Reason #421 why Colombia is awesome – Make your own Potato Chips

Damn straight.  First time I’ve ever made my own Potato Chips in my life and now I’m doing it all the time. In fact, it is probably what I use potatoes the most for down here.  However the real magic is in Patagones, which are probably my favorite snack down here.  Instead of potatoes you use green plantanes and you can either slice em up thin for a chip or you can cut em up into 4 chunks, squash each chunk flat and then deep fry it.  Either way it is absolute goodness.

Down here we have a pot of oil that never leaves the stove and is refilled every couple of days because of our patagones and other goodies.  Probably not the best but we by good soy oil, or corn oil for our frying

A little rain tonight

It was coming down like cat’s and dogs tonight in Barranquilla and I just had to post up some videos to show the rest of you just what happens when it rains here.  These videos are showing what happens EVERYTIME there is heavy rainfall here, not just some rare occurrence.  You see kids, this is what happens when you build a city without a storm drainage or proper sewer system.

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The crazy thing is that the guy narrating the last video is the same actor I listen to for an hour a day on my learn to speak spanish in a week course(which has taken me 2 months btw).

Needless to say the city completely shuts down while this insanity ensues.

Good bye Germany, hello Croatia!

As per usual my day started especially early with my flight leaving in the wee hours of the morning. Not quite as bad Scotland but the 8am flight or so meant I had to be out of the Hotel by 5 to be safe. And as per usual I was hella glad that I took that paranoid extra step to leave early. After my shower I checked out and then stopped into the basement dinning room, grabbing handfuls of buns and other goodies that the hotel had out for their continental breakfast before making a mad dash to the train terminal. You see I couldn’t resist another amazingly long shower in that cubicle of musical raining bliss so I was running a little late and I had a train to catch. The funny thing is is that I was in such a hurry as in my mind Germany was the absolute model of efficiency, trains here, of all places, would never ever be late. Everything in Germany ran perfectly and on time, 100% of the time in my mind. I remember thinking those literal thoughts as I headed to the train terminal and arrived with 2 minutes to spare before the train to take me to the airport arrived. A train which, going to the airport only costs €3.00 and yet coming from the airport cost €15.00. Anyways, as I was thinking about this country being the model of efficiency a lovely german woman came on the PA to announce my train was 5 minutes late and 5 minutes later she came back on to announce the train was another 10 minutes late. 35 minutes or so later the train did finally arrive and the crowds of impatient germans bustled on. Only later to be bustled off by a woman who was saying something, the only part I could understand was ‘Kaput ist Kaput!’ – when it’s fucked, it’s fucked :) And so we were all bustled into the front cars of the train, a few of us got off but for the most part we all stayed there. Until of course I realized that in Germany the Front sections of the trains end up going to totally different stops than the back parts of the train. Argh, in a mad dash I jumped off the train before the doors closed and I watched it head off somewhere I didn’t need to be. Counting my lucky stars in the Terminal the lovely lady got back on the PA to tell us that the train to the airport would be arriving in 15 minutes or so. That extra hour early I woke up just saved my ass from the hour late unreliable german trains :) ha! It’s all good in da hood of course, that’s why these things happen. The next train did arrive relatively on time and I head off on my quick 15 minute commute to the airport to catch a plane to Munich, which would then take me to Zegrab and finally on to Dubrovnik. Joy of joy! A few transfers but all in all it was a relatively short flight into my second country where I didn’t know a clue about the language.

The flight and the planes were surprisingly comfortable, when you think Croatia you automatically assume something from a 1960’s Bond film in Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t much different than anywhere else. Everything was nice, new and the people were friendly and without too much fan fare my plane finally touched down in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the most in Europe I am willing to wager. Although the airport was 30 minutes outside of town and it was just any old small-town airport. Dubrovnic, I discovered only has a population of 40,000 or so, mainly do to the restrictive nature of the geographic that it sits on. A good thing because the town has maintained the wonderous ancient look and feel without becomming overgrown by sprawl or new developments. It truly is a snapshot in time and a national treasure for Croatia. I grabbed my bags over in the international arrival section after waiting a few minutes in the domestic terminal with everyone else(we did come from Zegrab after all) but eventually some attendants came and dragged a few of us into the next termianl where our bags were waiting, and so was a crazy bearded Croat name Vice. I wasted no time to run over to this man and give him a great bear hug and introduce myself as the mystery voice he’d been hearing all of these months. There was an awfully cute and petite lass by his side which I learned quickly enough was his sister. Of course after seeing how shy she was, and that this was Vice’s sister I wasted no time in capitolizing on the opportunity of making them both uncomfortable as I relentlessly flirted with this unpreppared and quite engaged symbol of Croatian beauty :) A little game that would carry on everytime I had the pleasure of her company that week, much to Vice’s chagrin.

We arrived to my home for the week, thanks for Vice’s sister driving all the way to the Airport and picking my Canadian ass up and taking me all the way back(I think the chance to see a real live Canuck was just too much for her to pass up) and I quickly unloaded everything into my little corner of the apartment to set out on a quick guided tour of the surroundings and the old city with Vice and his wonderful girlfriend who’s name roughly translates into ‘Petal’, although I use some creative liberties and pretend it translated into ‘Beautiful Petal’ which is what I decided to call her for the duration. Not that Latica isn’t a beautiful name in it’s own right but Beautiful Petal got a little smile out of her every time and so I stuck with that :)

We left the apartment after a short visit with Vice’s sister and began our glorious walk towards the old city. It was briefly sunny that day and by far the warmest of all of my stops with temperatures close to 10-15 degrees. I was gleeful from the moment I stepped outside the apartment but my glee turned to Elation after walking 5 minutes and comign to a cliff overlooking the magnificent beauty of the Adriatic. It had been weeks since I was away and while I wasn’t conscious of it during my stay in NYC and the rest of Europe I certainly had been longing to see majestic landscapes of nature like back home. The spots in Europe and the US were majectic, of that there can be no doubt, in the human made component, however after growing up with landscapes in my backyard that would make most of the world weep you certainly get used to having such over powering beauty on such a grand scale around you at all times. It wasn’t until this divine view of the Adriatic stretching out as far as the eye could see, the water crashing against the cliffs, opened up in front of me that I realized how much I longed for nature to inspire awe in me with it’s beauty. At which point I turned into a 6 year old boy and spent most of the rest of the walk jumping up and down and exclaming just how bad-ass this part of the world was, and then we arrived to the City Walls themselves and my babbling 6 year old turned into the incomprehensible gurgling of a small infant.

