Thursday, February 28, 2008

dive into the fish bowl.

Welcome to my new blog, memoirs of a guppy fish!

I've been having so much fun with laughing alone in the dark, that I thought I'd go nuts and start a second blog.

What can you expect to find here?

Well, the guppy fish bowl is strictly for storytelling. Here you'll find anecdotes about my travels, details about my jobs, memories from my childhood and musings about my life so far. I wanted these memoirs to have their own home, free from the confusion and angst of a daily mommy-blog like laughing alone in the dark, so here it is.

As I've mentioned before, I love genealogy and I really wish I had more information about my ancestors. Particularly chronicles of their experiences, jobs and travels. One of my great great great uncles saved the life of the Boy Emperor of China during the Boxer Rebellion. Cool, huh? Not really, because that's all I know. Another one of my ancestors fled Russia under the cover of darkness during the Russian Revolution, but that's all I know about that too.

I hope one day my descendants are as interested to know about my life as I am to know about my ancestors.

Memoirs of a guppy fish is a place to record my life just in case they are.

I don't plan on dumping something into the fish bowl every day. There will probably be a new post every few weeks; or more often as the mood strikes. If you're interested, don't worry about checking in. I'll post a little note on laughing alone in the dark when there's something new here.

Now go check out my last post (below). It's new.

mr. blockage i presume?

Recently I read an amazing post at Confessions of a Rotten Correspondent. It was so captivating that I just had to expound on the idea. RC is an ER nurse and wrote about the difficulties she'd been encountering at work lately. Although she played it off as a bad stretch, I’m assuming the stress wasn’t atypical for her (nor, I’m sure, for any other ER nurse).

It made me think about the worst days I’ve ever had at work - in any job I’ve ever had - and how they completely pale in comparison to RC’s worst days at work.

Disclaimer: This is another one of my marathon posts. It didn’t start out that way, but it’s looooooong. Sorry. Again, these are my memoirs. I’m writing this as much for you as I am for my future great grandchildren. If you just want the gist, I’ve done the highlights in bold. If you’re completely impatient, skip the text altogether and go straight to the What Have We Learned Here? section at the bottom.

Moving on.

Here are some examples of jobs I’ve had and my worst days at them:


As an innocent and unknowing (albeit responsible) teenager I used to look after small children for money. On one particular occasion I remember a baby who cried from the minute I walked in the door until the minute the parents came home again. (It is only now, as a mother, that I understand their desperation to get out of the house regardless of their crying child.) It was incredibly stressful and although the crying (and my inability to stop it) was a nightmare, I was young and fresh and got to go home and not do it again for two months.

Bad day at work rating: 1 Cosmo (even as a teenager, I’m sure I needed it).

Starbucks Barista

One of my first jobs after babysitting was working at Starbucks. I was an excellent barista and made thick, luxurious cappuccino foam like nobody’s business. I was fast too. I often worked the very early morning shift. The worst thing about the job was when Red Van Man would come in immediately after opening when it was quiet and only two girls were there. He was very creepy and probably had a body or two stashed under his garage. It made the job stressful, but only until he pulled out of the parking lot. Oh. And occasionally my float wouldn’t balance. Whoop. Or sometimes the queue of jonesing caffeine addicts would get too long and someone would shoot me the stink eye. Did I mention the hot chocolates were free?

Bad day at work rating: Half a Cosmo (to kill the caffeine buzz).

Restaurant Server

While in university I worked as a restaurant server (aka waitress). I was terrible at it. I have an awful short-term memory, which in my opinion, is the single greatest asset a competent server can have. (Actually, if we’re strictly speaking about earning tips then I can think of some other assets worth having and I don’t have any of those either.) Anyway. A bad day at work for me was everything from start to finish.

I was the type of server who would screw up your order and then forget to bring you a new fork after knocking your first one onto the floor. I don’t know why I was such a klutz. It was stressful, but I was cute and bubbly and most of the customers took pity on me and didn’t complain. They didn’t tip me either though. I’m not sure if this was because of the bad service or the lack of “assets.” Probably both. The manager usually stuck me in the quietest section of the restaurant and worked my tables while I wasn’t looking.

Bad day at work rating: 2 Cosmos (for the sore feet).

