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Sparkling Water

One of my favourite things in the world and what I’m currently enjoying as I write this. Can I get a what-what for lime-flavoured sparkling water? The bubbles, and the subtle lime flavour just make it so nice. Especially when it’s hot out.

Or maybe when you’re sitting on the heating grate in the middle of winter trying to warm your butt. It’s great then, too. And don’t lie. I’m not the only one who does this.

Adventures in Glass Fusion

Earlier this month, I picked up a Groupon for a glass fusion workshop at Artopia. A couple of Saturdays ago, I went with my friend Evelyn to try it out.

We spent the afternoon cutting little bits of glass and layering them to make a group of pendants. Once they were glued and set, we left them in the hands of Artopia to be fired in the kiln, making them into blobby pendants.

After a week, I got the call that they were ready to be picked up!

Some didn’t turn out exactly how I thought they would, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how mine turned out. I think the black one with the blue squares is my favourite, but I’m also partial to the orange one, even if it didn’t end up as symmetrical as I had planned.

Either way, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon and I’m very happy with my new shinies!

2014 in Planes

I’m getting excited for 2014. It’s been a long while since I’ve been on an adventure. Winters are always particularly hard on me. The lack of sunlight and cold temperatures tend to make me just want to hibernate. For the most part, that’s exactly what I do.

Being an even year, it means this summer I’ll be back in my second home – Jordan. I’m pretty excited about this season since one of my good friends from Edmonton is planning on coming with the team. I always enjoy showing new people are Jordan, but it will be extra special to do with Hillary.

The last time we travelled together, we took a trip to Peru after she finished her undergraduate. It feels like it was so long ago, but we had such a great time. As with any trip, there were ups and downs, but that just made the experience richer. There’s nothing like travelling with the people who matter to you.

I’m looking forward to creating new memories with one of my favourite people.

Once I get home from Jordan, I’m in Canada for a week before Stephen and I take a week-long vacation to New York. I’m going to be tired from the dig, but the idea of wandering around New York City’s streets, parks, and museums with the person I love most in the world just seems fantastic. It will be one of those much-needed things.

All in all, there’s nowhere particularly new on my itinerary for this year, but knowing me, that could entirely change. Eventually, I’ll get back to working on scratching countries off my list, but that’s hard to do on even years. My commitment to the dig is very important to me and we’re moving on to an exciting part of the site, which hasn’t been excavated in earnest in years. There is the possibility of some great finds, all of which will be mine to photograph.

Generosity at its Best!

Jordan Times

I am beyond excited today, big news has come in from Amman.

Last year, when we got to Jordan, we were all greeted by some unfortunate news. The landowner who owns the very top of our dig had successfully sued the government of Jordan for damages to his property. Through negotiation, we were granted one last season working on the top of the Tell. This completed changed how we had been working on the dig. The goal had shifted from being one of exploration to getting everything into the same phase1.

Teaaaars on my pillar…

When the season was over, I hugged some columns in Field H (the section of the dig where I’ve worked since 2006) and shed a few tears. I love that site. We had put so much work into exploring its history, the idea of leaving it behind and continuing elsewhere was hard to wrap my head around.

The dig director has been working tirelessly since the landownership issues first surfaced. His goal has been to secure the site not just for future excavation, but also to showcase Umayri’s beautiful preservation and history by transforming the area into an archaeological park. Backed by the Department of Antiquities and the Royal Family of Jordan, negotiations and talks with the landowners has been ongoing. This week though, it was announced that those landowners have donated the parts of their properties that hold Umayri.

When it was confirmed for me this morning that this really did mean the whole Tell was safe, I may or may not have been out-of-control excited. The sense of relief is incredible. I can’t wait to get back to Jordan this summer and give Umayri a huge congratulatory hug. She’s a wonderful little place and has a long story to tell.

You can check out the news story for yourself at The Jordan Times.

1 When you’re digging a mount site (aka, “Tell”), different time periods layer sequentially on top of one another. When we say, “bring it into phase,” the goal is to dig each section (or “field”) of the site so that the time periods match.

Deep Thoughts about Chips

I spend a lot of time during the day being lost in my own thoughts. It’s hard not to when you walk everywhere and have a little time to spare while you do it. Usually, my thoughts are pretty random, and more usually, I keep them to myself. I have been told I should share them. So here’s my deep thought about chips…

Let’s say you had a time machine and chose to go back to the 1700′s. What would happen if you gave someone from that time period a modern-day chip? Would their mind be blown at how good chips taste? OR would they be so disgusted by processed food they’d boot you quickly back to your own time?

Moving and The “Mass”

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. The (mis)adventure of moving took place over the course of two weeks. It was unexpected, daunting, and not something I care to repeat any time soon.

