An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom


As you might have guessed, one of the things happening that has caused me many tears is the treatment of the immigrant children arriving in the United States. I’m not going to get into the politics of this, but yesterday it made me remember a story that I’d written eight years ago about a local family’s journey as immigrants to Canada. I wrote it for submission to a magazine that had previously published my immigrant stories, but the editor felt this one wasn’t what he wanted. I’ve never found another fit for it, so I thought I’d share it with my readers here. This is a longer version. Let me know what you think.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom

On a cold Saturday morning in January the little restaurant is full except for a few vacant seats at the lunch bar. We wait just a few minutes while a woman occupying one of the booths prepares to leave, rather like waiting for a parking spot at the bank, watching for signs that one will become open soon.  We are greeted with the warm welcome by Remzi as if we were part of the family.

 “Good morning.  How are you today?’ he asks with his heavy accent.  By the time we’ve sat down he’s out from behind the bar and standing at our table.  “Two coffees to start?” he asks. 

His wife, Fejzie, passes by on her way to serve plates of the house special.  She smiles too. “How are you today?”

 I sip my coffee and listen to the conversations around us.   It’s as if we’re all seated at the table in a big family home.  Conversations are shared with everyone.  Fejzie & Remzi quip with their customers as if with their children. They remember everyone who has been there before. 

“Did you bring me picture of torch?” says Remzi as he places our plates before us.  At first we don’t catch what he’s saying. Then we remember that the last time we’d been in was the day the Olympic torch was leaving town.  We’d taken some pictures and had shown them to him on the camera screen when we’d gone in for breakfast after the event.  “I want to see the real pictures, not on camera.” We promise that we will print some up for him.

Remzi greets a newcomer at the end of the bar.  Did you know that Pete died? He asks her.  “Who’s Pete?”  “The old man who used to come in and sit right there,” he replies.  “He dropped dead on Wednesday.”

The place is small, maybe a dozen full-sized booths along the wall and one small one.  The tables are arborite, the seats fake leather.  A half dozen round stools, chrome with brown vinyl seats line the white arborite lunch bar, behind which is the grill, toaster, sinks, etc., all within view.  A cook works at the grill and Fejzie & Remzi make toast, pour coffee and tell him the orders.  There is a group too large for a booth.  Fejzie brings out a folding chair from the back and they put it at the end of the table.  Orders are taken with personal questions.  No one is offended.

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

Fejzie and Remzi run the East City Coffee Shop now, although it’s owned by Fejzie and her son Alban. Soup and sandwiches are available, but the specialty is the All Day Breakfast, which begins at 7 am and ends at 3 pm, when the doors are closed. They work hard, but their roots began in a very different world, one much harder. They both grew up in Albania during the Communist era. When asked about their previous lives in Albania, Fejzie dries her hands on her smudged apron and says, “I could write book! People would be surprised.”

Remzi Sina was born in November of 1945. On February 6th, 1950 Fejzie Talo was born. Before communism took control of Albania, both families were wealthy landowners, but under the Communist Party leader, Enver Hoxha, the rich and powerful in the country were considered enemies of the state. They were stripped of their land, bullied and in many cases beaten or thrown into jail. When Remzi was just six months old, his father was imprisoned and his family was moved into a government controlled house.

Fejzie’s fate was more traumatic.

On September 2nd   1950, soon after he’d been beaten nearly to death, her grandpa, with her father (John Talo) and two uncles, fled the country with the intention of joining western forces to return and overthrow the communist government. Three days after their flight, the police arrived at the door of their home. Seven- month- old Fejzie, her mother Fise, and her grandmother were loaded onto the back of a truck and taken to a concentration camp many miles from their home in Korce. They were crowded into what amounted to a bunk house shared with many other detainees.  Pasta, water and occasionally a few beans were rationed to young and old alike. There wasn’t even any milk for the baby. . Often they got no drinking water because the pro-Communists were given as much as they wanted first, and it was often wasted as wash water.

“If there was any left behind, we got it,” said Fejzie.

