Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How can I be tired? I haven’t left yet

Or why you shouldn’t try to plan a trip to Europe in one week

My flight is 48 hours from now but I’m already pooped. Forget jetlag – trip planning can be energy sucking. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to pack all the fun of searching for accommodations in 2 countries and 6 cities in to the week before my departure.

Before I have to hide under my desk for fear of the wrath of those who are already a touch annoyed with me for having the gall to not only go to Europe, but to actually take 3 weeks off to go, I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I am only a little tired and would like to share what I learned.

1. If you happen to book your flight the day before your airline’s pilots vote to possibly, potentially, maybe go on strike a mere 23 hours before your flight is set to take off, don’t wait to book your hotels in hopes that it all gets settled. It won’t. This particular form of psychological water torture is apparently a common strategy. Go about your life. If they go on strike, the airline has to figure out how you get you there or get you home - unlike when an airline goes bankrupt. Then you’re really screwed.

2. So maybe the delay would mean last minute deals, right? Don’t drink that Kool Aid. The only time you can depend on a last minute deal is if you are trying to book a hotel in Winnipeg… in February. But October in Paris? Turns out, it’s a popular time. Hotels don’t seem overly concerned about filling up their properties. And if hotels in Paris or Rome normally cost €300 per night, 10% off is still really, really expensive. The deals were scooped up by the smart people 4 months ago.

3. Don’t listen to people who call you unflattering names because you want to know where you are sleeping each night. Call me crazy, but I’ve done the “Oh, we’ll figure it out when we get there”. That is so much fun. What’s better than carting a suitcase around town hoping you won’t have to sleep in stable? Oh yeah, having a place to sleep. Maybe I’ve lost my sense of adventure. Wait a minute… nope. It's true, we may have to leave the super fantastic glorious spot we’ve found in Monterosso. But we are heading to Chianti. How bad can that be?

I’d write more, but I’m sleepy. Instead of looking for internet cafes to book hotels, I’ll be looking for the opportunity to update my blog and to no doubt regale you with our fabulous surroundings and our riveting critiques of gelato.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sneeze

The instructions for that day’s grade one assignment were quite clear. Draw three daisies. Simple. Karine loved to draw and for once felt certain Sister Imelda would praise her for her artistic talents, her flawless daisies, the shape of their petals and the green of their stem. Of course because she was only 6 years old, her thoughts ran more towards how she’d get her picture hung at the front of the class.

Karine’s gleeful use of the pale pink crayon was halted by Sister Imelda’s imposing finger with its frighteningly close cropped nail pointing aggressively at the daisy.

“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Drawing the daisies, sister.”
“Why is it pink?” She growled the question, over pronouncing the P and the K.
“Because I like pink.” Karine was more hesitant in her answer. She was beginning to recognize that trouble, as usual, was just ahead of her.

By now the entire class had stopped colouring and was watching the drama unfold.

“Really? Pink? Do you think God cares that you like pink? Does God make pink daisies?”

Karine saw an opening to share what she had learned. “My mother has pink daisies in her garden.” Karine was too young to know the difference between daisies and Echinacea.

“You petulant little child. God makes daisies WHITE.”

Karine knew what was coming next and gathered her books together before being ordered “Out in the hall.” She’d have to spend the rest of the morning sitting in the “desk of shame” in the hall. A desk was permanently parked outside of Sister Imelda’s classroom because there was usually at least one pupil ordered out there at any one time.

The desk of shame would not be so bad – rather peaceful in fact – except for the disapproving shakes of heads from the other teachers, and even worse, Father O’Leary, the principal. The taunts of her schoolmates didn’t help. Especially the snotty superiority of Sarah Beth Lindy who was always being praised by Sister Imelda.

Karine got to work. Her previous attempt at drawing was trashed by the good Sister. This time she’d try again and make them white with a yellow centre, green stem and three leaves. The result made her yawn.

After a lonely lunch Karine was allowed back into class. Things were going fairly well, but Karine could not let go of the injustice of being yelled at for making her daisies prettier than required. Her eyes bore holes into the back of Sister Imelda’s head as she wrote math gibberish on the board. When she turned to face the class, to Karine’s eyes Sister Imelda had horns, her nose had grown by three inches and warts had taken over her face and neck. Instead of being afraid of the gargoyle now teaching math, Karine was pleased with the look she had given to her teacher.

Her smug satisfaction was shattered when she realized her name was being called to answer a math question that required adding two impossibly large numbers. Karine sat there miserably with her mouth wide open. Sister Imelda pounced.

“You weren’t paying attention.” It was an accusation, not a question. Thankfully an answer was not required. Sister Imelda chose to humiliate her simply by barking “Smarten up” and turned back to the board. Karine happened to catch Sarah Beth’s triumphant face. Karine resisted the urge to stick out her tongue. It was the best decision she had made all day.

The dreadful day was almost done. The only thing left to survive was gym class outside. Karine was determined to pay attention, be quiet and charming and not get into trouble. She was not a child programmed to sit still but she wanted nothing more than to play the game and be a good girl and go home to her mom’s warm hug and perhaps cookies and milk to help forget the day.

The set up was standard. Holding hands and walking around the magic circle. It was a simple game. Karine could do this. Sister Imelda had made the circle arrangements. Karine had Sarah Beth on one side and Sister Imelda on the other. The dream of holding hands with Tommy Snyder was thereby lost. After a momentary pout, Karine returned to her plan of goodness.

Karine’s nose had a different plan. It started as a small tickle. An annoyance, but it grew. It was quickly mounting to be a colossal sneeze. First Karine tried to release her hand from Sarah Beth’s grasp. That didn’t work. Next she tried to struggle free from Sister Imelda, but her grip only seemed to get stronger. She resorted to pleading.

“Please, Sister, my nose.”
“Sit still, Karine. Enough.”
“But I’m going to …” It was too late. The sneeze was bigger than Karine herself. It was simply reflex that caused Karine’s little hand, still housed in Sister Imelda’s unyielding grasp, shot to her face and wiped up the offensive remnants of the sneeze. However, it should be reported that Karine’s hand did not mop up the mess. In fact, Sister Imelda’s hand and sleeve did a far better job of getting Karine’s face clean.

Sister Imelda’s reaction was as immediate as it was predictable. A high pitched screech could be heard threatening hell and brimstone and Sister Imelda hauled Karine away. She knew where she was heading – the gulag – the principal’s office. But Karine carried forward… bravely… with a huge smile on her face.