Lost Luggage Coordinator

While in university I also worked as a shore-side Passenger Services Coordinator for Princess Cruises. One year I was lucky enough to land the position of Lost Luggage Coordinator. It came with a pay raise, but it also came with lost luggage. I know what you’re thinking. This probably sounds like a horrible job, but actually I liked it. Being a lost luggage coordinator was like being a detective and I always did love those Encyclopedia Brown books when I was a kid. My worst day at work was the same scenario almost every time, just to varying degrees. The more missing luggage, the more stress.

I remember one time an entire bus forgot to offload its luggage before leaving the dock. The ship sailed without it. Pain in the ass, but easy to find. The luggage was shipped to the next port of call and everyone was happy. Occasionally I would get luggage that just didn’t want to be found. I remember this one time in particular: it was about five days into the cruise and some passengers on board still didn’t have one particular piece of luggage. I just couldn’t find it. The irate Italian Captain called me up and started screaming unintelligibly into the phone that “The Smiths” were walking around the ship with sandwich boards over their shoulders that said, “Princess Cruises lost my luggage and they aren’t doing anything to find it.” The Captain was humiliated and furious. These people were driving him crazy and I better damn well do something about it. I had been working my butt off to find the luggage and it just wasn’t happening.

The Smiths were only missing one piece of five, which was the worst. A single, rogue piece of lost luggage is always confusing. I had backtracked the missing piece all the way to The Smith’s hometown cab company and had gone so far as to speak to the cab dispatcher to see if the cab driver remembered anything about the fifth mystery bag. Amazingly enough, the cab driver did remember something. He remembered only four bags. What? I couldn’t believe it. Under the guise of needing some silly insurance information, I got The Smith’s neighbour to go to the house and check it out. Sure enough, the neighbour found the fifth and final bag in the closet of The Smith’s upstairs master bedroom. Not a word of a lie. It had never made it out the front door of their home. No wonder I couldn’t find it. Needless to say, the Captain thoroughly enjoyed telling The Smiths the great news and sent me a bottle of wine the next day. I just wish I’d seen the look of humiliation on their faces when he told them. Idiots.

Bad day at work rating: 1 Cosmo (and a bottle of wine).

Law Firm Research Assistant

Somewhere along the way I thought I wanted to become a lawyer. However, a good friend of the family was so sure I didn’t want to be a lawyer that he hired me to work in his law firm. He was right. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I’m still grateful to him for that lesson. In the meantime, I worked at the law firm for a while because it was a good job and I didn’t know what else to do. While there I worked as the receptionist, which I liked and I was good at. I also worked as a general office assistant, which I also liked and I was also good at. None of it was very stressful or difficult for me. I did these jobs before I worked on the cruise ship.

When I came back from the ship, I worked again at the law firm while I went to school and tried to find another job. My last job there before I went to work in radio was that of a research assistant on a First Nation’s land claim case. My job was to read and categorize upwards of 20,000 historical documents in a search for paperwork pertinent to the case. It was quite interesting. For about the first fifty documents. After that it was incredibly boring and monotonous. If boredom could be considered stressful, then it was the most stressful job I’ve ever had. My worst day on the job as a research assistant was any day when I had to sit in my office for more than five minutes in a row without someone poking their head in to say hello. The firm won the case by the way. To the tune of $92.5 million.

Bad day at work rating: 2 Cosmos (to numb the pain).

Junior Assistant Purser

Working on the cruise ship was one of the best and most difficult jobs I’ve ever had. My contracts with Princess Cruises were usually about six months long and I did three of them. I worked every single day of the contract without a day off, except for the few days when I was gravely ill. I worked a minimum of eight hours each day, with most days being ten to fifteen hours long. The upside of all this was that the commute was short, my meals were made, my uniforms were laundered and I had a room steward who cleaned my room, changed my towels and made my bed for me. Every day. Despite the perks, it was still an extremely difficult and exhausting job. For almost my entire first contract I worked at the front desk where there was usually a long queue all day. People love to complain and the front desk was complaint central.

Short tangent here:

Sorry to the Americans who read my blog, but you are absolutely the worst at saying “please.” The British are brilliant at it, Canadians are hit-and-miss, but Americans are downright awful. And yes, we knew the nationality of each passenger because it was printed right on the passenger ID card. We used to keep score at the front desk to see how many American passengers would actually say “please” to us. Some days we’d talk to twenty or thirty Americans before we even got one “please.” I remember one day that was so bad it actually brought me to tears. I felt so disrespected. Americans are very good with their “thank yous,” but their “pleases” could really use some work. Go on. Let the tirade begin about why I shouldn’t stereotype Americans, but my research was relatively scientific and my sample group was certainly large enough. Lump it. In my experience, Americans could say “please” more often.

