Packing for Cuba

I started a new Youtube Channel. (I would greatly appreciate your support by subscribing.)

My first purpose built video has to do with trip packing, and making the decision about what photo gear to bring along, especially for my one week of solo travel in Habana.
Enjoy!

Cuban Adventure

With Cuba, the end is the beginning. Let me explain…

Frustrating Internet access has meant, among other things, zero instant updates, tweets, Instagram, Flickr, or Facebook posts. Now that I’m home, the real job begins:  The Big Sort ™. 1577 photos and 783 video files… 320 gigs on eight SD cards. And so now, at the end of the trip, the real work begins.

Here’s one of the first; arrival in Varadero.DSCN4135small

Inspiration

I am easily inspired. It’s either that, or I have a short attention span.

A couple of months ago, I binge watched a new Netflix series called Master of None. (Highly recommended, run there after you read this post!). In the final episode (I hope I’m not letting any spoilers slip), someone lights shuck for Italy, to learn how to make pasta (of all things, pasta!).

Last night we began watching another Netflix series called Chef’s Table (smart people notice a pattern emerging), and pasta, too, played an important role in the story of Massimo Bottura.

Well between the two, I became inspired to make tortellini.

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini tryptich

Now understand… I’ve never made tortellini before, nor have I ever made pasta, which is the natural and simpler starting point. It’s sort of like be studying to get my driver’s license so that I can race Grand Prix.

In other words, typically Teddy.

Here’s a tangent to the story; we have two dozen eggs in the fridge. Long story, but I bought a dozen to make sure we could make French toast last weekend, forgetting that la Fille ™ had picked some up as well. So we had some extra eggs in the fridge.

(Another tangent; in most of the world, no one refrigerates eggs.)

The second ingredient of pasta (in fact, one of the only three ingredients – TIL) is eggs. Thus the source of at least part of the inspiration; what to do with the eggs.

Pasta is, in fact, very easy to get going. We happen to have a nice big wood counter top upon which to do it the traditional way, and so why not? 2 cups of flour, 4 eggs, two whole eggs, and one teaspoon of salt was all it took. Following Niki’s guidance, it was just that easy.

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini 06 small

Now, anyone who’s made pasta is (or should be) enamoured with getting that “silky smooth” look. It’s what I aspired to. It’s what I missed by a county kilometer. Still, it was workable.

The key to good pasta, the experts like Niki will tell you, is to let your dough rest before rolling. I did. It didn’t work that well… the dough was still springy and stiff, and slowly shrunk as I let off on the rolling. I was able to get a fairly even thickness even without a tapered pasta rolling pin or mechanized roller. For my first attempt, not too bad.

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini 07 small

Those are 10 cm circles (2 inches for my American friends). BTW.

The really fun stuff began the day before, with a marinated chicken dinner, from which we had plenty of left over chicken. Chopped up nice and fine, stir fried with spinach and goat cheese, and there you go – the basis of a fabulous tortellino.

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini 08 small

Here’s my Teddy Pro Tip ™ for tortellini: roll your pasta circles thinner than you think, and add less filling than you might. I used a medium zip lock baggie as a piping tool, and worked on my consistency. It looks impressive, no?

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini 11 small

There is no secret to a good tortellino shape. (Singular tortellino, plural tortellini.) Tortellini are just modified Italian perogie. Smaller, for sure, but the same thing I grew up with, by Momma. I could try to explain how to make the shape, but I would not do a god job of it. Instead, I just looked at a store bought, factory made tortellino and… copied the classic shape.

I am not unhappy with the results.

I am most happy, however, with how we approach the idea of food. We cook a lot. Both of us, la Fille ™ and I , love to cook. We both have taken lessons in various countries (in fact, we travel for food, and seek these kinds of experiences out aggressively) and enjoy the act of preparing and cooking.

Saturdays are our informal “kitchen lab days”, where we’ve begun to pick a couple of cool recipes from our hard copy resources (we love cookbooks), and make an evening out of it. Tortellini was my contribution to the evening, a wonderful dill flavoured stuffed zucchini as Ti’s. The Petite Fille ™ usually gets involved, and it becomes a family thing. This is the life we want; with simple, homemade, and good tasting foods.