The idea of packing up all your “worldly” possessions into boxes, bins, and wrapped up in blankets is overwhelming and decidedly confrontational. As you pack, the sheer mass of “things” you own makes itself so abundantly clear. I found myself feeling defensive over what I owned. As my boyfriend hauled things to the car, he didn’t say a word of complaint. I know he wasn’t even judging me, but here I was projecting my own sense of disgust over how much I possessed onto him. Over and over, I said, “I use that,” or, “but, I love that,” somehow trying to justify to myself why I owned the things I do. Not to my boyfriend, but to me.

Now that the majority of the dust has settled, the hallways have been mostly cleared, the recycling bins mostly filled, I’m back to looking at my possessions and thinking, “It doesn’t seem like so much to own.” It’s all put away, found a new home, so how much could there have been?

I snap myself back to reality. I close my eyes and I can still see the boxes. I think back to yesterday, and I can feel hands holding something, my mind wondering, “Where do I put you?”

Today, I’m taking a mental health day. I was supposed to have a vacation last week, but thanks to the unexpected move, my vacation did not happen. This morning is the first morning where I’ve even had an opportunity to just sit.

And then I have to laugh, because I came across my list of things that I’d been planning on doing during my time off and the irony is really not lost:

  • Go through the house, purge things I don’t use or don’t want.
  • Pare down my wardrobe, donate items that don’t fit anymore.
  • Get rid of shoes I haven’t worn in a year.
  • Plan for moving in the spring.
  • Go paperless as much as possible.

Right?

Needless to say, when I have a chance, I’m going to schedule another vacation so I can do what I wanted to do in the first place. I’m turning 30 in March, maybe that will be a good time to divest myself of the burden of too many possessions.

Looking for Lille

In my quest to photograph as many ghost towns as I can find, I kept coming across notes about a little gem called Lille, Alberta.

Things looked great for Lille when it was first established in 1901. Within a few years, there were about 20 residences on the townsite, along with all the amenities like a hotel, doctor’s office, and a school. The coal mining industry in the area led to the construction of an expansive system of coke ovens, specially made in Belgium. Each brick was stamped with a unique number, shipped, and the ovens were reconstructed brick-by-brick in Lille sometime in 1903-1904.

When the nearby mine failed in 1912, Lille was dismantled and moved, but lots of lovely ruins were left behind. The site was listed as an Alberta Provincial Historic Site in 1937 to protect what is left, but unfortunately, Lille has been damaged by visitors nonetheless.[1][2]

When it came time to actually visit Lille, I couldn’t find much information on it. All the photos I saw were taken years ago and the directions listed on various websites seemed vague. There was no choice but to go out there and poke around.

We started off the day at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and spoke to one of the guides there. He seemed to have a good grasp on where to find it, so we set out confidently. Unfortunately for us, we found more forks in the road than we anticipated and soon enough, the guide’s directions were muddled in my head (I should have written them down, in hindsight).

We eventually wandered around a lot, a few kilometres here and there, until we actually found the right path. It was late in the day when we made it to Lille, but the site looked beautiful in the soft, late afternoon light of the mountains.

The old coke ovens are beautiful. The old brick with the well-preserved arches are amazing, but the patina and the way they look like little portals is what really makes them gorgeous.

Personally, I fell in love with the washery. The building has aged gracefully, as far as ruins go, and the little evergreens closing in around it only enhance the building. Of course, eventually, the trees will destroy it, but for now, they seem to be in balance somehow.

Twilight started to set in, so we headed back along with old road to the car. It was a wonderful day exploring Alberta. We have so much history and natural beauty here, it’s a great place to live.

For the rest of the photos I took that day, check out the slideshow below:




References:
1 Lille, Alberta at Wikipedia
2 Lille Mines and Townsite Trail at Discover Crowsnest Heritage

A copy of this post was also featured on my photography website, Logee Photography

Strolling September

Every month, Calgary Transit charges me a whopping $94.00 to use public transit. I use buses and the LRT for pretty much all of my transportation, aside from when Stephen is around to drive me places. He’s good to have around!

My personal socialist values would make public transit free. I dislike the expense of it and though it’s affordable for me and gets the job done, I can’t imagine what someone who is having trouble making ends meet does about the huge price tag of a bus pass.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been making the effort to walk everywhere I can. If it’s within an hour’s worth of walking distance, I’m walking it. Longer than that (or if I’m too pressed for time) and I’ve been using transit.

So my experiment for the month is to use bus tickets instead of of an unlimited pass. I have a feeling I’m going to end up spending considerably less time on public transit (a joy in itself) and save some cash, too.

Of course, once winter hits, this probably won’t be possible for me. I do tend to hibernate in winter (though I’d like to change that this year), so the idea of walking everywhere in the cold doesn’t seem feasible for me. Not to mention there might some days where it will be too cold to be outside longer than 20 minutes.

