Tea, weddings and life

You slowly drift in and out of consciousness. You hear the shower and know that your husband is already up. You’re half awake now.

You try to plan the day ahead. What can you do to bring a little more spice to your day, to break away from the routine of living in a hotel? What else is there to do in a city that is not your own and yet already familiar? You try to cheer yourself up thinking that there’s only two weeks left until the end of your husband’s contract in Toronto and then you’re going back home. To your apartment, your stuff, your friends, your tennis lessons, even your own car.

You ponder that every time you follow your husband to a new city you put your life on hold and when you return home, you pick up where you left off. Just like that.

Your husband kisses you goodbye. “See you later”, you say and wish him a nice day, like your mother tells your father every day.

Later, while checking your emails and facebooking, you have an idea. How about high tea? Given Toronto’s English heritage it shouldn’t be difficult to find a tea room, you reckon. Google suggests the Windsor Arms Hotel.

Somewhat excited that you found something new to do, you book a table for later that day and get ready to leave the hotel.

You navigate your way through Toronto’s public transport system and confusing roadwork on Bloor Street and finally reach your destination.

You order a full tea (loose leaf tea, scones, Devon cream, preserves and tiny sandwiches), sit back and relax. You let your mind wander and it takes you to unexpected places. You remember your wedding day, your first dance with your dashing groom, how much fun it all was. The memories are bittersweet, though, because your wedding was also a farewell. You moved to a foreign country shortly after, leaving friends and family behind.

“You let it steep for five minutes and it should be all right”. The waiter’s voice yanks you back to the present. You pour tea with milk and two sugars as usual, butter a scone and slowly become aware of what’s around you. You eavesdrop on the conversation to your right and listen to the music playing softly in the background. Viennese waltzes. Wedding music! You smile to yourself when you realise it was the music that brought back all those memories. You danced to these waltzes at your wedding reception.

And you begin to wonder what your life would be like today if you had married someone else.

Jimmy who?

Last weekend we were invited to attend the Jimmy Buffett Tailgate Party in Frisco. I had no clue who that guy was or what the party was for. When I asked, some people looked at me funny and said the names of his greatest hits (by then, I realised he was a singer), Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise, as if that alone would suffice.

Suffice it did not. I was still clueless and played the I’m-a-foreigner-brought-up-in-another-culture card but still I was expected to know all about parrotheads, grass skirts and coconut bras. What?

Anyway, Sean and I did a little shopping (ice for the cooler, drinks and munchies) before heading to Pizza Hut Park. We eventually found our friends. We paid $2o for parking on a grass lot quite a ways from all the action. We unloaded the cooler, food and chairs and settled down to a nice chat and quite a bit of people-watching.

The girls and I went for a walk. We saw some really hardcore Jimmy Buffett fans dressed in grass skirts and coconut bras (men and women), pirates, parrot hats, and golf carts decked out with shark fins, parrots and palm trees. Lots of drinking games and rivers of alcohol (it was 90F out there).

Lots of people camped out since Friday in their RVs. I just loved how well organised they were: tents, lounge chairs, grills or barbecues (even a few smokers too), loudspeakers, beer kegs, the whole enchilada. Everyone was having fun, singing, drinking, eating, walking around, playing games, waiting for the concert to start in the evening.

Parking in the RV area was $60 and they rented  port-a-potties for $100 a day or $5 per use.

It was an interesting experience, we had fun with our friends and I got to see a different side to the American people, a more playful, childish even, side. I’m not sure I want to do it again next year but I’m sure glad we went.

I embrace my bourgeois life

I love to read other travellers’ adventures because I like to travel and to know about new places. I also like writing so I keep a blog. Three, actually: one is Spanish, one in English and one (in English) about the restaurants we liked in our travels. My friends enjoy my posts and encourage me to keep writing.

