The rest of the weekend was
like being in heaven, talking about the wedding, staring at my beautiful engagement ring
and making calls to the moms and pops.
The island was the perfect
setting, beautiful beaches, cliffs and waterfalls. An
The have decided to have the wedding
in fall of next year, likely the beginning of September.
But we will keep you posted on details.
More news to follow
AHHH... isnt life grand!!!
June 28, 2000
As this project
nears an end we prepare for new adventures in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Kris' new project has finally been set and we are moving there for at least
6 months in the beginning of September. This summer will be a very busy one.
I leave for Brantford this coming Saturday and Kris follows a few weeks later.
Wedding planning and visiting friends and family will definitely be the focal point of
We also have a
wedding in Denmark on July 29 where Kris will be best man for his Danish friend Martin.
I've never been to Denmark so I am excited to go and also to meet Martin and his
soon to be bride Marianne. After a week in Denmark we are also going to England to
visit a few of Kris' friends and have a reunion with a few of the boys from Bahamas.
Then back to Canada to visit Kris' family in Saskatoon. As they say no rest
for the wicked!!!
We hope that we will still be able provide some updates on the website at some point this
summer, but with this crazy schedule we can't make any promises. We do promise
to continue documenting the summer adventures in September when we have settled in Santo
We are hoping to
have many of you visit us in Santo Domingo, so plan your holiday's and let us know.
For now, have a great summer and take care....til September.
long summer break we are finally back online and back to updating Kris and
Ana's Great Adventures. This summer was a great opportunity to catch up
with good friends and family. We spent some time in Europe visiting our
friends Marianne and Martin and attended their wedding. We also made a pit stop
in Portugal to sort my EU citizenship (which I now have.....YEAHHH). And
of course we couldn't leave Europe without a trip to Kris' old stomping grounds
in London. We had a short but sweet visit with Toddy and John, and of
course the Bahamas boys, James and Steve.
next stop was a visit with Kris' family in Saskatoon. It was great to be
able to see the folks again and start making some plans for the Wedding Bash
in the WEST! It was also great to finally meet a few new additions to
the crew... Kris' new cousin Janessa, Darren's little boy Aidan and also
Curtis and Marty's girlfriends, Carrie and Jenn. It was also my first
visit to the "Lake". Kris' grandparents have left a wonderful
legacy for many generations to come. I look forward to someday bringing my kids
to this wonderful place.
We returned to Ontario mid-August and spent lots of quality time with mom
and pop Borges. Kris was fed hoardes of good old Portuguese cuisine.
We also spent some time in Kingston with Mark and Linda and in Font Hill
with Michael and Anna. A big congratulations are in order to Michael and
Anna on their new cookbook!!! Our last visit was to our friends
Tom and Linda from Detroit. We hope to see them again for a visit in
It was also a busy time getting ready for the big event next
September. The Olson/Borges wedding will be held on September 22, 2001
in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Book your calendars and prepare your
livers, it's going to be a WILD one!!!
now in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After a week of adjusting we
are back on track. Kris' project is going well and my job search is underway. The interviews have been steady but nothing
have managed to find a place to live. It is a two bedroom apartment in
the heart of the city. It is close to a park and is fully equipped with
a swimming pool and generator (for the daily electricity outages). So
the extra bedroom is available for vacation bookings anytime!!
weather has been a little weird for this time of the year. Some tropical
storms in the area have caused much rain. But it is a nice break
from the hot, humid sun.
weekend we plan to take our first trip out of the city to a beach about an
hour away. We will report back next week on how it went.
we are glad to be back and we look forward to hearing from you all!
six weeks in Santo Domingo I would now say that we have completely settled
in. Our apartment is looking great and feels very much like home.
And the best part is that ANA FOUND A JOB!!! Yep, that's right, her
carefree days of sleeping in and killing time are over. She is the
production manager for a local web design company. She has a department
of ten web designers and has been enjoying the job very much. The first
week was a little tough as she has been away from the office environment for a
while. As well, her co-workers speak only Spanish so she has been
learning plenty of new words!
most recent news to report is that we have already had our first
visitor. My friend Earl made a surprise appearance on Friday afternoon
then left Saturday. He had to make an emergency "US visa" run
out of the country so he came to Santo Domingo. But we will be seeing
him again very soon as he plans to return next weekend with his girlfriend for
a two week stay which we are really looking forward to.
area where we are living is superb. Within three blocks we have a
bakery, gym, movie cinema, park, grocery store, pharmacy, movie rentals,
shopping mall, Jaguar dealership (just in case...), and at least a dozen
things are going well, but hectic. We have finally booked our flights
for Christmas. We arrive in Toronto on Dec. 20 and depart for the New
Years bash in Saskatoon on Dec. 29. We then return to Santo Domingo on
Jan. 6. It will be nice to be with family and friends this
Christmas. They can fill the streets with lights and trees here, but
without cold, snow and family, it just doesn't seem like Christmas!!
Just a little more than two weeks
until we leave for Canada!
Things have been quiet of late.
We have both been working and getting home after 7:00 most nights so after we
have had supper and gone to the gym there isn't much time left. We have
been spending most weekends at home relaxing, catching up on the internet, and
basically just enjoying the comforts of having a permanent apartment!
We are having a Christmas pool party
here next weekend which should be a good laugh. Most of Ana's staff is
coming as well as some of the people from Shell. The landlord is
"sharing" the party with us by inviting the rest of the tenants here
so it should be a good crowd.
The weather has been beautiful up
until a few days ago when it got rainy and overcast. Don't mind the rain
for a few days but hopefully the sun will shine the next couple weekends so we
can work on our tans before returning to Canada for Christmas!
That's it for now, take care!
February 5, 2001
So much to tell and so little time to
write it seems. As Kris mentioned we went to Canada for Christmas (which
already seems like a lifetime ago). We had a fantastic time, but as
always, too short.
We spent Christmas with my parents and
then New Years with Kris' family in Saskatoon. We did all the Canadian
winter activities like ice-fishing, tobogganing and snowmobiling. It was
to see everyone again. We have some photos of the holidays on our
Since returning to Santo Domingo I have quit my job
and we've had Mark and Linda (Kris' aunt and uncle for a visit). My job
was as the production manager at an internet company. I quickly found out
that the Dominican way of doing business is a lot different from what I am
used to. It was a very good learning experience and I made many new
friends, but it simply was not worth the money or the hours spent. I
have returned to making websites and also translating at home. It seems
to be going well and I'm much happier. As well, it was nice to be
home and spend some time with Mark and Linda during their visit. We
spent many nights on our balcony and a few afternoons by the pool sipping
was a great visit.
A few weeks ago Kris and I went to the north coast to Puerto Plata for
the weekend. It was fun, especially because we got to spend some
time with my friend Julie from Toronto. She has been living there for
the past 2 years. She gave us a great tour of the Puerto Plata area and
we also had a great seafood dinner at a local restaurant owned by a Canadian
On our way back to Santo Domingo we stopped at Caberete, which is a small town
about 40 km east of Puerto Plata. We think we have discovered our
favorite place on the island. After much searching for a place with some
character and no all-inclusive resorts we finally found it. There is not a resort in sight and it is said to be one of the best
windsurfing locations in the world. This little town is full of small
hotels and restaurants and has one of the nicest beaches we've seen on the
island. We only spend the afternoon there, but our next trip will
definitely be to Caberete!!
We are going to be quite busy with
guests in the coming months...on February 17 both my friend Christina from
Brantford and our friends Tom and Linda arrive. Tom and Linda are
staying at a resort a couple hours from here but we still hope to spend some time with
them. A week later our friends Mike and
Nola arrive from Chicago. Three weeks after that our Danish
friends Martin and Marianne arrive for 2 weeks. That's a full schedule!
The timing for all of our visitors has
been perfect as Kris will begin doing some traveling with his job soon.
We aren't sure of where but we are both getting a bit of the traveling itch,
so it will be nice to see some new spots. Don't get us wrong, the past
few months of living a somewhat normal lifestyle has been great!
Unpacking our suitcases for more than 3 weeks has been a real pleasure!!
Thanks for your patience in waiting
for an update to our site. Now that I'm working from home, I hope to dedicate some more time
to it. Hope to hear from you all soon.
This is a start of a new year for me
(Kris) as I turned 29 years old yesterday! We had a very relaxing day,
and finished it off with dinner at a nice steak restaurant and a marvelous
cigar. We have been very bad recently at keeping our site updated so I
thought today is a fine day to write another update.
Since last time, we have had visits
from our friends Tom and Linda from Detroit, Mike and Nola from Chicago, and
Martin and Marianne from Denmark. As well, Ana has found herself a new
job....at Shell! In fact we are now working together on the same project
and having a great time of it! She has been involved mostly in the
training and documentation side and has been doing a superb job. We will
be finishing the work in Dominican Republic within the next couple weeks then
the plan is to move on to doing the rollout of our system to the other 17
countries in the region. We don't exactly know what will happen yet,
though we will likely be keeping a central base then just traveling out to the
other countries periodically. That will be nice for us as we don't have
to pack up and change homes every month, we were not looking forward to that.
Of course, the wedding is fast
approaching. Ana is returning to Canada at the end of May for two weeks
for her bridal shower and also to send out invitations and sort out the
remaining tasks on our "Wedding To-Do List". We will update
the wedding page today with the
latest so check that one out.
Ana and I recently took a long weekend
trip to Barbados and Puerto Rico. Part of the reason was to get a repair
done to Ana's engagement ring, which I purchased in Barbados last year.
We had a very nice time and checked out some of our old favourite hangouts
such as the almighty Mojos drinking hole where I imbibed in the frosty delight
of many delicious Banks
beers. On the way back from Barbados we spent a full day in San Juan,
Puerto Rico. Our friend Tico picked us from the airport and played the
perfect host. We had a great tour of old San Juan and spent a few hours
there. We also hit the malls (Plaza de las America) and did some damage
to the credit card. The majority of things were cheaper than in Santo
Domingo so we stocked up on a lot of stuff. We both really liked the
city and would love to spend more time there exploring the country side.
I suppose that is all the news for
now. I'm also going to update the Dominican
Republic page today with details of the new places we have visited so have
a look at that one.
Oh yes, today is Mother's Day, have a
wonderful one Mom!!!
We have just spent several
minutes trying to figure out why all our journal entries since May 13
are gone. It turn out that we haven't updated this page since
then! How embarrassing...
Our wedding has come and gone
and here we are back at work and back in the Dominican Republic.
It is unbelievable how that long year of waiting, planning, and
stressing finally paid off with a beautiful wedding day surrounded by
all of our wonderful family and friends. Have a look at the wedding
page to see some pictures.
So what's new? Since we
returned back here we have been keeping a pretty low profile and doing
lots of relaxing. This past weekend was a long one so we made a
trip up to the northern coastal town of Las Terrenas and met up with
our Canadian friends Mark, Terri, and Carolyn Haugen. Besides
being eaten alive by mosquitoes we had a great time! We found a
superb little Vietnamese restaurant in the town which we visited a
couple times. On the Sunday we took a horseback ride to a
waterfall called Salto de Limon. The horses were quite good and
the ride was very scenic. By the time we returned three hours
later we were filthy, tired, and extremely hungry so we devoured a
delicious Domincan lunch of rice, beans, and chicken.
This coming weekend Ana's
friend Julie, who lives in Puerto Plata, is planning to visit us here
in Santo Domingo. We haven't seen her for a while so that will
Not much else to report.
here are still icy cold!
Welcome to the new
year! After more than three weeks of glorious vacation, Ana and
I are leaving for Holland today to begin work on Monday. We are
both extremely excited about it and ready for what will surely be an
For our Christmas
holidays we spent two superb weeks in the Azores! We were joined
by Toddy Van Hees for the first ten days then by Ana's parents for the
second week. We stayed with Ana's aunt who is also named Ana and
lives in a town called Santa Cruz which is in the Lagoa area of the
island of San Miguel. Ana, Toddy and I also traveled to the
other islands of Faial and Pico and spent a few days exploring.
The weather was very rainy for the first part of the trip, but the
temperature never fell below 15 C so it was actually very pleasant.
Some of the
highlights include seeing the natural ocean pools in Pico and Lagoa, a
scary plane ride from Ponta Delgado to Horto, the harbour in Horto, the view from Scrimshaw's house in Faial, the
volcano blasted landscape on the west of Faial, the Furnas hot springs
in San Miguel, a tea factory, the delicious red wine from Pico, fresh
local bread and cheese with Tia Ana every morning, every meal we ate
at Tia Ana's house, picking fresh bananas and oranges in the backyard,
seeing a dog riding on top of a trotting horse, New Year's Eve on the
Avenida, and the beautiful view from Lagua do Fogo!
I also had the chance
to meet the rest of Ana's family who live in the Azores and they were
all exceptionally nice people! In fact, all the people living
there were very friendly and helpful, making it a great place to
After returning to
Brantford from the Azores, we decided to take a trip to see Marty and
Jen in Ottawa. So we rented a PT Cruiser (groovy little car) and
made the trip. It was so nice to see where they were living and
how things were going. They are both doing very well in school
and enjoying Carleton University. They gave us a great tour of
downtown Ottawa including the parliament buildings which were
On the way back from
Ottawa we stopped in at Mark & Linda's in Kingston where they
treated us to a delicious lunch. We had a good, but very short
visit, before we were on our way to Toronto. We stayed with
Ana's brother Mark in Toronto and that night we met up with Carmen,
Diane, and Lena and had a nice dinner out.
To finish off the
vacation, we had a couple days in Brantford to sort things out and get
all our things packed.
So now it is on to a
brand new year and a brand new adventure!! We really hope to see
lots of you as visitors so don't be shy!
Greetings to all from
We are settled into
our apartment which is a two bedroom unit with a beautiful view
overlooking Scheveningen beach. In fact, the view is quite
similar to the view from our apartment in Puerto Rico. The only
difference being that the temperature is about 20 degrees lower...
It is great to be
living in Europe. We took a trip to Paris last weekend, which
was a very easy 3.5 hour train ride from here. Saw a few of the
tourist spots such as Arc du Triumph, Notre Dame, La Louvre and the
Eiffel Tower. We also did some shopping, much to Ana's delight.
The weekend before
that we met our Danish friends Martin, Marianne, and their little boy
Benjamin in a Dutch town called Apeldorn. They were visiting
their friends Roy and Anka, who are absolutely wonderful people.
They invited us to stay with them so we all had a very nice weekend
together. I was surprised to find that another Danish friend
named Lars was visiting as well and I hadn't seen him for a long
time. Roy and Anka have a beautiful home and treated us just
like family so we really enjoyed the weekend. Little Benjamin is
growing fast and already trying to steal the old man's beer!
More news soon,
It's been a while
since I've contributed to the journal so I suppose this better be a
good one. As Kris has said we are well settled into The
Hague. We are really enjoying our apartment, even though we seem
to spend very little time here. One of our goals for this year
is to see Europe and we have already accomplished a little of that
goal. Our friend Nancy from work has got us hooked onto this
"last minute" area on the KLM Airlines site called
"Click and Go". So every
Thursday at 1:00 pm they publish cheap flights for going away that
coming weekend. So at promptly 1:01 pm Kris and I logged on and
Athens, Greece was at the top of the list. To be quite honest,
we had never really thought about going to Greece. There are
many other spots on out list, but it was cheap and available....so off
to Athens we went.
