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The Journal of a slightly depraved Mef
In which there are canoes and fake manolo blahniks, but still no photos...(yet) 
8th-Jun-2008 12:53 pm
When I was a grumpy pre-teen, tramping along behind my parents at Heathrow, waiting to jet off on another family trip to such exciting places as Tunisia, (home of handcrafted leather goods, handcrafted leather goods, and even more handcrafted leather goods), I used to gaze, wide-eyed, at the gap year students and other backpackers who strolled casually around the departure lounge, drinking coffee and looking worldly and confident. For a few moments I'd wish that I was about to jet off alone somewhere, anywhere, (though I'd usually picture a place entirely free of handcrafted leather goods).

Often at this point, I'd wake up from my daydream to find that my family were already queueing at the boarding gate having conveniently forgotten me, (accidentally, so they claim to this day. How they lie.)

It therefore came as a blow to discover after my long haul flight from Canada, as I wandered around the airport at 6am in search of the tube exit, (with all the sense of direction of a drunk squirrel, and adorned with dark circles which possibly extended past the end of my nose), that not all kids view gap year students in the same light.

Ro: *in a low, zombie like monotone* I need an espresso and your largest chocolate donut.
Cheerful Server: Oh, so you're a gap year student! I can read the signs. You're the first of the day!
Ro: *snatches coffee and attempts to walk out of the cafe whilst glugging it*
Small Child: *to an elder sibling* Look, that lady who just walked into the door and spilt her drink is swearing.
Elder Sibling: *authoritatively* She's probably drunk. Or on drugs.
Ro: O.O

Canada was a lot of fun though, which goes some way to making up for it. I tried to keep it a bit quiet, (not wanting to completely freak out like I did last time), but one of my grandmothers had a stroke before I left. This prevented any major travel within Canada, because I had to spend at least a part of most days in the hospital, but I had a good time anyway, and my grandmother is slowly recovering.

Toronto seems to be filled with lakes. One fine sunny Saturday we drove down to a nearby one, where I promptly noticed that there were people canoeing, and entirely by chance, a canoe rental shop not far from where we'd parked.

Needless to say, a short half hour later my Cousin F and I were tentatively balancing on our seats, whilst she tried to instruct me in the proper use of a canoe paddle.

Cousin F: Right, well, it's not actually all that different from kayaking. You've been kayaking, yes?
Ro: Actually no.
Cousin F: But...the only reason my parents let us go canoeing alone in a strange place was that you said you'd been kayaking before!
Ro: Eh, kayaking, paddleboating, it's all the same. How hard can it be?

Five minutes later...

Cousin F: Good grip, just keep paddling on the right like you've been doing for the past few minutes.
Ro: I can do that! Except...When you say the right, do you actually mean the left?
Cousin F: *sighs the sigh of one who will shortly be driven to homicide*

Still, things weren't going too badly, I thought. That is, until a large ferry suddenly loomed up in front of us.

Cousin F: Hard left! Hard left! Your other left!
Ro: We need to reverse! How do we reverse?
Cousin F: You can't reverse! It's a bloody canoe!
Ro: My oar is stuck in the mud!
Cousin F: We're in a lake! The mud is several metres down!

At this point she looked down and realised that no, the mud was actually within oar-reaching distance, which meant that we were in water far too shallow for the ferry. It turned and swung around us and trailed off, and disaster was averted.

Unfortunately, we were so busy watching the ferry that we crashed into the shore instead. Since our canoe-renting-contract stated that we had to be 200 feet away from the shore at all times, this was a serious problem. The situation became grave when we realised that every time we pushed away from the shore we'd end up swinging back around in a circle and crashing again. Water flew everywhere, the boat rocked wildly, and I somehow managed to get mud in my hair. People walking past gave us pitying and amused glances.

Suddenly, my aunt appeared. (I have always referred to this particular aunt as Chachi even though I can barely say a word of most Indian languages, in true Indian-except-not-really style. My Paternal Uncle has always been Chacha, and my Maternal Aunt-by-marriage is Bhabi, (pronounced 'Barbie', which we found very funny as kids).)

Chachi: You guys have to take this contract, quickly!
Cousin F: ...We're sort of in the middle of something.
Chachi: But the canoe rental man is walking this way! Why would he be doing that unless he'd realised you'd forgotten the contract?
Ro and Cousin F: O.O
Cousin F: Hard Left! Hard Left!
Ro: Which Le-
Cousin F: It doesn't matter just paddle!

Luck usually seems to come when you need it. I discovered that by pushing my canoe paddle backwards, we could indeed reverse the canoe properly. By the time the canoe rental man arrived, we were at least a relatively safe 180 feet out. I waved cheerfully and was rather smug the whole way home. Cousin F bore it all very well.

So well that on my last night there, she invited me to go along to see 'Sex and the City' with her friends. I joyfully accepted this chance to find out more about my Canadian cousin's strange culture and ways.

Cousin F: There's just one thing. We're all dressing up as one of the characters.
Ro: Oh, okay then. Well, I haven't really watched the show much, and I didn't bring many clothes with me, so why don't you tell me which character wears scruffy jeans and t-shirts and can never be seen out of her much loved, well worn red trainers?
Cousin F: ...Well, why don't you go as Miranda, since we already have one of each of the other characters.

Going as Miranda, my Cousin F assured me, required very high heels, and a black top that she very kindly lent me.

Ro: Are you sure this is necessary?
Cousin F: Absolutely! You look fine!
Ro: It's just that you seem to be dressed relatively normally, except for all the pink.
Cousin F: *in a dangerous tone of voice* What's wrong with pink?
Ro: Nothing! Nothing at all! But...with my outfit...you can see all the way down my -
Cousin F: Oh listen, that's the doorbell! It'll probably be my male friend Techno Boy.
Ro: *waggling her eyebrows suggestively* Your "male friend"? I see how it is. Are you guys going to want some time alone tonight?
Cousin F: I doubt it. He's coming as Samantha.
Ro: I don't judge. You can be a girl who likes boys to be girls, who does girls like they're boys-
Cousin F: Stop. Please.

I was very sad to leave when the time came. I think Cousin F will miss me too. Happily, I don't have to hang around at home for too long, because I'm off to India very very soon, to volunteer at a school for deaf children. I'm trying to cram as much sign language as I can before I leave, but I've more or less given up on Hindi. It would turn out that the only Indian Language I can just about understand basic sentences in (Kutchi/Gujarati) is spoken exclusively in an entirely different region to the one I'm going to. I'm going to have to get by on English and hand gestures. This should be interesting, (and I'm just a little nervous), but I'm hoping that since other British tourists manage, I'll be able to as well.

I should be around for the next few days, but otherwise I'll see you all in a few weeks!
8th-Jun-2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Ro, what an exciting life you lead!!

If it makes you feel better, my physicist husband, my I-do-every-thing-better-than-you husband, cannot steer a canoe to save his life. He rams us into the bank every time. Finally I realized that I have to steer and make him go up front. Honestly.
8th-Jun-2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
I've been lucky, I've mostly been able to tag along on other peoples' adventures for the past few months, it'll probably stop in October.

Philia power! Should we ever actually manage to meet up, (and if there happens to be a handy lake nearby), you can teach me how to steer properly, I'm still pretty awful at it.
8th-Jun-2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
If you come to Boston sometime in warmish weather, there are several rivers and lakes for canoeing purposes. Let's do it!
8th-Jun-2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
Now I'm really going to have to do my best to come to Boston next summer. As well as you I have another friend who lives there, and a cousin who goes to Harvard Med who keeps telling me to come.
8th-Jun-2008 01:26 pm (UTC)

*regrets the lack of photos*

wow to the India adventure! is sign language in Hindi much of a muchness with sign language in English, or are there "dialects"?
8th-Jun-2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
*promises photos from both France and Canada and hopefully India, as soon as she can figure out how to get them onto her computer without a transfer cord for the camera*

Yes, I'm excited and also a little terrified, (mostly by the amount of emergency medicine I'm having to take with me). It looks like my school teaches using American Sign Language. I knew the alphabet in British SL, but it's very different, so I'm trying to learn the basics in ASL. Indian sign language is different again, I'm not sure if there are dialects, but I wouldn't be surprised.
8th-Jun-2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
So glad you had a nice time on your trip. Hilarious post. I hope your grandmother continues to improve. How did some of your family end up in Canada?

I'm in awe of you and others who jet off to places where you don't speak the language. I'm sure you will be absolutely fine, though another loooong flight may do you in.
8th-Jun-2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you Checkers! Well, my family history is a bit complicated. And it comes in two sets, since I have many cousins on both my mum's and my dad's side in North America. So I won't bore you unless you're really in the mood for it.

I don't deserve your awe. :) I'm actually going to Bangalore, which is one of the more developed places in India, and is the home of our lovely western call centres, so lots of people should speak English. It's also the home of lots of international students who come to the Science universities there, so it's used to having foreigners wandering around. I'm in awe of people who can go to places like Darkest Peru, or rural Africa, when they don't speak the language.

I'm trying not to think about the flight there and the experience of trying to teach with jetlag, but I noticed my mum sneaking some glucose tablets into my bag, 'just in case'. It should be interesting, at least.
8th-Jun-2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
and is the home of our lovely western call centres

Huh, maybe you can check on the status of my refund for the stupid webcam that doesn't work. I suspect that "Mike" may not be my customer service rep's real name.
8th-Jun-2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
*smiles at Paddington Bear reference*
8th-Jun-2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
8th-Jun-2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Tunisia is SO exciting. Don't you know that's where half of Star Wars was filmed? And Last Crusade? (I mean aside from Petra which is in in Jordan but you know how it goes.) /geek

There is a movie called Deliverance, which I have not seen, but which prominently features "Dueling Banjos." Anyway, there's this shirt I've seen that says "Paddle faster. I hear banjos." And that's what this post reminded me of. (Also the one time I went canoeing and we were in a drought so the water level was definitely a couple of inches below where it should have been and what was supposed to be a two-hour canoeing trip ended up taking four and a half hours...oh yeah, good times.) Hope you weren't too sore!

LOLOLOLOL "which character wears scruffy jeans" LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

ooooh, India! I'm jealous. Have lots and lots of fun! And don't get too lost!
8th-Jun-2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Tunisia has its moments, (and some awesome historic and archaeological sites), but is on the whole hot and boring. Though I'll admit I had no idea some of Star Wars was filmed there, that is actually pretty cool.

Deliverance sounds...interesting. (Canoeing was fun, but four and a half hours is a bit much, you must have been incredibly sore when you got back.)

LOLOLOLOL "which character wears scruffy jeans" LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

:) My cousin did look at me a little like you'd look at a slower and socially inept sibling, with exasperation and pity. That movie really is a big deal over there.

Thank you! And I'll try!
9th-Jun-2008 03:54 am (UTC)
Well, I'd probably complain the whole time I was there. But still! George Lucas et al. (well mostly et al. and let's face it only Mark Hamill, Alec Guiness, Harrison Ford, and Sean Connery count) walked there! IT IS HOLY GROUND.

I hear it's...a bit violent. By all accounts. (Oh yes, I was. I look back on that time through a vague haze of pain.)

It's a really big deal here in the States too. I've watched...maybe like one full episode, and like snippets of four or five more episodes, but even I know that they're very fashionable ladies. :-b
8th-Jun-2008 07:31 pm (UTC) - I love these posts.
What?! You're off to India! How exciting. Actually, I need to talk to you.


LOL. Well, be sure to invite Cousin F to this fancy dress party Bear and I are planning for all the fictional characters. *giggles*

haha, nice boatpool practice.
8th-Jun-2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I keep meaning to phone you, but I don't want to disturb your revision or catch you just as you've finally figured out the perfect answer to some incredibly difficult problem or something. (Me: Hello? You: It's gone! It's gone forever! Me: *unbearable guilt*)

Is your last exam on Wednesday?