But when I compare my posts with other travellers, couchsurfers and backpackers, I feel they’re rather mundane; there’s nothing exotic in them and I feel I’m in a lesser league. I submitted one of my posts to a weekly competition and it didn’t even pass the first round. I lost to posts about things like teaching orphaned elephants to read and write in the jungles of Gobi. OK, that’s not true or even possible but that’s the idea. I don’t go to exotic places, I’ve never met Buddhist monks or tamed a tiger, but that’s OK because that’s not who I am.

I’m not a traveller, I’m a tourist (although I try to mingle with the locals as much as I can). What’s the difference, anyway?

I don’t couchsurf because I’m too shy and too squeamish to sleep in a stranger’s bed (and use their bathroom). Is that a bad thing? I don’t go backpacking for pretty much the same reasons. But I don’t need luxury and 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets: a clean (private) bog is enough for me.

We travel quite a lot because of my hubby’s job and we tend to stay in the same city for a few months at a time. I go out and “explore” whichever city we’re in and then we do fun things together at the weekends, but that’s about it. It’s not exactly watching the sun rise over Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Anyway, unless his next destination is some remote island in the South Pacific, I’ll keep enjoying other people’s adventures and blogging from less adventure-laden places like, oh, Dallas, Toronto or Buenos Aires.

What to do?

Yesterday I visited the area known as Old Town Toronto. It was a gorgeous day, with a chill in the air and lots of sunshine.

I went into the Anglican Cathedral of St. James, which was built in the 1850s. I took a flier-cum-tour guide and started to read it as I walked, looking at the stained glass windows, the retired colours of various Canadian regiments, and so on and so forth.
I was reading about the main altar and choir when I saw flash of green and gold go past. I carried on with what I was doing until I got to the Lady Chapel, located to the right of the altar. I then realized that the priest in a green and gold robe was looking at me and with a beaming smile said “We’re going to begin the Eucharist service, and you’re invited to join us”.
How could I refuse? Besides, there was one other guy apart from me. I put my camera away, found a seat and picked up a prayer book. I was a bit lost, so the only other church attendant sat next to me and showed me which page I needed so I could follow the liturgy.
Then it was time for the Eucharist. Uh oh! what to do? (I am a Catholic and we’re not supposed to risk damning our eternal souls by A) taking communion without confession, a sacrament through which your sins are forgiven, and B) let alone do it  with the enemy! OK, no  the enemy, but a non-Catholic church). But then again, there were three of us by then, so I couldn’t really sneak out the back. So I decided to just sit there with my best poker face.
My best poker face did not work. The priest smiled at me and said in a kind voice “You too.” OoooooK…. I thought I should be alright and not burn in Hell if I took communion since a priest invited me to and, besides, I was in the House of God, wasn’t I? (Actually, I’m not that religious but I can’t shake off my upbringing just like that)
I really did enjoy the service and realized I already knew the formulas! “Lamb of God…” is “Cordero de Dios…” etc. So towards the end I responded in Spanish (in a soft voice). The Anglican High Church and the Catholic Church have a lot in common, except a few pesky items like divorce, women priest, married clergy and a few sacraments, confession being one the Anglicans did away with.
The thing is, this is the second time something like this happened to me. A few weeks ago, when I was on Montreal, I visited the Anglican Cathedral at the time of Eucharist (unbeknownst to me), was invited to participate and since there were three of us, to take Communion as well. Maybe God is calling me?
Afterwards, I visited St. Michael’s, the Catholic Cathedral. Was I feeling guilty? I don’t know, but I just couldn’t go inside. The smell of burnt candle wax and frankincense were so overpowering they almost made me sick and I had to leave. I realized I much prefer Anglican churches, they’re full of light and devoid of all those suffering Christs and bleeding saints. I have nothing against them per se, I just hate those statues. And the Anglican lot are a lot less fussy and complicated, which I find refreshing.

So now I’m in a bit of a quandary: should I still be a Catholic or join the Anglican flock?