We really didn't know
much about Greece, but after a little surfing on the web we found
there were plenty of things to see in Athens, such as historic
monuments and the old city. So we arrived late on Friday night,
took a bus to the city centre then got ripped off by a taxi driver before
reaching the hotel and checking in for a good
The morning brought
sun and warm weather, which we have been craving since our departure
from the Caribbean. So we spent the morning climbing Acropolis,
which was beautiful, but as expected full of tourists. We also
went to the Temple of Zeus and saw from a distance Attica. By
that point we had reach our threshold of touristy spots so we headed
to Plaka (the Old Town) for lunch. We found a cozy spot and
proceeded to get our suntan/burns back as we ate. We spent the
rest of the afternoon moving from outdoor cafe to outdoor cafe
contemplating how to spend the rest of the weekend.
We both agreed that
we would enjoy seeing more than just the city, so we thought we would
inquire about a boat tour or country tour. Much to our delight
there was a boat tour the following day which stopped at 3 of the
Greek islands. So we spent our Sunday in Poros, Hydra and Aegina.
They were all quite beautiful, although Hydra was the nicest. On
board we met a couple from Lisbon, Portugal and I had some nice
conversations with them, as Kris tried to fill in the blanks with his
broken Portuguese (which is improving dramatically, I must say).
Soon the cruise was over and we came to the quick realization that
work was only hours away. But we loved it and now are
considering doing this "Click and Go" thing more often. The weeks
are flying by and we are enjoying every moment. Even the work is
challenging and rewarding....10 hour days don't even bother us
So I guess that is
all the news for now. We'll update you on our future travels to
Atyrau, Kazakhstan in a week and our Easter trip to the Borges
Residence and the east coast of Canada.
Can you believe it is almost Easter???
Things here in The Hague have been great. We have been busy traveling
and working and are looking forward to our upcoming trip to Canada.
In the last 2 weekends we have been to
Brussels, Belgium and Atyrau, Kazakhstan. Both places on the opposite
ends of the spectrum.
We hadn't planned to go to Brussels,
but a we thought why not. Brussels is a 2 hour trip on train, from
where we live, so it was a easy place to get to. Well.... we loved
it!! It is a very typical European city with lots of little
cobblestone streets and restaurants and cafes for miles and miles.
They also have a very impressive square with gold covered buildings
and a most impressive city hall. We enjoyed a great evening out with our friends James and Lisa
and kids Cassandra and Ainsley. We especially liked a great jazz bar
we found which featured a live band and a good crowd. Chocolate, waffles and beer were the staples of
the weekend. We plan to return to Belgium soon to explore Bruges.
Well now Kazakhstan....it was quite an
experience. We went there on a business trip as our company's
other office is located there. From there they support the rigs that
are drilling for oil in the Caspian Sea. So we left Friday and spent most of
the day traveling to Atyrau (where the main office is). Saturday
morning we had to travel to another town called Bautino where the
materials base is. So another 1 hour plane ride and 2
hour drive got us to Bautino. The drive was extremely dull as the place
looks like a lunar landscape - no trees and everything covered in dust. Apparently nothing grows because of the salt content
in the earth but we suspect that all the nuclear testing the Russians
did in Kazakhstan doesn't help either.
The hotel room we had was
fantastic...with a kitchen and VCR and even movies. It was a busy trip
but ended up being a better a place then we had anticipated.
So that is the latest. We are now
gearing up for a hard work week and then our Easter trip to Canada.
The plan is to spend the first 4 days with my mom and dad and then
leave for Moncton for an east coast Canada holiday.
I hope everyone has a great
Easter....and we'll write more soon.
May 5, 2002
It is a windy and rainy Sunday in
Scheveningen. Our friend Carmen Demelo arrived last week to work
on our project! So we had a big movie night here at our place
last night and Carmen stayed over. We just finished a big
breakfast and are planning on spending the day doing lots of nothing.
We had a trip back to Canada during
easter which was great. We spent half the time in Brantford and
the other half on a vacation through the east coast of Canada where we
finally got to see the provinces of New
Edward Island, and Nova
Scotia. We flew first to Moncton then picked up a
rental car and started driving. Since we were there before the
beginning of the tourist season, things were very quiet, including the
bed and breakfasts we stayed at - often we were the only ones there.
Since returning, we have been quite
busy at work, but have also had some weekends away. We caught up
with Steve, Abby, Mike, and Toddy on a recent trip to Cambridge in
It was a very tranquilo weekend and a great chance to catch up with
some good friends we haven't seen for a while. I also had the
pleasure of a ride in Stevie's sports car!
Last weekend we did a KLM "click
and go" to Bergen, Norway!
The weather was not superb, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I
bought myself a brand new Norwegian sweater to replace the one which
seems to have found a new home with my brother...
Ana and I are looking forward to a very
busy month. Grandma, Grandpa, and Lynn arrive next Sunday, which
also happens to be my 30th birthday! They will be staying with
us here until May 23rd when they depart for Sweden to visit our
cousins Birgit and Stig. On May 24th, Curtis and Carrie arrive
and will be here with us for a week. We are taking them on a
"surprise" weekend trip....destination unknown to them, but
which is sure to be a blast! Unfortunately Ana and I have to
work during the week but I'm sure our visitors will enjoy exploring
the Netherlands on their own while we are slaving away!
Of course, the next big event coming up
will be the Olson Family Reunion this summer! We are counting
June 2, 2002
Another Sunday night...we are
absolutely exhausted after a very busy few weeks. Our visitors
have now come and gone, but left us with some wonderful memories and
stories! Grandma and Grandpa Gustafson were here with Lynn
visiting for a week and we all went away for a weekend to Paris which
was very nice. The rest of the time they spent exploring various
locations around the Netherlands and the Hague. They walked some
pretty serious kilometers while they were here and seemed to enjoy the
Curt and Carrie arrived just after the
first guests left so we off again on a weekend trip - this time to
Barcelona, Spain. We all got a good dose of sunshine and Spanish
culture including some nice seafood meals and a long, long session at
a great tapas bar which we nearly cleared out. Toddy joined us
for that one as well so we had a nice chance to catch up.
I'm afraid the eyes are getting
droopy...so this will have to be a short one for now!
July 1, 2002
Happy Canada Day to all you Canucks out
Ana and I are on the last day of our
long weekend trip in Budapest, Hungary on the way back from
Kazakhstan. Ana was working there for almost a month, and me
almost three weeks so we are happy to have a few days off before
returning to the Hague.
The time in Kazakhstan was actually
quite pleasant. We had a few nice meals out in the town but most
of the time we hung around the office and hotel complex. One
Sunday we did take off a half day to visit two of the museums in town
(Atyrau) which were very interesting. We also went for some nice
walks along the banks of the Ural river which runs through the city to
the Caspian Sea. One of the key things the Caspian Sea is known
for is the sturgeon which produce the world's best caviar. I
actually managed to find the fish store so I picked up a few tins of
it before we left. I believe we'll be having a little caviar
party tonight in The Hague with James and Carmen so we'll finally get
a chance to sample some of the stuff. To purchase it outside of
the region is extremely expensive (up to $400/can) so I suspect we
will not make caviar eating a habit!
Back to the present. Budapest has
been a lovely city to visit. We arrived on Friday afternoon,
relaxed for a couple hours, then went out to the opera! The
Danube Symphony Orchestra was playing with four opera singers, who
rotated through various snippets of famous operas and it was
absolutely splendid! The voices of those singers have to be
heard live to be believed.
We spend much of the rest of the time
exploring the city on foot. There are hundreds of beautiful
buildings and interesting monuments to see. The Danube river
flows through the city and on Sunday afternoon we went to a boat cafe
on the river to watch the Germany/Brazil final of the World Cup.
We were happy to see Brazil win, but the only problem was that we had
drawn Germany as one of our teams at the sweepstakes we had at the
office so a German win would have pocketed us 150 euros!! Oh
Our trip to Canada is approaching very
fast, in fact we only have around three weeks left of work before we
leave! We'll be happy to catch up with all of you again!
See you soon,
July 25, 2002
It is our last 15 minutes in the office
and I have time to do a quick update on our very envious
situation. We have decided not to renew our contracts and
instead go on a round the world backpacking trip!! To start
things off right, we are leaving for Portugal early tomorrow morning
to spend four days vacationing then we will be returning to The Hague
to catch our flight back to Toronto then onwards to the big Olson
reunion. But, as usual, we both have that happy/sad feeling of
leaving our friends and familiar surroundings and moving on to
something new. We can say that we took advantage of our short
time in Europe and explored a great number of interesting places and
met some special people.
Time up! Many more updates to
follow as we begin our big journey.....
Sept 10, 2002
It is the end of the Canadian summer and the temperature
outside today is 32 degrees celsius, yow!! We are coming to the
end of the longest vacation I have had in Canada for many years.
We spent three weeks in Saskatoon with the Olson crew and are now at
the end of our second week here in Brantford. Though we have
kept ourselves quite busy, it has not been at the usual chaotic pace
of our trips home so we have had a very relaxing and enjoyable time.
I updated the page for the Olson
Family Reunion with a few pictures as well as updating the Ontario
page with a few new pics, have a look at those.
And how about the Big Trip? Here's the
itinerary we'll be starting with, though there's likely to be changes
as we go along:
Sept 19 : Depart Toronto for London, England
Sept 22 : Depart London for Capetown, South Africa
Oct 23 : Depart Johannesburg for Perth, Australia
Nov 1 : Depart Perth for Sydney
Nov 30 : Depart Sydney for Auckland, New Zealand
Jan 1 : Depart Auckland for Santiago, Chile
April 1 : Depart Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for London, England
April 3 : Depart London for Toronto, Canada
We are obviously giddy with excitement to be
embarking on such a long trip to such diverse locations! We are
lucky enough to have friends in many of these places so we'll be
having some great visits with long lost buddies!
There will be plenty of journal updates in the
coming months so stay tuned..
Between Sept 2002 and April 2003, we did a round the world backpacking
trip, focusing mainly on the best wine making countries in the
Southern Hemisphere. This is the route we took:
Sept 19, 2002
Well we are only hours away from embarking on
the trip of a lifetime. We have talked for years about the
BIG trip, but finally the time is right and we have been lucky to
have jobs which allow us to save for such an adventure. This
didn't start off as being the "Ultimate Wine Tasting Tour" but a
few nights ago we realized that we are going to some of the best
wine producing countries in the world, so why not! Now if I
can only keep Kris into the wine and out of the beer. Who
knows, he may even add a wine review to the website.
We plan on seeing many friends on the way so
we are really looking forward to catching up, and also keeping the
folk at home updated on our travels. So off we
go......more from London.
Sept 26, 2002 - Capetown, South Africa
- Click here to view our South
We are exactly one week into our trip and
everything has been GREAT!
arriving in London, we went immediately to pick up our round the
world tickets at the travel agency. That done, we went to
meet Toddy and he gave us the keys to his place so we could have a
short nap during the afternoon. It was a beautiful three
hours nap, at least enough to power us up for the night. We
went to a local pub with Toddy and his flatmates TJ and Simon and
Simon's girlfriend Angela. We had a nice meal and a chat and
drank about four pints of Stella then went back to the ranch.
The next morning I woke up with a stinking, filthy headache the
size of a small continent. It was the kind of headache that
wakes you up at seven in the morning then hurts so bad you can't
get back to sleep. Aaaaaggggh!! Needless to say that
ruined our plans to get going early and meet our friend John
Murray out at Windsor. I should know that I just can't take
the beers like I used to.
we joined Toddy and his flatmates at a backyard barbeque which was
being held by one of the guys on their cricket team. It was
a good party, but got even better when one of the boys got out the
snuff and started handing it around. In the true spirit of
adventure, both Ana and I lined up a bit on the back of our finger
and snorted it back. Yowwwwww...what a wasabi blast!!!
If we were getting drowsy at that point in the party, we were
certainly awake after that stuff! The party ended up with us
spending about an hour and a half in Catford trying to find a
bus/taxi/mini-cab - anything to get back to the Docklands.
We finally got one to stop, but he told us we couldn't all fit
into a single cab, so Toddy volunteered to go back to the party,
that's the spirit!
Next day we did
actually make it up early and were off to meet up with Heinrich
and his wife Davina for Sunday lunch. They took us out to a
lovely country pub where we stuffed ourselves with traditional
English grub then took the scenic route back to their place for a
cup of tea. Before long we were at the airport and on the
plane looking forward to the twelve hour journey to Capetown, and
the last few hours of Sept 22, 2002 - the first anniversary of our
We arrived the next morning
to a beautifully clear and sunny day in Capetown! The first
sight of Table Mountain was just as fabulous as I was expecting.
After arrival, we found some hostel information and jumped on the
"Backpacker Bus" to a great hostel near the Waterfront called The
Big Blue. We spent our first day taking a big walk through
the Seapoint and Waterfront areas. We went to bed early that
night, since we didn't sleep much on the flight, and work up the
next morning, 12 hours later. And for some reason, the
combination of the bad airplane seat, followed up with 12 hours in
bed was enough to give me a horrible back ache, so I spent most of
the day hobbling around Capetown's city centre like an old man.
It is slowly starting to feel better, but I think it will be with
me for a while yet. Despite this small problem, we spent the
last few days exploring Capetown and making plans for the rest of
our time here. We did a wine region tour yesterday which
included stops at four wineries and five wine "samples" which were
actually about half a glass each, at each of them. After 20
of those beauties, the facade of a cultural/educational event was
completely shattered and all the participants were well and truly
smashed. Today we took the cable car up to the top of Table
Mountain, which was definitely worthwhile.
We have decided to rent a car and start slowly
making our way up to Johannesburg. We get the car tomorrow
and are going to do a day trip up the west coast then the next day
we'll leave Capetown for a small town east of here called Hermanus.
Should be lots of fun!
Sept. 29, 2002 - Betty's Bay, South Africa
We have so much to
tell and so little time to write about it. We have had an
absolutely fabulous few days touring around the southern Cape.
We got our car on Friday and decided that we would visit
the west coast, north of Capetown. Few people actually visit
that area, as it is not as scenic as the Garden Route along the
south side. We took off and ended up in the West Cape Nature
reserve. It is the end of wildflower season so there are
piles of purple, pink and yellow flowers everywhere. As we
got in the reserve, we stopped at the Tea Room and had a great
Earl Grey and watched a slew of yellow birds in their hanging tree
nests. As we continued into the reserve, we came upon
a turtle crossing the road, springboks (sort of like a big
antelope), a wildebeast and a herd of zebra,
how exciting! But our best animal of the day was a Puff Adder
snake we saw at the side of the road. We stopped and took
some photos (not too close!), but didn't realize at the time how
venomous this snake really is. We'll stay far away from African
snakes in the future, don't want to risk a bite. So a great trip and our first
experience with the African flora and fauna.
We said good
bye on Saturday to our friends at the Big Blue Hostel in Capetown
and began the next leg of our trip which will take us through the
Cape peninsula, then over to the Garden Route, where we will
meet with Kris' friend Trudy and her partner Philippe this coming
weekend. We spent much of the first day on the most beautiful
mountain roads ever!! The view of lush green mountains with
wild flowers on one side and the blue and white sea crashing on
the cliffs on the other, was just spectacular. We drove all
the way to the bottom of Africa to another reserve called the Cape
of Good Hope Reserve. In the reserve we came across a little
pack of baboons. They were really cute!! On the way
there, were were also fortunate enough to see a whale in one of
the bays. So we made our way to Betty's Bay and stayed the
night. In the morning we planned to get on the road and make
our way to the great white shark diving capital of the world, Hermanus, but we met
a fantastic couple in the coffee shop. Michael and Cheryl
are South African and offered to show us a little of the coast.