Moving on.

A lot of my work at the front desk was stressful, but most of the time it was a lot of fun. I love to talk to people and my job was to talk to people all day. I didn’t even mind it so much when they were complaining. Handling complaints was cake to me (most of the time). I can smile and problem-solve and convince people that everything will be all right with the best of them. Plus, we were lucky enough to have excellent training and I felt empowered to take matters into my own hands. Luckily “I’ll have to check with my boss” was a phrase I didn’t need to use very often. People love it when they have a problem and you actually do something to fix it right then and there in front of them.

I remember this one guy coming to the front desk to tell me that his toilet wasn’t working. He said something about it being blocked, which was a surprise to me because he looked rather blocked himself. His head was about to explode as he ranted and raved about how he’d spent his entire life savings to take this cruise and now he had to spend it in a tiny cabin with a stanky blocked toilet. While his head was spinning around in furious anger, I sent a computerized repair chit to the engineer in charge of toilets and asked him to head up to the room asap and call me when he’d fixed the problem. Luckily it was a slow day because while the passenger continued to rant, the engineer went to the room, fixed the problem and called me. When the phone rang and I excused myself to answer it, the passenger flipped out. I smiled politely, spoke to the engineer who gave me the good news and then hung up. I took a few deeps breaths and waited for the pompous screaming ass in front of me to run out of air. When he stopped talking long enough to take a breath I told him that the engineer had fixed the problem and that a bottle of wine would be sent to his room shortly as my apology for the inconvenience.

I handed him my business card and said, “call me personally if this happens again and I’ll take care of it.”

Then I patted him on the hand and with a big smile and a wink I said; “now you run along and have a lovely cruise and don’t worry about a thing. I’m here to look after you.”

The guy’s chin hit the floor. He mumbled some sort of thank you and walked away, tail between his legs. That same day I took a two-hour snorkelling cruise in the sparkling waters of Aruba on my lunch break. When idiot passengers were yelling in my face at the front desk I always thought about easier jobs I could have been doing at home. No matter what it was, they still wouldn’t have had me snorkelling in Aruba on my lunch break.

Bad day at work rating: 3 Cosmos (there were many incidents worse than Mr. Blockage, but those stories are for another post).

Radio Station Summer Sticker-Spotter

After returning from the cruise ship and spending a bit of time at the law firm, I finally got a job in radio. I was plucked out of night school by a local radio personality to act as his production assistant on a golf report. I love golf, so it was pretty uneventful and easy. No stress there. (Unless you consider working for a big jovial golf-addict stressful.) This job eventually gave me the confidence to apply for a job as a “sticker-spotter” at another local radio station. I got the position and spent the entire summer looking cute driving around in a brand new Volkswagen convertible while giving away lots of fun prizes. No stress here either. (Unless you consider driving up to someone’s house to give them a brand new car stressful.) I don’t think I had a bad day of work all summer.

Oh, except for when I had to do on air cut-ins with a certain DJ who was very particular and made me extremely self-conscious. He was downright mean in fact. I always had to do about ten takes with him and was often reduced to tears. (Not you Buzz. You were always wonderful to me). I wasn’t trained in any way. I could only do my best. Someone told me early on that he had made everyone cry at one time or another, so I finally sucked it up and got over it. Interestingly enough, the following summer I helped the new sticker spotter by doing a weekend of on air cut-ins for her. I thought I sounded a million times better on air that weekend than I did the entire summer before. I guess the pressure was off so I sounded a lot more natural. It was one of those “I wish I knew then what I know now” moments. If only I could have relaxed the summer before. I would have sounded so much better! Worst day on the job? None.

Bad day at work rating: 0 Cosmos (after all, I was driving).