Of the limited cities of the world I have seen Dubrovnik has no equal. For me it is like taking the serentiy of Venice and encapsulating that in the grand majesty of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul(minus the middle eastern motif). The scale of this city is mind boggling, in fact outside of the great wall of china Dubronik has the second longest running city wall in the world and in sections of it it is over 3 meters(21 feet) thick of solid stone. Thank goodness too because during Croatia’s war of independence the city was shelled heavily for weeks on end, and something I learned from seeing the pitiful damage cause to the outer city structure is that missles and grenades are absolutely no match for fortifications of this magnitiude. Sure there were small pock marks here and there but nothing deeper than 5-8 cm and nothing wider than 15 or 20. The damage that the interior buildings took, more specifically the roof tops was more substantial of course as was demonstrated by the large diagram on the wall as you walk in showing where all of the mortor hits and fires were from the attacks.  The black dots represents mortor strikes and the red marks are places of major fires.

This city took one hell of a beating and fairly recently too, that is what makes this place so different than anywhere else I had ever been. The people in this city that are my age had lived through war, lived through bombings and the raids by the former Yugoslav government. Vice, Latica and I stayed up one night talking about the experience and what they had went through 19 years ago:

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The rest of the day involved sitting down with Vice and paying my dues for the previous week of taunting over our ensuing Tekken 6 battles when I arrived. Vice being an avid Tekken player laid down the gauntlet and I, having never played Tekken at all in my life, picked it up and slapped him right back. Well I certainly got slapped around that night but much to Vice’s horror that would soon change :)

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Day 17 – Leaving Edinburgh and flying into Hannover

Good bye Scotland, Hello Germany,

All good things come to anend they say and edinburgh is no exception to that. My time there was the longest anywhere on my trip and yet it felt as short as any other place. Mr. Canavan poked his head into my room at 3:45 or so that that we could be up and out of the house by 4 sharp. In my groggy state I looked up at his smiling face, said good morning and slowly climbed out of bed. I had prepared all of my belongings the night before so everything was all packed up and ready to go, the only thing left to do was a quick shave, brush my teeth and then head on downstairs where Paul, Maw and Paw were waiting for me. Mr. Canavan gave me a warm hug and wished me well on my journeys and then the remained 3 of us headed out to the car to drive down to the bus stop. I had tried to insist they let me walk the measly 20 minutes there but they assured me that in interest of my safety I should allow them to drive me. While I was fairly doubtful of the dangers in downtonw Edinburgh at 3:45am on a winter morning I grudgnigly accepted their offer, and off we went :) We arrived at the Bus depot with plenty of time to spare and made small talk for 10 minutes or so in the darkness on the Waverly bridge but before long the big double decker bus arrived and after big hugs good bye I was heading off to the airport in very much the same fashion as how I had arrived 5 days earlier, albeit sans cute Canadian girls to make laugh on the bus.
It was a 30 minute, 3 pound ride there which gave me a good hour and a half to kill before the flight to Hannover Germany. Security within Europe is a breeze so I killed most of the time outside my gate, laptop plugged in, going over the final details for my presentation to the German game studio later this afternoon – my sole purpose for being in Germany. I spent my time in the plane much the same way, going over the documents, adding a bit more here, taking a bit out there until I arrived into Hannover at 11am or noon and had to dicipher how the heck to get into the city from the Airport. Germany you see is the first stop on the trip where I don’t speak the language and every spare minute I’ve had to learn languages has been spent going over Spanish in preparation to living in Colombia. Sure enough there was enough english here and there but it still was the first time I felt like a fish out of water. I finally made it down the train stop in the Airport to catch the rail into the city and was fairly shocked to discover the price of the ticket was 15 euros, or roughly 30 dollars. Fairly outrageous for a 15 minute train trip but then again this is Europe so what can you do?