They are from Capetown, but have a beautiful summer home in
Betty's Bay. We spent a great afternoon with them seeing a
little more of Betty's old whaling town. We love South
Africans!!! So we have now arrived in Hermanus. Our
$15.00 USD per night room at the local hostel is nicer than most
hotels we've been in and they have a pool, a TV rooms and a bar
about 7 steps from our bedroom, Kris is in heaven!! To
top off an already fantastic day we spend the last 2 hours
watching 6 whales frolicking in the bay. It doesn't get much
better than this. So we are off now to finish the day with a $0.60 beer and a $3.00 steak. More soon....
October 10, 2002 - N2 Highway on the way to Drakensburg Mountains
We apologize for the lack of communication in
the last week. We've been busy making our way up the east
cost of S. Africa. It's been fantastic and we've seen so
much...it feels like we've been here for months. After we
left Hermanus we made our way into an area in the mountains called
Outdsdoorn. It is Ostrich capital of the world. There
are more there than anywhere. They grow them for their meat
and their feathers. We went on a great tour of an ostrich
farm and I even got to ride one. I'm sure will show you the
hilarious video at some point.
The area is also known for it's caves. There is a huge cave
system in the mountains there called the Cango Caves. We
went on a tour into the caves called the adventure tour. I
must not be very adventurous because it was hard work. We
firstly went into 3 large caverns, all with their own unique names
and stories. Then the more we walked the smaller and smaller
the caves and their entrances got. The last tunnel we had to
climb through a chimney like formation. If you weighed 10
lbs more then I do you'd have a hard time make it up. Then
the last one you had to lay on your stomach and pull yourself
through and then go head first out of another hole. It was
an interesting experience, not for the timid or claustrophobic.
Our next stop was a beautiful place, aptly
named Wilderness. This is where our friends Trudy and
Philippe have built a gorgeous home overlooking a cliff and the
Indian Ocean. The village is also home to a lagoon so it has
plenty of places to go canoeing and hiking. We mostly stayed
around the house and tried to help out a bit with a plumbing problem that
soaked their entire main floor. They showed us such a
splendid time there from the champagne sunsets to the fantastic
meals out at the local restaurants. From Wilderness we also made
a trip on the local steam train to a place called Knysna. It
has a beautiful harbour area and we went on a tour of the Knysna
Oyster Co. For a whole $1.00 we went on a little tour and
did some oyster tasting.
As we continued our way up the coast, things
are getting less and less developed and more and more African.
The next area we went to was called the "Wild Coast" or also known
as the Transkei. The Transkei use to be its own
country, but in the last 10 years they have become part of S.
Africa. Not soon enough as the locals have stripped every
tree in sight, so the initial drive was a bit of a bore. The
trees were replaced by these interesting little green and brown
clay huts. These belong to the local Xhosa people.
This tribe dominates the area and we spend some time getting to
know a bit about their culture. We stayed on the coast in a
teeny little town called Coffee Bay. The hostel was owned by
a couple who have turned this very primitive place into a
paradise. There are hammocks and a bar, a walk to the beach
and lots of place to hide and read a good book. They even
have yoga!!! In the evenings they have traditional drum
lessons and they have the local kids come and sing and dance their
Perhaps the nicest part of our trip so far was on a Town Tour we
went on. Silas our Xhosa guide took up to his house to meet
his family and told us about his tribe. We walked to their
sacred pools were they baptize people and make sacrifices to their
ancestors. Lastly he took us to the local bar. It was
quite dark as there was only one candle, (no electricity in the
village). Inside there was a few ladies and 3 men smoking
and enjoying a brew as they sat on some beer crates. Silas
bought us some local beer made from corn and the music came on and
all the ladies got up to dance. It was like a regular
nightclub except that the women were wrapped in blankets and some
didn't have shoes. One even had a beautiful baby wrapped on
her back. So we danced, and drank and laughed. It was
So today we left our new friends, to find a few
new ones in the mountains. Hope to hear from you all soon.
Happy Birthday Mom!!!
October 31, 2002
- Busselton, Australia
Yes, we made it to stop number two on our round the world wine
tour. We have been in Western Australia touring around with our
friends Karen Barlow and her boyfriend Jamie and they have been
showing us an absolutely splendid time!
We wrapped up our South Africa trip with a few day in Johannesburg
with our friends Trudy and Philippe. They were the perfect hosts!
We spent more than a couple hours enjoying their mind blowing home
entertainment system and vast collection of DVDs which was a great
break after all the driving around. We also enjoyed some great
meals together and really had a nice visit. It was the best ending
to a wonderful time in South Africa.
We arrived in Perth about a week ago and were met at the airport
by Karen and Jamie, who had both taken time off work to spend a
long weekend with us cruising around Western Australia. It was so
nice to see Karen again and also to met Jamie, who is a super guy.
We spent the first night in Fremantle, which is a coastal town
near Perth, and sampled all the local beers we could find. The
next days we drove to a small town called Denmark which is on the
south coast and spent for two nights. We saw some great things
around there including a magnificent canopy walk through the
"Valley of the Giants" which is a forest of huge karri and tingle
trees. We also saw our first kangaroos! Ana tried her best to
catch one and ride it but it was just too fast for her. We visited
some lovely wineries and sampled many varieties of delicious wine.
Unfortunately, the price of wine here is astronomical compared to
South Africa, likely three times the price! But I'm glad to
report that hasn't stopped us from consuming vast quantities...
The last few days we've been hanging around
Karen and Jamie's place in Busselton, keeping ourselves busy with
squid fishing, crabbing, and drinking beer. Poor Karen has
been working all week but Jamie managed to ditch work and is
spending his hours showing us around, lucky Olsons!!! This
morning Jamie and I were up at 5:30, same as yesterday, fishing
for squid off the incredible 2 km long jetty. We caught four
including two biggies so have amassed enough squid for a big feast
tonight. In a couple hours we are traveling to Karen's
parent's place which is near Bunbury. The plan is to try and
catch some marron (lobster-like shellfish, indigenous to western
Australia) this afternoon then join Karen's parents for a big
barbeque tonight, which they have kindly invited us to.
We extended our stay here to include this
weekend (Karen's off work, yeah!) so we plan to do some
interesting day trips and probably drink some more wine.
Jamie introduced me to Emu Bitter so we'll likely drink a few more
crates of that as well. It's good to be on vacation!
We will be leaving from Perth on Monday for
Sydney, then catching a flight to Cairns to hit the beaches and
diving! We are planning on meeting our friends Pavdaddy and
Jayesh somewhere along the east coast...meeting point as yet
unknown but that is sure to be a blast.
That's it for now, next update from the east
(almost forgot, Happy Halloween!!!!!!)
November 11, 2002 - Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia
It's already been a week on the east coast and
the time is passing much too quickly. Ana and I arrived in
Airlie Beach this evening after a 12 hour bus ride from Cairns
which was surprisingly relaxing and comfortable. Tomorrow we
embark on a six day and night sailing trip around the Whitsunday
islands on the Solway Lass - a 127 ft Tall Ship! We are
hoping that this will be one of the big highlights of our trip.
The ship was built in The Netherlands in 1902 and has been through
two world wars, four name changes, innumerable countries, and has
served as a cargo vessel, ice breaker, war ship, coal transport,
floating restaurant, and now a fully restored tourist sailing
vessel (check out
www.soxsail.com.au). Our plans after that are to visit
Fraser Island on a multi day trip then work our way toward Sydney
in time for our Nov. 30 departure to New Zealand.
We had quite a nice time in the Cairns area.
We found Cairns to be a very busy tourist town, but quite a fun
place to be. The first hostel we stayed in was called
Castaways and seemed okay until we found that our bed was infested
with bed bugs which were biting us as we were sitting on the bed.
Unfortunately, the office was closed by that time and there was no
staff around so we had no choice but to strip the bed and clean it
the best we could then put our own sleep sheets on it. We
still got a few bites during the night but not too bad. The
next day we found another place called Dreamtime Traveler's Rest
which turned out to be a real gem with great staff. From
there we took a lovely two day tour to their sister hostel called
On The Wallaby which was located near a rainforest. We went
on some interesting walks in the forest as well as biking,
swimming, and even canoeing where we saw three platypussies (not
sure of the grammar on that one, but that's the most humorous word
I can think of for the plural of "platypus"). Strange little
creatures, sort of half duck half muskrat but impossible to
differentiate between the head and the ass end.
One thing that has surprised on the east coast
is the tourism saturation. It is certainly one of the more
commercialised areas we've ever been to. In fact, there's so
many backpackers around that it's sometimes tough to find an
Australian! The average age of backpackers here is also much
younger than it was in South Africa, likely because this is such
an obvious place for a first time traveler to visit, and I think
that any 20 year old would find the party of their life here!
The other day we saw a t-shirt in a shop window that said, "The
Liver is Evil and Must Be Punished!". Made me think of my
time in the Bahamas...
We were lucky enough to meet up with our friend
Pavin, who is from Saskatchewan but is currently in school in the
States. We spent an afternoon together in Cairns enjoying
the sun and some cold beers before seeing him off to the airport
for his flight back home. Too bad he wasn't staying
overnight then we could have punished our livers more thoroughly.
Actually, I'm going through a little dry therapy at the moment
after the ten days I spent boozing with Jamie in Western Australia
which I enjoyed thoroughly and am still enjoying every time I look
in the mirror and see those little spare tires peeking over my
Next update after the big sailing trip!
2002 - Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia
Today is Ana's birthday! And we are celebrating by getting
on a bus at 7:00 and traveling to Brisbane where we will go out
for a nice birthday dinner and spend the night. Tomorrow we
will continue to Byron Bay where we willl spend a night or two
before making the final stretch to Sydney.
Our trip to Queensland has been magnificent! We'd say that
the six days sailing in the Whitsundays was definitely the
highlight of our stay in Queensland. It felt great to be
back on the water enjoying the salt, sun and surf. The only
disappointment was the diving which was unremarkable, but we
weren't too worried about that. We put together a page on
our sailing trip with
plenty of pictures. I was wishing that the boys from the
Lost Shaker could have been with us on the trip as it would have
been a great reunion! After such a great time, Ana and I
have decided that we definitely need to own another sailboat in
Last night we returned from a three day tour of Fraser Island,
which is the largest sand island in the world with some amazing
natural features. There are no real roads on the island so
the only way to get through the sand is with a good 4WD vehicle.
It is quite a feeling doing 80 kph down a beach with the surf
crashing in! One of the most amazing things we did was a
hike across a huge "sandblow" which was just like being in the
middle of a desert. The hike ended in a beautiful clean
freshwater lake that was great for swimming. Now that I
think about it, I better put together a little feature page on
We are getting very close to the end of our time in Australia.
It has been an extremely easy place to travel through due to the
highly developed (and competitive) tourist industry. By the
same token it makes it much more difficult to get off the beaten
path and explore on your own, which is what we like doing.
Oh well, we are going to get plenty of that in South America so
we're just enjoying the easy traveling while we have it!
The next update may be from New Zealand....
December 10, 2002 - Christchurch, New Zealand
It's been a busy time in New Zealand! We arrived in Auckland
about a week ago to gorgeous weather and decided to bus north to a
town called Paihia which is on the coast of the Bay of Islands, an
idyllic island paradise off the northernmost part of the north
island. We took a 24 hour tour on this unbelievable
houseboat called "The Rock" and packed in a lot of activity
including fishing, snorkeling, diving for mussels, sea kayaking,
hiking, billiards, dolphin watching, and even some relaxing on the
beach! I also did a half day fishing excursion (Ana passed
on this) and caught a pile of red snapper which we ate for dinner
that night. We returned to Auckland and then flew to
Christchurch where Johnny Eyre-Walker was there to meet us with a
smile and three cold beers. It was great to see him again!
We moved into his and his girlfriend Carolyn's house then settled
in for a night of hangover construction. I made sure to
arrive on a weeknight so I could wave Johnny bye bye as he left
the next morning for work - revenge is sweet!
It was Carolyn's 30th birthday last Saturday so they had a big
barbeque party at their place where we met a lot of their friends
and family. We got a little rained out, but that didn't stop
anything - it was a great party.
We are now getting ready for our tour of the South Island and have
reserved a Harley Davidson Softail Classic for two days beginning
tomorrow! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself as
I've never ridden a Harley before. I think we are going to
ride to Queenstown then back up the west coast and over to
Christchurch, as it's meant to be a spectacular drive.
We will return on Friday then are planning a weekend away with
Carolyn and Johnny, destination unknown. Next week we'll
likely hang around for a few days then make our way northwards and
find a nice place to spend Christmas. We'll be missing you
all but at the same time enjoying the weather!
17, 2002 - Christchurch, New Zealand
I was born to be a biker, of this I am now
sure. Our Harley ride was spectacular and to make the
experience complete, day two was a complete washout and we looked
like eels after spending a full ten hours on the bike through
torrential rainstorms. Luckily, we made it back safely and
had pure sunshine on our last morning's ride into Christchurch,
which was a stunning ride through Allan's Pass which had some
incredible views. We did a total of about 1200 kilometers
which isn't too bad considering it was very slow going on many of
the mountain roads. One of the most scenic things was the
proliferation of gorgeous yellow and purple wildflowers in the
fields around the mountains. Now all we need to do is settle
down somewhere so I can get myself a bike!
We are nearing the end of our visit here in
Christchurch. We leave here on Thursday and will be heading
up to Nelson for a few days then we'll take the ferry to the north
island and spend Christmas in Wellington. After that we only
have a few days to get back up to Auckland for New Years and the
next leg of our journey... to Chile!
December 24, 2002 - Wellington, New Zealand
Merry Christmas!! We are having an
extremely lazy morning here in Wellington. All the Christmas
shopping is done (1 present each) so it should be a very
stress-free day. The biggest challenge will be scouting out
a good restaurant to have dinner tonight. We are staying in
a lovely apartment-hotel right in the centre of Wellington and
will be here until the 26th when we begin the last leg of our
journey up to Auckland.
Our time with Johnny and Carolyn couldn't have
been better. They showed us a fantastic time and it was a
real pleasure to see them again after a couple years. On our
last weekend they took us to a place called Hanmer Springs which
is a lovely little mountain town a couple hundred kilometers from
Christchurch. They organised a beautiful house with stunning
views of the town and mountains and only a short walk from the hot
spring pools where we enjoyed a good soaking in the afternoon.
We had the most chilled out night sitting in front of a crackling
fire in the fireplace with some great wines, cheeses and music.
Johnny and I learned that it is actually possible to have an
enjoyable night together without getting absolutely blind.
But for old times sake, we got the big guns out for our last night
in Christchurch which resulted in a magnificent hangover the next
morning. I was happy to wave Johnny bye-bye one last time as
he trotted off to work with bloodshot eyes and this alcohol vapour
seeping out of him which gave him the appearance of being
surrounded by a force field. He called me from work to
report that the staff in the office had taken up a collection to
go buy him some breath freshening gum. Mission accomplished!
2003 - Auckland, New Zealand
Happy New Year kiddies!! We had a quite but very nice time
last night sitting in a park drinking wine, smoking a cigar, and
watching the fireworks shot off the top of Skytower in the centre
of Auckland. We've been exploring the city for the past few
days doing plenty of walking and sightseeing. Yesterday we
wandered through the harbour which is the home of the America's
Cup sailing race, quite interesting.
