Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Be on the Amazing Race Canada

I don't know how many Amazing Race fans there are out there, but wherever they are, count me among them! I've been watching the reality show back since season 8 of the American version and was delighted this year to finally see one that was open to Canadians!

The Amazing Race Canada title card.jpg
Amazing Race Canada Logo

Although not exactly a trip around the world, the Canadian version, a race across our country, was enthralling, educational and entertaining. It has always been a dream of mine to be on the Amazing Race, and now that there's a Canadian version that's exactly what I intend to do Before I'm Pushing Up Daisies.

Winners of Amazing Race Canada Inaugural Season: Tim & Tim Sr.
For those of you who don't watch the show, basically it is a reality competition show where teams of two race across Canada completing challenges as they tour across the country. At the end of each "leg" of the trip, the last team to arrive is eliminated until there is only 2 teams left competing in the finale for the grand prize of cash, cars and glory.
A few vocab tips:

Leg - One of 11 mini-trips during the entirety of the show. Each leg consists of a few different challenges such as: roadblocks, speed bumps, Detours and U-turns. Each leg ends with a pit stop where teams are given a chance to rest. The last team to a pit stop is the team that is eliminated.

Roadblock: A task only one team member can complete. Teams must choose which member will complete the task based on a brief clue about the task before fully revealing the details of the task.

Speed bump: A task that only the team saved from elimination on the previous leg must complete before continuing on the race

Detours: A choice of two tasks. Teams are free to choose either task or swap tasks if they find one option too difficult. There is generally one Detour present on each leg of the race.

U-Turn:  A station, located after a Detour, where a team can force another trailing team to return and complete the other option of the Detour they did not select. Teams may only U-Turn any other team once per race.

word-map-canadaThe reason I want to be on the Amazing Race Canada, is because I love to travel and I'm super competitive. I've competed at various "Amazing Race" mini-versions in both Toronto and Montreal (not to brag, but my team won both times), and I've been absolutely hooked ever since.

I've been to a lot of the eastern provinces and a lot of the western provinces in Canada, but I haven't seen all that many of them in between and I've never been more north than British Columbia. I'd absolutely love the opportunity for an all-expenses paid trip around our country. The cash, cars and bragging rights are definitely huge motivators too.

All that being said however...I'm still looking for a teammate...that might be the biggest challenge of them all!


Picture Credits:

Monday, 4 November 2013

Learn Sign Language

Sign Language letters spelling "Hello"
 Hello! Its the starting point of any conversation and any relationship. But can you imagine not being able to greet someone with a "Hey!" or "Hi"? For millions of people around the world that is the case - they are mute, verbally challenged or deaf and unable to engage someone the way you or I might with our words. For them, sign language is how they communicate; they use their hands to express their emotions, the way you or I use oral language.

Before I'm Pushing Up Daisies, I'd like to make the world a more inclusive place, and on a personal level that could be something so simple as learning sign language to communicate with people who are unable to use verbal language.

When I was younger, I could sign a few basic words like: "Home", "Go", "Mom" etc. It was something I picked up from my younger cousin who communicated through sign language growing up. She even gave me a sign that represented "Chech", which is what she called me because she couldn't pronounce the hard "R" and "L" in Rachal. Seeing her adapt and be able to communicate through something other than words was new to me, and even as a younger kid it bothered me that she had to try so hard to communicate with her peers, because none of them understood her signing.

Later, as I gained more exposure to the sign language commmunity, it became evident to me that they are not any different than you or I, if anything they are forced to be more creative with how they express themselves and communicate because so few people "speak" their language!

I am a very talkative and expressive person, and I can't imagine what my frustration would be like if i were unable to communicate my thoughts freely and have everyone understand them. So I'd like to be able to learn sign language in order to not only communicate with people who rely on sign language, but also to teach others to as well.

A lot of people seem to be put off by differences, someone doesn't act, look or speak the way you do and so they are cast aside as "misfits" or "different" or "weird". If just a couple people took the time to get to know them, they'd realize, as I have, that people who sign aren't all that different after all and they're a lot like you or me.

As a side note, my cousin who began communicating through sign language now is at the top of her class, president of student council and an excellent public speaker. Just goes to show how you can't judge a book by their cover, or a person by their language.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Go on Safari

Yes I know, a safari is likely on most peoples' bucket lists, but it is something that holds magic for a lot of people. Seeing nature up close, things that are alien to us here in North America: Giraffes, Cheetahs, Lions and Zebras.

So, in sticking with the 99% for this post, Before I'm Pushing Up Daisies, I'd like to go on an African Safari.

There is so much variety in what can be called an "African Safari" so I'm going to outline exactly what my ideal safari would include.

Map of Areas of Africa I'd like to Visit
First of all, I'd want to go in late October to Early November and spend about two to three weeks there, encompassing travels between Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The reason for the dates is that is when the temperatures are most "normal" and is not in the rainy nor the dry season, facilitating both travel and maximum opportunity for wildlife interaction. As well in early November in Africa, there is a greater chance of being there during a solar eclipse, which would be incredible to see while on safari.

A few different parks and areas I'd like to visit are:

1) Lake Manyara Park. Lake Manyara is a shallow water freshwater lake and said to be the ‘loveliest lake in Africa’.  Lake Manyara is teeming with wildlife, and there are also night tours run by many companies in the area.

2) Serengeti National Park. One of the largest game reserves in all of Africa, and home to the "Big 5" of the African Continent: the Lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros, as well as cheetahs, primates and large herds of zebras and gazelles.

3)Tarangire Park, which is home to large, magnificent herds of elephants in Tanzania.

4) Oldupai Gorge. This is the famous site where the Leakeys discovered millions of years old hominid remains.

5) Parc des Volcans. The park consists of 125 square km of mountain forest and home to six Virunga Volcanoes and the world famous mountain gorillas. The forested slopes of the mountains allow the opportunity to encounter endangered mountain gorillas, up to 3 times the size of the average human.

6) Mount Kilimanjaro. I'd not likely be able to climb this incredible mountain, but I'd like to experience the sheer size and breadth of it up close and personal.

There is so much more than just encountering animals and taking pictures on a safari, there is history, culture and a whole continent of people completely foreign to what we see in North America. When in Africa, if given the chance, I'd really appreciate the opportunity to connect with some of the native tribes of the continent such as the Hadzabe Tribe and the Datooga Tribe, two very fascinating tribes who have stuck to their primitive lifestyles and beliefs.

There is so much to do and see in Africa that I'm not sure I'll get the chance to do everything I want to while I'm there, however I am certain that it will be a remarkable and eye-opening experience the likes of which I have never experienced before and will likely never experience again.


Picture & Stats Credits:

Graduate from High School

As I approach Nov. 15th, my mind keeps wondering towards my graduation, or commencement, ceremony and what it will be like to walk across the auditorium stage one last time. I've walked across it for assemblies, school projects, university presentations and in regular classes, but a part of me feels like this time it will be different.

It's been the goal for my entire academic career thus far and in two weeks I will be able to finally cross: "Graduate High School" off my list of things to do Before I'm Pushing Up Daisies.

So in honor of my upcoming graduation, I'm going to do a countdown of my top 10 favorite KCI moments:
Mr. Rittinger and our Goats

10. Horticulture and the Anniversary Statue Garden, This was a special project that I am very proud to have been a part of. Our Horticulture program, and its residents, are unique to the WRDSB and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to work within such a cool program. Whether its feeding the chickens, walking the goats, floral arrangements or fundraising with Christmas trees, our horticulture department is definitely worthy of a spot on my top 10 KCI experiences.

Ice Hockey
9. Field Hockey, Ice Hockey & Rugby. I've been so blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in three sports programs at KCI. Field hockey for four years, ice hockey for two and one year of rugby in which we went all the way to the local championships! Time spent in practice, on the field/pitch/ice and together with some amazing peer athletes have really rounded out my KCI experience.

8. FedProv. A federal provincial government simulation in which I`ve represented the province of Manitoba, New Brunswick, and this year the Press as we debate issues like abortion, prostitution and gun laws from a high school student`s perspective, and an amazing opportunity to work collaboratively with students from other high schools. And then there was the cake, that was good too.