The train arrived on time, I got on and was wisked away to the beautiful city of Hannover.
The company I had flown in to see had graciously put me up in a hotel that was in the same large square as the main train terminal in downtown where I get off, so finding it was a pleasant surprise as I came up the stairs from the terminal, looked around and wondered how the heck I was going to find this place in this alien world, only to see it no more than 50 feet away from where I was standing. Smart thinking boys because trying to navigate the streets of a German city is something else all together. Forget a nice numbered grid system, oh no! German streets have these massive long names that for an outsider really don’t bear an semblance to anything you would easily remember or relative to one another. In fact it seems like the germans prefer it this way to a more plain and boring numbered approach and for more than just street names I discovered as I checked in. After signing the paper work a very beautiful receptionist handed me my room key and gave me a little map to my room. ‘An becuz you are here in Germany, ve don’t have numbered rooms. Our rooms are named’ she tells me. Ha! That’s right, I am not in room #103, that would be fair to plain and vanilla, my room is a german name which apparently means a meadow with a babling brook running through it, or at least that is what I am guessing as that is the beautiful illuminated picture that is hanging next to my door. Already I love this place! I make my way up to my room and again am wonderfully surprised with what these Germans have arranged for me. While the hotel is really nothing to take too much notice of from the outside, just small glass doors leading into a non-descript building, the rooms are beautiful modern. There has definitely been careful attention paid to the contemporary aesthetic of this place and I couldn’t help but feel like an international man of mystery settling into this place. It was only 11:30 and I promised to call Ze Germans when I arrived and so I picked up the phone and got on their horn with them only to be informed that a graphical team from Nvidia had just arrived today and were going over everything they were doing on their new project, meaning our meeting might have to be canceled. Meaning I had flown into Germany and they had paid to put me up in this very nice hotel for nothing. Well of course I wasn’t thinking that as I trust that everything happens as it should but I told them to email if anything changed and that I was confident my trip here hadn’t been in vain. Sure enough I received an email from the CEO a few minutes later telling me that he had cleared off 2 hours to meet with me from 2-4. It was only 11:30, which gave me plenty of time to have a quick jaunt throughout the little town, go to the nearest electronic store and find a power converter for the EU power outlets(they are different from the UK) and then head back to the room to work on the proposal for another hour or two before the meeting. Perfect! But not before I had a nice long hot shower to warm my cold bones and catch up on the one I didn’t get to take this morning at 3:30 as the hot water doesnt’ turn on in that great Scottish Castle until 7am or so. I had spied the shower as soon as I walked into the hotel room and instantly began planning out my day around taking a massive long shower in it. It was a totally self contained shower, no tub, big glass doors with a massive rain shower head on the ceiling on top of the regular shower head on the wall. It reminded by of my friend Daryl’s shower back home which I was lucky enough to use only once after him and I had decided to paint my body in edible chocolate(loong story but it can be yours for a price) and man that rain shower stuff is luxurious. So I stripped out of my clothes and opened the big glass doors to turn this beauty on but was surprised to find no knobs, no levels or anything for the water, only a glowing blue touch button embedded in the wall and then two others above it for temperature. I had alwasy wondered why we still used such primitive means to control our water temperature, always playing this guessing game when we have electronics handling every other area of our lives.. Why the hell don’t we have simple electronics in showers and bath where you can just set it to 42 degrees and know every single time that your shower will always be 42 degrees? But noooo, we like the guessing game of knobs, all the while with computeres in our fridges telling us when we are low on food, in our cars telling us the temperature and in our microwaves knowing exasctly how long a 1kg potatoe needs to cook for. Well the rational geek in me was overjoyed when my dreams of a perfectly regulated shower were answered and so after a little moment of glee I reached out and gentle ran my finger over the panel to awaken this beautiful shower and set it to exactly 42 degrees. What happened next made me laugh out loud with joy and do a little dance. Not only did the shower turn on but hidden colored LCD lights through the shower turned on and began slowly going from reds to blues to greens, but to top it all off a hidden speaker within the shower automatically began playing German symphony music whcih seemed to be chosen perfectly for the lighting ambience. Ahhh, it was the shower I had always dreamt existed but had never found and for the next 30 minutes it was all mine! Yay life!! Considering that it had been over 24 hours since my last shower and that I was right frozen to the bone from being in a rainy England for a week, a cold rainy Scotland for a week and then arriving to a -12 Germany. this shower was like a feast being served to a starving man. I relished every minute of it, and then.. oooh and then I turned off the regular shower head and I turned on the rain. Words can’t describe my elation at that moment, and so I won’t even try. Just know as I write this I have to stop for minutes on end just to sit and enjoy the overwhelming joy that fills me thinking about that shower. Perfection. After my spiritual experience with water I got all dressedup and headed out for that power adapter. It was the first full sunny day I had seen in weeks and so I left my jacket in the room, put on my dress atire and headed out into this glorious German city.

I had discussed West Germany with family back home and I had been unaware just how wealthy of a country Germany was before the war, and how wealthy they still area. Well it was one of the first things I noticed when stepping out of that hotel. The streets were pristine, no garbage anywhere, the buildings all immaculate as if they had just been cleaned before my arrival and everyone was dressed up as if they were going somewhere important. Cambridge is certainly a wealthy city and Edinburgh easily the wealthiest in all of Scotland but nothing I saw in England can compare to this. Things in this city were kept the way that you’d expect a city to be kept if there was as much money as all of the municiple sectors could possible need for anything and everything. If you took your city and every area that was short on funds had just been given all the money it needed to do everything it thought necessary then you’d end up with Hannover, or many German cities I imagine. No where was there anything in a state of dis-repair, no where could you see garbage on the streets and there were certainly no signs of homeless in sight. A very different picture than when I got off the train that brought me from Newark into Manhattan and walked down entire corridors populated by easily 100+ people sleeping on cardboard and news papers. It is certainly a very very sobering thought to think this is the country that was utterly defeated and destroyed in WWII and how it’s affluence today far outstripes that of the countries which were the apparent victors.

It was a nice, safe, clean feeling to wander the streets for a bit but I had a mission, I needed to find a power converter to ensure I had my laptop charged and my proposal online, or else what was the point of being here? So with that in mind I headed over to a large 7 story department store where the sight of endless German chocolate greeted me when I walked in. Hmm, tempting but too rich for my blood as I was becomming more and more aware of how much money I’d had left over for Colombia in a weeks time. Enough to pay rent and food? Hmm, better stick to the basics I thought. So I climbed the stairs, and the escalators one floor at a time in search for the electronics sectoin in this massive Bay – like department store until finally, upon arriving at the very top level, as luck would have it, I saw the glow of LCD screens and dangling wires that told me I had arrived at my destination. Or so I had thought, as it is certainly one thing that I have learned, or at least think I’ve learned in life is that there is never a destination, and when you think you have arrived at one you are there just long enough to realize it is nothing more than a good vantage point to point the way to the next leg of your journey. While perhaps overly philisophical for this small adventure for a power converter, it held true as this store didn’t sell what I was seeking. They did however point me to another large store down the block and so with this new information I began my great decent from the top of this tower back to the streets. In the end I did find my power converter at the other store which ended up costing another $10.00 or so, meaning I had spent just over $20.00 on power converters in Europe for two very cheap chinese made models, one for the EU and one for the UK Ryan’s word of the wise #241: Buy all of your shit that you can possibly conceivably need back home. You’ll get higher quality stuff for 1/2 the price. Which of course made me wish I had just bought the universal, multi-adapter back home for the $19.00 or whatever it was. Ah well, a good lesson learned. Trust power converter in hand I made my way back to the hotel room with an hour to spare before the meeting only to be greeted by a waiting email asking me where I was. Germany you see is an hour ahead of Scotland. Gah! I had completely forgottenand so in a mad dash I began the upload of the proposal to my server and booted ass to the studio 5 blocks away. A 15 minute walk they told me and I made it there in 4, all the while repeating the insanely lengthy names of the streets I had to remember over and over and over in my head.
I made it there safe and sound to a wonderfully patiet CEO who was happy to see me. Him and I have known each other and have been doing business together for the better part of 8 years now and this was our first meeting… So this certainly would represent one of my oldest online friends in the world and after nearly a decade our hands shook in the real world. Because of my tardiness however I didn’t spend much time on the pleasantries and we got straight to the Brass tacks, laying out my plans for his company and the IP that I would be getting specifically involved with. It wasn’t long before he brought in his current project lead to sit in with us and take in my proposal. After a few minutes I was quite shockingly informed that just about everything I had described was completely impossible with the current state of technology. Their game engine was so old and so poorly put together that implementing any changes, even for them was a near impossiblity. My mind began racing, I had flown all the way into Germany, my team had done week of intensive hard work to showcase exactly what we were bringing to the table artistically and I was being told it was all pointlessly impossible. I suppose this could have been a Kobyashi Maru situation for some but I follow Kirk/Picard in their thinking of that situation. Life certainly hadn’t brought me to Germany to propose what I thought I was here to propose, nor to get in business with these guys in the fashion that I thought I was meant to get into business with them. So why was I here then? I had about 15 minutes to find that out before my time with the CEO was up and that is exactly what I did. I’m not going to go into details about what we discussed as I can’t but what I can say is that while I went there to impress him with our brilliance in one area and secure a modest contract for those skills I walked out with 2 negotiations on the table for 2 other contracts in completely unrelated areas, each larger than the first and the possibility of a 3rd that would dwarf them all. Holding my head high I walked out of there feeling like I discovered my purpose and headed back to my hotel room to finally allow my body to go into the coma that it so desperately wanted after I had spent the past 3 weeks going on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, working sometimes 26 hours straight to prepare myself for the moment that had just passed. For the time being I could relax, knowing I had risen to the challenge, and pass out. Heh, but not before going out and buying a veggie delight sub to celebrate, which in Germany costs over $10.00 USD(regularily $3.99 back home). ZZZZzzzzzZZzzzzzzzzzzz, Babies don’t sleep as well as I did that night..

Day 16 – Last day in Edinburgh

Well today marks the last day in the most impressive and beautiful city in the United Kingdom. There is certainly a bittersweet feeling in my heart as I got up at my usual hour to begin work at 5am or so. I take especial care to breath in the perfection of each moment, in this beautiful house, filling my mind with gratitude for being blessed with such a wonderful kind family over here in Scotland which I never knew I had until this trip. It is equally hard to say goodbye to such an inspirational city as it is to say good-bye to these people who’ve welcomed me with open arms and embraced me with open hearts.

My morning goes by productive and well, the upcoming proposal to a German game development studio the next day keeps my mind occupied for most of the morning, as it has for the majority of the week. Around noon, after the entire house has woken up and I’ve showered I tell Maw and Paw that I am off to buy supplies for the sushi dinner I intend on surprising them with that night, but alas I don’t know where to buy the supplies so I had to ruin the surprise in order to find out. Conveniently enough no more than 100 yards down the street is a row of Asian stores so my hunt should be quick and painless, which is how most perilous adventures start out isn’t it?

I put on my jacket and head out around 13:00 for what I suspect will be a short and uneventful trip, and boy and I thankful it wasn’t. I walk the 100 meters or so down the road and fail to see any Asian signs hanging in any windows or on any awnings. You see back home when someone says ‘Asian shop’ it means a shop that it is decked out with Asian goods and caters to an Asian demographic.. This means that there are more Chinese/Japanese signs than there are English ones, lots of bright colors, etc etc. In Scotland the Asian shops are catering to a Scottish demographic, so these shops looks pretty much like any other shops out there and until you walk into them you aren’t going to have a clue that they are any different than any other store on the street. ugh! So I walk down the road and notice nothing. Ah, Maw must have meant a little further than a 100 yards, probably meant just in town a little bit, which is where I head off to. I cross the meadows(which is this beautiful beautiful park, ironic I find as the Meadows was one of the most dangerous places in the last city I was in: Nottingham) and get to one of the main roads that marks the boundary of the old Edinburgh city. Before crossing the street to head into town however I look to my left and see the gorgeous gothic spires of the Old Barclay church in the distance.

‘Ah hell’ I think ‘this is my last day here and that is the coolest church I’ve seen, as if I’m not going to go check it out before I leave’. So I hang a left on the main road instead of going straight into the city and trek the kilometer or so to this oh so dark church. On the way there was a pretty cool little chip and putt golf course. This is Scotland of course so I was told it isn’t out of the ordinary for there to be a random golf course right in the middle of a neighborhood that is free for anyone to just walk onto and have some fun. This isn’t an official fenced off golf course like back home with a club house, pro shop and all that, this is exactly like a park is except with sand traps and putting greens. One minute you’re walking in a playground the next you’re on a golf course. So cool, and it was uber old too with insane history making it even more cool :)

After 10 – 20 minutes of walking I make it to this impressive church and spend a couple minutes outside just admiring the architectures and the dark gothic nature of it.. But just admiring the church from afar wouldn’t do me any good and I asked myself why the heck wasn’t I going inside to explore it? I had no good answer so I got up and followed some signs around the side of the building to the street level entrance and tried to get in. Alas the side doors were all locked, which led me further around the side to the church company entrance which was this nice big glass door, unfortunately locked as well. Undeterred I still had one last option as that was the huge main doors up the big steps out front and so I marched back ground and gave the massive door handles a tug. They wouldn’t budge :( I turned them, pushed them and pulled them but these ancient doors were having none of it. I resigned to my fate that I was meant to simply admire this building from the outside and went to resume my post leaning against a pole and drinking in the majesty of the church for a while longer. As I was walking down the steps I noticed a man coming up the street, a very well kept man in his 60’s who really didn’t stand out from the rest of the Edinburgh but for some reason I noticed him immediately, and noticed that he noticed me. Although I imagine that had something to do with me yanking on the doors to this 200 year old church.