2016-01-30 pasta tagliatelle torellini 18 small

896 Days

896 days until our Le Grand Voyage II.

  • 77,414,400 seconds
  • 1,290,240 minutes
  • 21,504 hours
  • 896 days
  • 128 weeks

Tennyson comes to mind.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore

Passport Stories

PASSPORT, n. A document treacherously inflicted upon a citizen going abroad, exposing him as an alien and pointing him out for special reprobation and outrage.”       Ambrose Bierce

2015-01-06 ted passport montage cropped small

I’m not that much different (I imagine) from other compulsive travellers who (I imagine, further) have  little travel fetishes. What kinds of “fetishes”? Some like to put together short video clips from each country they visit, or a take a photo of their travel beard, day by day. One likes to dance in different places.

Me? Well, among other things (I have a few others I’ll be writing about), I’m tickled by passport stamps.

2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 2c many

I’ve had only two passports in my life, being a late adopter of international travel. In my first, I have 49 stamps or visas from 22 different countries.  In my current, I have 19 from 8 countries. Each one tells a story, reminds me of a feeling, and experience that’s now a part of me.

They’re also quite compelling as works of art, themselves telling a story, sometimes  providing a bit of a hint as to the pysche of the country.

g blog 2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 7c vietnam

Vietnam. Mine was the first generation of  kids to grow up and interact closely with the children of the Vietnamese boat people, in the late 1970s. Downtown Toronto had always been an ethnic melange, but (and I didn’t appreciate this at the time, for sure) this was different, and would result in  such novelties as Pho in our time. I have a natural attraction to this country based on those early experiences. I love the little head-on view of the plane, too, and the no nonsense, business like presentation; so very like the people, unabashed capitalists that they be.

2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 4c ROC

Republic of China (Taiwan). My first international trip, if you don’t count the US.  Certainly my first long haul plane ride over the ocean, where I was able to watch four full length movies  in one sitting. My entry into foreign travel was short, sharp, and not a little shocking. I had a six hour layover before heading to Thailand, and so four hours in the early evening with whichto roam downtown Taipei. Here are the things I remember from that four hours: crowds, smells, food, monks, smiles.

2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 1c morocco

Morocco. From Morocco, I can tell you the story about how I left Morocco. I was in a crowded ferry terminal, waiting for passage to Barcelona. I struck up a conversation with a very tall, very athletic young guy. In French. The lineup was torturous, and after a while he asked me to watch his bags, for some reason I hadn’t understood. He came back (thankfully, since I was saved from having to explain whose bags these were) and told me to follow him. Around the crowd, through a barricade, and towards an empty desk where we were stamped out of the country. Seems he was a famous professional volleyball player, and someone had recognized him and motioned for him to bypass the crowds. He kindly took this Canadian traveller with him to the front of the line.

2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 3c helsinki

Finland. Another ferry ride, but one I almost missed. I’d had this grand plan to travel eastern Europe, Finland to Istanbul. But to continue, I had to make it from the Scandinavian peninsula to the European mainland, landfall Tallinn. And to do that, I had a half hour to walk a rather longer distance through Helsinki than I’d expected. And it’s hot, and I’m sweating. And I almost miss this ferry.

2016-05-05 passport stamp ted 6c paris

France. The very fast train (I’m serious, here, its called le train de grande vitesse, TGV) out of Paris and into London represented a major milestone for us; it was the end of our year long adventure around the world. The speed of this leg – 311 kmh – entirely echoed the pace with which the year had passed. Ten months earlier, we were in Greece. Christmas in Thailand, Elliotte’s birthday in Venice, spring in France… it all seemed like just yesterday.

And here we were racing towards our last destination at warp speed, our last few days before returning to real life.

What stories do your passport tell? Leave us a message.

What’s in my bag?

So let’s say you’re a serious traveller, visiting out of the way places, experiencing new experiences, exploring new… places to explore. Here’s the question: what kind of stuff do you physically carry with you, on a day to day basis.

The Setup

If one is to go out in the world, one must be prepared.

Having just returned from a ten month, ten country RTW trip (me, my wife, and my eight year old daughter), I appreciate the state of mind that preparation offers. Or rather, I appreciate not being caught surprised, or without something essential that might have saved the day. Sometimes, life is about the little things, and when you’re eight thousand kilometers from home, little things count.

04 Manpurse ArticleMe and my European carry-all.

The game I’ll play today is What’s in your bag?  The premise is simple: what are the essentials that one might consider carrying with them, everywhere you go? Imagine the improbable… what would you do in a foreign country if you were separated from family, or your belongings at a hostel or hotel? What if disaster strikes, and you have only what you have on your person, and little else?

OK, on second reading that seems a bit extreme. How about, more simply, what do you carry with you to make your travelling escapades more fun, safe, and memorable?

I was inspired to consider the truly essential by Clara Benson’s (@ClaraBenson) account of a bag-less first date, in which she and her travelling companion set off on a three week, baggage-free jaunt through eight countries.

Please note: baggage free is not purse free.

I’m coming to the table with something that is sometimes referred to as a European carry-all (but go ahead and call it a murse; my masculinity remains intact). In fact, I’d be willing to accept many such dings (I didn’t) for the simple reason that the thing was just so damned practical. Three and a half billion women can’t be wrong. Can they?

So here it is, a full grain cow leather man-purse, hand made in Greece, purchased in Santorini for about fifty euros.

01 Manpurse Article

The Essentials

Deciding what’s essential is quite the Travel Blog meme; there are many “Top Ten” lists of essential this or that. Mine’s quite personal, and your mileage will vary, but it will get you to thinking. Could I travel the world with just this stuff?

Probably not. I couldn’t get on the plane with my Swiss army knife, for instance. But 25 essentials they remain, and they accompanied me pretty much everywhere, whether on foot, boat, plane, or motorcycle.

02 Manpurse Article

BandannaNext to a towel, bandannas are simply the most massively useful thing any traveller could carry. In hot climes, a damp wrap around your neck or head takes the edge off. Plus they can be used for cleaning, gathering stuff, wiping, an emergency bandage, and so on. It’s not the fashion statement my girls particularly approve of, but it’s pretty natty when needs be.

Calling Cards – Before heading out, I had a couple hundred full colour calling cards  (can’t call them business cards) printed up. On the one side, a photo of us three and our contact information, and on the other, a sample work of my photography. If you like taking “people pictures” they’re a nice trade and and a good icebreaker. And of course, it makes it easy to stay in touch with all those people you meet along the way.

Lanyard – You’ve got keys – to your hostel locker, hotel room, motorcycle, your luggage… I hate losing keys, and the safest place I’ve found is right around my neck. This is the one clever item I’ve never seen on anyone else’s list, so I consider it proprietary. But go ahead and use it yourself, but when you start seeing it on other people’s lists, you’ll know where it came from.

Notebook/Pen/Pencil – For the note-taker and documentarian in all of us. I like the original Moleskin, with the pockets for luggage chits, postage stamps, and various other papery slips you accumulate along the way.

Passport – In most countries, you are required to carry your passport with you while out and about. And in many countries, depending on where you lay your head, on your person is safer than under your pillow. So it comes with my person, more often than not. True story, however: in 14 years of travelling, to 36 countries, I’ve only once been stopped and asked for it. And that was for crossing the train tracks illegally in Rome. I won’t be doing that again, you can trust me.

Reading/Sun Glasses – I need both, and there’s not enough room on my head for both at the same time. So I carry a hard and soft case, and in the bag they go when not in use. Must be nice not to need reading glasses.

Smartphone/Ear Buds/Power Pack/Cables – No one carries a Lonely Planet anymore. All of my editions are electronic, and stored on the device. So are my reading materials, offline maps, music, and other time wasters. Extra power (and the means to recharge it all) is quite useful when on a 12 hour cruise down the Mekong River. I chose my phone specifically for the camera as well, and have taken some of my best photos with it. It’s not meant to replace my other two cameras, but it could if you were truly a minimalist about such things.