Radio Station Promotions Coordinator

I loved working as a sticker-spotter for the radio station so much that at the end of the summer I did everything I could to make myself indispensable so they would hire me full time. It worked like a charm. I got a job as a promotions coordinator a few weeks after the summer sticker-spotting gig ended. Being a promotions coordinator at a successful top 40 radio station is a ton of fun but it’s also a huge amount of work. I was part of a team responsible for creating all of the contests and giving away all of the prizes for the both the top 40 station and it’s oldies sister station. Yes. I gave away prizes for a living. Including the sticker spotting job, I personally drove to someone’s house and give away a brand new car on at least five or six separate occasions. I actually know how Oprah feels:

“You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”

Somewhere after about three months on the job I lost count of the number of trips I gave away; let alone the number of concert tickets, movie passes and CDs. It felt amazing to give away so much fun stuff. I should also mention that I attended plenty of free concerts and took home countless free CDs of my own. Sadly, I did not snag any of those new cars. Sigh. As far as a bad day goes, the worst part of the job was the workload. It was huge. I pumped out more promotions and contests in one week at that job than in six months at my next radio job. I was often overwhelmed and everyone wanted a piece of me all the time. Especially the sales reps. I worked painfully long hours, which was only accentuated by an extremely long commute. My dismally poor salary only added insult to injury. I’m sure my hourly rate dipped below minimum wage almost every month. Did I mention there were no windows in my office?

In spite of all this, nothing particularly bad ever happened. It’s not like I was doing brain surgery. Oh no! Shock horror. We’ve run out of pop princess CDs. I guess I better ply this giggly little teenage prize winner with a boy band CD and a signed poster instead. I hope she doesn’t get too upset about my catastrophic pop princess CD miscalculation. Eeek.

Bad day at work rating: 3 Cosmos (the workload did get overwhelming at times, but nothing a few cosmos couldn’t cure).

Extras Wrangler

When I finally got sick of the long daily commute the radio station, I quit and took a new job at a radio station much closer to home. I hated the new job and kicked myself every day for leaving the old one. It was painfully boring and unbelievable uninspiring so I left after only one year. In between that and getting pregnant, I worked as an Extras Wrangler in the film industry with my husband. I was his fifth assistant on set. Talk about stress-free. I alphabetized sign-in sheets for 10 hours at a day at $20/hour while chatting with hundreds of people about nonsense. When I wasn’t alphabetizing I played cards. It was a great job. And I got to sleep with my boss.

And I guess I really liked my boss because I let him get me pregnant.

Bad day at work rating: 2 Cosmos (I was trying to get pregnant. Being liquored-up always helps).

Background Extra

Apparently alphabetizing things was even too stressful for me, because when I got pregnant I decided to slide all the way into the Land of Laziness by becoming a Background Extra. It was pretty much the same thing as being the fifth assistant to the extras wrangler only I didn’t get a radio and I didn’t have to stop playing cards long enough to alphabetize sign-in sheets anymore.

Being a background extra is probably the least stressful job on the planet. In spite of this, I should have stuck with being a wrangler because access to the craft services table would have come in handy in my third trimester.

Bad day at work rating: 0 Cosmos (I was pregnant).

Stay-at Home-Mom

This is by far the most difficult and stressful job I’ve ever had. It’s so challenging that I a started a blog just to deal with the psychological trauma. There’s too much to cover in one post, so I’ll suffice it to say that drinking heavily helps.

Bad day at work rating: 10 Cosmos (or until I pass out).

What Have We Learned Here?

1. Babysitters are young, fresh kids who can handle one night of your kid screaming. Get the hell out of the house damn it.

2. Strange men who drive windowless vans in the early morning are creepy. Avoid them at all costs.

3. If you have a poor memory or a lousy rack, don’t work as a waitress. You’ll be shitty at it and you’ll make crap money.

4. If you tend to leave your head up your ass on a regular basis, don’t travel. You’re an idiot.

5. Historical legal documents are boring, but $92.5 million dollars is probably not.

6. Say please. Especially if your crapper is backed up. (See #4.)

7. Radio stations sometimes give away cars. It pays to listen.

8. Oprah isn’t the only one who gives away cars. I do too.

9. Being a background extra is only marginally easier than being the fifth assistant to the extras wrangler on a film set.

10. Pregnancy is occasionally a work hazard.

11. I like Cosmos. But I don’t drink as much as this post might lead you to believe.

dead presidents and giant jackalopes.

[Originally posted at laughing alone in the dark on January 20, 2008.]

Once again I have a million different posts swirling around in my head. I never know which one to tackle first.

I’ve been meaning to re-visit my best places on the planet list, but there’s this whole ramble about travelling I feel the need to cover first. I guess I’ll touch on it now.

The short version of the ramble is this: travel experiences are completely subjective, and as such, it doesn’t matter a rat’s ass what I think about any particular place, because I hope that it would have no effect whatsoever on what you think of that particular place.