7. After Hours/Ossia. Having participated in three After Hours events and two Ossias, the arts have helped to round out my extra curriculars. Whether showcasing environmentally-friendly ways to create art, or using sign language to "show" the lyrics of a song in choir, or playing the flute the arts have been a cool way to experience parts of KCI that I'm not normally hugely involved in.

6. Battle of the Books. Three years, three victories, is there any more to be said? Our KCI book club is an incredible team of readers that I have had such pleasure in being a part of. Winning has been icing on the cake, compared to the friendships I've made through this club. I'm confident we're on the way to a fourth victory this year and many more years to come long after I've moved on.

5. Prom. Every student should go to their prom. I didn't have a date, but neither did a lot of people, and it was still a lot of fun going as a group of friends. It was the cherry on top of four years of hard work in classes, and it was a magical night I won't soon forget.

4. France Exchange Student. Lola. My exchange student from Montpelier, France. Having her stay with me was so much more than I ever thought it would be. I may have been showing her around my home town, but she was teaching me a lot about myself at the same time. I hope to see her again some day, and to visit France in March when its our turn to travel to Montpelier!

3. Sharing my Story on the Stage during the WAYVE assembly. One of the most difficult, yet empowering experiences I've had at KCI. In my story I speak to how fear and bullying can strip you of your voice and leave you vulnerable. With courage from my friends and WAYVE team, I found my voice at my school to show people that all it takes is one person to intervene, prevent, and stop bullying. You might just be one person, but you are still a person.

2. Receiving a Citizenship Award. This was honestly one of the most pleasant surprises I've ever had the pleasure to receive. Hearing my name called at the assembly, I felt very proud of the person I'd become in my four years at KCI. I'm very glad that I had the honor to be a part of such an awesome community. number one KCI moment in 4 years is....

1. Everything. What? You didn't really think I could narrow down 4 years and pick just one moment to sum up the entirety of my high school experience did you? Every moment is the sum total of its components, and the same holds true for me and high school. The best experience I've ever had her has been high school as a whole: the sum of the day-in-day-out grind through classes, all the clubs I've been a part of and all the friends I've made along the way.

I've come to realize that it won't be the stage that's different when I walk across it on the 15th, it has never changed. What will have changed is me: from the very first orientation day to my last day here, this school has changed and molded me into the person I am, and will be.

So here's to looking forward, while honoring my Alma Mater: Once a Raider, Always a Raider.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Angels, Demons, Illuminati and Vatican City

Has anyone seen the movie, Angels and Demons? Well, for those of you who haven't the plot of the story is basically this, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Harvard Symbologist Robert Langdon in Angels & Demons
        The plot follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, as he tries to stop the Illuminati, a legendary secret society, from destroying Vatican City with the newly discovered power of antimatter. Using ambigrams, symbology and a little history, Robert searches the Vatican and its archives to discover the location of the antimatter bomb.

So I how does this tie in to what I want to do Before I'm Pushing Daisies? Well, this movie (and the book, which in my opinion is much better) has inspired me to want to visit the Vatican City. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not sure if I believe in the Illuminati or any super-secret cult, but it would still be cool to visit the places seen in the movie: Vatican Library, St. Peter's Square, The Fountain of Four Rivers...well you get the idea.

shutterstock 65493556 200x300 7 Surprising Facts You Didnt Know About the Vatican
Vatican Code of Arms
In my research of this trip, I've come across actual guided tours that follow the plot line of the movie as exactly as possible. While I think this would be interesting, in my experience it's much more fun to explore on your own, do your own research and draw your own conclusions. For example, a few Vatican "Fun Facts" as listed below:

1) Vatican City has its own separate police force known as the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City. It has really strict standards for who is allowed to join, for example: To qualify for enrollment as a gendarme, a person must be an unmarried male between the ages of 21 to 24 of good health and a practising Catholic. There are also minimum requirements of height and education. Not exactly a long-term job position!

2) The Vatican is its own country – and the smallest in the world. This fact is not new to most people, but were you also aware that there are only about 800 residents of this tiny nation with even fewer citizens? Vatican citizenship is not guaranteed by birth, but by appointment and is terminal, ending when a citizen discontinues residency.

st peters2 300x200 7 Surprising Facts You Didnt Know About the Vatican
St. Peter's Basilica. The largest Catholic church in the
world and yes, we checked!
3) St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the world. In case anyone wishes to refute this fact, the Church has actually placed the measurements of the largest churches in the world in the marble of the Nave to prove that all other basilicas are able to fit within the Basilica.