Swiss Army Knife – Almost as massively useful as a towel, and it can open wine bottles too! Not that you ever want to open wine bottles in Istanbul (just sayin’).

Personal Stuffs (toothbrush/paste/floss/sewing needle/Tylenol/lip balm/sanitizer/bandaids) – About the fourth worst thing I can think of hitting me in the tropics is a headache. That and chapped lips, and stinky breath. Everything else is fairly self explanatory, except for the floss which, when accompanied by the sewing needle, allows you to make instant repairs of a lot of stuff. An old Scouting trick.

Wallet – A surefire way to lose your wallet is to carry it in your pants pocket. I kept mine (and my passport) secure in a double zippered compartment, far from sticky fingers and sharp razors. 36 countries and not one a lost or stolen wallet. I did however, once, leave a fairly nice camera on a park bench…

Here’s what it all looks like, fully assembled.

03 Manpurse ArticleNo word of a lie; this thing lived over my shoulder. Snatch proof, slash proof, and organized. How I like to live my life, generally speaking.

 

 

Not bored, or nothin’…

Shower thoughts. There’s a Reddit sub for that kind of thing (for example, if 9-11 had happened two months earlier, 7-11 the convenience chain woul have had some major rebranding to do, and the like).

Me, because I’m with a geek (and have been accused of being one myself) calculate stuff. Call it an inspiration by Mark Watney, whose exploits I’m reading twice in the past four months.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is my shower:

23967988821_fcf57f3765_k

My own shower thought: how much water would mass if it filled up to the level of the small tiles.

This is actually not that hard to do. All you need to do is know how big one of those small tiles is, and to remember the density of water (which is 1 gram per cubic centimeter). Everything else is just boring Maths.

So I tried to do it in my head. Here’s my thought process:

Because I’m doing it in my head, I’ll be rounding a lot. As we say in Physics, it’s a right answer as long as it’s of the same order of magnitude.

My shower base is about 40 tiles by 30 tiles. That’s 1200 tiles, and that’s the easiest calculation of the morning (remember, I did this within the time of my shower, which was maybe five minutes). This was an underestimate which I’ll have to make up somewhere.

Each tile is 1 inch, which is 2.54 cm. But there is grout, so if I include the joints, let’s say 2.6 cm (an under estimate). I calculated that 2.6 squared (the area of one tile) is 4 + 1.2 + 1.2 + 0.36, or 6.76  square cm. Yeh, I did that in my head, and so can you, if you think about it. (And were taught multiplication by partial products – it’s what I teach my kids, but they’ll have none of it, being indoctrinated as they are to memorizing procedures and shit.)

Anyhow, 6.76 cm^2, which I round up to 7 cm^2, to try to make up for the two under-estimates I just used. It all works out in the end. Or it’s supposed to.

Now, the tiles ride up the pan about 10 cm (I eyeballed that one). So the volume above one tile is 7 cm^2 x 10 cm, or 70 cm^3. Seventy cubic centimeters. We’re getting exciting close to the end.

One tile has a volume of 70 cm^2 above it, so 1 200 tiles is 1 200 * 70. So in my head I’m going 70 000 + 14 000 = 84 000 cm^2 for the whole shower base.

Easy peasy, and now, it only gets easier. Because now, I know (and perhaps you do too?) that one cc of water has a mass of about 1 gram. 1 cm^3 of pure water at STP has a mass of EXACTLY 1.0 gram (it’s sorta a definition thing), but this is warm shower water, and not pure. Calgary, yo.

84 000 cc of water has a mass of 84 kilos.

Now let me go and measure more exactly. And use a calculator.

Well now, I underestimated. Seems that my shower is 118 cm by 90 cm, which is 10 620 square cm. I nailed the 10 cm height though, so I have a volume of 106 000 cc, which is 106 kg. 20% off, but in the ballpark.