So here’s to Strolling September, which might lead to On-Foot October, and (weather permitting) No-Transit November! I’ll post an update on this experiment at the end of the month.

Travel as a Fitness Motivator & The Long Road Home

I’ve been debating writing this post for awhile now. In the last two and a half months, I’ve lost 30 pounds. Each time someone notices, they ask me, “What’s your secret?”

It feels like every time I turn around, the Internet is abounding with fitness posts. Spend any length of time on Pinterest, and you’ll see an explosion of information about the “right” way and the “wrong” way to lose weight or get strong. This food is safe to eat, this exercise is the best, and those exercises and foods we said were great last week aren’t good enough anymore.

Honestly, it all seems like great advice. The human body is dynamic and science advances constantly, so why shouldn’t the workouts we do and the foods we eat change just as dynamically?

The truth of it is (like all things in your life): you do you.

If something works for you and it’s something you can stick to, then do that, even if it’s proven to not be as effective as something else. You hate doing that other thing that’s more effective, so you’re probably not going to stick with it – and then you’ll be right back where you started.

Some people I know swear by yoga, others say pilates, still more say Zumba is the way to go. I’m a good old fashioned weight mover. I love my weight circuit. It makes me happy to feel my muscles strain and flex, to see the amount of weight I can move increase from week to week. I love muscle definition. I think it’s gorrrrgeous and I want that in my life.

I’m someone who has struggled with body image issues my whole life. I was the chubby girl when I was little – something that never escaped the notice of my schoolmates. I looked at thin girls with a sense of envy and inferiority, two feelings that were incredibly unworthy of who I was as a person. It’s hard to conceptualize things like that when you’re a child. Had I been thin (but not too thin, because those bastards made fun of the naturally skinny girls just as badly as they did my chunky frame), they would have found something else they thought was wrong with me and would have picked on me for that.

The scars these kids left on me were there for years. At 17, I was the fittest I have ever been in life. I was strong, full of muscle, and could run and row like the wind. It was awesome – but I didn’t appreciate it. I was the lightest I could be at that age. And yet, when I looked in the mirror, I saw someone who was fat.

It was impossible to have been fat then. The scale, the measurements, and the fitness tests I endured daily all said I was athletic and lean. My self-image, the picture I held of what I looked like inside my head, was flawed. It was wrong.

The last two years have finally seen that negative self-image fade more and more. Maybe it has something to do with coming to the end of my 20′s, but more likely, it’s because I’ve worked just as hard to change my brain. Day after day, I’ve thought about it and worked on it. When I reached new highs on the scale earlier this year, I looked in the mirror and forced myself to see something positive. There were tears, like when I had a fancy dinner to go to and none of my nice dresses would do up, but there was the appreciation for my eyes, my hands, my wrists, and my butt. I love my butt. It’s a good butt!

Weight loss wasn’t the end goal when I started my fitness journey. I don’t have the frame to be model thin, but that’s not what I want for myself anyway. I want to be strong. I want to to look in the mirror and be like, “Yup. I see you muscles. You and me? Let’s go take on the day!”

But the truth of the matter is that I had gained a lot of weight in the past two years. And almost all of it was pure fat. Any muscle I gained in that time was purely there to support the extra weight I was carrying around.

I’ve tried various things to fix the weight gain and general weakness, but all of it resulted in failure and I just stayed exactly where I was. It didn’t do much for my confidence. The trying, failing, trying, failing routine was getting really old. The biggest part that bothered me, was the idea of travelling. There are so many places left for me to discover and I don’t want to be huffing and puffing and uncomfortable through all of it. Sometimes I think back to experiences I’ve already had and I’ve wondered, how much better would it have been had I been stronger?

Take the Inca Trail, for example. Mind you, I was sick with a bug for my journey on the trail – but that wasn’t the whole reason why I found it so difficult. I found it hard because I wasn’t physically up to snuff. I hadn’t been doing anything athletic since my rowing days and here I was undertaking something very physically challenging. It was brutal and I always look back on it with the mindset of, “I’m so proud of myself for having achieved this, but I will never do that to myself again.”

And what does that mean?

I used to believe it meant I wouldn’t hike the Inca Trail again. Proud I did it, scratched it off my list, but if I had to the opportunity to do it a second time, I’d bow out and go find something else to do.

That was never the person I wanted to be. I want to be the person who says. “Yeah! Let’s see if I can do it better the second time around.” I want my “I will never do that to myself again” thought to mean I will never make it so hard for myself again.

This brings me to thinking about future trips, future adventures, and who I am at the core of my being. All these things have a bearing on who I am physically. My body ought to be my temple, my vehicle, my home. It is what will take me through my future hikes, my future travels. I should treat my body better and by extension open doors to my future.

