Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mark relishes a hat trick as his team gets decimated.

The title pretty much says it all. First career Ross hat trick is apparently not so sweet when your team gets beat by 14 points. Ouch.

What's that Bruins hat doing there?
In related news, we might be changing our name. Coast to Coast doesn't really ring with us, and this is probably why we lost. We're currently kicking around a few names, but none are appropriate for repetition online. Stupid, sensitive internet.

Welcome back to the island Suzie!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An opportunity wasted.

The other day, one of the students in aftercare needed me for something.

"Mr. McLean!" she yelled from another room.

I know that I've only been a teacher for a very short while, but seriously, how can anyone ever get over the power trip of being called their dad's name?

This handsome man is brought to you by  Derek McLean Consulting
It was a girl who was being tutored by Katie, one of the loyal followers of this blog. The student was working on geography homework in a nearby room, and she apparently had a question that only I, in my infinite wisdom, could answer.

"I have a question about Canada," she said as she ran up to me.

Help a curious student from the South learn more about Canada? Okay!

"Fire away," I responded.

She showed me a map of North America. Her assignment was to locate coordinates on the world map, and report what was nearby. Her calculations planted her here:

"What city is this, Mr. McLean?"

Fear swept over me. As a Canadian, I have a humble pride in my country, though I usually make fun of it. I also tend to thump my chest about how rad Canada is when I'm around Americans. But hell if I know anything above the 50th parallel.

I stammered. "Well, you know...um, I think it could be... Okay let me think." Whitehorse. Yellowknife. Yellowknife starts with a Y. It's not in the Yukon, which also starts with a Y. So it must be in the North-West Territories. Got it. "It could be Yellowknife. Let's take a look on Google Maps."

Quick as a flash I access the internet, and zoom in on the area. Yellowknife, it turns out, is north of that very big lake, not south.

"So what's near that spot?" she asked.

Silence filled the room. Dejected, I turned to her. "Nothing. There's nothing there. Tundra."

"Ok, thanks Mr. McLean! I'll just put 'Nothing' as the answer."

What a fine lesson in Canadian geography. A chance to sing of the magnificence of our confederation, the beauty of our landscape, the superiority of all things Canada. For all intents and purpose, however, I reinforced the American image that Canada = a few major cities and an endless winter wasteland.

Incidentally, it seems that the spot she pinpointed is a body of water called Tortuous lake. Charming.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

We have returned unscathed

Denise and I got back to Dominica a few hours ago, and braved the windy road back to our smelly apartment. It's oddly good to be back. The cruise felt like a good reset button, and hopefully will be a catalyst to salvage the most out of a year that both of us were dreading. Below is my own description of the cruise; I'm sure Denise will post about it soon from her own perspective.


My parents finally got a look at the country I'd been describing for the last few months. There's a taxi driver that I trust (that's a pretty big deal here, and anywhere I guess - imagine taxi drivers without things like laws or meters) named Roy, who took me down to Roseau to pick up my parents. He was late picking me up, and we encountered pretty bad traffic because of construction, so he gunned it the entire way. It was terrifying.

A good sampling of the roads here. It's windy, hilly, straddles a cliff, is only one and a half lanes wide, and the drivers take turns pretty quickly. Oh, and there are no speed limits.
Though I almost soiled myself, once I accepted my impending death, as well as the fact that Roy has been doing this for years and knows what he's doing, it was really fun to go so fast again. Reminded me of accelerating on the Perimeter in Winnipeg.

We picked up Mom and Dad. Roy, ever the gentlemen, halved the speed for them, stopping from time to time to show them the views. It took an hour and a half to get them back to the apartment (as opposed to 45 minutes there, including the traffic jam), but my parents were relieved to have the dreaded commute done. After a quick tour of the campus, Denise and I made them a meal of fresh, fried tuna steaks, sliced tomatoes and mashed breadfruit. They were happy to see that we live in a decent apartment, and have the amenities to at least be comfortable, if not content, in a foreign country.

(Joss - Mom brought us Chocolate Easter Eggs. And they be good.)

Roy took us all down to Roseau again in the afternoon, and we boarded the ship. It's friggin' huge! It dwarfs Roseau, and half the town was pre-emptively darkened by its shadow at sunset. We took off, and set out for Grenada


It took me a couple of days to get used to being on a cruise. Going from a third-world country to the land of plenty was a bit of a shock: there's a cafe open 24 hours a day with free food, a free buffet open most of the day, free (delicious) pizza and burgers, soft-serve ice cream, an amazing gym, simulated driving range, and of course much much more. Also, the entire thing sways slightly from side to side, and it makes it hard to determine whether it's the alcohol (Dad snuck in a wee bit too much scotch) or your own center of gravity.

