around town for hours before getting some sleep in. The building is very proximate to a freeway, but it cannot be heard with the windows shut. The view of the townscape is nothing to be excited about; it's the typical American town landscape, full of dull-coloured concrete compiling major chain stores and restaurants. The verdancy of this city, however, I immediately took to. There are so many trees and lakes and greenscapes... something I am accustomed to, and would be disappointed not to find in a place like this. We drove right through Seattle on the way up here from the airport, and it was truly a delight to see tall buildings and impressive urban landscapes up close again, for the first time in what seems like a great while.

The 2,800 mile flight over here was not entirely pleasant, though, and I was not expecting it to be. I was sandwiched in on a middle seat, and I could swear that these jetliners just get smaller and smaller every time I step onto one; the aisles narrower, the seats even more unfathomably constricting. I barely had room to move my arms, with both passengers on either side of me silently insisting on using both their arm rests. The leg room, of course, was null. A fidgety wolf who is too often as energetic as a flea on a sugar high has a difficult time staying in one place for five and a half hours. I'm surprised I can deal with these situations as well as I do, considering there is absolutely nowhere I could go short of the shoebox closet commonly referred to as the lavatory (remember, don't tamper with the smoke detectors!) should I decide to oh, say, lose it.

It's strange, though, when the flying is so smooth that the aircraft seems not to be moving at all. The journey across the globe has become virtually effortless, and it was easy to often forget that I was flying at all. I could see nothing out the window but pitch darkness and some odd blinking lights on the wing. Maybe we were actually standing still inside a massive teleportation machine. I don't feel as if I flew here... I feel like I teleported here, magically, and it just happened to take six hours. That's technology, though. It's just... magic. Effortless. The world is just getting smaller and smaller.

My music helped me pull through it all. I brought my notebook computer on board as well, but wasn't able to use it as I simply did not have enough space between my lap and the back of the chair in front of me. Whoever is sitting in front of me always tilts their chair back--Murphy's Law, leaving me with my knees pressing up against the back of their seat because I have nowhere else to put them. I ordinarily don't consider my body build to be that 'big,' but when flying in an airline, I feel like Shaquille O'Neal trying to squeeze himself into a miniature go-kart. Mentally conditioning myself to tolerate sitting still (who am I kidding... I fidget and shift about like crazy) actually takes more energy than would getting up and doing 25-metre dashes up and down the aisle. I'm simply not cut out for it.

Fortunately, the likes of Wolfsheim, Orbital, and The Cure were all on my side. The three top songs of my flight would be "A Forest" by The Cure, "Everyone Who Casts a Shadow" (**shivers gleefully**) by Wolfsheim, and "One Perfect Sunrise" by Orbital. The lattermost song I listened to while the sun was indeed rising above a beautiful snow-capped peak and another nearby mountain range. Something about flying through the air, taking in the aesthetic beauty of a sunrise, and listening to a stellar song all equates to a strong sense of euphoria. The fun has just begun. We've got our Ford Explorer and our hotel room, and things are looking top-notch so far. Later today, though, after we get sufficient rest to cure us of our current zombie-like state, we must buy some clothes and electronic items. Currently, though, I am positively famished. I haven't seen much of Seattle yet, aside from a precursory glimpse of the city along a rapid cruise down the freeway, but I shall, tomorrow!

The air is so nice and cool and crisp... and I have missed that. Then again, after a month, I'll probably miss the tropical air.

...I still can't believe it's only 10:20 in the morning. **Turns out the light and crashes**

Jun 9, 2005

Look at us, we're beautiful.

I have only two more exams standing in the way between me and freedom. I was going to set aside a considerable amount of time this evening to study, but I found that I simply don't have the incentive. I am over school, already. My three presentations today (two for physical anth., one for HPE) took just about everything I had. I'm sure I'll still do fine on the upcoming tests, and I am through poring over this dry subject matter. ...For now. Perhaps I'll do a quick review in the morning. A couple quick multiple-choice (guess?) exams and I am finished. Finished. Wow... I feel as if I am essentially coming off a half-year semester. I haven't had a proper vacation from intense studying since the beginning of January. Even spring break was spent scurrying to pull citable sources off the shelf and the databases, and trying to make a dent in the wall before it closed in on me and left me feeling unbearably claustrophobic.

I did well in the spring, though, earning three A's, a B, and a C. I even managed to put several weeks in to some lousy farm job on the side and deal with the racket of those evil coqui frogs at night, always trying to steal my magic bag with a verdant vindictiveness, but somehow still keeping my sanity preserved. Congratulations, Neal, have a jam roll. Or maybe that gold star you've been craving for some time now...

And now, I am looking at the Renaissance Hotel I will be staying at in Vancouver using Google Earth (an improvement over Google Keyhole, which takes the user anywhere on Earth they care to go). The detail of this satellite imagery is astonishing. Give me an address and I'll find your house!