The long version of the ramble is every self-indulgent little detail here that follows.

Let me warn you.

This is a long post.

Mostly I wrote it for me. I’m working on my memoirs and need to start writing stuff down before it’s gone for good. This post and the various lists in it are as much for my benefit as they are for yours. One of my other hobbies is genealogy. I wish my ancestors had written down their lives in more detail. Maybe someone will feel the same way about my life one day.


If you’ve only got a minute, read something shorter I’ve posted like this. Or this. If you’re at work and you don’t want to do your job then grab a cup of tea and get comfortable. I’m long-winded. But if you’ve read my blog before, you already know that.

As I’ve mentioned many times already, I used to live and work on a cruise ship. I did it for approximately two years. It consisted of three 6-7 month contracts. I was lucky enough to work in the Purser’s Department, which allowed me the privilege of a reasonable amount of shore time and plenty of free shore excursions. I went many places and saw many things in the following parts of the globe:

1. Eastern Canada
2. Eastern United States
3. The Caribbean
4. Northern parts of South America
5. Multiple transits of the Panama Canal
6. The west side of Central America and Mexico
7. Multiple ports throughout the Mediterranean
8. Multiple ports throughout the Baltic, including St. Petersburg
9. The Norwegian Fjords, including a stop at the North Cape
10. The British Isles, and;
11. Three transits of the Atlantic Ocean, twice in the north and once in the south.

I have opinions about all of it.

But under no circumstances do I think you should take my word on any of it.

In addition to working on a cruise ship for two years, I have also made the following trips:

1. Toronto to Vancouver via the Northern United States in the backseat of a 70’s Mercury Cougar with my mom, dad and brother. I have a terrible memory. That might not be the right car for the right trip, but I’m sticking with it.

Okay. I’ll stop there. I’ve forgotten the details about most of these trips, so I’ll continue in far less detail. I’ll never get through this if I don’t. I can’t even remember how we got home on the above Toronto to Vancouver trip. I assume my parents didn't just leave me in Vancouver, but I was only five or six so I don’t remember if we drove home via Canada or the US. I think it was Canada. Some of these trips jumble together in my head and only the highlights stick out in my memory.

Moving on.

As a child, my parents took my brother and I on various other trips across Canada and through parts of the United States. We did at least two trips that I can remember to Washington DC in the early 80’s. I think the purpose of the trips each time had something to do with a soccer tournament. I remember these two trips in particular because of two different photos of me, each at different ends of the National Mall. In both photos I wear the angriest scowl you’ve ever seen on a young child:

Click on the picture to get the full effect of my anger.

And here's the second photo, a year or two later:

I especially love the folded arms and the sizeable distance between my family and me (my dad is behind the camera).

Although I did finally join in...

I must have hated Washington DC. I have no idea what I was so angry about. There were a lot of stairs. I do remember that. But I also remember loving the National Air and Space Museum. I thought it was fascinating.

Other highlights from these childhood trips that stick out in my memory are:

1. Begging to be woken up to see some really long tunnel that I really wanted to see only to wake up after we had already gone through it. Damn you mom and dad.

2. Finding change in a payphone at a beautiful park in Bethesda, Maryland. I don’t remember the park. Only the change. Bethesda is one of my favourite words to this day.

3. Having my photo taken at Mount Rushmore with no idea why anyone would want to go to the trouble of carving a bunch of faces on the side of a mountain.

4. Descending into some dark drippy cave somewhere. I thought it was interesting, but scary. I’m not sure where it was.

5. Being giddy with excitement about going to Big Rock Candy Mountain, only to be massively disappointed when I found out there was no candy involved. I still love candy, but I don’t feel so loving towards big rocks.

6. Buying a postcard in Salt Lake City, Utah that had an actual little packet of salt attached to it. My brother and I must have been salt deficient or something because we sucked on those little salt packets for the rest of the trip. To this day I don’t like salty food.

7. Building up an immeasurable excitement for some out-of-the-way boondocks place called Wall Drug, South Dakota. There were signs for Wall Drug beginning hundreds of miles away. Let me tell you. When you drive across ultra flat and super uneventful South Dakota and all you see every few miles, for about a hundred miles, is a sign for some place called Wall Drug, by the time you actually get there you’re pretty darn thrilled. Great marketing. It was a big let down. In the late 70’s Wall Drug consisted of a general store and a giant Jackalope that I got to sit on with my brother and have my picture taken:

I think I wore that same dress for the whole trip.

