Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lauren Takes to the Air - Part 2

Warning: This is probably the longest blog post ever. I would suggest getting a going to the bathroom, getting a snack and finding a comfortable seat if you are going to read it. Don't say I didn't warn you. Also, there are cool pictures in the middle of the post, so if you don't want to read it all, at least scroll through and find the pictures!

Here it finally is . . . the trip to Calgary. Yeah, I know, that happened two weeks ago, but my life has been a bit hectic with work for the last two weeks. I think I'll leave that for a separate post because I want this to be all about that time that I went to Calgary to see my best friends!

The Friday that I left, I dragged my suitcase and backpack (which was also filled with work stuff) on my commute because I wanted to go straight to Calgary at work. It was pretty hard to focus that day because I was so excited to see the friends that I hadn't seen in four months! I'm pretty sure I was bouncing in my chair. Finally, 4:30 pm rolled around and one of my wonderful coworkers gave me a lift from the trailers to the terminal, so I didn't have to struggle along with my suitcase down the service road.

Since my flight was kind of at a weird time, my dinner that night consisted of chocolate banana bread from Starbucks, a bag of cashews, an apple and my water bottle (filled up AFTER security). I did have one little slowdown at security though. I had some medication to take with me that needed to stay cold. Instead of making a huge deal out of it by packing it in an unnecessarily large lunch bag, I put an ice pack, the medication and the prescription into a sock. I'm an engineering student, it was efficient. However, the security lady was pretty confused as to what was going on in the sock and made me unpack it, so she could check it out. Cool.

After a 10-minute delay (I think I just have bad luck with flying), we were finally boarded and ready to take off. The trip from Calgary is a brief 58-minute flight. That's pretty much how long it takes me to get to work! I was happy that we were served a snack though! For dessert to my random dinner at the terminal, I had a bag of weird, little chip things. Kind of like someone smushed a bag of Doritos, except they were supposed to be like that. It was awesome to go over the mountains because they are so much bigger than what we have close to Vancouver!

I had chosen to carry on my bag, so that I could get off as fast as possible, since I was losing an hour with the time difference. I was at the back of the plane and the wait was excruciating. I powered through the airport to find my way out (pretty abnormal for me considering how much I love airports), but my best friends were somewhere around here! I finally made it through the doors and Brittany was waiting to meet me! Everyone probably thought we were dating because I ran over and we were hugging and jumping around. She also turned bright red, as usual.

After that, we headed out to the car, which I was told not to make fun of because it was the only rental car available. We got out to the parking lot and Jaime and Angela were squished into the back of a silver Mustang. As I loaded my suitcase into the trunk, it looked like there was probably more room there than in the backseat of the car.

We drove through Calgary and it was very different than many of the other cities I had been to or lived in. There is A LOT of urban sprawl. High-density and medium-density just isn't a thing in Calgary. The houses also just keep going and going. It's also divided into quadrants. And neighbourhoods. Not suburbs (like of Toronto and Vancouver), but small divisions of the quadrants that all have basic services, like banks and grocery stores. It could get pretty confusing if you aren't familiar with it . . . or even if you are! I could feel all of the knowledge from my Society and Space geography class coming back to me as we drove.

We spent about 45 minutes at the house before going to meet up with some other friends. There are a lot of people from Guelph in Calgary. We stopped briefly at one of the residences at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) where we may or may not have snuck in. As soon as we got off the elevator, a friend from Guelph we didn't even know was going to be there, saw us and ran out from a lounge on the floor. Very random! After that stop, we were headed to downtown Calgary. We got to take the train, the CTrain, which I had to clarify was not the "Sea"Train, since we have the SkyTrain in Vancouver. Yes, I know that "sea" would not make any sense in Calgary. Although I am directionally-challenged, it's not that bad! I think an accurate description of how excited I was can be found here. It totally freaked me out though how the train tracks run right across roads and walkways. There are gates telling you to look for trains, but nothing really to stop you from just walking in front of them. Yikes!