This afternoon, I happened to catch sight of a funnel cloud over the sea... nothing worth panicking over, but enough to be greatly intrigued by. Meteorology fascinates me...

I feel as if I have little else to say. I'm tired of sitting here and writing, and am ready to start going out and doing.

Jun 7, 2005

It's only a matter of time.

I ventured outside at the crack of dawn on Sunday and stayed out until a little after sunset. I am glad that I did... very glad. The experience reminded me just how powerful early morning euphoria can be, especially in a place like this. The verdant grass gleaned with a thick layer of dew in the dim light, and the air felt crisp and pure. I heard little else but the chirping of birds and the breeze rustling through the palms and evergreens; no cows were mooing, nor dogs barking. I passed by a drooping shrub on the boundary fence near the driveway, and it was flowering, attracting hundreds of early-rising honeybees that collectively produced a deep, audible drone from a few metres away. I watched for a few minutes, fascinated. The insects carried about their business as nature intended, feverishly or perhaps with a slight sense of leisure. Who am I to tell? It was but an ordinary, everyday event in nature, only remarkable because it was witnessed by a soul with the capacity to be captivated by the intricate balance of life surrounding him.

Far out at sea, bands of dark rainclouds could be seen drifting parallel to the shore, a torrent of rain pouring down beneath each of them. The sky above was crowded with tall, swiftly moving clouds, threatening rain much closer to home. I stood outside, simply marveling at the magnificent atmosphere of the morning, knowing full well the sun would eventually rise higher and higher, likely burning away the clouds and rudely and arrogantly dominating. My cat joined me near the compost pile in the most jungle-like corner of the yard, rolling over on his back beneath my feet as if he wanted some celestial tummy rub. I gave in to his adorability and appeased him until it began to rain on us rather heavily, sending him rolling onto his feet and scampering under a tree. These experiences can be even more delightful when one has a companion to share them with.

I watched the sunrise for awhile while sipping on some green tea, only stepping back inside when it finally became too bright to comfortably gaze at. I then found myself playing with the new luggage pieces we had purchased on Saturday. That's one surefire way to get myself riled up for a trip: play with a brand new duffel bag or suitcase that will be taken with us. Reading guide books about exotic places we plan on visiting works wonders, as well. Yes, I am fairly excited about leaving in three days, but I also have quite a bit to accomplish between now and then. The best I can do is take it in stride and deal with things one by one.

(Once again, I nearly stepped on the cat, as his fur colour happens to blend in perfectly with that of the carpet. In the case of being underfoot, such camouflage isn't exactly helping him.)

On Thursday, our jet plane departs at 8:50 pm. We shall want to arrive there at least an hour early, meaning we will have to leave our house by about 7. That would be the earliest stages of twilight... ah, it will so euphoric, and likely raining. I always reveled in the anticipation of going on a big trip full of adventure and excitement, and actually enjoy the atmosphere of airports in such a context. Even all the little security precautions they force me through don't bother me, nor do the crowds. I just want to travel, to see the vast continent and go places I have never been before and satisfy my dominating wanderlust. I want to kiss this rock goodbye for awhile and soar through the air for awhile, guaranteed a month-long escape from the ordinary.

Our first stop will be Seattle. There is a coin show my father is eager to attend, and I will probably spend most of Saturday traipsing about downtown (Friday will mostly be spent shopping and acclimating to the mainland... and resting up). We will be staying in the Marriott hotel for two days before heading north into Canada. I have wanted to visit the country for the longest time... and Vancouver, I am told, is a gorgeous city. Another night will be spent there, and we may move on to Victoria Island, and do a bungee jump! We plan to spend a few days up in Banff and Jasper National Parks, a long drive inland and northeastward from the coast. The idea of spending a few days and nights around the Canadian rockies, primarily camping, thrills me. From there, we will likely make our way back to Washington, and head down the coast through Portland, San Franscisco, and L.A., eventually reaching San Diego. I would like to get a good feel for northern California as a potential place to reside, someday, and a close friend of mine resides in San Diego. Anything can happen on these trips, though, and our plans are subject to change entirely. I may find time to post in my journal on occasion throughout the journey, as most of the hotels have high-speed Internet access, but I may very well continuously be too caught up in the goings-on around me to even touch the Internet. Besides, I'm not going traveling to sit in an air-conditioned room for several hours and post journal entries of mondo proportions like this one. I am still likely to find time between activities or activities and rest, though. The thougt of experiencing some actual city nightlife appeals to me, though so does the idea of reading a great book with the towering peaks of the Rockies in view while being watched by curious wildlife.

I wish time would speed up. Then again, the day will be here before I know it.

I'm also watching an infomercial called "Billy's Boot Camp." I don't believe I have ever been so amused or hypnotised by 'Paid Programming' before. It's just the way they move... it either makes me want to succumb to another one of my giggling fits or go into a narcotic trance.