8. Something about a giant goose in some place called Wawa.

9. Driving through Northern Ontario and getting seriously scolded by my mother for being culturally insensitive. The area we were cruising through was quite downtrodden and featured something that made my brother and I think that Indians lived there. I don’t know what it was that made us think that, but when we said something about Indians my-ever-politically-correct mother severely admonished us. She instructed us to stop being disrespectful about the First Nations culture and its people (although First Nations wasn’t a term used then, but my mom would have been on the cutting edge of all things appropriate). Anyway, as my mother was lecturing us on how to be respectful and culturally sensitive, as if on cue, we drove across a dilapidated metal bridge that had spray painted across it, clear as day, the words:

Well if we didn’t laugh until the pee came.

Those are the memories that stick out the most. There’s more, but I have other stuff I want to cover in this post, so I’ll move on.

Other trips I’ve taken?

In no particular order:

1. I’ve been to Hawaii more times than I can count. I love the place more than I should.

2. I flew to Los Angeles for my cruise ship job interview with a couple of girlfriends. We went to Disneyland. It was fun even though I hate amusement rides. I got the job.

3. I did a Griswold family vacation throughout Europe with my mom, dad and my brother the summer before I started university. We each got to choose one must-see destination. My brother’s was the 24h Le Mans car race. I thought I would hate it. I loved it. Mine was the Royal Henley Rowing Regatta. I thought I would love it and I did. I can’t remember what my parents wanted to do. I was selfish back then. I think it had something to do with wineries.

4. I did a two-month backpacking vacation with a girlfriend in Europe. That trip will be the subject of numerous posts in the future. It solidified my love for travel and led me to my job on the cruise ship (well that and awkward affair with a friend's boyfriend).

5. My girlfriend Caralyn won a trip to the Dominican Republic from a radio station and took me with her. She has lots of great friends. I’m still grateful to her for choosing me. We had fun and I got a job at the same radio station shortly after that.

6. Balazs and I took the train from Budapest to the Cannes Film Festival. We were robbed on the train before it even left the station. We went anyway and had a wonderful time. Balazs got to see his personal hero Johnny Depp walk down the red carpet two feet in front of us. It was amazing.

7. I took a honeymoon after my Hungarian wedding with a friend instead of my husband. I wanted to see Berlin, but Balazs didn’t, so a friend met me in Budapest and we did a five-day road trip together. We left the morning after the wedding ceremony. My husband still loves me.

On that note, I’ll stop there. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of trips, but it’s not totally relevant to the point of my post.

A few things to note. Although I’ve been to many places, there are far far far many more places I have not been. I can’t wait to travel again one day.

I have never been anywhere in Asia (unless you count Turkey) and I have never been anywhere in Africa (unless you count Morocco). I have also never been to Australia. I would love to go to all of these places. I have dabbled in South America and would love to go there again too.

I never want to go to India. Never.

Go ahead. Write a million comments about why I should go to India, but I’ll have a million answers as to why I don’t want to. Not the least of which is that a friend of mine from high school went to India and never came back. They still don’t know what happened to him.

I think travelling is the ultimate way to learn about yourself and others. It’s amazing. If you don’t travel, find a way. The world would be a much better place if everybody had travelled as much as I have.

I feel the same way about this as I do about restaurant servers (the gender-neutral and compositionally easier way of saying waiter/waitress). I don’t think anyone should be allowed to eat in a restaurant if you’ve never been a server. It gives you an entirely new perspective on the dining experience. I was a server once. I was horrible. It’s a difficult job. If you get good service in a restaurant, your server is a multi-talented miracle worker. Tip accordingly.

Travelling has given me the same perspective on the world as being a server gave me about dining in a restaurant. I know what’s behind the scenes. I know how hard it is to make it work. Once you have travelled and you’ve seen different countries and different cultures, you know what’s behind the scenes. You understand why things work and why things don’t in this world.

The perspective on life that travelling has given me is immeasurable.

But that’s still not the point of this post.

Here’s the point:

My opinion about one particular travel destination or another doesn’t matter. My list of the best places on the planet is meaningless. Except to me.

Read it if only to inspire you to make your own list. Don’t follow mine. It won’t be as good for you as it was for me. Guaranteed.