4) The baldacchino, or the center altar of St. Peter’s, lies directly over where St. Peter, the first pope, is buried. It is 96 feet high, made from bronze mostly stripped from ancient Roman monuments such as the Pantheon, and the only person who is permitted to say mass at this altar is the pope.

5) St. Peter’s itself does not have a single painting. In order to ensure that that the artwork in the church would persevere, all “paintings” are actually mosaics.

These are some of the reasons why I find the Vatican on my to-do list Before I'm Pushing Daisies, but there's more to it than that. Vatican City is so full of history I don't think a single person could unearth it all if they tried, even given an infinite amount of time. I'm not sure if it's possible, but I'd sure like to try to discover some Vatican Secrets and who knows, maybe I'll discover the Illuminati HQ somewhere along the way.

Illuminati looks the same
left to right and upside down

Pictures and Facts Credits:\

Doctors Without Borders

DWB Logo
For those of you who don't know me very well, you may not know that when I grow up I want to be a Doctor. There's something that has always just drawn me to medicine, even from a young age watching "Untold Stories of the E.R" and "Medical Incredible" much to my parent's dismay since I was 8 and they figured I should still be watching Teletoons. A lot of people say that someone only goes into medicine for the money, but that's not why I want to get my M.D.. The real reason is that I want to help people, and yes I know that sounds cheesy, but bear with me.

When I was a kid, I always did the "trick-or-treat-for-UNICEF" like a lot of kids my age and always stopped at the booth at the mall with the pictures of the UNICEF kids on them, but it was never in the family budget to sponsor a child. When I was a little older, in grade 9, my geography class took a field trip to a simulated DWB refugee camp that was set up in Uptown Waterloo and I remember hearing someone describing everything, but I wasn't listening. What was distracting me? The child actors playing the would-be-refugee's children, bandaged, sad-looking, sick and suffering. I knew then that I needed to find some way to help, even if it wasn't donating money. Seeing the real-life dramatization of what their camps actually were like hit home.

Doctors Without Borders Camp in Zimbabwe 
I've always seen those advertisements on T.V., you know the ones. The "Sponsor a child" commercials for UNICEF, DWB and World Vision. Every time they pulled at my heart, seeing those kids who were the same age as me going without basic things that I took for granted: food, water, health care, shelter and the list goes on. I've never really been able to sponsor a child financially, working at a gas station doesn't exactly leave me with a surplus of money, but I've known that I want to help somehow and I think that, Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I want to volunteer with an international aid organization, like Doctors Without Borders (DWB) to give what I can - volunteer hours.

My mom works at a hospital as a nurse and she's always telling me about a couple of doctors there who volunteer abroad in South Africa. They spend half the year here, in Canada, working to save some money and then they leave for the other half of the year and volunteer their skills abroad with DWB. Its where I got some of my inspiration for pursuing this dream, through talking with these incredible men. I've heard more than what they show on tv, the truth behind the doe-eyed children on those commercials and it's inspired me even further to chase after my M.D. so I can take the torch from these men who have so greatly motivated me to give back.

So while it may sound like a cop-out to say that I want to get into medicine to "help people", it is honestly my true motivation. People today appear to be scared by kindness, always looking for an ulterior motive, but sometimes you just want to be nice.


Photo Credits:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Kick the Can - Literally!

What could you do with matchboxes, garbage cans, brooms, a basketball and a Zippo Lighter? Well, if you're one of the 14 members of the UK-born musical group STOMP, you'd be able to do a whole heck of a lot.

Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I'd like to see STOMP! perform live and maybe, if I'm lucky, learn some of their moves too!
Brooms...a key instrument for the STOMP crew

I was watching a re-run of this kids reality show the other day - "In Real Life" - and these kids got to learn and perform a STOMP performance routine, with the real STOMP artists. The whole time all I could think was about how I wished it was me, learning those routines and being up on that stage.

Using garbage cans as stilts, brooms as drumsticks and basketballs as drum sets, this dance troupe creates music and dance routines by banging on, and dancing around everyday objects.