All these thoughts made me want to change so badly. To get closer to where I was when I was in peak physical condition, but with the brain and experience the years have brought me. The confidence and true sense of self that has come about with 12 years of navigating being an adult, and the understanding I still have so much to learn and experience.

It turned out small changes led to big changes for me. Thought has a profound impact on my actions. Thinking through each change logically and rationally made it all easier. Nothing I’ve done is groundbreaking, but it’s made a world of difference in my life. For me, the following things have worked out:

1. Joining a gym.

I can’t say I get to go as often as I like, but I do make time to go at least twice a week. When I’m there, I do my weight circuits. I could be doing so much more to get my muscle results faster, but right now, this is something I can stick to and something I enjoy.

I love the feeling of soreness the day after visiting the gym. It feels like progress to me. My muscles can’t get stronger unless they’re bullied a little and they certainly feel bullied the day after.

2. Walking. Yes. Walking.

In mid-June, part of what got me started was my Fitbit. I’m a scientist at heart, so having data on what I’m doing with my body on a daily basis is a huge motivator. The numbers don’t lie. You can’t cheat. You either moved around all day or you sat on your butt like a lump.

Every day, my Fitbit tells me to walk at least 10,000 steps / 8.05km. I love seeing the progress bar change from red (no where near my goals), to yellow (I’m getting closer), to green (I nailed it).

Before I even started doing anything about what I was eating, before I really made a commitment to the gym, walking was causing me to see huge results. Cellulite was disappearing, my legs were getting toned, and I was losing body fat.

This has redefined “walking distance” for me. If I can get somewhere in an hour by walking, I’m going to walk. I never would have thought to walk to and from work before, but now? Yup, no problem. Besides, the extra time gives me a break to think and listen to music – two things that greatly increase my happiness.

3. Putting down the fork, but eating what I want.

Each day, I give myself a set amount of calories to eat. And then I eat what I want with those calories. I know I’d probably see better results if I made sure that every one of those calories came from really great sources, but I don’t particularly eat a lot of junk food as it is. Most of the food I eat is pretty great, but I can’t give up my salty snacks and sometimes, I just want a little chocolate. If I told myself I can’t have these foods at all, I would eventually fail because I would give up. And I would eat a whole bag of chips in one sitting. You think I’m kidding, but I know my personal history pretty well.

But if I let myself have a taste of something I’m craving, it satisfies the craving without breaking my calorie budget. It’s easy to get through my day to day, birthday parties, and evenings out without feeling like I’m deprived or having to explain to absolutely everyone around me why I’m not eating or drinking this, that, and the other. It’s comfortable and familiar, but is leading to huge results.

And that’s it. Those are the things I’ve been doing that have really been making the difference. Everyone I know who has had success in bringing their body to what they want it to be, has had a completely different approach. That’s because everyone is different – that is something to be celebrated, but it also means we each have a different road to travel. Find what makes to feel good. Find what you like to eat. Find what you like your own body to look like. The only people who say you have to look or be a certain way aren’t the kind of people you want in your life, anyway.

Be you.

Do not praise selfish travelers.

matador

The above screenshot was taken from this article over at Matador Network. The website regularly features travelogues, some international news, and various other travel-related posts. I’ve been following them for a few years now and once in awhile, a post comes up that makes my archaeologist blood boil.

This is one of those articles. In it, the author, Katka Lapelosa, praises Russian photographer Vadim Mahora for breaking into archaeological sites to take self-portraits. Through her tone throughout the post, it’s clear she admires what he’s done and at least somewhat, would want to do the same (or wishes she were “badass” enough to do the same, to use her own language style).

I’ve visited a lot of ancient sites in my time as an archaeologist. Many have fallen into disrepair thanks to the droves of tourists that come clamoring in by the thousands year after year. Case in point: Petra. When I went there in 2006, you could walk right up the steps and peer into the Treasury all you liked. All that blocked people from entering was a low fence. When I went back in 2010, the fence had been moved back to the edge of the steps, you could no longer take a peek inside the building. Last year, the fence had been moved back even further, the Treasury could now only be appreciated from a distance.

Though it’s disappointing to be unable to fully experience these sites by climbing through them, as a traveler who appreciates archaeology and history, you have to accept it. The archaeologists and conservators in charge of these ancient sites have to make judgment calls when the wear and tear from tourists’ visits begins to degrade the structures. Preventing people from accessing them is to preserve the sites for everyone to enjoy, just maybe not as close-up as they’d like.

Glamorizing individuals who don’t have the capacity to appreciate this fact, will only cause more destruction to already fragile sites by people wanting to be as “badass” as the last guy who traipsed across the barriers. Once these sites are gone, they’re gone and no one else will get to enjoy them or experience them firsthand.

Don’t be a selfish traveler.