I should do a video like that! There could be shiny pictures!

Cousin F is lovely really, I'm sure she'd enjoy dressing up, (and I'd enjoy telling her what to wear for a change.
Me: This tunic here is perfect.
Cousin F: Are you sure? It's a bit...short. And...low.
Me: I insist. *evil smile*)

It was! The next time you're in London, we have to go paddleboating.
8th-Jun-2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
Your summer sounds brilliant! Have fun in India. What version of sign language do they use where you're going - is it the same as/similar to British (or American) sign language, or a different one altogether?
8th-Jun-2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It has been so far.

The company I'm going with is a little odd, they haven't actually told me which sign language, but since they've said "It would be helpful if you could sign a little", (and I'm obviously not going to know Indian SL), and I've found out that some deaf schools in Bangalore use American SL rather than Indian SL, I'm assuming that the school I'm going to is one of them.

That was a very long sentence. Whew. How about you, what are you getting up to this summer?
8th-Jun-2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
At the moment, I'm in the middle of exam season; there are two weeks of it left. Every day is the same; I sit and stare at my notes and books, then realise I'm gazing aimlessly out of the window and have been doing so for several minutes. It's torment. As soon as this is all over, I plan to go crazy with liberty, which many involves reading the piles of unread books all over my floor (not to mention those on the university reading list). I'm going to Barcelona at the start of the holiday and central Europe at the end, but that's about it; mostly it'll just be all of the things I haven't been able to do for the last two years due to A levels.
10th-Jun-2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
It sounds like you are desperately in need of some relaxation! I know what you mean about going crazy at the library - it's terrible having to ignore all these wonderful books because you have to study instead.

You've received your reading list already? I had to pick the disorganised college - they haven't sent me anything yet.

Have a fantastic time in Barcelona!
10th-Jun-2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm looking forward to it. Although my parents have insisted that as we're there for so short a time, we must get up at the crack of dawn every day in order to see everything, which would be lovely if not for the fact that I have been doing that every day for as far back as I can remember (a few weeks. But in exam season, time stands still) so I can stare blankly at my notes for some time until I realise I'm still half asleep and understand nothing. But still, Barcelona! It should be fun.
11th-Jun-2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
reading the piles of unread books all over my floor

And of course, the Attolia books will be the first (Ping Pong says they're arriving next week) because I want them back. :)
11th-Jun-2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
First? Madness. I have soon-to-be-overdue library books, and a vast list from Oxford of books i need to read in order to make a decision about which modules to take NO LATER THAN the 31st of July. of course I want to read the Attolia books very much so we can be geeky about them together, but I have so many others that need attention.
11th-Jun-2008 09:19 pm (UTC)

But I wants them ba-ack.


Do what you will.
12th-Jun-2008 11:47 am (UTC)
*thinks that littlered2 clearly does not understand about the Attolia books*

9th-Jun-2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
hehehehe. hope you have a good time in india, if I don't talk to you before then :-) I'm on a flying visit back home on wednesday/thursday if you're around xxx
9th-Jun-2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
Wow, exciting times! I'm glad Canada was enjoyable and that your grandmother is getting better.

I hope India is also interesting and rewarding, and that the children there don't think you're drunk when you're jetlagged :)
10th-Jun-2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks Emma!

I'm pretty excited about going, especially since monsoon season's just started. I hope the children don't think I'm drunk too! :)
11th-Jun-2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Your life is too fun. *sighs*

You know, canoeing is very hard. Did your cousin make you do that thing where you have to capsize and breathe the bubble of air trapped under the canoe?

I agree with you about the gap year people. I used to see them all the time, looking suave and worldly.

Then, of course, on the IOW last week, where I was backpacking with my friends, I managed to get us lost between the Hoverboat landing place and the train station. There was a shuttle bus. We got on it. Then it all went wrong.

This, of course, is the reason why I've decided I'm not going to cope with taking a gap year at 18, I'll wait till after Uni. I hope.
21st-Jun-2008 01:05 am (UTC)
I am so envious of your exciting travel-filled life! Good luck for India!
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