Stomp was created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas in Brighton, U.K. in 1991, and since their inception 22 years ago, the group has expanded to include troupes in Manhattan NYC, Japan, Chile, Canada and Brazil, not to mention choreographing routines for high-profile events and shows such as on Sesame Street and at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

In 2006, Stomp’s New York production passed its 5000th performance mark. In the same year, Cresswell and McNicholas directed a public service announcement for television called "Stomp Out Litter", which featured the cast "sweeping up" at iconic locations in the five boroughs. They also began filming an IMAX 3D movie featuring the dance group.

The reason I really want to see this group specifically, is due largely to the fact that they don't need fancy instruments, expensive studios or even a voice to create amazing beats, music and entertainment. It really brings music back to its roots: a beat and people moving to it.

Until I actually get to see this group for real, I'll stick to watching their videos posted on youtube - I'll link some here for you to see too!

Picture Credits:

Das Wunderbar!

Bitte ein Bier, A beer, please! At this time of year, I'm sure many of you can tell exactly what is on my to-do list Before I'm Pushing Daisies, a 'holiday' here in KW that needs no introduction: I want to go Octoberfesting.

Before I start talking about why I want to go to Octoberfest, how about a few fun-facts to get you in the spirit?

Prince Ludwig & his bride Princess Therese
1) According to German history, Oktoberfest is the result of an extended wedding party that followed the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Talk about an amazing wedding reception!

2)In 2010, Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th anniversary. There were 24 years over that period when the festival did not happen due to war or cholera or other emergencies.

3)Oktoberfest is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world’s largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year.

Hey Gentlemen...
She's Single!
4)The “Dirndl” is the name for the traditional dress worn by Bavarian women and commonly seen at Oktoberfest.  The dirndl consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron. The placement of the knot on the Dirndl apron is sometimes an indicator of the woman’s marital status. When this is so, a knot tied on the woman’s left side indicates she is single, a knot tied on the right means she is married, engaged or otherwise “taken”, and a knot tied at the back means the woman is widowed.

5)An Oktoberfest parade took place for the first time in 1810. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people—mostly from Bavaria—in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the centre of Munich, to the Oktoberfest.

Now that you know a little more about Octoberfest, maybe I should tell you why it's important to me that I attend?

Well, I live in Kitchener, formerly known as Berlin. And although our version of Octoberfest wasn't started on account of a royal wedding, it's become a huge event every year since 1969. It has become the largest "Celebration of Gemuetlichkeit" (Bavarian festival) in North America with the greatest Thanksgiving Day Parade in Canada.

Living and growing up in KW, I've seen the parade, the keg tapping and Miss. Octoberfest events ever since I was young, but I've never been fully able to participate since I'm not legal drinking age. Next year I will be and I plan on attending!

Until then, I will have to settle for watching the parade with my family. Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone, Cheers!


Picture &  Fun Facts Credits:

Friday, 4 October 2013

In Loving Memory

Today, I'm bending the rules of my blog, just a little bit. I want to dedicate this post to the woman who inspired me to chase after my dreams, even when everyone else told me that I'd never make it: my Grandma Carol. Today would have been her 69th birthday.

My Grandma, Carol
I lost her 7 years ago, although it feels like just yesterday, on a warm summer day in July. We were swimming in the pool, my brother and I, when my mom ran screaming into the backyard. We all went to the front of the house and saw my grandma laying on the front steps, having a heart attack. I wish I could say anything else, but seeing her there is the last time I saw her alive and I've regretted never saying goodbye every day since.

When I lost my grandma, I felt as if my whole world had just collapsed in on itself. It wasn't until years later when I realized that it was just the beginning of her legacy to me.

In the 11 short years that I had with this amazing woman, she taught me all the skills I would need to survive a lifetime without her.

She taught me to treat others better than the way you'd want to be treated; my grandma always put others first even at a great personal cost to herself. When I was little, she dove off the porch (breaking quite a few ribs I'm told), to catch me before I fell off onto the ground and hurt myself. She would rather suffer herself than see me scrape my knees.

Another lesson that she left me with, the inspiration for this blog in fact, was to chase after my dreams and to find my own happiness. This lesson is probably the one that has stuck with me the most these 7 years. During the first 11 years of my life, I'd faced a lot of adversity. I would come home bruised and cut on the outside, but completely defeated on the inside from bullying at my elementary school.

