Reflections of India

Posted on August 31, 2017 under Storytelling with 5 comments

Lotus temple in New Delhi


So, why, exactly am I going back to India?

Good question.

I ask myself the same question almost every day. I have spent the last four months trying to process my journey half way around the world. Make no mistake about it. Spending six months in any new place would be challenging enough but doing this in the most populated country in the world was not easy.

India is ,in many ways , a taxing country in which to live. Every village, town and city is jammed with humanity. If you don’t like crowds, you will not do well in India. Ditto for noise, heat , pollution, garbage and traffic.

Since my return home, I have spoken to a number of seasoned travelers who have spent long periods of time abroad. I was happy and a bit relieved to hear them express that they too, suffered the “blahs” upon their return to Canada. So many people asked me in the days after getting back to Antigonish if I was excited to be home. At the time, it was more like relief after my three week ordeal at the end of my stay. In case you missed it, this is what it feels like to be held in a foreign country against your will.

No. I didn’t feel excited to be home nor was I pining for India. I was in “ no man’s land” for the better part of two months not feeling much of anything. Spending the month of July with my granddaughter fixed that!

I guess I have to admit that spending 6 months in India was a very large culture shock. Even though I thought that I had “ surrendered” to India, it is still enormously difficult to shake off cultural differences. It is mentally taxing when everyday, something happens that you don’t expect. Many times these were pleasant experiences like going to a market , a temple or a cultural event. But to experience constant power outages, unpredictable internet access, listening to the incessant honking of horns and other noise pollution, it does get on your nerves no matter how hard you try to block it out.

And of course, the poverty in many places is quite jarring.

While the human brain has seemingly unlimited capacity, I think it shuts down when your senses have been assaulted daily for 6 months. And then you come back to one of the most tranquil places on the planet and stagger around in a haze. No wonder adjusting is difficult.

I have replayed the visa ordeal over and over in my head. I’m not obsessed with it but I definitely have flashbacks. I was incredibly lucky to have my brother Don with me. If you took the previous six months I spent in India and applied a factor of 10 ( for you math whizzes! ), it might give you some insight as to the toll this took on my psyche. And I was one of the lucky ones. I could have cried for some of the people caught in unfortunate circumstances like me.

I will always remember the woman in the burqa trying to understand the mess she was in, all the while dealing with a young, severely handicapped boy who was throwing tantrums every ten minutes… in 45 degree heat. How do these people manage? I know that they have no choice but it is painful to watch.

And then I think of refugees and give myself a good swift kick in the arse. Yes. My situation was far from pleasant but I can’t possibly imagine what it would be like fleeing from war and then trying to figure out the bureaucracy in order to get your family to safety.

The main reason that I am going back to India is because of the inspirational work of a congregation of Roman Catholic Sisters, the Daughters of Mary. They do so much… for so many… with so little. I understand charity with much better clarity. I feel like I can make a difference, albeit a very small difference. The Sisters have a motto that they live by: “ Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something.”

Lucy Miller, a St.F.X. grad and winner of the City of Calgary’s 2016 Citizen of the Year had this to say: “ What’s the one thing you can do today to move  it forward? How can you make a difference today?”

Will YOU make a difference in someone’s life today?


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on August 28, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

Cooking burgers at the post wedding get together at Bayfield


“ Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can’t help, falling in love with you.”

Originally recorded by Elvis Presley

Wedding season is drawing to a close.

The arc of a wedding.  First comes the announcement of an impending betrothal.

It starts like a train crossing the prairies. You can faintly hear it. You know it’s still far away but with every mile, the sound gets louder and eventually it will pull into the station. Typically the promise of marriage comes a year before the big day.

And the planning begins. Any groom worth his salt will heed the advice of many men who have gone before him. Stay away… far away ,from the planning. Seriously, your opinion matters little. Sit back and enjoy the ride. If your future wife actually asks you what you think, just turn to her and say, “ Well, what do you think?” Tip #1 for a long marriage.

The venue is booked. For many years, a church was the preferred choice but these days you’re just as likely to hear the words, “ I do” uttered under an apple tree or on a beach. Then there is the matter of the reception, caterers, photographers, musicians and a thousand other bits of minutiae. One thing is certain. There are a lot of moving parts to a wedding and planning is everything.