Meals were prepared at one central cooking area. At night they huddled together in their allotted one and a half metres square wooden bed.

“Three times a day the police have to check me, my mom and my grandma to see if we’re all there,” Fejzie tells me in her broken English. “There were so many people there.”

The government took all of their land, and possessions. They weren’t permitted to go anywhere without a stamp.  Fejzie says she doesn’t remember much before she was about two or three years old so relies on her mother’s stories up to that time.

Fejzie’s earliest memory was when she was a toddler.

“I remember very good. I go a little bit outside the camp and police see me and throw bomb and I escaped bomb, honest to God!”

Each day Fejzie’s mom tramped through fields to get wood for the police. The rest of her time was spent taking care of her young daughter, and nursing her own ill mother with what resources she could find. Grandma survived. Many others died.

They lived in these concentration camp conditions from 1950 to 1955. Fejzie thinks that her younger uncle, who had been sent to jail for seven years, was better off.

“After five years, things got a little bit better. You were allowed to work to make living, but still under police surveillance. Permission was needed to go outside the work area, which was small. You had to tell police ‘I’m going to see doctor, or wherever’.”

In 1957 they were moved into a small house with one bedroom and a kitchen, no longer in a concentration camp, but they still were not free. They still lined up for their rations of some foods and water, but things such as bread could be bought in a store. Government soldiers watched every move of any anti-communists. If they went to buy bread and it was perceived that they looked at it in a strange way, they were questioned as to why. Food was still rationed, and they had to line up for food, milk and water.  They were allowed 10 eggs/week per family, whether a family of 3 or 10 people.

After another ten years they were allowed a little bit more freedom of movement, but restrictions still applied to them. Fejzie loved school but was allowed only to complete grade seven. No one was allowed to go to high school. When boys turned nineteen, they had to spend two years in the army. An exception was made for anti-Communist families; they had to work the land on the government farms, using only a shovel.

In the meantime, when Remzi’s dad was released from jail after many years, his family moved to an area near the capital city of Tiranë. Theirs was not as bad a situation as Fejzie’s family, but high school was still not an option. After public school Remzi worked as a construction labourer. More people were working for the government and people were more educated. However, their movements were still restricted and permission had to be sought days in advance if they wanted to make a trip out of the area. Pro-Communists and anti-Communists were not permitted to associate.

There was no romantic courting for Fejzie and Remzi. They first met on the day they were married, on August 13th, 1972. Typically their marriage was arranged by their families, who’d lived in the same area before Communism separated them.

After they married, Remzi continued to work as a construction labourer. Fejzie was overjoyed to finally be able to return to school at night. She earned a diploma in agriculture.

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Fejzie and Remzi Remembering Their Past

For the next 18 years she worked on a government farm. They lived on government owned land in a ramshackle house that had neither wiring nor indoor plumbing. It was there that their two boys, Alban and Gerti were born.

Her mother and grandmother lived with her younger uncle, after he got out of jail and had a family. Fejzie remembers that when her Grandma died, it was a tradition to have a last dinner, with good meat, for people to say goodbye, but the government would not allow them any meat. Fejzie’s mother went to live with Fejzie and Remzi after her mother died.

The boys went to elementary school, but, being descendants of affluent families, they weren’t permitted to pursue academic education. They could, however, attend trade school. Alban became a tool-and-die machinist and started working at age sixteen.

During these years, the four men who’d escaped Albania had spent five years in a Greek refugee camp before the UN stepped up to help disperse people. Their hopes of returning to Albania were dashed, so they chose to come to Canada. Together they opened a restaurant in Toronto, but eventually bought The Tops Motel/Restaurant in Peterborough. In time, two brothers each opened their own coffee shops, leaving John with Tops until he sold it in 1978.