As I crossed the street to get a good vantage point, my internal hoodie and my jacket hoodie bundled tight around me to keep the persistent Scottish rain off of my head, I noticed that this man crossed the road to go to the church and then turned to come towards me. He wasn’t really making eye contact with me, just walking in my general direction so I didn’t think too much of it until he stopped in front of me and asked if I liked the church. I replied that it is fairly difficult not to be in awe of something so majestic and impressive. He then informed me that he was the manager of the church and offered to give me a personal tour of the inside. Laughing at my wonderful good fortune I told him that I would be over-joyed to see the inside of this marvelous church and so he led me around the side and unlocked one of the old wooden doors leading inside.

The church on the inside was just as impressive as it was on the outside, if not more. My new friend, Dennis, told me that the church was built on uneven ground so there is absolutely no symmetry to the architecture at all as the entire structure had to be constructed around the uneven topography of the land. Every corner and every side was completely unique. The interior structure was mainly composed of the inside of the large spire that drew me to this building in the first place. A spire, Dennis told me, that was the tallest spire in all of Edinburgh from ground to tip. It was a wondrously voluminous structure with large stained glass windows at the front and a gorgeous mural covering most of the tall ceilings. After a brief tour throughout the smaller areas of the church, the congregation hall and coffee/tea rooms we arrived back at the main room where I marveled at the largest organ I think I had ever been in the presence of in my life. Easily 2 stories tall it stretched a good 30 feet up where I was standing into the rafters of the church spire. The church, Dennis explained, was originally Presbyterian and it is their way to abstain from any unnecessary pomp or aesthetics and so when the church was first built in the early / mid 1800’s it had no organ but by the end of the century they had decided to put one in. To do so however required a massive structural modification to the building so that this monstrous church could fit this monster of an organ in its belly. Dennis showed me where they had removed the original stone more than a century ago to make a titanic alcove to house the instrument. It was at this moment that Dennis said a few words that I had been fantasizing he would say the moment I walked into the church, words that nearly made me cry and laugh with glee at my incredible gratitude for the situation that was about to unfold. He looked at me and said ‘I’ve been working on a piece for this Sunday’s congregation, would you like to hear me play it?’ Here I was in this unbelievable church in the most impressive city in all of Western Europe, all by myself with this incredible man and I was just offered a private audience to the most impressive musical instrument I had ever seen in my life. My ability to contain my glee burst like the housing bubble and it was all I could do to smile like a child and just nod yes. I asked Dennis if it is alright for me to go to the upper levels of the sitting area, as the Barclay church is the only church in Edinburgh with more than one level of seating. The top level was reserved for an boys school from way back in the day, however it was all open today and I was not about to pass up the opportunity to hear this beast bellow at eye level.

What made this piece even more emotional to listen to is that Dennis had informed me just prior that his wife of 45 years had passed away less than 2 weeks ago. He was dealing with it by keeping himself busy and I could hear it in his music as he laid his fingers on keyboard and brought life to the god-like instrument. A instrument I realized that the people of old must have thought was there to attract the attention of God himself, and so the bigger the organ the most attention they would get.

As I sat down I cursed my luck for having forgotten the memory chip for the camera in my laptop at home as I would have killed to be able to record this experience. At that moment I realized however that my mp3 player had a microphone on it and the ability to record some fairly impressive audio for a device of its size, so without further ado I give you Denis on the Barclay church organ:

icon for podpress Dennis on the Barclay Church Organ: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (6)

As you can hear it was a powerful performance to say the least. Every time his fingers hit on those deep notes the massive pipes would just boom, sounding like a giant was blowing through the massive tubes with all of his might. Truly remarkable. After the performance we said our good-bye’s and I went off to resume my hunt for sushi supplies, realizing of course that the entire purpose of my day today had already been fulfilled and that anything else that happened would be trivial next to what I had just experienced. A good thing too as I would spend the next 4 hours searching in vain for these Asian stores for my sushi supplies. Supplies I might add that I doubt Edinburgh has at all as they only have 1 or 2 sushi restaurants in a city of 400,000(compared to the 20 or 30 of them in my home town of less than 150,000). I guess Japanese cuisine just hadn’t caught on here yet, a bleeding shame considering how damn good the stuff is :) So i walked and explored Edinburgh all on my own, wandering the streets like a vagabond in search of an unknown treasure which would never come. I explored centuries old private boys schools that were literally out of a Harry Potter movie. I saw literally because I also passed by the coffee shop where Harry Potter was written and after spending the short amount of time I did in this city it was very easy to see why it was written here. In fact it was very easy to see why so many artists, writers and poets flock to this city as it is completely impossible not to be inspired every where you look.

By the time the sun had set and 17:00 rolled around I realized that I wasn’t going to find my sushi supplies and that I had better find something lest I arrive back home empty handed to a family that was expecting me to make them dinner. So I asked a parking officer for directions to the nearest grocery store and began the trek to the local tesco, which was a mess I might add. I arrived there, it would seem, at exactly the same as the rest of Scotland and the lineups for the tills took up 75% of the floorspace. It was obvious that it would take me another hour to just buy my groceries so I made a b-line for the door and tried another grocery store just down the road. A good thing too as it had no lines and was 1/2 the price of tesco. I wandered the isles for a little bit before deciding on Fajitas for dinner and began rounding up supplies. This being Scotland and my dinner being Mexican meant that I wasn’t about to find all of my supplies in one spot so I got what I could and headed back home to a different grocery store along the way where I picked up the guacamole, sour cream and a bit of chicken for this poor family of meat eaters who had embraced a vegan diet in my honor for the week.

