Monthly Archives: August 2014

Proud To Be Canadian: 3-Days Kayaking in Paradise

For me, one of the hardest parts of living in Japan was being far away from my beloved Rocky Mountains. I spent most of my childhood weekends there, and the homesick feeling I felt for them never disappeared during my 3 years living abroad. Back when I lived in Canada I used to take for granted living only an hour away from some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.  But that isn’t true any longer. After a 3-year hiatus I’m one eager beaver to go hiking, kayaking and snowboarding in beautiful Canadian nature as much as possible!

My parents, knowing me all too well, had anticipated this. Immediately after my birthday we packed up the tent-trailer and headed out camping for 4 days. On our first day we headed up to Yoho National Park, set up the trailer, and afterwards decided that we’d go kayaking on Emerald Lake to kickstart our adventure!

IMG_4339 IMG_4365I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I saw Emerald Lake again. Doesn’t the clear aquamarine water look like something out of dream? The weather was hot and sunny so I couldn’t wait to get out on the water!

That’s me on my little inflatable kayak borrowed off our family friend Laura (thanks Laura!) which we affectionately nicknamed The Banana Boat!

IMG_4355 IMG_4364 IMG_4375After a couple hours of kayaking my upper arms were exhausted. I haven’t been kayaking in nearly 3-years so I’ve got little chicken wings without nearly enough muscle, though that’s due to change now that I can go kayaking any time I want! So we set up some chairs and an umbrella, whipped out our books from the dry sacks, cracked open some beer, and lounged around reading for a bit, peeking up every so often from our page to look at the magnificent view before us.IMG_4370 IMG_4371

After another hour of kayaking we headed into The Emerald Lake Lodge for a beer on the patio. Talk about a drink with a view to kill for, eh?! Cheers to the great outdoors!IMG_4395

 

We woke up frighteningly early the next morning (at least for someone still suffering from terrible jet lag, ugh!) but my grumpy grizzly bear demeanour disappeared in an instant when I smelled bacon sizzling. I smiled when I saw mom beginning to whip up a batch of blueberry pancakes, something of a Bell Family Tradition when camping and trundled sleepily over to lend a hand! Even when we’re in the middle of the wilderness The Bell Clan still eats like kings!IMG_4405

After breakfast we decided to stretch our legs before getting back into our kayaks. So, we strolled around Emerald Lake which took about an hour and rewarded us with some pretty spectacular views! IMG_4407 IMG_4408 IMG_4422

After lunch we drove down the road to the very famous Lake Louise for our second afternoon of kayaking. It wasn’t quite as sunny as I was hoping, but still breathtaking once you got out on the water.

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Mom and dad were pretty happy to finally be checking this dream off their bucket list. They’ve been talking about kayaking on Lake Louise ever since they first bought their kayaks 5 years ago!! I was happy to be the perfect catalyst, nothing like having your kid come home to shake things up!  IMG_4423As the sun began to set and cast a rosy glow over the surrounding mountains we called it quits because our feet were feeling frozen. The water in these lakes is glacier fed, so even during the hottest summer period it’s frighteningly cold water.

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We were a little nervous when we woke up on the 3rd day because it was pretty windy. We killed a bit of time lounging around the campsite reading, waiting until the wind died down a bit, then we headed over to Lake Moraine. In my opinion this lake has the prettiest colour water of them all. It’s just SO blue! IMG_4436 IMG_4438 IMG_4443

We got half way out and the wind picked up…uh oh! The wind really was a teensy bit of a problem in an inflatable kayak. It took all my effort not to be swept away! I was moving about as fast as a turtle swimming through molasses.  So my dad decided to hitch me to his kayak with a rope, he tugged me along and I paddled as hard as I could to keep up.

Oh! The indignity!!!! IMG_4446 IMG_4457 IMG_4455

We paddled all the way across the lake before we beached the kayaks for lunch. We had worked up quite the appetite battling the wind, and I practically inhaled my ginormous pita sandwich. We feasted on fresh BC cherries for dessert and said for the one-hundreth-and-one time how lucky we felt to be there together enjoying such beauty.

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The heavens opened the floodgates on our final day, and it was supposed to rain heavily all day. We were pretty tuckered out after 3 solid days of kayaking, and so we decided our hike could wait for another day. We drove into Banff and spent the afternoon looking at art in the many art galleries and eating simply divine pizza at The Bear Street Tavern. The food was to die for, I got The Big Bird Pizza which was loaded with pesto, bacon, chicken, goat cheese, mozzarella, spinach and onions. The craft beer was extra tasty after 3 years of only Asahi, Kirin or Sapporo to choose from! If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Banff I’d really recommend checking it out! You know a place is pretty darn yummy when it’s featured on the t.v. show You Gotta Eat Here.

You can check out their website here.

Bear Street Tavern Banff

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Categories: Life In Canada | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Painful Goodbyes & New Beginnings

Lao Tzu really hit the nail on the head when he said “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” It’s hard to believe, in so many ways, that my time in Fukui is over. I’m sitting back in Canada as I write this blog post and I can’t help but feel that my last two weeks in Japan went by in a blur.

Saying goodbye to the life I made for myself in Japan was inevitable. It was something I had known for a long time, ever since I stepped off that plane 3 years ago at the Tokyo Orientation. It was never my intention to live in Japan forever. Originally I had only meant to stay for one year, yet it flew by in the blink of an eye! So I chose to renew for another year, confident it would be my last… and when that year finished I still had so many things left that I wanted to do…so I promised myself one more year and that would be it!