We decided to just wander around the first port we arrived in, and were a little disappointed. Grenada is like an upgraded Dominica: there are cobblestone streets, there seems to be some preserved history, and generally the infrastructure is much more advanced. Despite this, there weren't any interesting shops or products, and the people didn't seem particularly nice. What we took away from it: cheap spices and sunburns.

One thing I learned from my parents is that with ten minutes to go before push-off, many tourists sprint to try to make the boat. Since most of the passengers are overweight, this meant fat people running - a certain pick-me-up at the end of every day.


The most pleasant surprise of the trip. We had kind of dismissed this country as a quick stop on the way to Aruba. It's lovely, and I heartily recommend it. The salespeople are charming and not pushy, and the shops there have original, cheap art and jewellery. If you ever get an opportunity to go, do it.


Aruba is ballin'. Again, we weren't too sure of what to expect here, but we knew it was kind of a big deal, mostly because of the Beach Boys song. It's a gorgeous island - calm seas, beautiful beaches, and pretty fun architecture. What we were surpised about was the amount of jewellery stores there were. They have litterally every brand of watches, necklaces, and earrings, and for much cheaper than in North America. My quest for the perfect watch was reinvigorated, but to no avail. Denise went ballistic when she found a Starbucks. We all went on a "Glass Bottom Boat" cruise, the highlights of which may be seen in the video below. We saw a shipwreck and a coral reef, which was pretty rad. All in all, very impressive, and Denise and I will likely try to come back to vacation again.

Day at Sea

This was nice. Being on a cruise can be very relaxing, but there's a lot of pressure to make the most out of the islands you visit. It was a pleasant break to eat all day, read a book, and do whatever relaxing thing you want to do. I've started reading Never Let me Go.

Here is a compilation video of the trip. A little choppy, but you get the idea.

Overall, this cruise was surprisingly fun. It took a couple of days to get used to the gluttony, the impermanence, and the swaying, but by the last day both Denise and I were sad to leave. It's hard to not relax in a situation like that. It was a welcome change, it was fantastic to spend so much time with my parents.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We're almost on a boat!

Hey gang. Soon my folks arrive for the day, and then we'll all be cruisin' through the Caribbean. So I really only wanted to leave you with one thought:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I don't always remember where I am.

Denise and I have slowly but surely transformed our apartment towards something that resembles our taste. It's not really there, and it won't ever be: notwithstanding the likelihood of us moving to another apartment soon (we've been having some beef with our landlord), life here is so impermanent, and things like affordable furniture and art so rare, that it's not worth the investment to nest here. The same can be said for our last apartment in Vancouver, where we knew we wouldn't be there for more than a year. Essentially, and I know this is the complaint of someone who has led a pretty fortunate life, Denise and I have never had the chance to make a home.

Even though our place here is not exactly what we want it to be, it lets us forget where we are. With the pretty dependable air conditioning and our fridge full of snacks and condiments, we can forget that outside it's 30+ every day, and that the road to campus is pretty regularly an insect-infested river because of the consistent spurts of rain.

Life here seems to be a balance of treating yourself to luxuries (AC ain't cheap. Our electricity bill each month is somewhere in the vicinity of 120 US), and the inevitable reminders of where you are. Tonight, for instance, I was walking towards The Tomato, which is really the only place in town that has decent, American-style food. My day was very long (explanation another time), and I was looking forward to a decent meal with my bonnie lass, when I saw a ragged local approach me.

"Hey mon!" he said.

"Hello," I replied curtly.

"Hey mon, come here."

Shit, I thought.

He opens his bag to me. "Ginga?"



Was he insulting my hair?


I looked in. The man wanted to sell me ginger roots. At 6pm on a Thursday night, as the sun is setting. Is there a huge market for ginger that I don't know about? Why is this man selling me ginger?

I turned him down, heading for The Tomato, and reminded myself that yes, I do live in the Caribbean.

In a similar situation, I was drinking a coffee with a friend of mine at Rituals, the only place to get a decent espresso on the island. We sat outside, drinking our coffees, watching people pass by on the main road. A young woman was jogging past the shop on the opposite side of the street, when a cow emerges from the bushes, and stops in front of her. It stares at her, chewing grass. Evidently a first semester, she slows down and stops, unsure of what to do. She goes left; the cow mirrors. She goes right; the cow mirrors. Eventually she crosses the street and keeps running, and my friend and I watch traffic slow to not hit the cow that is no longer moving. Again, any illusion that I was enjoying a coffee in civilization fizzled pretty quickly, and I simply stared at the udders of that cow, willing it to provide better milk than the powdered kind that filled my latte.