Feeling massively relieved that I wouldn’t have to face a hungry family empty handed I proudly marched home to began the preparation of the feast after my 4 hour adventure through this amazing city. I arrived home to a understandably worried mother who had expected my little outing to take no more than 10 minutes. I briefed them on my little adventure and showed them the few pictures I was able to take with the limited on board memory on the phone as proof :) We settled in for some tea and a lovely little visit before Paul got home and then the cooking began.

I was a little nervous at first as I this was a fairly impressive family and here I was going to force them to sit down and eat these very messy Fajitas with their hands, sauce running everywhere on this gorgeous ancient 16 person dining room table in this beautiful dining room fit for royalty. Although my nervousness turned into amusement as the reality of the situation set in and of course knowing them as I did I knew they wouldn’t care. So with the help of Mrs. Canavan I prepared a wonderful thank you / farewell dinner and we ate. As with all dinners with the Canavans it was full of laughter, love and happiness. The only thing that was wrong with it, as with my entire stay in Scotland, is that it was over too quickly and soon enough we were clearing the plates and doing the dishes. Paul and I headed upstairs shortly there after to spend the rest of the evening playing Trine, in all it’s majesty before we decided to get some sleep as my bus left at 4:30 or so to take me off to Germany.

And just as suddenly as I arrived my time to depart at come. My bags were packed, everything was set and I hit the hay for a few hours of sleep before this wonderful family would wake me up and take me off for our teary goodbye

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Day 15 in Edinburgh

Day 15 – 4th day in Edinburgh

Today Paul decided to take me on a tour of the town, joy! I was working my usual hours and we left the house around 1pm or so to a nice scotish drizzle. It felt the way it should have felt for some reason and I didn’t mind it at all.

While Paul was invaluable to have around for directions the man was useless with his history, something he admits doesn’t stick in his brain well. So ever time I asked ‘what’s that building all about’ I’d get the standard reply ‘Aye, they make haggis there’. What about that one? ‘Oh, that’s where haggis was invented’. We wandered throughout the maze of crooked narrow streets, to the lower city, back up again and then down the Royal Mile, stopping in an ancient cemetary to appreciate the tombstones from the 1700 and 1800’s. After we had our fill of the dead we headed down to the Palace, a 400 year old haunted house, climbed up an extinct Volcano and then eventually headed home to dry off after the hours of rain. The rain had definitley started to pick up near the end so the idea of curling up infront of a PS3 with my good friend was appealing indeed. Which is exactly what we did. I was introduced to the splendor of Flower on the PS3 and was moved more than I’ve been with most of the video games I’ve played in my decorated carreer. It was Robbie Burns day coming up so the family went out for a wee party that evening and it was me in the house with Flower to keep me company. Which meant a bit of that and then a nice 30 minute nap before the ceaseless ringing of the house phone woke me up. It was Melissa on the other end and she informed me that there would be a cab coming to grab me in 10 minutes to take me to the birthday party where they all were. I tidied myself up and sure enough the cab was there prim and proper in 10 minutes.

Mr. Canavan had really stressed the importance of the house alarm before they left so I thought I would make sure that it was set before heading out. I read the instructions on how to arm it 3 times and followed it to the letter. As expected when it was armed there was a high pitched tone which was supposed to shut off immediately after the front door was closed. So I turned it all on, got the tone went out the front door and shut it… Well the tone didn’t turn off as it was supposed to, and the front door locked automatically, and I had no key. I was pretty sure that something didn’t go as planned and in a few minutes the house alarm was going to start going bananas. The cab was waiting there so I got in headed to the pub and informed Melissa of the fact that there was probably a very nice house in Scotland with an alarm system going balistic right now. This was all but verified when I told her the alarm tone didn’t shut off when I closed the front door so we had to wait for Paul to get to the pub from his dinner and then him and I caught a cab back up to the house so that he could properly disarm it and then re-arm it. What happened is that one of the doors in the house downstairs wasn’t fully closed, tripping the alarm. Good thing we got there in time before someone called the Police. No harm, no foul and we headed back to the pub to rejoin the birthday celebration.

It was a fantastic night and Paul’s friends were all fabulous people to chill out with. Definitely proven by the fact that I was able to stay away no problem until midnight or so. The pub we were in was obsessed with American culture. Flags hanging all over the place, elvis and other celebrity posters on the walls and the music was all american rock. Have to say that I would have gone a different way but that’s just me :)

Around midnight or so we walked home but not before I was able to try chips with chip sauce, a famous Scotish variation on regular chips. It was pretty good, I’ll admit to that but I think at the end of the day I prefer a little vineagar, some ketchup and salt on my chips. Melissa stayed over for a little while before catching a cab to her Car and Paul and I played a game called Trine for an hour or so before hitting the hay. He’d never played Trine multiplayer before and we were just both amazed with how awesome this game was with another person. Just blown away with how the team work was setup and the possibilities of gameplay when you worked together. We promised ourselves that my last day would definitely consist of much trine sprinkled in with our work. Yay life!

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Day 13 & 14 in Edinburgh – Work work work

2nd and 3rd day in Edinburgh.