Well, that was fun.

</geekiness>

 

Oh, Paris… je t’aime

I’m a nostalgic, sort, I guess; while following the events of last night, I found myself browsing through my France photos from earlier this year. For those just arriving here, we (my wife and 8 year old daughter) spent the year travelling the world, and spending two glorious months in France, the entire month of June in Paris.

Spring in France.

Here’s the first photo that spoke to me last night, taken on our first full day in Paris, May 30. A nattily dressed man, walking down the middle of Boulevard de Clichy, carrying not one, but two baguettes. What could be more Parisiene than that?

2015-05-30 france paris neighbourhoods pigalle 6 cropped

This is just one of many, many images of my time in Paris that I will forever remember.

Here’s another one I took the same day, close by but in the Montmartre district, up the mountain from Pigalle. You’ll recognize the likeness: 2015-05-30 france paris montmartre graffiti gandhi copy

Many quotes are attributed to Gandhi, and his sensibility of non violence, to turning the other cheek to violence. I wish he’d lived in our time to offer counsel. I think he’d have something to say about root causes, about the lasting, inter-generational effects of colonialism, and international interventions.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

But it’s not a satisfying sentiment at times like this. We seek retribution (Hollande has already promised “merciless retribution”). We want justice, to punish those responsible (just who are they, just how shall we accomplish that?).

 

What’s he done lately?

I’m not a fan boy, but I still like this guy, Trudeau.

Trudeau 2015

But… I’d like to be reasonable about this thing. Here’s (what I think is) an unbiased list of stuff he’s done lately. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And everything in between. I don’t expect 100% from anyone, but I’m hoping  for 66% at least.

Here’s my personal accounting how our Canadian PM is doing. If you have any suggestions, or omissions, do let me know what you think. My score so far?

98%

The (major) Good

  • Infusing a feeling of positive energy, cooperation, and Sunny Ways, my friends. Sunny Ways!
  • Invited all First Ministers and Party Leaders to Paris Climate conference.
  • Press conferences at the National Press Gallery. Yea!
  • NEW: The Long Form Census back!
  • NEW: The appointment of certain Cabinet Minsters, namely Kent Hehr for Veterans Affairs, and Harjit Sajjan for Defence.
  • NEW: Scientists (and presumably, the civil service) unmuzzle’d

The (minor) Good

  • NEW: Created our first gender balanced cabinet – because it’s 2015. (I used to be ambivalent to this, but see the value and symbolism more and more every day).

The Ambivalent

  • Removal of Canadian warplanes from Syrian and Iraqi bombing missions. (No, we are not a warrior nation. Our heritage is based on doing what we must, when there are no alternatives. In this case, there are alternatives.)

The Not So Good

  • Reversed Harper’s decision to allow Canada Post to  transition to community mailboxes.

The “what the hell? Noooo!”

  • Happily, nothing yet.

 

The List

Here are the things I was particularly looking forward to seeing happen in the first parliament led by Justin Trudeau. They are particularly important ot me

  • Thoroughly review C-51, and repeal the naughty bits.
  • Repeal the Fair Elections Act.
  • Begin a national conversation about the TPP.
  • DONE: Reinstate the mandatory long form census.
  • Rehire Tony Turner, the musical Environment Canada guy.
  • Recommit to providing the proper care and support for our armed forces veterans.
  • Establish an inquiry into missing aboriginal women.
  • Reestablish data based decision making. Science, yo!
  • Kill the F-35. Please, God, kill it with fire.
  • Reconfirm the independence of the Supreme Court of Canada.

And last, but most certainly not least – the singular most important thing Trudeau committed to… the game changer, the election winner (I believe):

  • Champion and nurture election reform based on preferential ballot.

 

 

Nota bene… for those of you visiting me, Teddy, about travel stories and reflections, this post is a bit different. We’ve just had a national election, and the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau (whom my mother, and others called le Dauphin, perhaps without really knowing what that means). I like the choice.

I’d like to see how many of the things I liked about the platform actually come to fruition.