Well, even though I was mentally prepared to leave this year, and thought I knew what the drill would be, somehow my poor little heart missed the memo. My final month was simultaneously exciting and soul-crushing. I was excited to return home to Canada and see my friends and family. Yet, I was also heartbroken at the thought of saying goodbye to so many close friends, never knowing when (or if!) I would see them again.

There were so many goodbye parties for the leavers of Fukui my liver is still recovering! We were well and truly spoiled!

First was the Tannan Sayonara Party where a smaller community of Fukui rented out 2 log cabins in the wilderness for some quality barbecuing, drinking, board-game-playing, and general mayhem. I splurged a little and bought some champagne which I shared with my bestie Lizzy. The champagne later contributed to terrible blurry selfie demands. tannan sayonara partyScreen Shot 2014-08-02 at 4.18.34 PM

The following weekend was the Fukui-wide Sayonara Party, which is always one of the biggest parties of the entire year. It was really nice getting dressed to the nines for a change! I went out for dinner beforehand with Cian, Lizzy, Stuart and Jill at my favourite restaurant in Fukui, Pizzaria Felice for some to-die-for gorgonzola pizza. After that it was time to drink like fish and dance the night away at Bull’s Bar. I was sure to take time to snap a photo or two with best friends whenever I could snag them away from the bar!IMG_4767

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 4.43.18 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-02 at 4.48.10 PMYes, that is me buried at the bottom of the dog pile. What originally began as a selfie with my friends Shaun and Laura turned into chaos when everyone suddenly wanted into the picture. One by one they piled on top of me and sang, “Caaaaaan you feeeeeel the loooove tonight?“, “Yes,” I wheezed in response, definitely struggling to breathe, “You’ve taken my breath away. LITERALLY!

One of the highlights of this Sayonara Party weekend was that two of my closest Fukui ALT friends who had left one year before returned to Fukui to surprise us all! I was delighted to see Becca and Dan again after so long, and I did my best to see them as much as possible that weekend, whether it was to go karaoke-ing until 5 am in the morning or simply grab a few drinks at Flat Kitchen like old times.Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 4.52.34 PM

My last week in Fukui involved quite a few hours of frantic packing. You never are as prepared as you think you are, are you? Check out my room before and after…my mother would have been appalled at how fast my clean sanctuary was destroyed. Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 5.07.11 PM

With my both my birthday and my departure date fast approaching I invited people to join me for one last day on the beach. I always prefer doing parties outside, as it’s far less confining than an apartment or restaurant. Mingling 100% guaranteed. DSC04495 photo 3-5 photo 2-5

One of the highlights of my day at the beach was my surprise “birthday cake” which was actually a hotdog with a stick of kindling on fire. Everyone sang happy birthday while I laughed so hard I almost cried. Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 6.22.08 PM

And as if I hadn’t already been spoiled enough for my birthday, my friend Tomomi invited me over for a “Not-sayonara-but-rather-see-you-later & Birthday Party” which was so much fun! The word ‘dinner’ doesn’t even come close to describing this meal, it was more of a feast!  IMG_4247 Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 10.16.49 AM

Lizzy found the most amazing birthday present on Etsy, a tiny wooden image of Canada with a tiny heart carved in-between the two cities I call home in Canada (Calgary & Vancouver). Home is where the heart is, and she hopes that I’ll never forget my roots wherever my adventures take me in the future. It was one of the most wonderful and thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

My final night in Fukui was spent with Lizzy drinking wine in my apartment, talking about life, laughing so hard we cried, and reflecting on our three fabulous years together. It’s amazing how much we did! It was the best way to spend my last night in Fukui, with a best friend, mind full of memories, and a heart full of love and gratitude for how lucky I was in life.

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The next morning my closest friends Tomomi, Lizzy, Cian, Shaun, Ryan, Ken, Hailey & Dean came to the Fukui train station to say goodbye. I insisted that 8:30am was far too early and that it really wasn’t necessary, but they squashed my protests and promised they wanted to be there and would be there come hell or high water. I was so touched because I had never expected it, and the outpouring of love was almost more than my poor piece-of-jello heart could bear.

It was a very emotional goodbye, and hard as I tried not to cry, I ended up doing so. I caved after just one hug, so I was thankful Tomomi was thoughtful enough to have given me a packet of tissues in the car “just in case”. I hugged them all, tried to smile through my tears and waved goodbye when at long last I had no choice but to go through the gate to catch my train.  Knowing I would be feeling blue they took one big, smiley picture to cheer me up after I was gone and messaged it to me just as I sat down in my seat on the train.sayonara 10As I looked out the window of the train, watching sadly as the rice fields of Fukui flew by, I reflected on how truly lucky I was to have made such wonderful friends during my time in Japan.  As amazing as Japan was, it was the people I met and the memories I made with them that meant the most in the end. They were pivotal to my experience abroad, and it was because of their friendship that I enjoyed my life in Fukui as much as I did. As my train sped towards Tokyo I had nothing but a heart full of love for the fabulous people whom I feel truly blessed to have met and called my friends. In the ever-so-eloquent words of Phil Collins:

You’ll be in my heart, yes you’ll be in my heart. From this day on, now and forever more. You’ll be in my heart, no matter what they say. You’ll be here in my heart always.”

Categories: Life in Japan, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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