Visiting the Home Front

Whirlwind Family Visit – The Canadian Clan

The West

July was filled with family and friends visits and Canadian legalities. It was wonderful to spend time in Calgary, AB with my daughter, husband and granddaughters. Although we regularly visit on Skype, I’m amazed at how my two granddaughters have grown;  Jamie will be starting grade one in September and Sammy is following close behind.

It was a joy to watch and hear Jamie’s reading progress. She’s a real pro already and way ahead of the game! Both girls are gifted artists and we spent lots of time creating with stickers, paper, colours, glue and all kind of other improvised tools. We played outside, making up stories and letting imagination run full course, and had some hiking adventures in a neighbouring nature park. Evenings (bed time) and indoor days were filled with lots of story-telling and, just like with my grandchildren in Belgium, my character, Peter the Traveller, was a daily feature – but in English instead of Dutch. It looks like I may have to commit these children’s stories to paper… bilingual.

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There were many adventures, and since the Zoo was still closed due to the aftermath of  the awful flood Calgary experienced, family passes were being accepted at other facilities outside the city. About an hour north we visited Discovery Wildlife Park Alberta in Innisfail. Jamie and Sammy (and Mom and Nan) had loads of fun watching star bears perform. Yes, these are true Hollywood stars who featured in movies such as Dr. Doolittle 2, Grizzly Falls and many more. Since taking pictures of the bears was not allowed, you can see them at:

or the other animals:

We were not only treated to an array of star power but also to shows performed by jaguars, at a respectful distance of course, even for the caretakers who won’t enter the enclosures. We learned a lot about bear behaviors and how to act around them, should we encounter them in the wild. One interesting tidbit was how bears do not growl. Whopper, the Kodiak/Grizzly bear will give a glowing performance of standing threateningly on their hind legs, mouth open wide with terrifying teeth but no sound. The sound effects get added in later on., thus the frightening Hollywood scenes. Betty was hilarious, waving her hand and smiling or covering her eyes- yes, displaying a full-fledged smile. Betty has been showcased in various commercial such as Rice Crispy Treats, etc. All these acts naturally delighted the girls and us grown ups.

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Finally we shared some fun times at the Calgary Science Centre, where the interactive displays provided lots of diversion and participation.

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On the week-end my youngest Clan member and his fiancée joined us from BC for a couple of days. It was great to see them and to spend time with everyone. Jamie and Sammy had a fantastic time teasing their Uncle and were roaring with laughter. Amazing what sound those small lungs can produce… Auntie  watched with mirth as Uncle was jumped on, pushed and pulled in all directions but of course the girls got pay-back!

At least half the Clan was reunited this July and we’ll have to plan a family reunion where the entire Clan manages to get together. Since one significant milestone is coming up in December, that’ll be too soon. My wish will be to plan a reunion five years from December 2013! And somewhere warm – Hawaii comes to mind. So, my dear family, you’ve been put on notice… start planning and saving!

Somehow I managed to get together with my longtime Calgary friends; it was great to catch up and share and even play Canasta!

Calgary went through a major flood in June; It was amazing  to witness how this city overcame the destruction . Downtown was closed for a couple or more weeks. Buildings were inaccessible. Small businesses in particular suffered the repercussions and some will unfortunately not recover from the devastation and economic loss. Lack of funding will make it quite impossible to rebuild. For those of you who didn’t see the impact,  have a look at:

It’s incredible that the Calgary Stampede, the yearly greatest outdoor rodeo event and tourist attraction, was able to reopen in time in July, although not all areas were dry.

Some of the outlying communities such as High River, suffered much more in the end and are still recovering from the disaster. While floods are not uncommon, the magnitude of this one was unheard of.

The East

The last two week-ends I was able to visit my eldest Clan member and  wife in Ottawa, ON. It’s challenging to have family spread over such a large country and over two continents… makes visiting an adventure and where to settle difficult to determine.

We had a lovely visit and explored some of the surrounding areas both in Ontario and Quebec, since Ottawa is just a jump away from the Quebec border. Not having travelled outside the country’s capital, where I often flew to as a flight attendant, it was nice to see a different side of Canada. We wandered through Merrickville, Manotick’s still operational mill, Perth, Kingston through Thousand Islands, all in Ontario and a few smaller villages in Quebec. The latter had quite a number of amusing road signs, a couple shown here below.

History in this part of the country is of course much older than in the west and smaller towns were fascinating to stroll through. A number of historic buildings hold a wealth of information of past lifestyles, livelihoods and community life.

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Time came all too soon to part from my family in western and eastern Canada but I took with me some lovely and touching memories that’ll keep me comfort for another year. Soon I’ll have to visit the other part of the Clan in Belgium before the year is up. At least while in Europe, I get to see them more often that before.

Regarding Canadian legalities… After long deliberations by the department in charge, I’ve been officially declared “factual resident”. It has been determined that I still have considerable ties with Canada. Of course should I decide to remain in Europe, all that would change but for now, and until I know where I’ll end up “retiring”, I’m still a Canadian resident.

As to my impressions of the outrageous rise in Canadian cost of living – just over this past year – this will be the topic of a future post. First though I’ll be taking you through August’s Italian south and the quest for my maternal origins.

Until then, enjoy the last weeks, days of summer – if you’re on this side of the globe that is, and make sure to check my website which is finally up and running:

2 thoughts on “Visiting the Home Front

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