In 1990, when the grip of Communism was loosening in Albania, the Sina family were able to obtain visas to Hungary. It happened that John Talo (Fejzie’s dad) was in Hungary at the time, to renew his visa, and he somehow learned of his family’s whereabouts. He helped them start the process to bring them to Canada.  It was easy for Fejzie’s mother to get a visa because she and John were still married, but it was harder for Fejzie and her family. While in Hungary they spent five weeks making daily visits to the Canadian Embassy before they were granted visas to Canada. They arrived in Canada with John on September 2, 1990. After 40 years the family was reunited. Once in Canada they could go to Oshawa to apply for permanent visas. They all lived with John in his house. Life was much better; however, new challenges awaited them.

Gerti and Alban were both enrolled in Grade 9 at the local high school, but Alban found it frustrating not knowing the language and being older than his classmates. He quit after just six months and began working as a dishwasher at the Carousel Restaurant. With his hard work and keenness to learn, he was soon doing the cooking.

Because of the language barrier, finding work was more difficult for their parents. Remzi found construction work in the spring. He knew no English.

“I work on scaffold and Foreman said ‘Go down there and take shovel.’  I go, not take shovel, I take pick,” he recalls with a laugh.

In September Fejzie began working as a housekeeper at The Tops Motel, by then under new ownership. Her years as a housekeeper there and later at The Best Western Hotel didn’t help her much with learning English since she had little contact with other people. A decade later she and Remzi got their start in the restaurant business, when they went to work at The Piccadilly Restaurant as dishwashers.

Gerti finished high school and went to work at Jim’s Pizzeria. Both he and Alban dreamed of one day owning their own restaurant. With that in mind, Gerti later enrolled at Fleming College in Business Administration, but when Alban and Fejzie bought the restaurant on Hunter Street in East City, Gerti gave up on college to join the family business.

“My mom, me, Remzi, Alban and Gerti became Canadian Citizens in 1994,” says Fejzie.

In 2001 Remzi, Fejzie and their two sons, Alban and Gerti bought their own house.

The boys ultimately followed their dreams and opened their European-style restaurant, Gerti’s, in 2005. Alban joined him as the cook, and Fejzie took over East City Coffee Shop. Remzi left The Piccadilly to help her. Immersed in the language of their patrons, they were soon conversing well in English.

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Fejzie and Remzi, happy to be Canadians

Despite their occasional grumbling about being still a long way from retirement, there is always a twinkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces. They are thankful that they were able to come to Canada.

“For Albanians who go to other countries like Greece, Italy, anywhere in Europe, it’s hard to make a living because they won’t give citizenship and they can’t travel to other countries with Albanian passport.”

The last time we stopped into East City Coffee Shop, we were disappointed to find that Remzi and Fejzie were no longer working there. We were concerned until Alban told us that they were retired and caring for Fejzie’s mother. We’re happy for them, but the Coffee Shop just isn’t the same without them.

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Memoir Monday – The Princess


I was dragging along the aisles of the grocery store, holding Daddy’s hand while my mother consulted her shopping list and piled items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart. As any ten-year-old girl would be, I was bored and anxious to get home to dinner. Then the line of items along a shelf high above the groceries caught my attention. There sat toys! There were big trucks and toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her and my eyes popped! There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stop and stare. I knew I had to have her.

But, although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d rather sleep longer, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of her.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona


Many of you know from following me on Face Book that we are now in El Paso, Texas, stranded until we can get a windshield replaced. I won’t go into further details now, because I’d rather share some of the lovely trip we’ve had along the way before this problem suddenly hit us. Before now I’ve not had adequate internet connections to post anything.

 

After his carpal tunnel surgery, Jim was forced to wait until October 17th before he had his second appointment with his surgeon and was given the green light for us to leave for Arizona. By then we had most of what we needed already loaded into the motorhome, and we’d planned to finish up some things in Peterborough while we were there, in preparation for leaving the next morning. Well, as usual, the best laid plans don’t always work out. The US money that I ordered wouldn’t be into my bank until the next day, and our barber wasn’t working that day. We got the rest done and figured we’d just stop back in on our way through Peterborough in the morning.