Whenever I felt like giving up, she would always pull me aside, sit me on her lap and tell me that my worth as a person was more than the way others treated me. She would always encourage me to live more than their words and labels and stay true to myself because I would find my own path in life.

How this ties into my blog is this: if I had listened to my bullies, I wouldn't be here right now writing this blog. I wouldn't be blogging about all the things I hoped to accomplish in my life, Before I'm Pushing Daisies.

On my grandma's tombstone there is a phrase that says: "To live on in the hearts of those we love is not to die". I truly do hope that I am living worthily and doing justice to the life and legacy of my grandma, because I honestly believe she is somewhere looking over me and I hope that she would be proud. In loving memory.

This wasn't how it's supposed to be...In Loving Memory
Video Source: "In Loving Memory" - Jamestown Story

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Turn my Hobby into a Business!

I love to bake, specifically, I love to bake cakes. I don't know when I started to enjoy baking, but it just seemed to happen...somewhere along the way. Personally, I blame reality television like "Cake Boss", "Ace of Cakes" and the like; they made me believe that I was actually capable of making large, sculpted cakes because it just looks so easy! Believe me when I tell you this: they lied.
Cake Boss...Makes it look soooooooo easy!
On "Cake Boss" they don't show you all the times Buddy messed up. They don't show you when the cake comes out lumpy, or when the icing is too runny. Production cuts out the parts where Buddy and his team just need to step away, or risk throwing the cake against the wall. They edit out when the icing doesn't quite stick to the cake without getting covered in crumbs and no one ever sees when the cake just kind of...falls over.

I'm not exaggerating either, all the stuff I've listed above has happened. To me. Multiple times. Somehow I got it in my head that I'm the next "Ace" of cake-making (much to my parent's dismay...I seem to pick expensive hobbies!). It looks so easy on tv and Pinterest!

However Baking doesn't seem to be the biggest problem for me, I'd say that honor goes to the decorating. For starters, pre-made cake mix tastes like crap with added sugar. Not to mention how difficult it is to get the right colors of fodant to match your design! And carving a cake? Don't even try. 

So, for all you Cake-Boss-Wannabes, here's a few tip's I've picked up along the way:

1) Start Small. The first cake I tries to make was way out of my league, It was like running a marathon before I'd taken my first steps. The cake ended up making its debut in the trashcan, as the whole thing imploded in on itself and the birthday boy ended up with a store-bought cake instead. 

2) Bake from Scratch, especially if you're going to be decorating! Those Betty-Crocker mixes just crumble the moment you try to cut them, and pre-made fondant tastes terrible!

3) Take a class! Un-guided experience is an expensive teacher...take it from me!

Before I'm Pushing Daisies, I'd like to turn this hobby into a business, make a few picture-worthy cakes...and see a few more smiles! Because even more so than baking and decorating, I love to see people's reaction to my cakes! They make the hours spent fighting with pound cake, icing and fondant worth it!

I've attached a few pictures of the cakes I've made so far (And the people who enjoy eating them!)...they can only go up from here!
Licking the Candles..My Favourite part!
Cheesecake & Toblerone....OMNOMNOM
This Purse cake...definitely caused a lot of headaches!

But totally worth it, to see the look on this little Diva-in-training's face!

Lego Star Wars. May the force be with you, if you dare to try this one at home!

Baby grand piano! Chocolate *EVERYTHING* Chocolate cake, chocolate icing, modeling chocolate piano keys/book/flowers and, just for kicks, covered in a hard shell of melted chocolate :)

The best part of making these definitely has to be seeing the joy on the birthday-peoples' faces! That's when you know you've nailed it, and the long nights agonizing about whether or not your cake will still be standing in the morning is all worth it!


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Swimming with the Fishes...

Maybe not scuba diving with THIS shark...
 There's much to be said for vanishing. Escaping  our helter-skelter lives to disappear below the waves; down, deep into the depths of the aquatic jungle encompassing two thirds of the surface of the earth. Encountering awe-inspiring creatures big and small, like aliens from another planet. This is why, before I'm pushing daisies, I'd like to go scuba diving...with sharks.