After our exciting train ride, we did some walking around. I couldn't tell you where we were or where we went, but I can tell you that I managed to sustain some injuries on the walk. I was excitedly walking and talking to friends and didn't see the leg of the construction sign sticking out in front of me on the sidewalk, right about shin-height. I think a lot of other people saw it coming, but it was too late to warn me. That bruise is still going away, even two weeks later. About 30 seconds that happened, I stepped off a curb and rolled my ankle. On the same leg that had slammed into the construction sign. It was pretty impressive though, I think, because I fell all the way down to my knee and somehow recovered and kept walking.

There were lines all over the place and we ended up at some sort of country bar. We spent our time chatting and playing buck hunter. That experience should be pretty good proof that I am not a hunter. I should never, ever go hunting. My hand-eye coordination is not good, AT ALL. We didn't stay out too late because we had plans to go to Lake Louise for a hike the next day!

We got up bright and early(ish) for Lake Louise the next day. After making some breakfast, we packed up and headed out. Jaime was getting very excited once we started to get close to the mountains. She probably could have set her camera to just take video, considering how often she was sticking her phone between the front seats and taking pictures, haha. We got to the entrance to Banff and didn't even have to wait long to get in. Along the way, we saw a group of cars pulled over to the side of the road. There was a moose taking a bath in one of the rivers! (No, Erin, we didn't want to shoot it.) Also, all of the water we could see was a turquoise colour. It was so pretty! We got caught up in some traffic because a camping trailer, attached to a car, had ended up in a ditch and been blown apart by the impact. It looked like everyone was okay, but they wouldn't be using the trailer ever again.

We thought we would have trouble finding a parking spot (and we were nervous about where to safely leave the Mustang), but we were pretty lucky to see a car pulling out a spot . . . just as we had passed by it. However, I wasn't losing that spot! I jumped out of the car and stood in it until Brittany could back up. Pretty sure everyone else hated us.

After walking down to the lake and lunching on sandwiches that my lovely friends had made the day before, we took the cliche shots in front of Lake Louise. We're just SO HAPPY to see each other. I think we need travelling pants. It's that happy. Then, we ventured towards the trails. We were pretty ambitious when first choosing a trail, but it became pretty clear that my chicken legs weren't going to handle that. Angela took the backpack from me and we ended up going to a look-out, which gave the chance for another photo op and some great views of the area. Eventually, some other friends found us and we ventured a little further, to a steep, rocky area. Jaime found an inukshuk and Brittany kept saying she wanted to see a bear. Um, no thanks. After spending some time up there (and getting rained on), we headed back down to walk around the lake. It was a pretty long walk and we took plenty more pictures. We also saw that a wedding had been taking place recently. That would be a pretty cool location for it!

After tiring ourselves out, we headed back towards Calgary. I definitely fell asleep in the car, only to wake up when we pulled into a McDonald's in Canmore. Yum, fries! We had plans to visit downtown again that night, but considering how exhausted we were, we decided to make a "family" dinner instead and hang out in the hot tub. Worked for me!

On Sunday, we had breakfast and then it was time to take Angela and Jaime to the airport. So sad! We said good-bye and Brittany and I headed back to the house to relax. I wasn't leaving until late that night! Somehow, being in Calgary made my voice come back. (You might remember it was pretty much gone from the Ontario trip.) This was great because Brittany and I could talk! Since we had made so much food that weekend, we decided to go for lunch/dinner after dropping the car off. We found a Montana's and that filled us right up. I had the Chipotle Firecracker Burger, which was really good, except for the fact that I kept ending up with deep-fried jalepenos in my mouth, as much as I tried to remove them from the burger before taking a bite.

Since we didn't have the car anymore, another friend from Guelph was able to drop me off at the airport. I got there right on time, but of course, with my bad luck, the hour flight to Vancouver (okay, actually an hour and seventeen minutes) was an hour delayed! I had some chocolate milk and talked to my parents while waiting and finally got on the flight. I had an emergency exit row seat with lots of leg room and enjoyed more of the chip things.

The boyfriend was waiting for me when I got back (he's the best!) and I went straight home to bed. What a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lauren Takes to the Air - Part 1

This past weekend, I didn't just take to the airport, I took to the air! I headed back to Ontario for a quick visit to attend my cousin's wedding. Even though it was brief (I was only in Ontario for about 41 hours), it was totally worth it! I loved getting to see my parents and extended family (even though there's a lot of us, we're very close!) and even my best friend! She normally lives pretty much in Manitoba, so this is only the second time I've seen her in the last year. We might have stayed up until 2:00 am talking on Friday night. Whoops! My cousin is also starting at my university in September, so we had tons to talk about. My voice is still recovering from the trip because there was a whole lot of talking and not a whole lot of sleep. I haven't had a normal voice since sometime on Saturday evening.

My adventure started on Friday morning. I had booked a 9:00 am flight with Air Canada (keyword: "booked"), but unbeknownst to me, the flight I booked on was a Boeing 777 that originated in Sydney, Australia. It stopped over in Vancouver, then continued on to Toronto. The problem with this is that if it's late coming out of Australia, it's going to be late leaving Vancouver. So, I got to sit around "the office" for a few hours longer than I planned. This also meant that my connection home? Not going to happen! So, after a painful, hunger-inducing time spent in line, I got the connection cancelled and finally had my boarding pass.

Protip: If you want your flight to be on time, maybe don't book that particular one. However, if you want a free $10.00 meal voucher, that's your flight!

Sadly, I didn't have a window seat on the plane. The girl who did though was kind of weird. I sat in my seat, staring longingly out the window because I wished I had a window seat. I also wanted to see my airport from views I don't normally see it from. As we're still taxiing on the runway, she folds her legs up, shuts the window, closes her eyes and starts meditating. I totally get if you're nervous and that helps, but first of all, why did you get a window seat? I would have totally enjoyed it! Second, your eyes were shut, you could have left it open for me and still been content. I didn't think this was very cool!

Long story short, I made it to Toronto and after locating my lost dad and my bag (which took way longer than it should have . . . ), we went out to the car where my dad had a whole bunch of my favourite snacks waiting for me! We talked all the way home and my best friend was waiting for me at my house.

Then, Saturday was the wedding. So much fun and yes, an open bar. Apparently, at weddings, getting an alcoholic beverage when you're underage is okay, if you're with your mom. The second time I went up for a drink, I got ID'd because my mom wasn't by my side!

On Sunday, my second and last morning in Ontario for the trip, we went over to my aunt and uncle's new house because I hadn't seen it yet. They had a pool, but I didn't think it was quite warm enough for me to jump in. Actually, Ontario was rather disappointing on the hot, swimming weather front. After that it was time to head to the airport. I was making a connection in Toronto this time, so my parents didn't have to take the long drive. Since it's a small airport, it doesn't take long to get through security, but I went through a bit early, just to be safe. Since I obviously hadn't spent enough time with my parents, we mimed back and forth through the windows until I had to board. Pretty sure everyone else thought we were crazy.

On both flights, I got a window seat! My first flight was very cool because I was sitting RIGHT NEXT to the propellor. I loved watching it start up because it was so huge!

My second flight, from Toronto to Vancouver, I sat next to a lovely gentleman. During the second round of drinks, he toasted me with his orange juice. How lovely! One of the movies I watched on the plane was called "Lunarcy!" It was about people who are convinced that we are going to colonize the moon. As we were landing in Vancouver, I still had one of my my earphones in and about 10 seconds before we touched down, someone in the movie said "I didn't think there was anything wrong with the flight." I pretty much had a heart attack because I didn't realize it was in the movie, but thought it was someone on my plane. (They were recollecting when they heard about the Challenger explosion.) It was not, though and I landed safely. We came in over the water and it was still light, so I could see UBC, downtown, islands and my airport as we came in!

Stayed tuned for Lauren Takes to the Air - Part 2. This time I go to Alberta!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Arts and Crafts

I had some pretty good pictures taken today, so I thought I would quickly share. I was making some full-scale, cardboard mock-ups of equipment for a project I'm working on, so we could pretty much "place the furniture". I also thought my parents would be proud of my engineering degree being put to good use for arts and crafts. I probably could have done this based solely on my Girl Guide experience. Good news though, the props worked SUPER effectively and everyone thought it was a wicked meeting. Yay!