Today we are hanging around the hostel waiting
for our taxi which is arriving at 2:00pm to take us to the
airport. We fly overnight to Chile, gaining a day in the
process, and will arrive in Santiago at noon on New Years Day.
If my calculations are correct we should get another New Year's
countdown somewhere over the Pacific!
More to come from Chile....
January 10, 2003 - Puno, Peru
What a year it's been already and it's only the
10th of January. We needed a second wind for this last half
of our adventure and we have certainly gotten it here in South
America. WHAT A PLACE!!!! Where do I begin...We
arrived in Santiago, Chile and spent a day adjusting to the 16
hour time difference. We then called our friend Alvaro and
went for dinner with him in his wife at a great little restaurant
in one of the suburbs of the city. Our first day out and
already the place is full of character and amazing sites around
every corner....viva los latinos....they are a great bunch!!
We no sooner got to Santiago, when we found
cheap flights to the northern border city of Arica. So off
we went to the desert. This little town emerges out of no
where like a mirage. Not much there but a huge market, miles
of sand, a museum with Inca mummies and plenty of
transport options to Peru. The border crossing was amazingly
straight forward and our driver did everything from fill out forms
to stand in line! What service! The first major town
we arrived in was called Arequipa. The centre of town is
full of beautiful colonial style cathedrals and buildings which
are lit up at night! Although it seems to have much to offer
tourists, there didn't seem to be many, and that was perhaps the
best part of all. We also went to a 15th century convent
called Convento de Santo Catarina, which is the size of a small
We next decided to go on a fantastic over
night tour to the second deepest canyon in the world called Canon
de Colca. Quite a sight, as were the condors which circled
overhead. One part of that tour that I WILL try and forget
is the giant rodent (Guinea Pig) that Kris ate that
evening...Ugh!! They are apparently a local delicacy and
Kris insists on trying all local foods. We had a diverse
group of people on the tour; four Peruvians, one American, one
Brazilian, one German, one Nicaraguan, one Palestinian, one Irish,
one French and us two Canadians. Quite a group, but to top
it all off, we ALL spoke Spanish!!!
Our next stop was the famous Machu Picchu ruins
near the colonial town of Cusco. Cusco is one of the last
inhabited civilizations of the Incas. It is surrounded by
ruins, and has a variety of churches, and other monuments,
later built by the Spaniards which arrived in Peru in the 16th
century. Machu Picchu is the largest and most well
preserved display of Inca ruins in the world, and it was magical.
It took 4 hours by train and another 1/2 hour by bus to get there,
but it was worth every minute. We had a wonderful
guide who described he place, like he had built it with his own
two hands. He was the most passionate and articulate tour
guide we've ever had!! So just when we thought that nothing
could top what we'd seen in Peru, we come to Puno, a small
unattractive little town on the highest navigable lake in the
world called Lake Titicaca. This afternoon, we went on a
boat ride to the a group of floating islands made entirely
of reeds. On these islands live a community of 800
descendants of a pre-Inca race called the Uros. They build the
islands, their homes, boats, all out of these water reeds.
They survive by fishing and then bartering with other floating
islands and the people from the mainland. Such a simple
life, but they all had the most magical smiles.....we have so much
So that has been our first 10 days of 2003. I only hope the
next 355 are as exciting.
19, 2003 - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
We're back in Chile after our Bolivia
expedition. In short, we were quite disappointed with
Bolivia.. We found the people to be much less friendly and
competent than Peru and Chile and even rude sometimes. La
Paz was quite an interesting city upon first arrival but once you
got into the guts of it, we found it to be just another busy,
filthy, noisy city, except with many more aggressive beggars and
merchants. Once good thing was the low price of things,
there were a lot of bargains to be had. I bought a stringed
instrument called a charango, which is a beautiful sounding
guitar-like beastie used in Bolivian music. Ana picked up a
lovely alpaca sweater. We also found a great hotel where we
did a bit of relaxing.
We booked ourselves on a four day tour to the
Uyuni region in the south west part of Bolivia. We had a bit
of trouble getting there (if you have ten minutes, have a look at
this story) and saw some
really seedy towns along the way. But once the tour was
underway, we really did have a great time, mostly due to the
fantastic group we were with. We had a Bolivian guide named
Emilio and the other people were an Austraian/New Zealander couple
and a Swiss couple, all of whom were fantastic people with great
senses of humour. The Bolivian countryside we traveled
through was nothing short of amazing. The scenery changed
from a gigantic salt lake, to dry desert cactuses, to huge snowy
mountains, to lunar dust, to muddy lakes full of flamingos, to
red lakes, to mountains of borax and, finally, to a final night's
accommodation that was so putrid, so foul, and so disgusting that
even Ana was looking for the sweet anaesthesia of alcohol. I
don't want to write too much about it, I think there is a good
story to come from that trip!
We arrived back in Chile yesterday to a town
called San Pedro de Atacama which was described as a lovely
frontier town by the guide books but is actually a dusty,
overpriced, gringo hole. The only redeeming features are the
selection of nice restaurants with great food and groovy bars.
We had a splendid time last night with a bunch of the people from
our tour. We had dinner and drinks in a restaurant with an
open roof in the centre allowing lunar rays to shine in and a
crackling wood fire on the ground. We sat around the fire
playing cards and having a good laugh. We are going to meet
up with the Australian/New Zealander couple in a few weeks in
Argentina and Brazil which is sure to be a great time.
We will spend the day here tomorrow then in the
evening catch a night bus back to Arica where we will have a day
then fly back to Santiago. It seems like it has been ages
since we arrived in Chile but it's only been a couple weeks!
Good sign, that means our trip isn't going too fast...
March 26, 2003 - Brantford, Canada...basement of Ana's parent's
You are probably wondering, 'What the hell happened?'! It
has been two months since our last journal entry which is the
result of us being robbed of our laptop on an overnight bus in
Chile. After the required visits to the police station to
report the loss we moved on to Argentina....and were robbed
again!! This time the cabin we were renting was ransacked
when we were out for dinner. So, a fair bit of bad luck came
our way during that portion of the trip but we did manage to
recover and had a splendid time traveling through Argentina and
Brasil, especially since we were traveling with our friends
Rebecca and Fraser whom we met in Bolivia.
We are now back in Canada and have since replaced our laptop and
are finally able to get back online to update our site. We
are going to do some work on the site over the next few days so
April 7th, 2003 - Brantford, Canada...basement of Ana's parent's
It has been a week of rotten weather and I have
discovered a few new types of snow here in Ontario. In
Saskatchewan we have only three kinds of precipitation; rain
(which makes farmers happy), hail (which makes farmers cry), and
snow (which makes farmers go to Florida). In Ontario they
are more advanced and have many more varieties. Freezing
rain is when it's quite cold outside but somehow raining.
When rain hits the ground or the surface of anything it instantly
freezes which results in a icy covering. When a car is
covered in this you need a piece of something solid to chip the
ice away, a regular plastic credit card just won't do as an ice
scraper. Another variety even more interesting is ice
pellets. This is when it is cold outside and raining high up
in the atmosphere but instead of the raindrop turning into a
lovely artistic little snowflake it instead freezes into an icy
bullet. And when you get hit in the face by these ice
pellets it does indeed feel like you've been struck with a shotgun
blast. When these ice pellets start to pile up on the ground
they don't turn into fluffy snow, instead you get piles of
miniature ice cubes which are not easy to walk or drive on.
The end result of all this is absolute chaos. I woke up the
other morning and the radio stations were listing off all the
places which had closed down due to weather and these included
many schools, hospitals, government buildings, universities,
public transport and highways. Because of this we had to
cancel the driving trip we had planned to take to Ottawa to see my
brother and his fiancee. So instead we rented a bunch of
movies and hung around the house eating and drinking and laying on
the couch watching the tube. And we wonder why Canadians put
on a little weight during the winter months!
Our job hunt is underway and we have been busy
emailing people, making phone calls and surfing the internet.
Ana's mom even did her part and put together a little shrine in
the kitchen with some icons of saints and burning candles which is
meant to give us divine help. It's similar to a shrine she
had constructed to get us home safely during our big trip which
obviously worked so what the hell, it's worth a try!
There hasn't been much else happening. Oh
yeah, Ana tried to kill her mom the other night. We took them out
for dinner for John's birthday and went to a local country
restaurant. Ana's mom ordered the prime rib which came with
a side bowl of horseradish. I put a bit on my steak and
Ana's mom asked what it was as she had never seen it before.
Ana said it was a Canadian steak sauce and offered her the bowl to
try it. Before Ana could do anything, her mom scooped up a
big pile on her fork and dropped it in her mouth and started
munching. For those of you who have experienced a high power
horseradish blast you can imagine her reaction. She blurted,
"yahhh!" and the tears started to flow as she was desperately
grasping for her water. Though we felt sorry for her, Ana
and I were laughing hysterically by the point until the tears were
falling from our eyes as well. She's used to eating spicy
Portuguese hot sauce which is also very spicy but has a rather
'slow burn' which sneaks up on you then lingers around for a
while. The horseradish effect is completely different.
As soon as it hits your mouth it sends a wasabi lightening bolt
right up your nose and you can feel smoke coming out of your ears as
you are blinded by the tears. Then, fifteen seconds later
it's all gone, almost like it never happened.
That's about all the news for now. Wish us luck on the job
June 21st, 2003 -
Still no job.....but we're looking hard!!
We decided to relocate to Calgary since the Brantford job search
was not going too well. We were lucky enough to have an
offer from my aunt and uncle to stay with them in Calgary until we
find something and get ourselves organized. We've been
having a lovely time together visiting, drinking wine, and
exploring Calgary. It is a very nice city with a downtown
area that is very compact, very clean and easy to get around.
We are thinking we will likely look for an apartment downtown if
that is where we end up finding jobs. I have several cousins
that live there so we're looking forward to spending much more
time with them in the future.
We did a day trip to Banff and Lake Louise last week which was a
lot of fun. Once I get the film developed I'll put some new
pictures up on the site. As well, I managed to negotiate a
stop in Saskatchewan for the annual fishing trip with the boys!
The fishing was absolutely spectacular and the weather was pretty
good. It was such fun going out fishing again and I really
hope that we will be able to find work in Canada and stay here so
I can make it an annual event! There are not many places we
have traveled to in the world where you can spend 4 days in the
quiet wilderness with nobody else around for many miles, drink
water straight from the lake, see lots of wildlife, catch fish
until your hands turn blue and breathe in the delicious,
unpolluted air. I think I'm going to have to put up a Fishing Trip 2003
page so you can all see some of the photos from that superb
We have set up a temporary cell phone number where we can be
contacted and it's 403-889-6980 or the house number is
That's it for now, take care!
August 9th, 2003 -
30 degrees again today, there is nothing better
than a Canadian summer! Ana and I are back in Calgary after
spending a couple weeks in Saskatchewan attending some great
family functions. My grandparents had their 50th wedding
anniversary, Curtis and I threw a huge weekend stag for Marty, and
of course Marty and Jen got married so it was an extremely busy
time. Most of the Olson and Gustafson family were in town so
we had some nice visits with everybody. The only bad
experience was this wisdom tooth I had extracted, which had about
nine roots and weighed half a kilo. Now there is a giant
hole in the back of my mouth that doesn't seem to be filling in.
Perhaps that's more information than you were looking for...
We are still hard on the job hunt and both of
us have several opportunities we are now working on. We are
really looking forward to getting settled here and into a routine.
Ana's been hitting the garage sales stocking up on the things we
will need for our place, which is pretty much everything from wine
glasses to lamps to pots. We've been avoiding any large
purchases until we definitely nail something. We've also
been out test driving cars and looking at houses and condos so
that has been keeping us occupied.
We have no other big plans for the rest of the
summer so we'll just keep our heads down hunting for work and
enjoying this time we have with Barb and Gerry which has been a
Just got off the phone with my friend Ian
Lavoie whom I haven't seen for about five years. He lives in
Calgary now and is on the way over with his little son Jakob for a
2003 - Calgary, Alberta
Finally, it's all coming together.
Besides hemorrhaging dollar bills out our backsides, the past few
weeks have been superb. In that time we have both found jobs
with WestJet, bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe, bought a condo, and
bought enough stuff to fill our new place, such as couches,
tables, lamps, carpets, beds, etc, etc. Ana and Barb have
been burning up the garage sales getting deals on all sorts of
stuff. In fact, I'm going to produce Ana's brand new reality
television show called, "Extreme GarageSaleing - Hosted by
Junkaholics Ana and Barb".
The place we bought is in a groovy
neighbourhood called Inglewood and steps from the river. It
is a semi-detached townhouse style condo which means no yard work
and no shoveling of snow, yayyyy! It is a three bedroom
place with plenty of space so all visitors are welcome. We
have even decided to put a home gym in the basement for the
amusement of my musclehead friends (Mike) who like to punish me.
Ana is working in the Marketing department of
WestJet and loving it, especially since most of her co-workers
seem to be quite insane. I am working in the department they
refer to as "Beanland" as the JD Edwards guy and really enjoying
it. The staff at WestJet constantly walk around with these
big smiles plastered on their faces, leading me to believe that
there is a "free drug" policy at work as opposed to the regular
boring "drug free" office environment. Either that or they
really do enjoy their jobs. It is an amazing company to work
for as almost all of the employees are shareholders and are all
focused on keeping costs down and, therefore, profits high.
I think we are going to be quite happy there. The best part
is that we can now fly for very cheap all across Canada so perhaps
our traveling days are not yet numbered!
October 19th, 2003
- Calgary, Alberta
It's the middle of October in Canada and the
weather is still beautiful! It is a lovely Sunday day and
Ana and I just returned from having a coffee at the Serendipity
cafe on 9th Avenue, a few blocks from home. I went out
earlier this morning for a round of "disc golf"; which is golf
played with a frisbee-like disc (check out
www.pdga.com). There is a
course ten minutes from here and it is absolutely free to play so
I've been honing my disc throwing skills every weekend morning.
We had a big housewarming party last weekend
and lots of family and friends were over to enjoy it. Ana's
folks came from Brantford for the long weekend and as well my dad
and brother Curtis were here. It was quite a hectic weekend
but a lot of fun and gave us our first opportunity to show off our
new house (I'll post some pictures here once we get them
developed). It has been so nice having our own place and
waking up in our own bed every morning! I guess most people
take that for granted but for us it is something special.
We are planning a trip to Saskatoon next
weekend to attend Sheldon Olson's wedding so that's sure to be a
blast. Besides that we (thankfully) do not have much planned
up until Christmas, which should give us lots of nice quiet
weekends at home - also quite a novelty for us!
Carrie is playing in Calgary tomorrow night and
Tuesday and plans to stay with us here so we're looking forward to
seeing her. One of the places she is playing at is the
Ironwood Stage and Grill, which is a five minute walk from our
house, very convenient!
What else? I've been lucky enough to
reconnect with a couple of great friends from a long time ago; Ian
Lavoie and Jeff Stone, neither of which I had seen since
university days. In fact, we all went for a round of disc
golf together yesterday that was a good time. That has been
one great advantage of being in Calgary, there are loads of
Saskatchewan people here; therefore some familiar faces.
Time to get back to my quiet Sunday (more
2003 - Calgary, Alberta
Winter is here and it's not going away.
The thermometer reads -25 degrees this morning so I likely won't
be going for my Saturday morning walk! It has been quite
cold here for the past few weeks but I must admit I have been
enjoying it. There is no better excuse to hang around the
house reading, drinking coffee and listening to great music than
when it's cold enough outside to freeze the nuts off a polar bear.