We were up very early to load the remaining items, mostly the food and the electronics. It didn’t seem like much, but it was 10:30 by the time we got away. When we were finished making our stops in Peterborough it was lunch time. We picked up wraps at Tim Horton’s and then finally got on the road. We’d planned to go only as far as Jim’s cousin’s place which we thought was near the Windsor/Detroit border. They were expecting us for dinner. It was just a tad further than we thought, but we arrived by 6:00 pm, exhausted. After a delicious meal of organic beef and fresh vegetables from their own farm, a couple of their friends joined us for some old fashioned hymn singing. One son played his guitar and Jim played his ukulele. It was a lovely evening.

The problem with getting together with long-lost relatives is that there is so much catching up to do and it’s hard to stop talking! Once again, we didn’t get on the road until after one in the afternoon. Therefore, we didn’t get too far that day either. We did have one new little adventure though. Dave had suggested we take a the ferry across the river from Sombra, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan, instead of our usual trip over the bridge into Detroit. It was small, and we had our doubts that there would be room for us, but they squeezed us on! It was a short and easy crossing into the US.

Wondering if they will take us

Wondering if they will take us

We squeezed on!

We squeezed on!

Entering the US

Entering the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Customs, Marine City

US Customs, Marine City

From Marine City we just pushed onward. Traffic going through Detroit was very slow, taking us over an hour to get through the city. Shortly after 6:00 we crossed the state border into Ohio and forty-five minutes later we called it a night in the Walmart parking lot in Napoleon, about two hours from the border into Indiana. The sunset was beautiful.

Sunset in Ohio

On day three we were up early and barreled right through Indiana and Illinois, stopping only for gas and meals. As usual, we got a little lost going through St.

Louis Missouri. We stopped at the KOA RV park in Stanton Missouri for a couple of nights so we could see the Meramec Caverns that we’d missed due to timing the first couple of times we were there. It had been raining off and on all day and was still drizzling when we arrived.

The next morning we left for the Caverns. This year we don’t have our trailer and motorcycle with us, so we have no transportation other than the RV. Jim thought we would unhook it and drive down to the Caverns, but it was only three miles. I thought we could walk as it was a nice day. After the first mile of winding, hilly road with little to no shoulders, we stopped at a yard sale to buy a backpack for $1.00 because the temperature had climbed and we found our hands were too full with cameras and water bottles, and the sweaters and jackets that we no longer needed. When we saw the sign for a very steep grade, we knew we might be in trouble when it was time to climb back up. The going down was difficult enough. We think that the three miles was as the crow flies, not as the road turns!

When we finally made it to the Meramec Caverns Centre, we had to nourish ourselves with pumpkin pie and coffee at the cafeteria before embarking on the eighty minute Cavern Tour.

At the entrance to the Caverns is a large room that was set up with a stage and chairs, ready for the 150th Annual Gospel Sing that would happen later in the day.

Meramec CavernsOutside Meramec Caverns

Outside Meramec Caverns

 

It wasn’t until we were about half way through the tour that we began to see the beautiful “decorations” inside the caverns, but it was a worthwhile, if pricey excursion.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Rippling Texture

Rippling Texture

Water Reflections

Water Reflections

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

When we returned to the surface we considered buying tickets for the Gospel Sing, but I was just too hungry. We hit the cafeteria once again for lunch. Once back outside we watched people taking the Zip-line over the parking lot and river. If we hadn’t been so tired, and hadn’t seen most of the participants struggle to make it back to the stand on their return trip, we might have tried it ourselves. Of course the cost of $50 each was a little prohibitive too.

Taking off

Taking off

And away!

And away!

Struggling against the wind

Struggling against the wind

We could postpone our trek back up the hill no longer, and we were right. We were in trouble. Half way up we started putting out our thumbs. The Gospel Sing had just ended and there was plenty of traffic, but the first half dozen cars passed us by. Finally, a nice senior couple stopped and cautiously allowed us into their back seat. I’m sorry that I didn’t get their names, but we had a nice chat and we were ever so grateful. We had walked over seven miles at that point, once again reminded that we are not as young as we sometimes think we are. We were in bed very early that night.