Stags and stagettes are popular but make certain that they are held well in advance of the wedding day. I attended a wedding in Edmonton almost 40 years ago. The groom, a talented musician and a hell of a nice guy, made the fatal mistake of coming to a pre wedding party of musicians the night before his big day. He arrived late in the evening when things were humming along nicely. Someone offered him a beer. He deferred but then changed his mind. The party broke up around 5:00 a.m. with the groom amongst the last standing. I will respectfully decline to describe the actual wedding ceremony. There were several pauses in the proceedings.

Weddings are complicated. There are so many people involved and you need a large cast of characters to bring it to a successful conclusion. Everybody’s role is in some ways crucial. The weatherman ( weatherperson? ) might be the most important. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. Our own wedding was the day after a fall hurricane. We have exactly one outdoor picture leaving the University Chapel with our umbrella inside out!

Sometimes the unsung heroes are people like family members who have the courage to cater the event. Or the grandparent who looks after the little ones so that their parents can go and enjoy the proceedings.

The train reaches the station.

There’s the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Then there’s the wedding, picture taking and the dinner, reception and dance. The excitement and energy level is at the acute stage. From the little I’ve gleaned over the years, the photographer might be the one who feels the pressure of the day as much as anybody.

Very often , there’s a gathering the day after which is often a family affair. A barbeque is often a popular option. The bride and groom are more relaxed and the adrenaline rush is still in evidence.

And then it’s over. And everyone collapses in a giant heap ,suffering from physical, emotional… and possibly fiscal … exhaustion!

Lots of hugs and kisses as people from far flung parts of the country make their way home by car, boat or through the skies. “Airport runs” are a staple of all weddings.

The balloons and streamers come down.

The newlyweds are off on the greatest adventure imaginable.

All aboard.

Have a great week.


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on August 24, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments




In case you missed it, that’s the sound of the summer passing by. I would like to register a complaint with the authorities ( Mother Nature )  that summer travels much faster than the posted speed limits. Whatever happened to those “ lazy, hazy , crazy days of summer…” ? Just up ahead, on the horizon, is the opening of school for another year. And the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition.

Ah, the “ Fall Fair.”

Next to Christmas and perhaps Halloween, nothing got the excitement level as high to a child than the anticipation of the Fall Fair. We would have to forego a few shows at the Capitol Theatre ( .37 cents ) and save up a couple of bucks in order to be able to afford to make the trek up to the Exhibition grounds.

As youngsters, many of us made a beeline for the merry go round as the first stop. This would be immediately followed by a trip to the cotton candy and candy apple stand. It wasn’t hard to find. You just had to look for the place where the wasps were hovering. Watching the cotton candy machine spin and twirl, creating the pink mouth watering treat was magical. If you were bold and had the stomach for it, you would follow up with a candy apple. You would recklessly attack it until you discovered that this was a sure fire way of removing a filling!

As you got older, you became more adventurous and tackled the Tilt a Whirl and the Ferris Wheel. Some of us were afraid of heights and the first trip on the Ferris Wheel was stomach churning, especially during the loading when you were sitting at the very top of the wheel and some dare devil ( arsehole ! )  sitting beside you would start rocking the seat.

As a teenager you went to the Fair to see if you catch site of a girl that you fancied. You may also have played the crown and anchor for the first time… and possibly had a nip of booze behind one of the barns.

When we were first married, we lived at the Lorentchia Housing Coop which abuts the Exhibition grounds. Back then, the tractor pull was held a few feet away from the fence that separated the two properties. Some evenings, it was very difficult getting a baby to sleep with the roar of the tractors. And the dust churned up by this activity could leave a clothesline of laundry needing to be washed again.

Eventually in adulthood, you came to appreciate the real purpose of the Exhibition. At least one of your children was in 4H and you came to realize the importance of agriculture to our community and province. These days, the first place I head to is the barns to see animals, arts and crafts and the wonderful bounties of nature.

Of course, none of this would happen without an army of long time volunteers. I was chatting with someone the other day who told me that he has been using a week of his vacation for the past 25 years to help out at the Ex.

I plan to attend the E.N.S.E. this year and would encourage you to do the same. Check out their Facebook page at Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition.

Maybe we can meet and have a cotton candy and sit on the merry go round for old time’s sake.

And take out your false teeth before plunging into a candy apple!!!

Have a great weekend.


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