Saturday, March 03, 2012

Back from Ecuador

For the lasts two weeks I've been absent from home traveling with 27 grade 10 and 11 students on a humanitarian trip to Ecuador. We were three adults, my collegue Lyne, Mrs. BB and myself. We always hear that adolescents are self centered and indolent but let me tell you that my students are far from that stereotype.

After having landed in Quito after an unintentional side trip to Guayaquil (Quito airport was fogged in) we left for the small mountain village of Chilcapamba. There the students worked for 5 days digging trenches for the pipes that will eventually supply clean water to the village. We must have dug at least 4 kilometers of one meter deep trench for the pipes that will carry the water. Since there is no heavy machinery there it was all dug using picks and shovels. Working along side the villagers my students learned a lot about how to dig correctly using the minimum of effort. It was interesting to see the villagers teaching the kids about how to do the work. We were told later that the villagers were really pleased to have been able to teach something to the "gringos" since in South America there is quite a bit of prejudice against the indigenous population and they are often looked down upon.

Since there must be pipes in the trenches part of the money we paid was used to buy eight kilometers of pipe that will connect the houses to the water reservoir which has yet to be built. As they say one step at a time.

This was the third time that I have been to the village and we've made friends and memories that will last for a life time. The people of the village are poor but are always willing to open their hearts to us. We were a part of their family and when we left there were tears all around.

After having worked for five days we finally left to visit the rest of that beautiful country. We visited lake Cuicocha a sacred lake of the Incas in a caldera of an extinct volcano. On the way we stopped at the official line for the equater lat 0.00'.0". It is fun to see the line on the ground and have a foot in the northern and southern hemisperes. We also visited the town of Otavalo with its marked and artisans. Later we climbed the Cotopaxi the highest active volcano in the world. The bus took us up to 4500 meters and from there we climbed to the glacier at 5000 meters. At that altitude the lack of oxygen is like jogging while breathing through a drinking straw but it was worth the climb. We then went on to Baños at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano, which is still very active, to try out the thermal baths with the students. They really liked the hot baths but didn't appreciate getting up a five am to beat the growds. Finally we left Baños to spend time in the the Amazonian rainforest in a camp by the river Napos. There we walked in the forest with a very knowledgable guide, went down the river in an inner tube and panned for gold. The last night we drifted down the river to listen to the dark and mysterious forest around us.

After all of this we drove back lot Quito where we visited the old city and the next morning boarded the plane for Montreal.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Winter photos

Here are a couple of photos I took as I was cross country skiing. The woodpecker was completely oblivious to the strange creatures below that shushed by on strange narrow feet. ;o) 

We have not been having a great winter for outdoor sports, a rather cool, damp, rainy winter with plenty of freezing rain which doesn't make it easy to ski. 

The other pictures were taken at my place where there was ice hanging down from the barbecue. I found the intense blue of the ice with the reflection of the deck behind rather beautiful so I went out onto the deck to take closeup pictures of the ice as it shone in the sun.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Of winter colds and the New Year

Well, as the title says, I've caught myself a nice big cold. What a pain in the sinuses. Coughing, sneezing, nose running like maple tree sap on a warm spring day.... arghhhh. I wasn't even at school, the usual place to catch these things. So celebrating the New Year was really fun with all the family but today I pretty much feel like death warmed over in a frypan without even having really indulged in the vino. Not fair, why should I reap the consequences without the initial act. It's like paying the fine without doing the crime. Hell, even my coffee tastes bad.
And by the way, why do we say "We caught a cold" as if it was a great prize, won after a serious chase across the arctic tundra. I sure didn't go running after it and I don't know of anyone who does, so why do we "catch" a cold. Wouldn't it be more logical to say the cold caught us? After all those pesky little viruses are the predators and our poor bodies the prey.

So a very Happy New Year 2012 to all. May you be happy and healthy with your loved ones and the rest will take care of itself.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas the day before Christmas

Today was the first day of the Christmas break and all we did was relax. Our Christmas shopping is all done and we don't have the family reunion before next week. So today was a day to relax, sleep in, a late breakfast, an expresso or two, three, reading the news on my iPad. Finally I decided to go walking despite the fact hat it was -13 degrees celsius (9 degrees F). What decided me to go out and freeze? The sun, bright beautiful sunlight. In the winter I'm like a plant, I need sunlight, which this time of year is in short supply, The sun rises about 7:30 am and sets around 4:15 PM and a lot of the time this past month, it has been grey and cloudy. So since the sun was out, so was I. I went walking at the Cap St-Jacques, a nearby nature park that I often go to. I usually cross country ski there, but right now we only have about 2-3 cm of snow, not enough to ski on without scrapping the bottom of my skis. So today I walked 9 kilometres aroundd the park. Here are a couple of photos I took as I was walking. So in the immortal words of old Saint Nic. "Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!"


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas and an iPad

It's almost Christmas vacation but we still haven't had any snow yet so it seems that we'll be having a green Christmas. The kids at school are all excited none the less and we are finishing off the orals for the Christmas project and munching on Christmas cookies that they baked as a part of the project. All in all, the cookies are very good and I'll have to do a lot of walking to burn the calories since cross country skiing is out of the question for the moment. 
I've also been playing around taking pictures and using my new iPad to edit them. I bought it for traveling but I am surprised at what I can do with it to edit the pictures I take. It'll be much easier to carry around than my MacBook Pro and easier to use than my iPhone.
Here is a sample of a picture I edited with Snapseed (weird name but highly effective) I thought it gave just the right atmosphere for the Canadian Parliament since the Conservative election. ;o)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where my roots are.

We've lived in Montréal for the last 25 years yet Québec is still the city that feels the most like home. I guess its the fact that my roots are there and my ancestors have been there since the late 17th century. So this weekend,  Mrs. BB and I went to visit my family in Québec City and it just felt like coming home. It is a strange feeling. I am an airforce brat and as I was growing up we moved around from place to place. Then, when I was a 17,  I moved to Québec City to go to college and as I got off the bus, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was coming home to where my roots were. Even today after 25 years I still, in my heart of hearts, consider Québec to be home. I'll probably never live there again since my life and family are all here in Montréal , but Québec will always be home. Here are some pictures of "Le Vieux Québec"

Vieux Québec 3

Vieux Québec 5

Vieux Québec 10

Vieux Québec 14

Vieux Québec 17


Vieux Québec 23

Vieux Québec 24

Vieux Québec 25

Vieux Québec 26

Vieux Québec 28

Vieux Québec 30

Friday, October 28, 2011

Automne in Québec

The weather has been pretty sh***y these last few weeks but today was the perfect autumn day with bright sunlight and cool temperatures around 6 degrees celsius. The perfect fall day, so Mrs. BB and I decided to go walking in the Cap St-Jacques regional park and take in the nice weather while it lasts. Here are a couple of pictures that I took while walking on the trails.

Cap St Jacques 3

Cap St Jacques 4


Cap St Jacques 5

Cap St Jacques 11

Cap St Jacques 13

Cap St Jacques 20

Cap St Jacques 23


Cap St Jacques 28

Cap St Jacques 31

Cap St Jacques 26

Cap St Jacques 34

Cap St Jacques 36