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Five – Heading Home


On Monday, August 29th Jim, Pauline and I climbed into their SUV and began the execution of the plan Jim and I had put together several days before. He had a meeting in Comox so he offered to take me with them in the morning so I could catch the Island Link shuttle from there to take me to the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal. We had to leave early to catch the first ferry off Hornby Island. We were already too late.

We caught the second one, which took us to Denman Island. On the other side of Denman we boarded another ferry to Vancouver Island and then drove down the coast toward Comox, stopping for brunch at a beautiful resort dining room somewhere between Courtenay and Comox.

When we got to Comox we made sure we knew where the bus stop was for the shuttle. My phone data was all used up so I couldn’t check email or check in for my next day’s flight until I was somewhere that I could get WiFi, but I didn’t feel any urgency. Jim’s meeting was at 1:00 pm; my bus left at 12:50 pm. After running some errands and taking a walk along the boardwalk, they dropped me off at about 12:35.

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Plane coming into small Comox Airfield

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Boats along the bay at Comox

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Pauline with me

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Pauline and Jim

Perhaps I should have gone into the MacDonald’s to use their WiFi, but there wasn’t that much time, so I didn’t. Soon a young woman named Rose, who was headed back to University in Victoria joined me. We waited, and waited. By 1:10 we began to get concerned. I went into the service station to see if they knew anything about it. They didn’t. Rose looked up the Island Link website to get a phone number so we could call, but there was only an email address. What good would that do at this time? I had a reserved seat; Rose did not. At 1:20 I texted Jim to ask him to check with me before they left for home. At about 1:30 an Island Link bus drove in and dropped off some passengers.  The driver told us that our bus would be arriving shortly. I told him that it was supposed to be there 45 minutes ago. He knew nothing about it. He seemed to be done for the day and left.

To make a long story shorter, I’ll just say that Rose called her Aunt to pick her up. She’d try again the next day. Jim and Pauline came to pick me up and had to drive me all the way to Nanaimo, an hour and a half drive away. It was too late for me to catch the 3:10 ferry that I’d planned on, so the rest of the well laid plans also went down the drain. Pauline and Jim’s grandson Matt was going to meet me at the ferry at Horseshoe Bay and I was going to have him drop me off at the Sea Bus Terminal. From there I’d cross the bay and catch the Sky Train to Burnaby, where Ann would meet me. It was a good plan. Instead, we cancelled Matt and I had to ask Ann to drive all the way to Horseshoe Bay after work to pick me up.

At least this time I didn’t get lost at the Ferry Terminal and I had time to connect to the internet to do my flight check in while I waited. Once aboard, I found an empty row of seats, and slid over to the window. I was too stressed and tired to do anything but watch the waves roll by for a while.

An older woman with a thick accent, perhaps German, dragged her large suitcase into the row in front of me before she stood looking around and mumbling something to me, or herself. She said something about having to call her daughter. She caught a woman wearing the uniform of an employee and asked her some questions. When she was told where she had to go when it was time to get off the ship, and assured that someone would come to help her, she sat down and slept or read for a while. I was deep into my book when I caught movement to my left. I looked up to see her pushing her suitcase toward me.

“I have to find the Purser,” she said. “I need to call my daughter to tell her where I am. Can you watch my suitcase for me until I get back?”

“Of course,” I smiled.

She trotted off, seeming uncertain as to where she was going. I wondered if she’d find her way back on time. As I continued to read, I kept an eye on my watch. Time passed; my anxiety built. I had no idea what her name was or how to find her or what to do with her bag if it was time for me to leave and she hadn’t returned! Eventually the employee she’d spoken to before came looking for her, I thought. But she was looking for her suitcase. She had the woman safely in her office. Thank goodness!

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Ann arrived at Horseshoe Bay at just the time my ferry was docking at 6:30 pm. We’d both been up since 6:00 that morning and were anxious to get home, but traffic was backed up for the first part of the drive. Frank was waiting for us when we arrived at 7:45 and we all walked down the street to the local pub for dinner before Ann and I had to get organized for the next day (her for work; me for my flight) and crawl into bed.