I happened to get a photo of myself in the infamous high-visibility vest that I talk about, as well. Somehow our meeting turned into a photo shoot.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fireworks and Fireworks and Fireworks (And Some Other Stuff)

It's been a while! I'll keep this post mostly to pictures, since a lot has happened.

I mentioned last time that I was going to help set-up a food bank in Burnaby with some people from work. It was a pretty fun morning and I think I've had my fill of retail for now. I'll stick to engineering. It turned out that the manager of the store was having his first day of work when we were there, so he was very grateful for the help. We spent the morning cleaning, unpacking items and then stocking the shelves. The manager explained that they call the store a "hand-up", not a "hand-out". The purpose is to make everyday food and groceries more accessible to people without being free. A pretty cool idea!

Saturday night was the first night of the Festival of Light fireworks competition in Vancouver. It's an annual event where countries from around the world compete for the best fireworks show. First off was the UK with a James Bond theme. The boyfriend and I decided to check out the view from Kits Point this time. Even though it wasn't the actual venue, it was packed with people out to see the show.

On Wednesday, the second fireworks show was scheduled. This time, for the full effect, I went all the way down to English Bay. After yoga, I went for a 40-minute walk to the bay since transit was wonky because of how many people were in town for the fireworks. If I thought Kits Point was packed, it was nothing compared to this venue! Luckily, I was by myself, so it was easy to find a spot. This was definitely the best view of all three shows. The fireworks were loud, the music was blaring and the fireworks were exploding right above my head. There was also a bit of the show on the barge, which I couldn't see from the point. Wednesday was Canada's entry by a Calgary group. They did a tribute to the Calgary flood. They were also making hearts with the fireworks, which I liked a lot!

On Saturday, I asked the boyfriend to go with me to try out a fish and chips place that I had heard about down in the Granville Island area. Go Fish! was a cute, little stand that looked out over the water and into downtown. Of course, the friendly neighbourhood crows were there. They're everywhere! Fortunately, they let me eat my meal in peace. It was pretty tasty, I think I'll have to take my parents here when they come visit!

Then, we took a walk through Granville Island, with its markets and waterfront views.

Saturday was the last day of the fireworks competition and Thailand was competing. The boyfriend and I decided to take in the show from Point Grey. We also got a recommendation from the 5-year-old upstairs from the boyfriend about the best place to watch it in the park. It was a little far, but there were a couple of gentleman behind us that had a radio, so we could still hear the music. They also sounded like they were quite the fireworks aficionados because they were giving each other commentary the entire show. We had a pretty good time listening to it! Thailand totally won me over with their happy face fireworks! Unfortunately, I'm not a great photographer and couldn't snap a photo, but it was sweet! Probably for the best because after a few happy faces, they changed to sad faces and no one wants to see that.

I think people at work must think I'm the crazy fireworks lady because I was really excited about all of them. Way more than anyone else.

Somehow, we also totally lucked out with all of this. NO RAIN. I don't even understand it, but in case you hadn't heard, Vancouver broke records for having no rain. There was no rain for the entire month of July. Totally weird.

Finally, yesterday, we went to check out Vancouver pride. We decided to go for the parade, and stopped around the end of the parade route with perfect timing. We saw the groups and floats go by, including a TD float with some very enthusiastic dancers and a hockey float that I thought my parents would like. Nearby, in one of the main intersections in the area, the city had painted a permanent rainbow crosswalk. Very cool! After crossing there, there went to La Belle Patate for poutine. It was delicious and the poutine had squeaky cheese!

It's back to work tomorrow, but I have a super short work week because I'm headed back to Ontario early Friday morning for my cousin's wedding. I'm excited to see my parents and family after so long! I think it will be weird to go to the airport to get on a plane though, instead of for work. I'll also get to see my best friend who I haven't seen since Christmas. Postcards are great, but they don't quite cut it after that long. Yay!