Our old buddy Toddy Van Hees arrives Monday and
will be with us for Christmas and we are very happy he's decided
to come for a visit. We have all sort of activities lined up
for the next few weeks including my brother's stag party and
wedding which is sure to be a raging success! I'm also going
to send Toddy out with Uncle Gerry for some he-man activities
while I'm slaving away at work.
It is Ana's birthday on Tuesday, her favourite
day of the year! So make sure you send her an email, she
will love it!
25th, 2003 - WestJet flight to Toronto
I think I might be on the verge of a weekend that actually
involves sleep. We are in the air over Winnipeg at the
moment en route to sweet home Borges in Brantford after a hectic
couple weekends in Saskatoon. We're looking forward to some
great Portuguese cooking and gallons of big John's turbo wine.
We had a great Christmas eve last night at "Casa Barbara" with the
Davidsons. And they really went to town on the pressies!
I can't wait to settle into that nice couch downstairs and do lots
of nothing, definitely a great chance to recharge the batteries.
February 29th, 2004 - Sunday morning in Inglewood
Three months into the new year, I'd say things are going very well for us.
Work has been busy but we've also managed to get away for a couple
great weekend trips. We recently went to Montreal and Quebec
City to meet up with some friends we made in Argentina. We
also went to visit Marty and Jen in Ottawa for Marty's birthday.
From Ottawa we drove up to Sharbot Lake to stay with my aunt and
uncle at their cabin. It was such a treat to stay at a warm,
secluded cabin in the middle of the wilderness. The roads
leading into the cabin were blocked with snow so we had to pack
our gear on sleds and hike into the cabin across the lake, which
is something we've never done before!
Just a short one for now,
2004 - Friday night in Inglewood
Friday night blues party. Makes me want to grab my
harmonica and rip off a few good blues riffs, maybe I should do
It's funny, time seems to be moving so slowly. In fact, time
has never moved so slowly for me in my life, except maybe when I
was fifteen years old and had ordered my first Columbia House
shipment of fifteen cassettes tapes and had to wait six to eight
long, long weeks for it to arrive. What was in that musical
selection? I remember Queensryche, Ratt, GNR, Led Zeppelin,
stuff you can easily download today in a matter of minutes.
Imagine that. I had to wait six to eight weeks for my
shipment...now I can download it overnight for free, if I so
desire. Well, you'll be happy to hear that I haven't been
downloading much Ratt lately! The only think I've attempted
to download recently is an Arrogant Worms song called "Proud to be
a Banker", though I couldn't find it anywhere.
So it seems to me that since the dawn of the internet,
there's only now two guaranteed ways to slow time down in this
furious world of ours; commit a felony and get yourself some jail
time or get your wife pregnant. I can vouch for the second,
my only experience with the first is a brief stint in the North
Battleford cop shop after a Mai Tai drinking contest and a
in my blue '69 Dodge Dart, though in that state, time becomes a
little warped anyway.
But the second, oh yes, I can vouch for the second. My
little baby is busy growing ounce by ounce in my beautiful wife's
bountiful buddha belly. It is taking so long, but I suppose
I should be thankful and trying to enjoy the quiet while it
lasts. I guess I'm just anxious to meet the little person
face to face.
I haven't been writing a lot of journals lately, but you can
expect the "new parent" effect with plenty of pictures and words
after Fuzzy's arrival in August....if I can find time!
July 27, 2004
-Tuesday night in Inglewood
I thought it was about time that I chip in with
the website updates and write a journal entry. It will also
be interesting to read this in a few months and remember how
dramatically different life was.
I'm 38 weeks pregnant and still growing.
My official due date is August 13th. The doctors tell me
that they will induce me at 41 weeks, thank God, so the latest
I'll have the baby is August 20th. I must say I have had a
wonderful, healthy pregnancy but wonderful or not, 9 months of
pregnancy is just about all I can handle. I'll be very happy
to see Fuzzy's beautiful face.
Everything is ready for the exciting arrival.
Our house is now fully transformed into a baby haven -- play pens,
swings, change tables and cribs. It's quite unbelievable how
much stuff you need for a new baby.
We are also looking forward to all of the
family and friends we'll see with the new baby's arrival. My
mom and dad arrive on August 21 and will stay with us for 3 weeks.
We've decided to keep my dad out of trouble by keeping him
occupied finishing our basement. We figure we'll need all
the space we can get with a 3rd busy family member.
We are thrilled with this new era in our lives
and we are looking forward to ALL that parenthood has to
bring...the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, the little smiles and
the unconditional love.
August 21, 2004 - First day at home with Magnus
Just arrived back from the hospital with our new little baby,
Magnus Antonio Olson, born August 20 and entering this world at 8
pounds, 13 ounces. Our little "Fuzzy" turned out to be a
boy, just like Ana was predicting, and we are both so happy to
have this little guy in our lives. It looks as if all the
grandparents and great grandparents are arriving tomorrow to meet
him so he's sure to have a very busy day absorbing all that love
All I can say is, what a miracle! It's hard to describe the
birthing experience (as the person saying "push, push!" at least!)
but picture his entrance into the world: once the head appeared,
the body followed very quickly and in an instant this little baby
was lying on the bed with his arms spread wide, head back and eyes
wide open looking up at us as if to say "Here I am!!"
The weeks ahead are sure to be a big learning experience for all
three of us.
September 14, 2004 - Home
Magnus is now a little over 3 weeks and is
doing great!! Being a parent is fantastic! Magnus has
a lot to do with that. He is a perfect little baby.
Cries very little and sleeps lots. I must say that this
being a new mom has so far been much less stressful than I had
expected. But the whole experience has been wonderful from
the first days of pregnancy right through to labor.
All the relatives have now left and we are now
back to a regular routine. We had a steady flow of
grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for the past three weeks
and my parents stayed for the first few weeks to help us with
Magnus and help finish our basement as well. With that done,
the real relaxing can begin. Kris is enjoying his new
job downtown at Shell and we have already gone to meet him
downtown for lunch. Magnus is surely the most cultured and
well traveled baby around. In his short life he has already
been to Hertiage Park here in Calgary, Banff to see the mountains,
Drumheller to the Tyrell museum, and he is already an
official annual member of the Calgary Zoo with his own picture ID.
Our next big chore is to get his new passport
so the real world traveling can begin. We are hoping to get
Magnus on his first plane ride to Saskatoon for Thanksgiving, then
Brantford in November for his baptism and then back for Christmas
and we are hoping to have him on his first international voyages
to San Francisco and the Azores next year.
So life just couldn't get anymore grand!!
More photos and news on Magnus and life in Calgary soon.
October 31, 2004 -
Tonight all the ghosts and goblins will be out
and we will be home to help give them rotten teeth. Magnus
isn't quite old enough to enjoy his first Halloween, but we have
been enjoying all the festivities for him. We recently went
to Boo at the Zoo at the local Calgary Zoo and it was quite
entertaining with all of the little kids dressed up in their
Magnus is 9 weeks old and is doing fantastic!
He sleeps throughout the night waking up between 5:30 am and 6:00
am and I've even got him going back to sleep until about 9:00 am
most mornings. So needless to say I'm thrilled and likely
the least sleep deprived new mom in the history of moms. He's
eating about 45 ounces per day of milk and now weigh 16 lbs. -
bigger than 100% of the kids his age. We've been keeping
busy going out for lunch with friends and going for walks.
Winter is in full force here, but the odd chinook still allows us
out for a stroll now and again.
Kris is thoroughly enjoying his new job at
Shell. He's working with quite a diverse group of guys and
they seem to keep him smiling, which is nice.
The next few months will be very busy with
Magnus' baptism in Brantford on November 14, a visit to Aunt
Carrie and Uncle Curtis' in Victoria, BC the weekend after and
then of course Christmas where we hope to be in Brantford, Florida
and Saskatoon before the new year.
Busy, busy, busy but things have never been
2004 - Sick day at home...
The second to last day of the year finds the
Olson family at home sick with colds. We must have overdone
it during our Christmas break in Ontario, though I don't see how
that's possible since we spent the whole time lounging around the
house eating great Portuguese food, drinking, sleeping and
basically avoiding the cold weather outside as much as possible!
We left Calgary on Dec 17 in time for the
surprise appearance at my uncle mike's place for their annual
Christmas party in Welland, Ontario. It was a great party,
complete with gourmet food, cases of wine, keg of beer, oyster
shucker, live rockabilly band, and AKAVIT! Now what more
could you possibly ask for?
The following week was spent with Ana's folks
in Brantford. They were delighted to have their little
grandson with them, and we were delighted to take advantage of
their babysitting services and go and see a couple movies.
As usual the time went by much too fast but we did enjoy
ourselves, including Magnus who was smiles the whole time, even
after he picked up his little cold.
Next stop is Saskatoon this weekend. At
the moment, we're not feeling too up for travel but we need to get
Magnus over to see his grandma Olson, who hasn't seen him for two
Happy new year! And for those of you who
haven't seen our Christmas letter, click here.
Kris, Ana, Magnus
2005 - Saturday morning java
You've never seen anything as beautiful as your little baby
smiling in his sleep. I fed Magnus an "early riser" bottle
this morning, then he immediately fell back asleep and gave a
grand, gummy smile after he nodded off. I couldn't go back
to sleep after that because I started thinking about how lucky we
are to have such a sweet, happy little baby and be settled back
here in Canada with lots of visits to see family...something we
have missed over the years. I was feeling very touchyfeely
until I realized I have to go to work today...drat! We have
one more week left of insanity on my project then we should have a
little break from the overtime for a month or two at least.
I don't mind working more now, since January is such a dull month
anyway and the weather has been rotten - it just means I can take
time off later! We have two trips planned for the year, the
first is a long, long weekend getaway to Turks & Caicos during
Easter and the second is a trip to the Azores in June or
thereabouts. Ana is so anxious to get back to the Caribbean
and become an "island girl" once again. Unfortunately,
Magnus is only going as far as Ontario, he'll have the pleasure of
grandparent attention (perhaps 'adoration' may be a more
appropriate word?) for a few days while we are away. It will
be tough to be away from him but I will seek solace in conch
salads and many, many Kaliks! Mmmm, Kalik, I haven't had a
Kalik in about three years, I am well overdue. I wonder if
they will taste the same?
Before my thoughts go completely to sun, sailing and beer, I better
do a quick update of Magnus' new tricks. He has recently:
1. Learned to sit up all by himself, but with the occasional
2. Found his feet and learned to suck on his toes
3. Got a new car seat after outgrowing the old one
4. Received his second set of shots, and is now weighing in at
over 22 pounds
5. Learned to pass things from hand to hand
6. Learned to hold his own bottle and drink from it (this one is
hit and miss, he often just pulls it out of his mouth and stares
at it, in stunned disbelief that his is actually feeding himself)
7. Realized that passing gas is really quite funny, and sometimes
laughs after exploding
That's all for now, have to go wake up the rest of the family!
March 6, 2005 -
Sunday arvo slowdown
Don't you hate when you awaken in the morning
and your first thought is about work? That happened to me a
few days this week as we're going through another busy spell, but
that's the name of the game with project work. All part of
the fun. Thankfully the week was broken up a bit when Carrie
passed through town on Thursday and we saw her show down at the
Ironwood. I then elected to work from home the next
day....not because of a hangover thankfully, but I realized that I
had no meetings that day and I can often get a hell of a lot more
done at home.
What's new with the Olsons? The past few
days have been gorgeous here in Calgary with temperatures in the
mid teens, quite a treat in March. That obviously has us
thinking a lot about the summer, but even more about our upcoming
trip to the Turks & Caicos. The original plan was to dump
the little guy off with grandma and grandpa but he seems to have
talked his mommy into coming along with us. Quite amazing,
considering he can't even talk yet.
Not sure what else to report, it's that time of
the year when people keep a pretty low profile, don't go out too
much and spend most of their time bitching about the weather or,
this year, the lack of hockey. I just thought of one piece
of news - Magnus' bald patch on his head is growing hair again,
though we still need to do a "comb over" when he goes out on the
More news soon ( I promise the next entry will
be much more interesting....it's been that kind of month)
2005 - Home Alone
I'm home alone tonight for the first time in a
long time. Kris has a BIG go-live on his project this
weekend and the fun starts tonight at 9:00 pm. So I just
dropped him off at Shell and it looks like it will be Magnus and I
tonight. As I was dropping him off he said that this is as
close as an IT geek ever comes to seeing that "completed house"!!
Magnus is still a ray of sunshine, or is that a lightening bolt
tearing apart our house. He has been crawling for about 2
weeks and stands while holding anything he can get his little
paws on. It won't be long before he starts walking and then
the real fun begins. He is still at 26 pounds and has only
grown an inch or two since the last doctor visit, which is fine by
me. I'm already running out of storage space for all
the clothes he has grown out of.
I can't believe that it is already May.
Where has this year gone. I'm now quickly facing the fact
that I will be back at work in a few short months. We have a
very busy few months ahead so I'm sure it will be here before I
know it. This past month the weather has been
wonderful and we've enjoyed several weekends in Alberta for a
change. We did a driving trip up to Drayton Valley near
Edmonton to see Kris' aunts who live there and grandparents who
were there for a visit. It was a great trip.
I will be returning back to WestJet in
September, but hopefully be able to work from home a few days a
week. Kris is taking Fridays off to stay home with Magnus
and the other 2 days he will be staying with his new nanny.
Thankfully we have been able to find someone who we are very
comfortable with. Her name is Maria and she is a 64
year old Portuguese lady....no it's not my Mom, but the next best
thing here in Calgary. I met with Maria a few weeks ago and
Magnus instantly went to her, so we are very lucky. Makes
the sting of leaving him a little less.
Our summer plans are heating up quickly.
Kris' annual fishing trip to Saskatchewan is in early June.
I'll be in Brantford during that time. We will be back in
Brantford for the annual Portuguese festival in mid June.
July long weekend we are in Fishing Lake for the 50th anniversary
of the Olson Cabin. It will be great to see the whole family
there including the Pakistani contingent. Immediately after
that we leave for the Azores for 2 weeks with my Mom and Dad,
Peter and Loretta (Kris' Dad and Wife) and another Aunt and Uncle
of mine. While we are there, we will attend my cousin Natercia's wedding and immediately upon returning will attend a
party for my cousin Michelle and her fiancé Brad who are being
married in Mexico in mid-July.
So it looks like we are free in August.
That month will no doubt be recovery and mentally preparing for
the working life ahead. The great thing about all of this is
that we'll have many stories and tons of photos, so stay tuned!!
August 21, 2005 - Magnus' first day as a one year old
It's been a slow, lazy day after Magnus first
birthday party last night. In fact, it's been a slow, lazy
few weeks since returning from summer vacation. The trip to
the Azores was
superb and besides all the wine drinking and fish eating we
managed to find time to scout out and purchase a nice piece of
ocean front property. We also spend some time in Ontario and
Saskatchewan visiting family and friends (thank god for WestJet
Ana will be returning to work in September
after a glorious year at home nurturing this beautiful little boy.
We're sure to be on an extremely busy schedule, though we're
hoping it will be manageable. We've decided we better get a
winter vacation booked to give us something to look forward to and
ease the pain of the winter weather which will soon be upon us.
Magnus is well past his baby days and is now a
busy, curious little boy that never stops moving, even when he's
sleeping. He is now walking everywhere, eating on his own -
no baby food anymore, clapping, dancing, making people "talk to
the hand", and scaling large buildings in a single bound.