Every experience a traveller has is going to be different. It’s never about the place. It’s always about the traveller.

A traveller’s enjoyment of a particular destination is entirely dependent on a multitude of different factors all working in concert to provide the desired effect; whether it be pleasure or relaxation or cultural experiences or culinary experiences.

I love recounting my travel stories, but they’re mine. All mine.

Remember the time we almost got arrested? (That’s happened to me. Twice. Once that I’ll talk about and once that I won’t.)

Remember the time I thought I was going to die of food poisoning? (That also happened to me. Not to mention many other unpleasant gastro-intestinal ailments.)

Remember the time we got robbed on the train? (As mentioned above.)

Remember the time we ran like mad dogs for ten blocks through Athens with 50-pound backpacks to catch a train, only to watch it pull out of the station without us? (Yup. We did that too.)

My point?

All of the bad stuff makes for great stories in the end, but good or bad; you’ll never have the same stories as me.

I love telling my almost-got-arrested-in-Rome-story (but not the almost-got-arrested-in-Mexico-story).

I remember that the food poisoning event was preceded by only a few days (and was not the cause of the food poisoning) by one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had in my entire life.

The robbery ended with an up-close and personal Johnny Depp experience.

The missed train ended with four luxurious hours of sun tanning on the train platform, only to be joined by a couple of super fun guys who travelled with us for the next two weeks.

Some of the things I thought I would hate the most (Le Mans), ended up being some of the things I enjoyed the most.

One particular example of this stands out from when my friend and I were backpacking through Europe. As we headed from Greece towards Italy, everybody told us that the port town of Brindsi in Italy was a horrible cesspool and that we should transit through it as quickly and efficiently as possible. We kept that in mind as we cruised towards Brindsi one early evening. Get in. Get out. Got it.

Only our train wasn’t leaving for three hours.

Well I guess our advisers who hated Brindsi had never been there at 8pm on a Friday evening because as far as I’m concerned, it was one of the most charming and quintessentially Italian places I have ever been. Families were out strolling the streets dressed in their fineries. People were sitting in cafes sipping cappuccinos and double-kissing each other on cheeks. My friends and I found this adorable mom-and-pop restaurant close to the train station that was complete with red-check tablecloths and incredible homemade Italian food. We were treated like kings and ate until we were ready to pop. We left Brindsi with a smile on our face that couldn’t be denied.

To this day I still don’t know why everyone we talked to hated Brindsi so much. Perhaps in the daylight the grimy port town didn’t seem so sweet. I don’t care. I loved it.


This ridiculously long and self-indulgent post is coming to a close.

The reason I wrote all of the above is to say this: I love to write about my travel experiences and I’m naturally inclined to create lists and post my favourites.

But this is by no means an endorsement for any of them because there is no way that Roma will be playing their arch rival Cagliari at the Olympic stadium in Rome when you’re there. And the home team of Roma will most certainly not score the winning goal in the last five seconds of the game in front of 82,000 hysterical fans.

I’m also sure my in-laws in Budapest are not going to let you stay at their cottage.

And the fact that Stockholm was the first place I went ashore with my future husband isn’t going to make you love it as much as I do.

There’s no way that you are going to love any of the places I love as much as I do and for the same reasons.

So go travel.

Find out for yourself.

Make your own lists.

The only thing I love almost as much as my own travel stories are your travel stories. So have fun and tell me your stories when you get back.

Oh. And don’t eat the ham and cheese sandwich you bought at that nasty train station in Genoa. Trust me. Just don’t eat it.

all about me...

[Originally posted at laughing alone in the dark on January 20, 2008.]

In light of my desire to use this blog as somewhat of a place to record my memories, I have written a small synopsis of my life. This is probably only interesting to me as I try to keep track of the highlights of my life, but if anyone falls upon this lonely little unread blog, please feel free to give it a read and comment if you wish.

Here goes...

Carolyn's Life. Part 1

I was born a wee little thing in Montreal, Quebec, Canada where there was always tons of snow in the winter. Snow is really my only memory of living in Montreal for the first year of my life; and that memory is really only from pictures. Life in Montreal, for me, was spent mostly sleeping so I guess I was pretty boring back then.

When I was about a year old, we moved to Markham, Ontario, which at that time, was a small community just outside of Toronto. There were cornfields behind my elementary school and it was so small and safe there that I regularly walked to school alone and was allowed to ride my bike around the neighbourhood all day unaccompanied by an adult. Now, Markham is really just a suburb of the ever-expanding Toronto and I'm sure kids aren't even allowed to cross the street by themselves.