As per usual I was up like a lite at 2:30 in the morn. I got up, crept downstairs as quietly as humanly possible, opened up the door to the kitchen went in and setup shop for a great productive morning of work. It wasn’t until I had nearly everything setup that I realized I left my mousepad upstairs so back up I went, creeping and tiptoing along the way. When I got to my room I noticed a green piece of paper on the table across from my door. Being a curious cat I picked it up to see what it said and lo and behold it was addressed to me! Intrigued now I took it into the room and began to read. “Dear Ryan. Just wanted to let you know that this house is alarmed at night. If you happen to wake up first make sure that you go downstairs and turn off the alarm system BEFORE you open any of the doors downstairs so that the alarm doesn’t go off and wake up the neighbourhood…” He followed it with detailed instructions on how to turn off the alarm. My heart stopped. Shit shit shit, I figured it was timed to give you a minute or so to turn it off if you accidentally opened a door(much like I just did) so I raced downstairs with the instructions, as quietly as I could and ripped open the door where the alarm panel was. By the dim light of my mp3 player I followed the instructions but noticed that the key I was supposed to turn was already in the off position. Hmm, this is weird I thought, maybe this is the wrong key(there were two) so I tried turning the other one, and it turned but now there was a bright red light glaring at me from the panel. My many years of sci-fi has thouroughly tought me that red light = bad so I turned the key back to it’s original position and re-read the instructions. They clearly stated that I was supposed to turn the first key, which was in the off position, but was it in the off position? Did the Canavans, in a brilliant stroke of foresight just not turn the alarm on? I was going to assume that but not take any risks so I just locked myself in the kitchen and refused to re-open the door until the rest of the house woke up some 6 hours later. I did make myself some toast though, which I burnt and that eventually woke up Mr. Canavan as he was up going to the bathroom and decided to check out the burning smell coming from the basement. I was on skype with a certain someone, talking in whispers when he poked his head into the kitchen and asked ‘You alright?’ but what I thought I heard him say was ‘Do you mind?’ meaning I had woken him up with my whispers through a solid floor of stone, light sleeper indeed. So now I felt horrible, for this light hearted jovial man to come down and ask if I minded meant he had to be pissed. Ugh. Luckily however I later found out that it was just his accent causing me to mis-interpret things and I hadn’t woken him with my chatter at all, he was just up going to the bathroom and wanted to make sure Dante’s inferno wasn’t being recreated in his kitchen. Phew!

Paul awoke around 8 or so and then the rest of the family shortly there after. We figured out that the alarm hadn’t been on at all so I was in the clear. Yay! All in all a perfect night, no one disturbed and a good 10 hours of work done by 1pm. The rest of the day was spent working away until Paul got home, a good 15 hour work day by 5pm or so so I felt comfortable chilling out laxing out until I passed out again at 10pm or so. Which I promptly did, although I do remember trying to stay away on Paul’s bed to no avail and finally gave in to the sleep which meant I was awake again around 3in the morn ready for another jam packed day of work

Day 14 -3rd day in Edinburgh.

This day consisted entirely of work so I don’t need a separate post just for this. Up at 3am, at a brief lunch, a brief dinner and then worked in Paul’s room until 1am or so. The proposal was only a few days away now and there was so much do to and get organized so that I could hit the ground running in Germany. Took a big chunk out of it, although Maw and Paw were starting to worry about me. Paul was out drumming so he didn’t get home until 7 or so. Mr. Canavan came into Paul’s room around 6pm or so and found me sleeping sitting up with my hands on the keyboard of my laptop. Definitely started getting concerned at that point. I did manage to catch a 2nd wind for dinner and then joined the Canavans to watch a great French film and love and age. Didn’t last much beyond that and passed out by 9.

First day in Edinburgh

Day 12 – First day in Edinburgh Scotland

So finish my journey out of England the same way it started my flight landed without a hitch, I grabbed my luggage and was ready to head into town to see my good friend Paul. Paul asked me to give him a ring when I landed and so I found the only 4 payphones in the Edinburgh airport to make a call. Payphones, like most everything else in Europe are insanely overpriced and it asked me for 40 pence(or about a dollar back home) which I would have assumed would get me an unlimited local call as any sane person would expect. Oh no, $1.00 literally got me 2 minutes to talk before it asked for another dollar. Which I obliged of course, but 50 cents per minute? How crazy is that? It’s no wonder that the economies of the European countries have been left in the dust of the USA, there people are nickel and dimed to death that they have absolutely no money left over to spend on luxuries and emerging markets/technologies, which means those emerging markets grow that much slower than back home, which is why so many more big movers start up in the USA and take off as apposed to Europe. But that’s just my uneducated ranting, what do I know? Not much :) After two disconnected calls Paul, in his infinite wisdom just tried to call the number back that showed up on his call display and sure enough the phone in the airport starting ringing and even more bizarre is that the phone allowed us to talk as long as we wanted to, I’m guessing Mensa candidates aren’t working for the phone companies in Scotland. I let Paul know that the eagle had landed and that i was on my way into town via the lovely super shuttle bus. Super because it was humongous, two levels with a baggage area inside the bus and plenty of leg room.

As I was putting my bags away and sitting down two gals in their mid twenties came on board and were talking in North American accents so of course I started up a conversation(It’s been shown that I have trouble resisting cute girls in buses) and sure enough the two were from Canada. Ottawa to be exact. I wasn’t about to allow this insane concidence go un-appreciated, the fact that we were the only two people on this bus in Edinburgh Scotland in the dead of winter and we all just happened to be from Canada. We chatted the way into town, found out that they were both going to Uni in ottawa and they fell in love with Scotland on a previous trip so they both decided to come back for a week and do the highland trail during some time off at school. Good call on that one, too bad the weather wasn’t more inviting however as it was cloudy and rainy for the entire week.

As the bus entered into the downtown of Edinburgh I was treated to a sight which I was comletely unprepared for. I had absolutely idea that Edinburgh was as old or as impressive as it is. My only real view on Scotland is what I have from trainspotting and a few other films that feature some footage in the country. I was assuming that these were regular cities in a cold rainy part of the world. I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried. As the bus started entering the city was began to see buildings that put Cambridge to shame. But not just buildings, we’re talking about rows and rows of buildings, blocks and blocks of them that put Cambridge to shame. The old section of this city dwarfed anything I had experienced in England. It had all of the ancient beauty but on a scale multitudes greater than anywhere else. There was literally an old city built ontop of an ancient and both layers were still being actively used. Absolutely incredible. The two canadian girls just looked at me with this ‘ya, tell me about it’ look on their face as they had both been here before and experienced the same shock that I was going through.