Despite our best efforts to forget it, we live in the Caribbean (thank God for the red squiggly line - I always spell it Carribean). I know that for those who read this blog often enough, we seem to complain a lot. While Denise would disagree, I'm split on how I feel about the place. Sometimes I love being here; it's an adventure and a unique opportunity to read and write, and work all sorts of different jobs that I wouldn't normally do. Other times, I'm just so damned sick of being reminded that I am this far from home.

The silver lining is that home will soon be coming to me. My parents arrive on Tuesday, and my mother has agreed to brave the nausea-inducing road from Roseau to Portsmouth. Then we're going to drive back down, Denise and I, and we'll spend the next 6 days on a cruise.

Maybe they'll have real milk.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A brain, a bag, a robot, and a cruise.

Greetings world,

I hope y’all are doing well.   Mark is currently in the kitchen making cheese quesadillas, so I decided to blog a little.

On January 28th, I had my neuroscience practical exam.  I was (and still am) behind in my studies.  The teacher for the neuroscience course has a “100 Club”; if you get 100% on the neuroscience practical, she takes you out for dinner.  I had no delusions about being in the 100 Club…with an extra week to study and nothing to do, OR with a time machine to go back to the beginning of the semester and not fall behind, I might have been able to swing it.  I was aiming for an 80% going into the exam, and even this was ambitious. 

This exam, unlike all my others, was a fill-in-the-blank exam instead of a multiple choice exam.  Also, spelling counts, and a lot of things in neuro sound very similar despite having nothing in common (e.g., caudate vs. cuneate vs. cuneus).  

The exam started off strong – I knew the first few answers, no problem.  I thought to myself “Maybe I’ll actually pull this off”.  Then, around question #14 (out of 50) everything went down hill.  I was getting confused, changing answers, and had seemingly lost my ability to spell.  There was a small period towards the end of the exam where I thought things were picking up again, but it was short-lived.  

Unfortunately, my exam was not this easy...

Usually, I try to leave as soon as possible after an exam.  I hate hearing people talk about what they put, or how easy/hard they thought it was…it stresses me out.  At this point, you can’t change anything, so I don’t really even see the point in talking about it.  This exam though, was on the far end of campus, and there was only one route to get back, so I was forced to listen to people talking about the exam.  Everyone agreed that around question #14, things took a turn for the worst.  This made me feel better.  Then people started comparing answers…nobody seemed to have put what I put…this did NOT make me feel better.....

Turns out, those other people suck, because I got 90% on the exam.  Don’t ask me how.  I do not question these great gifts from high above.  All I know is, I thought I was totally screwed, and I ended up being in the top 17%.  Not too shabby.

I just finished buying my "I got an A" gift.  I got the bag that I wanted a while ago.  Once I factored in the Gift Certificate Vanessa got me for Christmas, it came to under $100, even with....get ready for this....SHIPPING TO DOMINICA!!!!  My friend Stephanie, who saw the bag on our blog last semester, decided to get one too, so we are splitting the shipping cost, which is even more awesome.  So much awesomeness everywhere.
Traveling Translator Tote from modcloth.com

In other news this week, I was finally able to confirm with Mark’s parents that YES, I will be joining them on a cruise on February 15th.  It had been up in the air because I had a class that I didn’t know I could get out of.  Turns out, the prof is going to be on vacation that week too, so it’s actually kind of perfect!  Mark and I are jumping on the cruise in Dominica while his parents start in Puerto Rico.  From Dominica, we go to Grenada, then Netherlands Antilles, then Aruba, then a day-at-sea, then Puerto Rico again.  Mark and I fly back to Dominica from Puerto Rico on February 20th.  Stay tuned for pictures…here’s a video for now that you can all get jealous over…

Also this week, I had a simulation lab where I learned about managing airways.  I got to intubate a robot (Harvey).  It was surprisingly cool.  Made me feel like a real doctor.

This is Harvey.  My school should be getting Harvey's pregnant counterpart soon....

SimMom...I really feel like they could've splurged for a more feminine face.
My mom is much prettier.

I could go on and on about all the other things I’ve been doing, but this post is already super long, and I don’t want to push Mark’s fish video off the page (if you haven’t watched it yet, it is the post below this one: Mark guts a fish…very manly).



Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to gut a fish.

The flying fish meal was largely a success; we don't know how to debone the suckers, and so with every bite the things exacted revenge by sticking little bones between our teeth. Besides that, it was very tastey, and Denise is a wicked cool woman for knowing how to do things like this: