Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Business and Pleasure in Winnipeg

DOTH and I took a business trip to Winnipeg -- well, it was my business, but she came along to keep me company. Good reason for that. We must explain, rather sheepishly, that although both of us have travelled many countries of the world, the only other province we have ever visited, besides our home province of Ontario, is Quebec.

(Winnipeg, from the Red River)

So, it was a novelty for us to visit Manitoba. We had a super time. Even the business end of it was great, and I will save that for another post. But one of our favourite activities there was to tour the Mennonite Village of Neubergthal.

Mennonites were terribly persecuted for their beliefs in the Nederlands, so they fled for their lives to first Poland, then Russia and ultimately, in the 1870s, to North America - specifically to the new province of Manitoba.

The village runs along a single street, and is one of the best-preserved Mennonite villages in North America. It is in the process of being restored. You can read all about it, and see more of the buildings here

We visited the Friesen Housebarn Interpretive Centre:

Margruite Khan was our guide. I believe she spearheads the restoration, and she was busy at work when we arrived, but took time to walk us through the centre.

The blue accents throughout the house reminded me of Romania. The Mennonites liked to use blue as a symbol of heaven (himmel).

All the furniture was, of course, handmade, and you can see three hand-made clocks in the photo above - beautiful work.

The kitchen.

The old rocking horse

The spinning wheel

I guess you had to be there to really appreciate the home's rustic beauty, but what I would really like you to see are the beautiful quilts:

the Friendship Quilt

One for Grandma

One for the baby

And my favourite - the butterfly quilt

We went into the attached barn - still used today for community meetings

We listened to the preacher from the bleachers

Passed the outhouse (too cute!)

And then Margruite (yes, that is how she spells her name) took us to her art studio in the barn's loft.

She is a terrific artist (I think). We felt privileged to view her paintings.

She especially enjoys painting trees, and if you especially like trees, you will appreciate more of her renditions here on her website.  But be sure to visit each page  - all of her paintings are awesome, and her story is there, too.

More about our Winnipeg trip next time...and more, very unusual quilts!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Double Celebration

It had to happen sooner or later:

OG (only grandson) just turned 13, and is launched into the minefield of the dreaded teenage years, and if you were a typical teen you will remember what that means: moving from "Ugh, I HATE girls!" to acne, the voice change, the attitude change, etc, etc. 

And YG (youngest granddaughter)just turned Sweet Sixteen and thus reached the Point of No Return. No turning back to those cutsie childhood ways of "Ugh, I HATE boys!" or "No way would I ever kiss a boy!" Now it is: "Yay, now I can drive!!" and "Dad, can I have the car tonight?" etc, etc.

Don't get me wrong -- they are GREAT kids, and we are believing they will remain that way -- forever. But one must be practical.

Anyway, we celebrated them both yesterday and it was a wonderful time. DOOTH (Daughter Out Of The House) and BSIL (Beloved Son-In-Law) hosted the day -- which was brave of them since they now have a 16 year-old, and would probably have preferred to recuperate.

It was perfect pool weather: 30C and almost the whole family was there, along with a couple of YG's hunky male friends (they don't make 16 year-olds today like they did in my day - although come to think of it, it's probably just that I didn't ever attract the hunky kind).

All the kids had an awesome time in the pool:

Did I say kids?

The biggest kid of all (BSIL) had a whale of a time:

sent everyone scurrying out of the pool with his "cannon balls"

I understand that the idea was to see if he could send the splashes all the way up to the bedroom windows. Yes, those of us who were sitting beneath them can testify -- after a dozen or more tries, he did!

I also understand that his sciatica is really acting up today.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Remembering Romania - Trams

Six months before I was to leave Romania, my landlord decided to sell his apartment so I had to move. I loved that apartment. I'd lived there for a large part of my stay in Romania so, of course, I had accumulated a lot of stuff that all had to be packed and moved, and then unpacked -- and then six months later, packed again. I was not happy.

It is also not easy to find someone willing to lease an apartment to you for just six months - they prefer the long-term renter. But I was fortunate in that, at the last minute, a friend of a friend found "just the place" for me.

It actually was a very nice apartment:
Modern, and quite adequate for me
A tiny kitchen, but clean and bright

An even smaller bathroom, but hey! for six months it was ok - and it had a shower AND hot water on demand!

The bedroom, hmmm.. the bedroom. You may ask, where is the bed? Well, I only had a mattress - it's leaning up against the wall. But I decided against sleeping in the bedroom. Why, you ask?

I laid the mattress down on the floor, my first night there, and fell sound asleep, exhausted from the move.
At 4:00am, Ceaucescu's revolution began all over again -- at least that's what I thought.
The whole apartment was shaking, and outside my window (I was on the 5th floor), I could hear tanks rumbling down the street, one after another, after another, after another.

At least I thought they were tanks. When I looked out the window, turns out they were trams, running down the middle of the street, one after another, after another, after....

Only to discover that right behind my apartment block was the tram depot... and every morning at 4:00am they left the depot and headed down the street in front of my apartment block to disperse out across the city -- dozens of them! They did this every morning at 4:00am.

My bedroom had very poorly fitted windows - no double-glazing and obviously not sound proof.

Fortunately, there was a pull-out bed in the living room

and also a glassed in balcony between me and the traffic below. Wasn't ideal, and didn't eliminate the noise completely, but believe it or not, I did get used to the early morning wake-up call and was often able to sleep through the tram onslaught.

The view from the apartment window was generally interesting:

Very busy, traffic-wise. There was a hospital down the street to the left, another to the right, and a children's hospital right across from me, so I also had to learn to sleep through sirens.

But there wasn't anything I could do about this:

two or three times a day, the hospital chimney opposite, belched out black, foul-smelling smoke. I once made the mistake of asking someone about this chimney and what the hospital was burning -- you don't want to know.

Another day, the traffic sounded unusually loud outside.

This was the view, and the noise, from my kitchen window.

Miles of trams as far as the eye could see -- and way down the street to the right, a crowd was gathering, so of course I had to go down and see what it was all about (that's my apartment, by the way; the one underneath the balcony with the umbrella, to the left and middle of the bottom 2 white squares).

Here's what I found:

An articulated tram had been just a little too articulate, and had come apart at the seams.
...caused great excitement and major traffic jams for hours