At 6:30 the next morning Ann dropped me at the airport on her way to work. I had time for a good breakfast at The White Spot, which was just outside the Security lines. My first flight was to Calgary and took only 45 minutes. Before it left I got online to check my email. There was a message that had been sent an hour after we left Hornby Island the day before, from Island Link informing me that because of mechanical difficulties, the 12:50 shuttle bus from Comox had been cancelled and I should take either the 12:20 or the 3:20! I wrote back to say that I hadn’t received their email or text on time, and asked for a refund for my ticket. So far I’ve not heard from them again.

I had only a short wait to catch my final flight to Toronto, and it went smoothly, well except for the fact that I may have caught the exposed toe of a woman who decided to step into the aisle just as I lowered my heavy suitcase down from the overhead bin! Sorry!

It had been a great adventure and I was very happy to have seen so much of my family, but I was sure glad to see Jim waiting for me at the airport. As I opened my eyes the next morning, I wasn’t sure where I was! It’s good to be home…at least until our next adventure begins. 🙂

 

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Three – Vancouver


After having another visit with Judy, enjoying a wonderful sushi dinner at a Vernon restaurant with her and Keith, and then another night’s sleep, I was back to the airport for my morning flight to Vancouver. This time my bag had a few new items in it, including a piece of fairly flat pottery, but I had left a couple of pieces of clothing with Sarah so it wasn’t much thicker. However, this plane was smaller and the overhead bins were just a little more shallow. Neither I nor the men around me were able to squeeze my bag into place. I was stuck with it on my seat while I waited for everyone else to get past me, then I told the flight attendant of my predicament. She said, “No problem. I have magic hands.”  She did indeed. With very little effort and no pounding, she got it in! At the end of the 45 minute flight I had to ask for her assistance again to get it out.

It seemed like every plane had landed at Vancouver Airport at once because the pickup area outside was jammed with traffic. But my daughter, Ann, eventually got to me and we were off to Abbotsford, where her husband was playing baseball. We caught only the last few minutes of the game and then socialized while we waited for his daughter to appear with the two grandkids, one of whom I hadn’t yet met. That was a special time.

My great-grandchildren, Lucas and baby Andrew

My great-grandchildren, Lucas and baby Andrew

We finally arrived at Ann and Frank’s place in Burnaby where we had a late dinner at the nearby Golf Club before we all crashed.

The next morning Frank was back to the Ball Tournament and Ann and I headed to the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) where we indulged in some carnival food and drinks, watched the Super Dog Show and the Langley Ukulele Ensemble performance. As we wandered through the Market Place Pavilion I found a few things of interest, but remembering my problems with getting my only suitcase onto the last plane, I refrained from purchasing.

Japanese Lanterns

Elephant Japanese Lanterns

Obviously I was still a little weary. I forgot to take my camera along and captured only these two pictures during the whole day!

On Monday Frank was back to work. Ann had the day off and suggested we drive to Squamish to ride the Sea to Sky Gondola and see what was to be seen at the top of the mountain. It was a perfect day to walk the trails and enjoy the views from the patio while enjoying lunch.

Taking the Sea to Sky Gondola

Taking the Sea to Sky Gondola

Taking the Sea to Sky Gondola

Taking the Sea to Sky Gondola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overlooking  the Fjord

Ann Overlooking the Howe Sound Fjord

Views from the top

Views from the top

Along the Trails

Along the Trails

Made it to the Top!

Made it to the Top!

After dinner at home the three of us went out for Gelato and then it was time to repack my bags in preparation for the next part of my journey. My visit with Ann and Frank was brief because they both had jobs to go to the rest of the week.

I have to admit that by the time I crawled into bed I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the traveling and almost wished that instead of boarding a ferry the next day, I was boarding a plane home. But after a good sleep I was up for the challenge early in the morning, knowing that Frank was going to take me to the ferry terminal so I didn’t need to worry about catching buses and sky trains. That was so much appreciated!

Adventures in British Columbia, Part Two – Kaslo


My first morning in Kaslo began on a sour note, honestly! After petting the family cat, who had been out all night, I noticed a really foul smell in the room and soon discovered it was coming from her. We all came to the conclusion that she must have been lightly sprayed by a skunk. Kendrick (son-in-law) and Sarah took turns washing her with a mixture that Sarah had found recommended on the internet. Poor Tensen was very frightened by it all. It helped some and gave her coat a beautiful shine, but for me she was not so lovable the rest of the week because the odour returned whenever she was rubbed on the back of her head. She’s a lovely cat and I felt badly.

The smoke from the forest fires had lifted from this valley town, but the normally awesome view of the mountains was still obscured.

View from Beach 2008

View from Beach 2008

View from same beach, summer 2017

View from same beach, summer 2017

After a hardy breakfast of porridge and fruit, Sarah and the children, Callum and Skylet, and I headed for the River Trail, always a beautiful hike that begins in upper Kaslo and ends close to downtown in lower Kaslo.

One bridge across the river

River walk, Kaslo

River walk, Kaslo

Callum found a snake

Callum found a snake

Newest Bridge

By the time we got to the end, the temperature had risen and we were shedding our sweaters and heading to the beach where we ate a picnic lunch that Sarah had packed. Kendrick joined us later and they all went for a swim. The stony beach doesn’t appeal to me and my sensitive feet, but I was quite content to sit on a grassy ledge under a tree and observe.

Kaslo Beach

The next day was more laid-back. The smoke seemed a little heavier and the air hotter, making up-hill walking difficult. I met Kendrick’s mom for lunch and then she showed me her new home. We relaxed in the breeze on her porch until Sarah drove down to get me and we all went to the beach again. Air conditioning isn’t something that most people or businesses have in Kaslo, so the beach is very popular.

Sarah made a delicious dinner of pizzas on rice tacos before we crowded around the iMac monitor (they don’t have a TV) and ate popcorn while watching the animated movie, Despicable Me.

There was constant news of more forest fires not too far away, which kept everyone on alert. Kendrick is a volunteer fire fighter and was on call to help with a possible evacuation all day Sunday. But it rained most of the day and into the night, beating back some of the infernos. We all did a little dance of thanks.

Sarah and I spent Saturday and Sunday managing her pottery stall at St. Andrew’s Church hall during the Arts and Culture Tour.

Kaslo Arts and Culture Show

Kaslo Arts and Culture Show

Sarah's latest pottery

Sarah’s latest pottery

Potter at Work

Potter at Work

On Monday Sarah and I struck out with the kids to go fishing at two small lakes a half hour drive up Hwy 31from Kaslo. Callum is an avid fisher. Our first stop was – Fish Lake! However, there was no fishing there that day. Instead we participated in the “Three-year Study of Western Toads to Find Ways to Mitigate Highway Mortality” by scooping up many of the tiny toads and putting them into buckets to carry them across the highway safely. The previous day rains had brought them out in droves.

Unlike most amphibians Western Toads are mostly terrestrial, spending 95% of their life in terrestrial habitats, using aquatic environments only to breed.

A number of nature societies are working together to find a more permanent solution to prevent the thousands of toads from being crushed on the highway, such as installing barrier fencing to guide them through toad-friendly culverts.

Long rescue trough leading to culvert under highway

Tiny Toads on plastic barrier

Toad Rescue

Toad trough going under the Highway

Rescuing escaped toads to walk across Highway in a bucket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did eventually get further up the road to Bear Lake, but no fish were to be found. A cold wind chased us back to the car and home.

Most of Tuesday was spent in Nelson where Callum had a dentist appointment and Skylet had to pick up her new glasses in the morning. We had a great lunch and then Kendrick took the kids to the Community Centre indoor pool for a few hours. Sarah and I got to hang out, picking up some groceries and exploring some of the shops. Because the weather had turned much cooler, I bought a couple pairs of leggings at a second hand store, something that would pack easily into my already bulging carry-on. Of course the next day the heat was back and I never wore them once!

On Wednesday I helped Sarah do some cleaning up in her garden in the morning. In the afternoon we all went to the beach at Fletcher Falls to escape the heat. The breeze was cool and refreshing. Kendrick and Callum did some fishing; Skylet did some swimming; Sarah and I explored the beach for interesting stones.

Fletcher Falls

Fletcher Falls

Fletcher Falls

Fletcher Falls

Fletcher Falls

Fletcher Falls

Fishing on the beach at Fletcher Falls

Fishing on the beach at Fletcher Falls

Thursday, my last day, Sarah took me and the kids across the ferry at Belfour to visit some of the many Artisan Shops in Crawford Bay.

Riding the Ferry from Balfour

Riding the Ferry from Balfour

Broom Maker Shop

Broom Maker Shop

Finished Brooms

Finished Brooms

Broom Maker at Work

Broom Maker at Work

Trimming

A Harry Potter Broom

A Harry Potter Broom

Sculptures outside the Weaving Shop

Sculptures outside the Weaving Shop

A couple more bear sculptures inside the Weaving Shop

A couple more bear sculptures inside the Weaving Shop

The Kootenay Forge

The Kootenay Forge

Inside the Forge

Inside the Forge

Early Friday morning Sarah and Skylet saw me off in Nelson where I caught my bus for the five hour trip back to Kelowna, where Judy would meet me once again.

It was a fun week with lots of interesting things to see and do, but the best part was just having so much quality time to spend with Sarah, something we haven’t had in a long time.

 

Adventures in British Columbia, August, 2017 Part One – Beginning the Journey


 

My journey began a couple of months before I actually left, when I received an email from WestJet Airlines informing me of a great two-day discount on fares to British Columbia. It had been many years since the price of a return ticket had been less than $500, and it had been two years since I’d seen most of my BC family, so I had to act quickly. Through phone calls, texts and emails I was able to figure out the dates that would work for everyone, and get my flights booked by the end of the day. Jim decided he’d save his money for Arizona, so I was on my own.

Because my family members live many miles and many hours away from each other, it took me many hours of research to put together my busy itinerary, on a limited budget. Renting a car for three weeks and driving for hours by myself was out of the question, so I had to depend upon public transit. Before I left, I had most of it tweaked. I printed out two copies, one for me and one to leave with Jim. I attached mine to a large envelope and put all the necessary paper work inside, in date order. I knew that was the only way that I could keep from getting overwhelmed. I need to know my plan!

On August 7th, Jim and I drove to an inexpensive motel near the airport in Mississauga, where we stayed for the night so we wouldn’t have to leave home very early in the morning and fight the traffic to get me to the airport on time. Once we were settled into our room at the White Knight Motel, we decided to walk to the closest restaurant for dinner, where we, mostly, enjoyed a buffet of Indian food. I say mostly because I have difficulty with hot spices and a couple of dishes left me with watering eyes and burning lips, which is too bad, because I love the flavour of curry. On the way back we watched the jets flying over our heads to land at the airport behind our motel. I thought it would be noisy all night, but we didn’t really hear the roar after 11:00 pm.

plane

At 8:30 the next morning, I was on a plane bound for Kelowna. Jim was on his way home. At 10:45 BC time (I’d flown through two time zones) my long-time friend, Judy, picked me up at the airport and provided me with meals and a very comfortable room for the night, as she always does when I’m on my way to my daughter Sarah’s home in Kaslo. I am so grateful!

We had plenty of time to walk around her quiet neighbourhood in Vernon, which is about an hour away from Kelowna and a mixture of smaller properties and larger farm properties. It’s not unusual to see people on horseback trotting along her street, or a family of Quail flitting through the neighbourhood.

We also had long conversations on her porch, including discussion of the drought and wildfires that had put the province into a state of emergency. Smoke lingered in the air, obscuring the mountains.

Vernon (4)

After an early lunch the next day, she drove me to the Kelowna Bus Terminal where I caught my bus to Nelson. At 7:00 pm Sarah met me there and we had an hour to catch up while we drove to Kaslo. My traveling was done for a week.