He's widely known as a bruiser since he likes to hurl objects
across the room and stick his fingers in peoples' eyes.
Today he took a tumble off the deck and got some scrapes on his
face, which makes him look even more menacing. He is a lot
of fun now and we consider ourselves so lucky to have such a happy,
healthy little boy to love and care for.
Getting a bit late now so better cut it off
October 12, 2005 - Home in Calgary
As fall sets in and winter looms, we are now
well into our new routine.
I'm back to work full time (2 days from home)
and Kris is thoroughly enjoying his Fridays off - Man's Day as he
fondly calls them. He and Magnus do their bonding and I slug it out at
WestJet. Magnus spends 2 days a week at Maria the daycare lady's house
and loves it!! He even has a new 4 year old girlfriend named Lisa!
The schedule hasn't been nearly as busy or
hectic as we imagined. We still get a nice evening although the days
are getting shorter and I find it is getting harder and harder to get
up in the mornings.
Since our last journal we have been on a few
adventures. Magnus and myself went to LA for a weekend with our good
friend Emily. Loved LA and spend lots of time on the beach, shopping
and people watching. That was a great time!! Kris had a boys weekend
and went fishing with his friends Jon and Chris in the Crow's Nest
Pass here in Alberta. No big fish, but they looked like they had a
good time in the photos.
We've also went to Victoria for quick visit with
Curt (Kris' brother) and then off to Saskatoon and Foam Lake this past
weekend for Kris' cousin Isabel's Christening and Thanksgiving. It was
great to have a really good visit with the Gustafson side of the
We have a trip to Brantford planned to see my
family in the next few weeks. Then things shockingly get quiet with no
trips on the horizon until a winter holiday to Jamaica in January.
Of course between now and then we have Halloween
(Magnus will be a Bee this year), my 34th birthday (aahhhh!!!),
Christmas and New Years. My parents will be spending 2 weeks at
Christmas time with us, so that will be nice change. We have traveled
every Christmas for the last 5 years, so it will be nice to wake up at
How the year has passed, only a few more months
to go but hopefully lots of new adventures on the horizon.
November 27, 2005 -
Sunday morning coffee
Here I sit on Sunday morning, my favourite
moment of the week when Mommy and Magnus are still sleeping and I'm
halfway through my first cup of java listening to classical on the
What to talk about? We watched War of the
Worlds yesterday. What a show! Other than the nonsensical
conclusion (I still have no idea how the aliens died), the movie was
pretty good, especially the scenes with these giant tripod machines
vapourizing everything in their paths. I couldn't help thinking
during the movie how a tragedy like that immediately refocuses peoples
perspective on what is important to them. We get so stuck in our
routines of going to work to earn money, then spending that money,
then going back to work to earn more, then spending more that we
forget to ask "what's the point?" often enough. Isn't it sad
that we are often so busy with busyness that we don't ask ourselves
this question until something really bad happens? Ana and I have
been concentrating a lot on our finances lately, trying to put a good
plan in place now that will help us in the future. As we work on
this plan and talk about investments, returns, earnings, expenses and
all those other credits and debits we've often looked at each other
and realized how lucky we've been in our lifetimes to have never had
to live through real tough times. Even our parents generation
haven't had to live through what our grandparents did. People
born in the first decades of the 20th century lived through the great
depression and two world wars. The great depression where people
in this country had no jobs, no crops, limited health care and even
starvation. Then the world wars came along where thousands of
innocent people were killed. Can you imagine what living through
these kinds of events does to people? When an 85 year old person
today looks at how the younger people live this life of entitlement,
instant gratification and total disposability of everything, how must
Eventually another depression will come around,
at least this is what history suggests. What will happen then?
Especially when people have so much of their wealth tied up in
electronic assets that could practically disappear overnight and
overpriced, overbuilt bungalows that cost a fortune to maintain.
What assets and skills will have value if we go through a depression?
I certainly don't know how to do anything useful like slaughter a cow
or grow vegetables. We don't even have any land on which to
plant a garden to grow food that would keep us alive! The
business skills Ana and I have would be completely useless in an
economic meltdown. It makes you change the way you look at the
future when you consider this possibility.
Yikes, that's a little heavy for Sunday morning.
On the bright side, after going through these planning processes
together the one main thing we do agree on is that we want to be able
to spend as much time as possible raising our kids and enjoying life
with our families and friends. There is nothing more important
10, 2006 - Man's day at home with Magnus
Time to break the news - there is another
little Olson on the way! And the due date, as predicted by
our first ultra sound yesterday, is August 20, which also happens
to be Magnus' birthday, potentially making them exactly 2 years
apart. We are overjoyed at the prospect of another ankle
biter, though now it will be two against two instead of two
against one. We're slowly losing the advantage, and like my
friend Laurey says, you can't operate a secure facility with more
prisoners than wardens.
Ana hasn't started showing yet but she does say
her jeans are getting a little tighter at the waist. She has
been getting a lot of morning sickness and hasn't been feeling too
well, but hopefully that stage will pass soon.
Everything else is going very well thus far in
2006. We are planning on moving a house onto our lot at
Fishing Lake this spring and using it as a vacation rental so if
you are reading this and looking for a great and inexpensive place
to spend a week this summer, check lifeisgrand frequently as we'll
soon have pictures and rates available.
Just a short one for now, more soon.
March 25, 2006 - The SpillMaster
I was inspired by a recent email I received
from my friend Johnny in New Zealand, who has a three year old as
well as a brand new baby girl. It was a "Three Strikes"
email - in other words, three episodes of naughtiness involving
their son which made for a challenging day. As fate would
have it, we had a "Multi Strike" day of our own yesterday.
Friday began as usual, both Magnus and I
awakened by the jet engine scream of Ana's hairdryer, which for me
wins the award for the most horrible sound in the world. We
saw Mommy off to work in the normal fashion - me distracting
Magnus with the toilet brush while Ana slipped out unnoticed,
thereby avoiding a round of "don't leave Mommy!" tears.
After a bit of frolicking around in the living room, we moved into
the kitchen for my favourite part of the day - breakfast. I
strapped Magnito into his high chair then made him a piece of
toast with peanut butter, added some grapes to the side of the
plate, then took a big chance and poured him half a glass of
orange juice. I presented this to his Majesty on the
highchair platter and returned to the toaster to create one of my
"Marmite Delights" and make coffee. Upon my return, after
first feeling a grape squish under my barefoot, I discovered that
my delinquent son had scattered his grapes all over the floor,
then poured half the orange juice on top of himself and the other
half on top of the toast, creating some sort of peanut butter
porridge concoction. Strike One.
After the cleanup, we went downstairs for our
morning workout. I managed a weakly round of biceps and
triceps; enough to keep my arms from turning into spaghetti, but
hardly enough to keep me in good shape. Magnus started
initially with ten reps of turning the power button on the stereo
on and off, then followed that up with three solid sets of
throwing dominoes around the room. He then did a focused
round of emptying items out of the storage closet, including light
bulbs, fishing rods and bottles of jam, and finished that one off
with attempting to stick the pokey end of an umbrella through the
gyprock. Becoming tired of the workout, he finished up with
an actual set of chin-ups, with daddy providing some assistance
from below. We then returned up stairs, where I turned
on Dora the Explorer for him so I could get some work done.
The television predictably edged child into an uninspired,
zombie-like state, allowing me an hour of actual quiet to do some
nasty old work stuff. During that time I went into a bit of
a work induced trance myself and was snapped out of this by the
sound of Magnus rifling through the refrigerator. I raced
out to find him feverishly trying to knaw through a plastic bag of
pepperoni sticks. "Oh, maybe he's hungry?" I thought, so I
transported him, a pepperoni stick, and his sippie cup full of
water onto the couch where he immediately and remarkably fell
asleep. I returned to my work induced trance then later, at
the sound of his stirrings, found that he was holding his sippie
cup in such a way that it had entirely leaked out all over him and
all over the leather couch. Strike Two (but mainly my
Soon after he awoke, my mom called.
Magnus was busy running around the house pulling the registers out
of the floor while I talked with mom and enjoyed my nice big hot
mug of chicory coffee. Distracted by Magnus balancing
precariously on the edge of the Ikea chair, pulling the DVD out of
the player, I put my cup of coffee on the coffee table and went
to rescue the kid and the player. As soon as I put him on
the ground, he raced over to my coffee, picked it up, and dumped
it on the carpet. "Mom, I have to go," I said, then went to
search out some absorbent cloths as Magnus looked on smiling.
The best part of Friday Man-day is the field
trip, which can range from a visit to the post office and record
store, to an extended journey to a kid's play place, or sometimes
just a walk along the river. This day, we walked/strolled
over to the Blackfoot Diner - a circa 1950's old fashioned, greasy
spoon restaurant, that must be seen to be believed. There,
we met a few of the WestJet folks for lunch and admittedly, the
child's behavior was exemplary - he sat there calmly dipping his
chips in gravy, sharing my clubhouse sandwich, making eyes at the
girls, and salting and peppering everybody's food for them.
All was well until, at the end of the meal, he unexpectedly lunged
across the table and spilled the pot of coffee cream all over the
table, seats and people. Strike Four.
Back at home, the afternoon progressed rather
smoothly, allowing me to do a bit of work, and him to redeem
himself. But I was to soon learn that he was not redeeming
at all; he was scheming....
Mommy arrived home around 5:00 to be greeted by
her smiling, happy little boy, which must be the best part of any
parent's day. Soon after that, our friend Ian and his little
boy Jakob arrived with a nice bottle of wine to join us for
supper. The boys had a lovely time running around, playing
with toys, while we chatted in the living room. Before long,
we heard a giant crash from the kitchen and raced out to find
Magnus sitting on top of the table and the bottle wine exploded
all over the floor, wasting all that sweet, precious vino.
After a lengthy cleanup, we were finally able
to make supper, which was a simple pasta with meat sauce. We
sat down, dished up the food, including a nice little plate for
Magnus, as this was his first experience with spaghetti, and
started to eat. It wasn't long before Magnus heaped a meaty,
drippy load of sauce on his fork and flung it at Ana, splattering
her and the nice white chair seat with staining red sauce.
The last strike of the night came shortly after
dinner, as we were enjoying a nice cup of chai tea in the living
room. A momentary lapse of attention allowed Magnus the
opportunity to zip over to the table, grab Ana's chai, and dump it
all over himself, the couch, and the floor, yet somehow managed to
avoid burning himself. Strike Seven.
Surprisingly, as one gets used to living with a
toddler, these events seem quite normal. It was only at the
end of the day when we started actually counting the number of
"incidents" that we realized this may have been a record setting
day. All I can say is thank god for tile floors, cheap
carpets and a good sense of humour!
August 4, 2006 - Friday
It seems nearly impossible that my most recent posting was back in
March, though I suppose that's an indication of how busy this year
has been for us. What's been keeping us so occupied?
Mainly, the process of buying, moving and repairing a large house in Saskatchewan.
In addition to that, we've also decided to move to Ontario which
has triggered a fair bit of administration. To be frank, it
would seem that our website has not been a priority as of late,
but I believe this will be changing very soon. Our "new
life" in Ontario is giving us a chance to make some big changes in
our lives, with our new focus being primarily on our expanding
family (new baby due in two weeks!) and secondly on building up
business and investment ventures for ourselves that will
eventually provide a steady source of income. There's a
series of books that have been extremely inspirational to us -
they are called Rich Dad, Poor
Dad, written by Robert Kiyosaki. The main focus of these
books are illustrating how rich people and poor people behave
differently with their employment, finances, investments, and
expenditures. If you have never read Rich Dad, Poor Dad I
would wholeheartedly recommend it. We have been applying the
concepts in these books to our own situation and I can see that we
are basically moving in the right direction. I've also been
very lucky to spend so much time with my uncle Gerry here in
Calgary, who is an investment and tax wizard. I've learned
more from him about investments in a couple years than most people
can hope to learn in a lifetime. I'm really going to miss
that. But not as much as all the beers we drink together!
Okay, enough about finance, let's talk recreation! Both Ana
and my last days of work are August 18th, perhaps sooner if the
baby arrives ahead of schedule. Ana's folks will be arriving
on Aug 25 and shortly after that we'll be heading off to
Saskatchewan to show off our new baby and spend some time at the
cabin at Fishing Lake. We are planning to put on a roof
extension in September to create an outdoor living space complete
with brick patio, barbeque and likely some sort of refrigeration
device for keeping the brewskis cold. We are contracting out
most of that work but have made sure to keep lots of smaller
interior jobs for John, the window and door master, to do when
he's there. We spend two weeks out there in July and worked
our butts off so this time we're planning on spending a lot less
time working and a lot more taking it easy and actually enjoying
the fruits of our labours.
Stay tuned for more news.
September 17th, 2006 -
The Best Kind of Sunday.....
...is the one where you don't have to go to
work tomorrow morning!
Here I sit looking at my two beautiful children
sleeping on the living room couches. Ana has gone shopping,
the house is quiet and I have a perfect moment to tap out a quick
journal entry. More than ever before, our website is living
up to its name - Life Is Grand! We are a bit more than a
week away from our move to Ontario and most of the packing is done
so we actually looking forward to some free time this week.
The last three weeks have been consumed by Stella's birth and our
trip to Saskatchewan with Ana's folks to work on our new cabin.
As usual, there ended up being a lot more work than we expected
but happily the interior and exterior of the cabin is now 99%
complete with just some landscaping remaining for next spring.
Stella has been a wonderful baby thus far,
great sleeper, huge eater and body functions working at full
capacity. I believe Magnus is through the denial stage and
has now actually been paying some attention to his new sister.
He's fond of jamming the soother in her mouth whether she wants it
or not as well as feeding her and even giving her little kisses
throughout the day. It was a great help having the in-laws
here to help out with our new arrival, and was especially good for
Magnus as he loves being around his granparents.
That's about it for now. Thanks to
everybody who've sent us "congratulations" emails recently.
We haven't replied to any of them yet but will get to that soon.
I'll be posting new pictures on
Stella's page frequently so please check back often.
October 25, 2006 - Mission Control is now the Borges basement...
We've gone and done it. Yep,
Cowtown is now just a fantastic memory and we're living in Ontario
without jobs or a house. It seems to be the way we do
things, as soon as we're happily settled with friends and a great
comfortable routine, we drop it all and head somewhere new.
Maybe we're flaky, maybe we're just always looking for something
new, at least we're never bored!
I'm into a whole new routine now.
Since we have Ana's mom taking care of our kids all day long and
Ana sleeping until 3 in the afternoon, and no internet connection,
it's given me a lot of new found free time. When we first
arrived I just played with the cat Tico for most of the day.
After a couple weeks of that I was finally able to beat him in a
race from the couch to the furnace room and back, but I usually
had to sideswipe him into the bathroom door to knock him off
balance. When the shine wore off that activity, I went down
to Value Village and picked up some exercise videos. Now in
the morning, after Ana's mom cooks me pancakes and bacon, I do the
Richard Simmon's "Sweatin' to the Oldies" (volumes 1 and 2) for a
while to get a good glisten going. I've picked up some cool
moves off him too, it's amazing how relevant his dancing is even
today. Napoleon Dynamite has nothing on me now. After
that I usually skateboard down to the Taco Bell around lunch and
have a couple bean burritos then come back home for a nap.