We got off the bus together and there crossing of the Wyverly bridge was a big beautiful hunk of a Scot by the name of Paul Canavan. As I saw him walking towards us I jumped with joy and bounded over to give this man a big man hug, and in the process nearly destroyed every piece of electronical equipment I was carrying. If you can imagine in slow motion me bounding and leaping into the air as I run 50 meters towards Paul and with each leap something different flies out of my pocket, lingering in the air for a few seconds and then crashing to the ground. My camera is definiteliy destroyed and no longer works but thankfully my MP3 player is made of studier stuff than that, although the 2GB micro SD card thta was in it flew out and was lost forever :( Boooerns! Double Boooerns!! I ignored the storm of electronics flying about me and gave Paul a big bear hug which he recipricated naturally and passionately, a first for me and European men. I am glad to see that the Scots are that much less repressed than the english. I introduced my two Canadian friends to Paul and his girlfriend Melissa and he offered to guide them ½ of the way to their destination where we finally parted ways. I had intended on staying in touch with them, however it would seem that Anna Brousseau is not on facebook, or at least invisible. Booerns to that, so when google picks this up and you are googling yourself and this blog comes up first for Anna Brousseau Ottawa don’t be shy and shoot me and email saying howdy.

The 5 of us parted was and Paul, Melissa and I carried onwards up the main road to his parents place just a few minutes from downtown. As we were walking up the road and the houses were getting nicer and nicer I remembered thinking to myself that there was no way he lived in one of these mini-castles but sure enough he points to the right at this gorgeous semi-detached 160 year old house and says ‘this is us’. My jaw just dropped, for the next week it would seem I would be living in a palace and even more exceptionally is that I had no idea that his amazing parents, with their love, warmth and generosity easily dwarfed the beauty of this house 10 times over. I didn’t know it just at that minute but I had travelled halfway across the world to this ancient cold city and I was finally home.

It was fairly obvious from walking in the door right off the bat that I was going to get along famously with the Canavans. Their witt was sharpened over the years by the same dry humor that I grew up on, they were open, giving and said it the way it was. Luckily for me what they said was exactly in line with how I thought on every topic. Mr. Canavan greeted me with a quick jab and we fenced back and forth for a minute or two in jest because I gave Mrs. Canavan a big hug and thanked her for welcoming me into her beautiful home. She had really gone all out for my arrival, stocking the fridge with Soy milk and preparing a weeks of vegan friendly recipes. I was fairly flabberghasted at the amount of effort this wonderful woman had put into taking care of a perfect stranger from a different land. I had full intentions of going out grocery shopping as I do most places I stay and I feel fairly uncomfortable being a burden on folks with my dietary choices, but the Canavans would not hear of it. They had the larder stocked full of Vegan friendly ingredients for me to go to town with so instead I took my food budget and spent it on a beautiful bouquet of flowers for her. Paul and did a quick wonder around the block, grabbed the flowers and came home to help prepare dinner. He had gotten the week off work, a rare miracle from what I gather but alas his time off didnt’ start until the day after tomorrow so it was an earlier night for all of us in bed sleeping before 10pm for me, which had become a regularity in the UK.

I had Paul’s sisters room as my own for the week, a huge room with 20 foot ceilings and a bed fit for a princess, or in my case a prince :) I hit the pillow and slept like an absolute baby… for 5 hours at least until my body, like clockwork, woke me up at 2:30, and so begins another day in this grand adventure. Yay life!

Last couple days in Nottingham – Flying off to Edingburgh

Day 10-12 – Nottingham:

It was mainly a rainy day in Nottingham and with the upcoming proposal coming up I decided to stay in most days and just work like a crazy person. Nick and Nina worked during the day so it was just me and Deisel the cat, chilling like a pair of villains around the flat. The last day before my departure however we got some recording studio time in Nottingham for me to do the voice work for the SARF investor proposal. Great fun was had that night as it was my first time in a professional setting like that trying to not sound like a dork while telling people about SARF and why they need to be investing in it. We were there for an hour and a bit and had a ball, in the end I even came out sounding alright.
As is the case with most of my last days in one city I didn’t end up sleeping, Nick and I plowed through the night and cranked out some great work, him going through the audio files from the recording session and me doing up more and more documentation on the proposal as well as organizing the team. There was a little Assassins Creed 2 in there to show me just how pretty a game could be. At 4am or so Nick, being the kind soul that he is, drove me down to the main bus terminal where I hopped on for a ride to London central. I lucked out as well getting on where I did as two stops later the bus driver had to turn away passengers with seasons tickets as the season tickets don’t mean a reserved seat unless you go online and reserve it for that particular bus.
There was much contemplation between Roland and I about where I should be getting off in London and which tube route I should take to get to the airport. We decided in our infinite wisdom to get off a little early to avoid the central underground stations which, at that time, are completely mental. It was a sound plan until the next day I started going through Google maps to map out my walking route from the bus stop to the nearest underground station. After my incident in NYC of wandering the streets for an hour I decided to scrap the plan and just get off at the central bus stop which was right around the corner from the Underground station and even then I still missed it the first time :) After heading down into the underground and being instantly surrounded by the thriving mass of humanity going to and fro I found the ticket booth and got instructions from a friendly Scotsman on how to get to my station.

The london Underground - above ground :)

As predicted it was fairly mental down there as I was at one of the main stations however I had seen much worse in Montreal, which is what I was imaginging in my head, so I was pleasantly surprised when there was actually room on the first train that came for me and my luggage. The rest of the Tube ride was just as painless, 8 or so stops west and then hopped off that train to get on the Picadily line heading into Heathrow. All in all it was probably 25-35 minutes of train riding and in the end I was dropped off at the Airport smoothly and for a mere 4 quid – what more could I ask for? With plenty of time to spare I mosied on over to the BMI checkin area, got that all sorted and breezed through the chilled security on domestic EU flights. A few minutes in the lounge and I was heading off to Scotland on 12:05 flight, set to arrive befor 14:00.. Yay life!