Tag Archives: fire

A city slicker in a tent.

Where have I been? Well dear internets I, lover of high heels, imported cheese and lip gloss, was camping. I cannot remember the last time I slept in a tent but I think it was the 80s. Last week I slept in a tent for two nights, and to be perfectly honest with you I found it a trifle claustrophobic. If and when I decide to buy a tent it will be a 6 man tent and I shall be very happy in it all alone, or perhaps with just one another. I found the whole plastic, hot, sleeping bag, not being able to stand thing very stifling. However I should not dwell on the negative but instead turn my head towards the new skills I have learnt.

I am a city slicker. I have never pitched a tent (this one was actually pitched for me by the previous camper), I have never planted nor grown anything, I don’t know the difference between a spider bite and a mosquito bite, I have no clue how to build a camp fire (although I can toast a mean marshmallow), I am lost with practicalities concerned with the wilderness. I never went to camp.

These gaping holes in my knowledge are slowly being revealed here in Africa where every second person knows how to pitch a tent, and live the life of Crusoe.  I have heard that there is nothing quite like sleeping in a tent on safari when you can feel the hippos push against the ropes of the tent as they are grazing and it is becoming clear that I will have to attune myself to tent life if I am to properly enjoy the full safari experience. I have few skills that would make me very popular on a camping trip. Yet there I was, leading a team of 18 11 year olds onto a sailing and camping adventure.  And I survived! These are some of the skills that I picked up:

  • When cooking scrambled eggs for 23 people, 46 eggs are needed. It is not advisable to cook this as one large batch, but rather scramble 6 eggs at a time.
  • Never be shy to rely on a child for help. When it came time to take down the tent I hadn’t a clue how to fit that large plastic green thing into that tiny green bag. Multiple girls, far more experienced than I, came running to my rescue. It was a wonderful case of “teach the teacher.”
  • Wet wood will never light a fire. Neither will damp wood. However, with many tiny broken pieces of wood you may have a chance.
  • Carry plenty of Band-Aids.  There are all sorts of unimaginable ways of cutting one’s self on a camping trip.
  • Luckily we had a club house with kitchen so no cooking over a Bunsen burner was needed.  What I realized very quickly is that there is no reason for bad food or bad coffee on a camping trip. A French Press is indeed portable.
  • When leaving a sleeping bag to air out during the day, it is advisable to bring that sleeping bag into the tent before it gets dark. I was bemused as to why my pillow and bag were damp when it hadn’t rained and then I learnt about Dew. It is not just for mornings.
  • Upon arriving from a camping trip with 18 children it is a fabulous idea to take off the very next morning for a deserted island on Lake Victoria with a good friend and plenty of wine.

Recovery  was quite splendid.

 

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Summer limes

A few slices of summer lime

 

Yesterday I sat in front of a fire with two sweaters on. Welcome to July in Quebec. It was bloody cold, especially for my spoilt disposition so attuned to the tropics.

 

Yet today it is beautiful here. Very still, calm and fresh. It feels Northern. The green is as fresh and pale as a Boreal forest should be. The sky crisp, the sun sharp. 

I had been sensitized to the northern climate, the trees, sounds and tastes and now I have a new found appreciation for what was once ordinary. That is the beauty of living away; I can retain the pleasure of experiencing the new.

 

 

We went to a market over the weekend in a small country town. I saw happy hippies and city weekenders shopping for their lunch, greeting each other with familiar smiles. The small kiosks were proudly selling their homemade foods. I sampled wine, cheese  and maple syrup but I could have also tried milk fed piglet or gourmet sausage. There was a pride in their food and the tasteful (and sometimes kitch) presentation. This is a land of food snobs.

 

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Since arriving in Montreal I have eaten meals that have tasted intense and fresh. I had not experienced a sensation quite like a fresh Quebec strawberry in some time. My taste buds have been deprived of these northern flavours, the sweet but tart berry, the pungent wet cheese, the nectarine dripping in juice. And visually the food looks perfect, the carrots are small and neat and orange, the eggplant firm in its purple fatness and the lettuce looks as crisp as its crunch. 

 

A Canadian summer means drinks at the dock, laughter with friends, the icy dip or the comfort of a roaring fireplace. For me it also means a return to my adopted home and time spent with my sisterhood of girlfriends. There is comfort in returning home to the familiar and seeing the gasp of recognition and joy spread over my daughters’ faces.

 

Things are often too long. Movies, books, classes, days, plays; but a Canadian summer is always too short. Staring at a Canadian lake bordered by gentle hills is so relaxing that after a while you feel akin to floating.

 

I must confess that no part of my anatomy has yet dared to experience the piercing and heart thumping cold of a lake swim.

 

Saving that for another day. Not quite that brave yet.

 

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