After that, I pump it up once again, but the afternoon shift is
the "Tae Bo" video with that bald guy. I get to feeling like
a real bad ass after a few minutes of that so I normally end up
kicking the cat around the basement practicing my new moves, poor
Tico. By that time Ana is up and at 'em so we'll either go
out for dinner and a movie or sometimes we'll stay home and spar
in the basement so she can get her exercise, and at the same time
give Tico a break from the shit kicking I deliver to him in the
afternoon. So I guess you could say it's been a refreshing
change from our hectic lifestyle in Calgary. I think our
kids are doing pretty good, but I'm not really sure. I've
tried showing Ana's mom how to use our digital camera so she can
document their growth and development then report back to us on
their progress, but she hasn't really got the hang of it yet so
I'll keep training her. Ana's dad and I recently made 72
gallons of wine from fresh California and Canadian grapes so
that's been saving me a bundle on booze. Because I like to
stay sauced pretty much all day long, I'm able to drink the cheap wine
instead of wasting money on beer and hard liquor. Since I've
finally got the internet working, I'll probably take those savings
and invest them in some online poker - I'm sure I can make a
That's our update for now. If
anything interesting happens, we'll let you know.
November 29, 2006 - From the Corporate Headquarters of Grand
Ventures Inc. (aka...the Borges Basement)
It's been a fun ride so far. We've
got another four weeks to go until we get our new house and best
of all, we're taking off to Florida next week for a little
holiday! We have a cool beach house rented near Fort Myers
and my old buddy Mike Schaaf will be joining us there for a couple
I've been quite busy getting a new
company up and running. It's called Grand Ventures Inc. and
the main component of it is a real estate investment company.
Which means, I look for properties which I can buy below market
price then either fix and sell or buy and hold for monthly cash
flow and future gains. You're thinking, "oh yeah, just like
those Flip this House tv shows". Well, not quite.
Unfortunately those shows just concentrate on the renovation and
resale parts. That's that easy stuff...the hard part is
finding the great deals on properties in the first place. If
you can't get a great deal on the property then there's no way you
can make any money flipping it. Anyway, have a look at
www.houses.grandventures.ca and let me know what you think.
Stella has been growing rapidly and is
now getting quite pudgy, just like her big brother Magnus was.
He, on the other hand, is getting long and lean, probably due to
his non-stop galloping around the house knocking things over.
They are both sleeping very well, which means we have been
sleeping very well. It helps that we don't need to be up at
5:30 every morning getting ready for work. I wonder how long
we can make this last?
We had a weekend trip to New York
recently which was fantastic! We met my friend Ian and his
girlfriend there. Him and I went to the Real Estate Wealth
convention over the two days and the ladies (including
Stella...Magnus was left at home with his grandparents for this
trip..) went shopping all day long and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We heard some amazing speakers at the conference and came away
with plenty of new ideas - quite timely considering the business
I'm in now. I didn't get to see too much of the city so
we'll have to plan another trip there sometime soon to explore it
Next up will be the annual Christmas
February 6th, 2007 - From the new corporate headquarters in Paris,
I'm finally an uncle!!! Marty and
Jen's little boy arrived on February 4th, just one day before
Marty's 32nd birthday. He was named Leif Peter Olson and was
a healthy 8 pounder. We can't wait to meet the little guy!
We are now all settled into our new
house. It was built in less than 2 months and we are
extremely happy with the builder and the finished product.
The first big event we have planned to "break it in" will be
Stella's baptism on Feb 25th. We are planning lunch for 43
as a way of stress testing the new digs. The style is a 4
level side split which means lots of livable space and lots of
stairs. The whole family has been developing super sized
calf and thigh muscles due to the extensive stair climbing, which
is not a bad thing considering it's practically the only exercise
we're getting these days. We've also realized that the size
of this house no longer allows Ana and I to talk loudly to
communicate when in different rooms. Now, we have to scream
at maximum volume to garner attention.
Magnus is very happy with his new
"Playboy Mansion" styled bedroom. In it, he has vaulted
ceilings, a huge colour tv, surround sound, a race car bed, a
beautiful view to the horse farm next door and, to top it all off,
a red leather La-Z-Boy chair courtesy of his grandparents.
The only signs of his existence now is the frequent screams of
"MORE MILK" which vibrate from his quarters every half hour.
Stella is growing like a champ and has
surpassed the 20 pound mark some weeks ago so is looking quite
butterballish. She has been a star baby in all respects.
The love of her life is her big brother Magnus, who ignores her
completely but it doesn't seem to dampen her enthusiasm much.
As for Ana and I, we have been working
hard on getting our new business up and running. We bought
our second property yesterday, an interesting 4plex near downtown
Brantford so this week we are doing our "due diligence" to ensure
the property is up to standards. We are also showing one of the
units in our first property to a potential tenant today. We
actually take possession of that one on Friday so all hell will
break loose then since John and I are planning to develop the
attic space in the upper unit into living space so that will be
the first full-on construction project. I've been focusing
on networking with other real estate investors in the area as well
as bankers, mortgage people, tradespeople, etc so it's all been a
great learning experience and a lot of fun. That is the name
of the game.
That's about it for now, adios.
2007 - Where has the year gone?
Hmmm, two journal entries so far this
year and it's almost May. It seems that two kids and a new
business keeps our days too occupied for much website work.
I'm happy to say it's Monday morning and I didn't have to go off
to somebody else's office this morning. It's true that I was
up at 6:30 in the home office catching up on paperwork, emails,
etc, but it's a whole different thing when it's for yourself on
your own schedule. Do I sound happy? Yippee!
We've just finished a big renovation
project on a property we bought and are now reselling. This
is the first so called "buy and flip" property we've done so we're
hoping it will sell fast. The project took almost exactly 4
weeks and it was a very busy 4 weeks at that. We have found
that this type of project is all consuming and pretty much
everything else in our life grinds to a halt during the renovation
time. Now we've done the work and can now concentrate on the
selling part and after that....well, it 's almost summer here so
I'm hoping there will be some fishing and nice long walks in our
As far as the summer goes, we're heading
back to the Azores for two weeks which is sure to be a lot of fun.
We're also planning a couple trips back to Saskatchewan as well as
at least one trip out to see Marty, Jen and Leif and Ottawa.
We also have plenty of exploring to do in and around our new home
so it's shaping up to be a busy and fun summer.
I've just updated the site with a few
new pics of the kiddies (here
for Magnus, here for
Stella). They are both doing great - Magnus is constantly on
the move and Stella is just about starting to crawl. We're
happy the weather is finally shaping up so we can spend more time
outdoors with the kids instead of inside watching Toy Story 2 for
the hundredth time.
Wow, this is a really boring update.
By this point in the journal I've usually had some sort of comical
inspiration but I just don't feel it today. I'll have to
give my funnybone a workout and see what I can come up with.
Come to think of it, I haven't written a story in a while, might
have to do that this week. The last story I wrote was about
some dance lessons I received in Suriname - click here for a story
Major news flash - Ana just called me
upstairs to see Stella crawl across the room for the first time!
Way to go Stellazinha!
That's it for now, gotta rush out to get
one of those kiddie gates to put on the stairs..
July 1st, 2007 -
Happy Canada Day!
One beautiful little happy girl, one handsome curious boy, one
spectacular country. It's nice to reflect on life during
holidays such as this. Ana and I have been so fortunate with
everything we've done and a lot of this we owe to growing up in
Canada. After living in so many different countries we have
a good perspective on the differences between them and what
constitutes a great country. Growing up in Canada gives you
a great head start - an excellent and free education, safety,
unparalleled natural beauty, freedom of speech and freedom and
ease of mobility. It really is an easy and fun place to live
and we are so happy to be back here to offer this gift to our
kids. For me, after I had lived away from Canada for several
years I never expected to return to live here permanently as I had
built such a nice life for myself elsewhere. But once I met
Ana and we decided to start a family, that changed everything.
We couldn't imagine ourselves living away from "home" and raising
children that would not grow up playing with their cousins,
spending time with their grandparents and being spoiled by aunts
and uncles. Yay Canada!
In other news, in two days we'll be sitting with our toes in the
ocean drinking cheap beer on the wonderful island of San Miguel in
the Azores. The best part about it is our old buddy Toddy
Van Hees will be joining us there for a few days. He's sick
of the crap weather in the UK so needs a nice sunshine break.
One thing I've learned about meeting up with Todd - the place may
change but the hangovers remain the same.
Last weekend we drove up to Ottawa to visit Marty, Jen and the big
Leif. I haven't seen my nephew since he was a small
raisin-like creature so I was surprised and happy to see a sturdy,
tough little boy looking back at me. He's still a little
young to start giving him gotchie pulls and the "pull my finger"
trick but it won't be long.
That's it for now, here's to a great Canada Day and a superb
8th, 2007 - A full summer, what next?
This has been one fantastic summer for
us. To begin with, the summers in southern Ontario are long
and very hot which makes for a perfect beer drinking and cigar
smoking climate. I must admit, this is a welcome change from
the summers in Calgary which, at times, were indistinguishable
from the winters.
The biggest news of late is that Stella
has taken to walking on her hind legs with enthusiasm. That
gives us a grand total of three bipeds in the family since Magnus
has reverted to galloping on all fours as his primary method of
travel. She is still a bit wobbly but is getting stronger,
faster, better each day. We also celebrated their 3rd and
1st birthdays a couple weeks ago which confirms our fears that
Stella will probably never have her own single birthday party due
to her parents wonderfully efficient family planning and general
Our trip to the Azores was excellent,
subject to a few incidents of severe toddler naughtiness. As
we've been there a few times now, this trip wasn't a race to see
as much as possible by driving all over the island. Instead,
we had a lot of nice walks, beach days, lounging on the patio and
going to family sponsored "events" which included vast quantities
of food and alcohol. In fact, Ana's cousin Paul arranged for
a nice beer tap and seemingly endless supplies of kegs. It
was, in fact, a "traveling" beer machine as it made an appearance
at every single family function we attended. One afternoon
the great man Toddy Van Hees and I spent an entire afternoon on
our back patio with the lovely beer machine and we all got well
Every time we travel to the Azores we
see more and more development. If I had unlimited resources
I would be buying up property like mad there as I expect a huge
increase in tourism dollars finding its way there. There are
also a lot of foreigners moving to the Azores which is sure to put
even more pressure on property values. This is quite
unfortunate for the locals as there are not a lot of high paying
jobs on the island so every day owning a home is further and
further out of reach for most people. I am certain that
sometime in the future, we will be spending a lot of time there as
both Ana and I find it to be one of the loveliest places on the
We spent the last long weekend of the
summer with my brother Marty and his wife Jen in Ottawa for their
son Leif's baptism. I had the privilege and honour of being
chosen as Leif's godfather which I am very proud of. I hope
to be a great spiritual mentor to him and also help out with
getting his enemies "wacked" when required.
Ana was very fortunate to return to a
job with WestJet after her year of maternity leave. She is
working in the same department as before but now in a "casual"
role where she's doing 12-15 hours per week from home. This
particular job may only last until December, but at least that
gives her some time to explore other options within the company
(and keep our travel benefits!). She really has enjoyed her
time there so I hope something works out for her to stay with
As far as me, I've been keeping busy
with managing and improving the rental properties we've acquired
as well as being on the hunt daily for great property deals.
I've also been looking around for a new IT/consulting gig as I
feel like I'm not quite ready to move away from that career which
has treated me very well over the years. I think that we
will be able to balance our business endeavors with employment,
which gives us the best of both worlds - steady cashflow and our
"own thing" which will eventually provide for some nice long
Over and out.
October 22, 2007 -
The dazzling autumn colours in southern Ontario are peaking making
Paris an especially amazing place to be considering it is engulfed
in mature old maple trees. The weather has been beautiful
and we've been making the most of it. We planted two trees
in our backyard last weekend; an apple and a plum, as well as a
few shrubberies. The autumn clear out sales were on at the
nurseries so we got an amazing deal on the trees, probably less
than a third of what we would have paid in the spring.
Since the last journal entry I have found "gainful" employment
with the city of Brantford (a 13 minute drive from Paris) as their
JDE administrator. I had started looking around, mainly for
shorter term consulting jobs but when this job came up I decided
to apply for it. Thus far, I have really enjoyed it, and
that's telling the truth! I think I've also realized what a
terrible mistake I've made in the past with my approach to the
working day. You see, I've typically had work days which
begin at 7am and finish at 5:30 or 6pm. My new job is based
on a 33.25 hour work week which translates into a 8:30 start, 4:30
finish and over an hour for lunch. Since I usually get up at
6, I have lots of precious "quiet and alone" time in the morning
where I can do some business stuff, have a workout, do some
reading, whatever. Though I have to go to work every day I
honestly feel like I've had more spare time in the past 3 weeks
than I have in the entire past year. Ana has been spending
more time on our property business and holding up that end of
things. One great part is that I work in downtown Brantford
which is blocks away from all of our properties, making lunch an
ideal time to go out and fix toilets, show apartments, collect
rents, etc. All in, the change in routine is working out
well for everybody, including the kids. We have them with a
sitter for two half days a week which gives Ana time for spending
focused on her WestJet job.
Since the last journal entry, we made a long weekend trip to
Newfoundland which was most interesting. That reminds me, I
need to get our digital pictures organized and put up a webpage
for that (mental note). We found St. John's to be quite the
city and not what we expected. It is beautifully lush and
rich in lakes, streams, rivers, not quite matching the mental
picture I had of rocky and desolate. We did a few day trips
around St. John's including a coastal boat trip where we saw
enormous fin whales, dolphins and puffins. The people were,
as expected, extremely hospitable and friendly. Next time
around we'll have to stay for longer and venture further into the
Off to work!
December 6th, 2007 - Chase the "Brown Eye"
Our first big snowfall arrived a few days ago, now the Jingle
Bells, Winter Wonderland and odours of pine are in full swing.
It certainly makes one anticipate Christmas much more when the
ground is white - last year there wasn't a bit of snow until
January so it made Christmas a bit anticlimatic.
The kiddies are very excited for Santa, especially Magnus.
It seems that 3 must be the magic age where the concept of
birthdays, Christmas and presents start to make sense because he
sure gets it now. Our little boy is an incessant hummer and
singer and Christmas has given him the opportunity to greatly
expand his catalogue of tunes. His favourite now is Jingle
Bells and he hums it almost constantly. He is also fond of
removing all his clothes, dropping to all fours, and galloping
around the house at rapid speeds which provides little Stella
hours of rollicking fun playing "Chase the Brown Eye". As
you can see, we have built in entertainment at home so we don't go
My mom was in town for a few days while Ana breezed off to New
York to meet up with her friend Alana for some well deserved away
time. It was quite a learning experience as mom brought her
cookbooks, pans and everything else required for a weekend of
baking. We made heaps of goodies, even Christmas cookies
which the kids got to decorate. We don't do much baking
around here so it was a great treat and will provide plenty of
snacks for the visitors we'll be having over Christmas. The
"Eastern Canada Olson Christmas" will be happening at our place on
January 29th, all Olson-ites welcome.
We did a short trip to Florida to meet up with my dad, brother
Marty and families a couple weekends ago. I love Florida,
mainly because you can get Bahamian Kalik beer there but also
because it's always warm, everything works, prices are reasonable,
and people are friendly. We were in the St. Petersburg area
this time and since we enjoyed it so much we're going back for a
full week in January.
I just remembered that it's time to crank out my annual Christmas
January 22, 2008 - Madeira Beach, Florida, a balcony overlooking
the Gulf of Mexico
I have the perfect life and challenge anybody to top it.
Knowing that one's life and fortunes can turn on a dime, I'm not
afraid to love my life, relish it, enjoy it, brag about it and be
proud of it. Picture this. I just finished smoking a
lovely Don Tomas maduro corona style cigar with a
Kalik in my
hand and Ritmo Latino
playing on my computer, sitting on the balcony looking down on a
perfect beach and a never ending ocean. Down below in the
pool I can see my gorgeous wife ( a "10" by anybody's reckoning)
and her lovely parents enjoying the sunshine. Inside
sleeping are my precious children who are both beautiful and
perfect and the loves of my life and who will grow up to be smart
and wise and outstanding. We live in a great country and
town and enjoy life every day with many more "ups" than "downs".
Ana and I both work for excellent companies but at the same time
are together building an excellent company of our own. We
are healthy, happy, hopeful and have traveled more extensively
than almost anybody we know. We count our blessing and feel
fortunate and lucky each and every single day. I have two
brothers and a brother-in-law who are my best friends, parents and
"extended" parents I love and learn from and grandparents who have
lived wonderful lives and are around to share their memories and
experience with us and our children. I have more than thirty
first cousins, each of which who are zany, goofy, successful and
exceptionally fun to be around. We have friends that live
all over the world who we love and see as often as possible.
If anybody out there can beat this, please get in touch with me
and we absolutely must meet up for a beer.
March 6, 2008 – Home, Dusty
The Canadian winter
drags on. And on. Blah.
We are past the worst
of it now but there’s definitely no obvious spring in sight as we just
got walloped with another 20 centimeters of snow with another 15
expected for the weekend. To make things worse I got an early morning
phone call from two friends in Christchurch, New Zealand who are
enjoying the beautiful summer there. I didn’t tell them about the
weather here – they are not the kind of guys who show sympathy for
that sort of thing. Or anything, really.
We’ve been working
madly to get some vacations in the pipeline but they keep getting
thwarted for one reason or another. We do have a trip to Saskatoon
planned for Easter which we’re all looking forward to, especially
Magnus. Every time we put his jacket on to go somewhere he says,
“We’re going to Grandma’s now!” Sorry kid, just going grocery
With the lack of a
decent real estate project at the moment we decided instead to finish
our basement, which has put our house in a constant state of dust, at
least the basement area. We tendered out the whole job and Ana’s
parents quoted zero dollars, which seemed like a decent price so we
hired them. I did pitch in by doing the electrical work, though
you’re never really sure if you’ve done a good job until you’ve
connected everything to the panel. If nothing happens when you switch
on the breaker, that’s likely a good sign. If holes blow through the
drywall, it’s usually a bad sign. I should be ready to flip the
switch Saturday morning and you can be sure I’ll be wearing a welder’s
face shield just in case.
You may see some
changes in the website soon as we are doing a makeover to spruce it up
a bit. Ana is taking an interesting “Ebiz” course which has given her
some new ideas to try out. You may have also noticed we’re working on
a book. The preliminary title
now is “The Grand Adventure” and I’ve been having a wicked fun time
writing it. I’ve developed a daily writing ritual that begins at 6 am
and lasts until either 7 am or when Stella gets up, whichever comes
first! It is going to be full of travel tips, but not the kind of
tips you can find in any of the hundreds of guide books available
(travel with a valid passport, drink bottled water, lock your door, la
de da de da…BORING), they will be less obvious, more valuable and,
best of all, wrapped up within the context of many travel stories.
We’re taking a much more personal approach to discussing travel,
focusing on friendships, culture, personalities and even backpacker
spirituality. It’s a chance to relive and relate some of our most
amazing experiences, many of which we’ve probably never told to
anyone. We’re hoping the book will be a fantastic addition to any
traveler’s library. Sign up for our distribution list and you will
be the first to know when the book becomes available.
That’s all the news for
now, stay cozy.
2008 - Paradise Island, Bahamas
In the midst of the Canadian spring/summer turnaround we decided
to take off on one last winter getaway - to Nassau, Bahamas.
Unfortunately it was forecast to be in the low 20's in southern
Ontario which robs us of the opportunity to enhance our tropical
enjoyment by pitying the frozen folks at home. But on the
bright side, we noticed on the news that Alberta and Saskatchewan
were just hammered with a late winter blizzard which does lend us
some smug comfort.
Nassau is a special place for us as it's where Ana and I met ten
years ago. In fact, yesterday we took the kids for a walk
over to Atlantis and went to the exact spot in the casino where we
first met. It seems that much has changed since then, but
many things have also stayed the same - our passion for travel,
our love for life and many of our friendships from those days
which remain intact. I had forgotten how incredible the
Atlantis hotel is, from the amazing detail of the architecture to
the abundant marine life which seems to be everywhere. It is
certainly one of the most amazing man made creations in the
Caribbean and not to be missed.
We found a great deal on an all-inclusive hotel called Paradise
Island Harbour Resort. This is our first real experience
with an all-inclusive place and we've been quite happy with it.
The best part is not having to prepare any meals and surprisingly
the food is pretty good. The only irritation thus far is the
place is full of young college kids from Boston who are on some
sort of school break now, and are taking full advantage of the
underage drinking possibilities here. We can't complain too
much since it wasn't that long ago when we were that age, though I
can't remember my folks having enough money to send me off to a
Bahamian resort for a week!
There has been quite a bit more development here since last time,
but overall not that much seems to have changed. We're
hoping to meet up with an old friend, Sheldon Johnson, while we're
here which will be great. Sadly, we've lost touch with our
other good Bahamian friend Ruthie which is sad as we would have
been very happy to see her again.
I am quite sure that yesterday Stella had the best day of her
life. She woke up at 8am in an incredibly good mood and
bounded out of the door and raced down to the pool, waving her
hands and hollering. She had a big breakfast then spent
hours outside playing on the beach, dipping in the ocean. running
around the pool and playing with her brother. She then dozed
off on a patio lounger under the shade of a cabana and palm trees
with a strong breeze keeping her cool. She slept for a full
two hours then woke up smiling ready for more action. She
ate a big lunch then hopped on my shoulders for a walk to
Atlantis, where she was thrilled to see the sharks, fish and rays
cruising around in the giant aquariums. Upon our return she
had a huge supper, then another swim in the pool and stroll on the
beach and returned to the room for a nice bath and an hour of Dora
before nodding off for a full night sleep. A great day for
the kids always means a great day for us.
The advantage of taking a winter vacation now is that we'll be
heading back to the start of a lovely Ontario summer.
Well, better get down for breakfast!
July 17th, 2008 -
Lunchtime at Work
Cold beer, hot days, pleasant nights,
weekend trips, fresh fruit, bare feet, green grass. Summer in Ontario
is full on and we’ve been loving it! Ana’s mission is for us to visit
somewhere interesting each and every weekend all summer and so far
we’re right on track. Upcoming trips will include Montreal this
weekend, possibly my cousin’s Jeff’s wedding in Saskatoon after that,
and then up to Mark’s cabin near Kingston to meet Marty, Jen and Leif
for the August long weekend. In August we have Ana’s cousin Nancy’s
wedding in Vancouver and a couple other more local trips planned. It
will be anything but boring.
By aunt and uncle Barb
and Gerry were here visiting for ten days and we had lots of fun and
plenty of laughs. My favourite phrase about uncle Gerry is, “the
location may change but the jokes remain the same” – fortunately, they
always make me laugh, especially the ones that come out after he’s had
three beers. The kids have been asking about uncle Gerry almost every
day since he left – they got way too used to his constant attention
with wrestling, throwing them around, singing songs, playing games,
the best of which was “fetch uncle Gerry another cold beer”. My dad
was also in town for about a week and we all took a weekend trip to
Bayfield on Lake Huron, which I think is our favourite region of
Ontario so far.
I was back in
Saskatchewan in June for the annual fishing trip which was loads of
fun as usual. Marty made it back for this one too which was an extra
bonus. We spent a lot of time on the trip talking about how much fun
it’s going to be when Magnus, Leif and Stella can join us, it will
definitely add a whole new dimension to the trip. The main change is
we’ll probably have to switch to hard liquor because there will be no
room for kids and 16 cases of beer in the boat. Then again, I suppose
the kids could be towed on a raft or something.
Magnus will be starting
junior kindergarten at a French immersion school in September and he’s
very excited about it. It will be a sad day for Stella, though, when
her best buddy starts being away from her for a whole day at a time -
they really are the best of friends and have great fun together.
We have had some sad
news recently - a dear friend of the family, Grace, succumbed to
cancer after a long battle. She was one of the kindest and most
generous people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Tragically,
her husband was killed a few years ago in a tragic car accident,
leaving their two daughters parentless. Thankfully they are both
extremely mature, strong, independent and capable which they will
definitely need to get through this. We hope to be able to support
them in whatever way we can as they have been through a terrible
Time to sign off.
September 7th, 2008 -
A Rainy Sunday
I love port wine but it does tend to leave a bit of a sting the
next day. Our compadres Arthur and Rosa were over last night
for a big steak barbeque - it was our first visit practically all
summer as we've all been so busy with weekend trips. We
followed up the big meal with a solid hour in the hot tub and a
few glasses of port. The only way Rose could convince Arthur
to leave was promises of bacon the following morning, which I'm
sure helped with the unavoidable hangover.
Mom was in town last week for a visit and we took her to Grand
Bend, which seems to have become our favourite summer hang-out.
The weather was excellent for her visit and she spent a lot of
time with the kids. After here she went to Ottawa to spend a
few days with the Leifmeister.
We had an excellent weekend trip to Vancouver for Ana's cousin
Nancy's wedding a few weeks ago. We lucked out with sunny
weather which is clearly quite unusual for that place. We
managed to meet up with Mark and Linda for a coffee in the morning
before the wedding then I slipped away during the reception to
sneak a quick pint with the old fellah, which was quite easy as
they just live around the block from the hotel. We started
planning for the upcoming Bassmaster fishing tourney up at his
cabin near Kingston.
It's been a very gratifying summer for us, we've been on loads of
trips and seen a lot more of southern Ontario, which was our goal
for the year.
For some reason the words aren't coming too fast today so I better
wrap it up here before this gets really boring...
2008 - Post election ramblings
So is everybody happy that
the election is over and you don’t have to see those wanker party
leaders trashing each other on the news every night? Ana and I really
paid close attention to this election, especially the issues related
to where we live, which are mainly aboriginal land claims and
manufacturing. We were happy that the Conservative guy in our riding
won as we felt it was time for a fresh face, especially one that was
part of the ruling party which will hopefully attract greater
attention to our issues.
I must say that I was quite disgusted with the “vote anything but
Conservative” that was promoted by a number of groups, such as the
vote swapping websites and even the premier of Newfoundland! I was
also shocked to hear Elizabeth May say that it might be better for
Green party supporters to vote Liberal in some ridings. What?? The
whole event seemed very negative to me. It seems to me that when we
vote we should be voting for the person and party who we think will do
the best job and move Canada in the direction that we agree with. It’s
easy to shoot down ideas and trash peoples’ reputations but a whole
lot harder to devise and sell policies that are good compromises and
not impossible to implement. Contrary to popular belief, I think
Elizabeth May and the Greens did a terrible job at the debates;
instead of showcasing their good ideas and drumming support for her
candidates all she did was join the others in bashing Harper. I am not
a member of any particular party so I just vote for whichever party
has the best leader and from everything I saw there was only one
leader sitting around that table. Don’t forget, you’re not voting for
the guy you’d most like to have a beer with, if you did then everybody
who could would have voted for Duceppe; instead you vote for the best
able to lead. That’s what I did. When the next election comes around,
I’ll once again look at the options and make up my mind then. It
certainly seems the economy is in for a bollocking so we'll see how
well this government does handles the country during difficult times.
Wow, bet you didn’t know this was a political blog!
January 12, 2009 - Monday Morning
On to a fresh new year. We had a nice time over Christmas
and succeeded in planning "one major event" per day which pretty
much always included lots of food and booze. I didn't take
any extra days off over Christmas as I am quite busy at work due
to year end activities, but we are going away to Dominican
Republic in a couple weeks which will be a nice holiday. We
lived there back in 2001and haven't been back since so it will be
interesting to see the changes. Actually, we probably won't
see much as we're staying at an all-inclusive in Punta Cana on the
east coast of the country. We don't normally do
all-inclusive resorts but after our beautiful, relaxing stay at
the all-inclusive in Bahamas last year we decided that was exactly
what we needed this time around.
We look forward to another busy and productive year. We have
quite a few other trips in mind so with luck we'll be able to
continue traveling as often as ever, exploring our country and the
world with kiddies always in tow!
2009 - Flying home from Calgary
Ah, another Olson family power weekend. As I type, Ana,
Magnito and Stella are all snoozing wildly in their leather
WestJet chairs enjoying the hum of the 737 engines. Ana was
in Calgary last week for training so the kids and I flew out on
Thursday night to meet her and spend the weekend in Calgary
catching up with old friends including brunch at our favourite
restaurant in Inglewood and a great dinner party on Saturday. We spent Friday with the Davidsons - Gerry, Barb and Nicole and had a great visit, which
included the obligatory and much loved finance/investing session
with uncle Gerry. I am always amazed at the depth of his
knowledge of all things financial, especially impressive for a
weenie engineer. We of course discussed the current market
meltdown and the abundance of opportunities presenting themselves
in the markets. It seems like a simple decision to up the
stakes in financial investments and cash in on the amazing yields
available. But hold on. I'm also in the midst of
reading Garth Turner's latest (see
www.garth.ca) book called "After The Crash". Though an
awful lot of the book is simple reiteration of his last book,
"Greater Fool", there are nevertheless some interesting viewpoints
presented. The basic thesis is that the world's financial
systems are in a mess, the value of residential real estate in
Canada is destined to plummet much further and the possibility of
a major depression and deflation, though not inevitable, is real
and significant and the overriding majority of Canadians are ill
prepared to weather such an unwelcome storm.
I don't believe that we are headed into a depression, but many of
the ideas in the book strike a chord with me. The one basic
recommendation is to hope for the best but be absolutely prepared
for the worst. In recent years I've found myself becoming
more risk averse and much more concerned with safety and self
preservation. I don't know if this is due to the aging
process or perhaps having the responsibility to protect and take
care of my family, or maybe simply because of the large number of
close calls, near misses, death defying stunts, and amazing acts
of irresponsibility experienced during my bachelor days.
A couple simple things he recommends is having a backup generator
for your home in case of a major power outage (which just happened
in Toronto a couple weeks ago that left people without power for
two days in -20 weather), having an emergency food supply
available and having a "Bad Day Kit" prepared which includes items
such as batteries, water purifying tablets, cash, etc. Best
to prepare well before it's necessary.
In other news, after a year and a half of aggravation and stress,
our worst tenant finally moved out. This is the guy we've
been to tribunal court with twice for late payment of rent and
selling drugs out of our building. He has caused us more
grief than anything else in our lives and his departure is like a
blessing. We now have a month to renovate his unit which
will take a lot of work considering he's been chain smoking in
there for six years. Like anything else, persistence has paid off
but it's been a real test of patience and we've even considered
selling the building several times because of him. In one
regard, though, I'm happy we went through it because we now know
the Ontario Landlord/Tenant law like the back of our hand, which
will definitely help us in our future dealings.
One last bit of news, we spent a week in Dominican Republic with
Dad and Loretta and loved it. We stayed at an all-inclusive
resort at Punta Cana for the entire time. The kids spent 90%
of the time in the pool, which meant we spent 90% of the time in
the pool; fortunately there was a swim up bar so that helped
lubricate the swimming lessons.
All for now, back to the renovations!