I've always been fascinated by the ocean. Even when I was a kid it was my number one summer destination: running across the sand bars, watching the waves ever so slightly tickle my toes as I stood and stared: nothing but blue as far as the eye could see. There's just something so enticing about having a wholly different world millimetres away from your fingertips, yet completely unreachable. It's mother nature's greatest tease: You can look, but you can't touch!

Now don't get me wrong, I don't plan on throwing a slick of blood into the water and just jumping. I've got a plan, formulated from many summers spent watching nothing but "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel.

So here it is, my 12-step plan to crossing swimming with the fishes off my bucket list:

Shark Week Logo...My what pretty teeth you have...

1)Research. Re-watch Shark Week 2013. If I'm going to be swimming with these beasts, best to get as much information as possible, naturally from a reliable source. I also plan on perusing my local library's assortment of non-fiction titles such as: "Shark-Diving for Dummies", "How to not be fish bait" and "Surviving Jaws". For example, did you know most shark attacks occur around both sunset and sunrise? This is because sharks are more active hunters at these times of day.

2) Location, Location, Location. Finding the ideal dive location to see your intended species is crucial. For me, I want to see the big 5: Great White, Tiger shark, Whale Shark, Black-tipped Reef Shark and, of course, the Bull Shark. To see all these sharks, the only place to go is due south: South Bay, Southern Gulf of Mexico, South Africa, Southern Australia...well you get the point.

3) Finances. Since this is more of a long-term goal, as opposed to a "right here right now" goal, I'll hopefully have lots of time to save for my trips. Flights, hotels, meals, and the actual dives themselves don't come cheap, and range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars CAD.

4) Equipment. Under-water cameras, scuba gear, a boat, a guide...all these things and more are a must if I want to have any hope of meeting these giants face-to-face.

5) Scuba Lessons. I can't possibly expect to go diving with some of the world's most dangerous animals if I don't know my flipper from my face mask! Scuba lessons are a must before my first dive, safety first!

6)A Cage Dive. Easing slowly into my scuba adventure, the safest way to meet these giants of the deep up close is through cage-diving. Most every resort or ocean town will have a cave diving company, where you go depends on how close you want to get! (If by some sudden act of god, this terrifies me more than I thought, this may be the end of my journey. But just in case, lets continue on with the planning!)

7) Starting Slow. For my first dive, I plan on swimming with the docile gentle giant, the whale shark, a.k.a the largest member of the order of sharks known as Orectolobiformes. These filter-feeding sharks average 32 feet long (or the length of 6 average humans!), but don't eat large prey. A fairly safe first encounter as I work my way up to the man-eaters.

8) In the Reef. Next stop: Black Tip Reef sharks. These sharks are known for their lightning fast bolts, aggressiveness and, as their name indicates, the black tips of their fins. Although not the largest or most dangerous shark to swim with, these guys certainly pack a punch! My goal with the Reef shark, is to build confidence and, if I'm lucky, find a company that will take me out to feed them by hand!

9) In a River. Fun Fact: Bull Sharks are the only sharks that can live in both fresh, and salt water! So my next stop on my shark-swimming journey, is to meet one of these monster sharks on my own home turf: a fresh water river or estuary. Humans have been invading this species turf for years, I for one would like to know how it has affected these creatures first-hand.

10) Open Ocean. One of the most aggressive species on my list of shark-to-see's is the Tiger shark, named for the apparent tiger stripes on its back. Consistently in the top 3 most dangerous species of sharks, the predators travel the open ocean, and are notoriously hard to find, unless you know where to look! Hopefully I can find a guide, willing and able to take me to meet this elegant species.

11) Jaws. Saving the best for last: The Great White. For this terror of the high seas, I plan on pulling out all the stops. A chum-slick to attract them, and a seal decoy to hopefully see the skill that made them famous: the full-body out of water breach.

12) Blog about it. C'mon, you had to see that coming! When I actually do tick swimming with sharks off my bucket list, I hope that through my experiences I can raise some awareness about the conservation of these beautiful creatures, and un-do some of the fear-mongering that Jaws  brought upon these creatures.

Until next time: live life to the fullest, and don't forget to seize each day because who knows when it will be your last?


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