My brother, my friends and I all played soccer in the summer and spent winters in the local ice arena. The girls figure skated and the boys played hockey, which was what I really wanted to be doing, but girls weren't allowed to play hockey back then. In a little bit of foreshadowing for my life, a CBC Hockey Night in Canada crew came to film at our local rink and I ended up being part of the opening credits for the entire hockey season. It left an impression on my young mind. The soccer, the skating, the brush with fame... it all added up to a wonderful childhood that was pretty hard to beat.

Growing up in Markham was fun and exciting, so I was sad to leave at the age of eleven when we moved to West Vancouver, British Columbia. But, as anyone who has ever been to Vancouver will agree, the west coast is beautiful and amazing, so I quickly fell in love with it and haven't looked back since.

I spent my teen years at a wonderful high school that allowed me the opportunity to participate in many extra-curricular activities. I did well in my classes and loved musical theatre. I had very small background roles in a few of the productions put on at the school and was also very active with the high school rowing crew. My small size and big voice made me a perfect coxswain, a position at which I excelled. I also coxed for the provincial team one summer and won two gold medals at the Canada Summer Games. I am still very proud of this accomplishment.

After high school, I went to UBC and got a degree in anthropology, which I have not used since. I worked in a law firm for a while, thinking I wanted to be a lawyer one day, but it was boring, so I ran off to sea.

I worked on a cruise ship where I had tons of fun and visited more than 30 different countries. It was interesting, and exciting, so I stayed for two years. Somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea I met my husband, Balazs. We had our first kiss in the Baltic Sea and I guess it was something about the motion in the ocean because we decided to settle down in North Vancouver and got married. I wore my wedding dress twice because our ceremonies were both in Vancouver and in Budapest where my husband is from. We’ll be celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary this March.

After the weddings I worked in a law firm for a while (again) as a research assistant in a first nations land claim case. It was boring (again), so I ran off to work in radio. I started doing some brief on-air stuff as a sticker spotter at Z95.3 (yet another brush with fame) and then moved into their promotions department where I took part in giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of prizes. If you ever have the opportunity to drive up to someone’s house and give him or her a brand new car, I highly recommend it. Better yet, do it more than once like I did. This is still one of the big thrills of my life.

After meeting a bunch of rock stars*, and partying like a rock star, I moved on from Z95.3 (aka the best job in the world where I was overworked and underpaid) and went to CBC Radio One as a publicist (aka the worst job in the world where I was underworked and overpaid). Who knew when I was a kid in the opening credits of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada that I would work for the CBC one day? Although, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as my childhood memories had fooled me to believe, so I ran off to get pregnant.

Which I did, and Csilla was born nine months later.

While pregnant with Csilla, I wrote two screenplays: both of which now sit on a shelf gathering dust. I also briefly worked as a background extra and was even featured as a belly double in a small film starring Tori Spelling called Hush. Donna Martin actually touched my tubby tummy! If you ever catch this craptastic movie-of-the-week (usually on at about 2am) watch for all 3.1 seconds worth of my bulging Csilla-filled belly at about 20 minutes into the show. So many brushes with fame! Are my 15 minutes officially up?

Csilla's almost three years old now and full of energy. She's super smart and extremely funny. A real sweetheart and the love of my life! Her name means twinkling star in Hungarian, which she definitely is to us. If you're wondering, Csilla's name is pronounced Chill-ah. The Cs is pronounced like Ch in Hungarian. It rhymes with gorilla and sounds just like chinchilla without the chin!

I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom to Csilla ever since she was born and I don’t plan on returning to work any time soon. I enjoy scrapbooking all of Csilla’s lovable and beautiful moments and I like to unwind at yoga once a week when Csilla’s in preschool. I watch more television than I should and don’t get as much sleep as I should.

Other than that, we try to vacation in Hawaii once a year and travel to Budapest as often as we can afford. My husband works as a background booking agent in the film industry, a new position for him, which he is enjoying more and more each day. We live in my mom's basement suite in North Vancouver where the rent is cheap and the babysitting is free. We like it here and could say we're pretty happy.

To be continued…

*They weren't actually rock stars, they were more like glorified pop stars, but rock stars reads better.