Who drags a two foot plywood ribbon from The White Ribbon Project with them when they travel? Or maybe it was the other way round. Why does a large ribbon that will not fit in a purse take a person with it when it decides to go traveling? In the tradition of Australian Aboriginal people, going walkabout is a spiritual experience often associated with awakening. My ribbon from The White Ribbon Project decided to go modern walkabout for the first time in two years.
When I first learned of the Health eMatters conference, I was pretty excited. First it sounded like it was right up my alley. And second the travel to the conference would take me halfway to the Maritimes. Extending the trip would allow me spend some time with my youngest son - Evan. He moved there in September.
Postponed three times the conference looked like it wasn't going to happen. But then I got an email asking for my flight preferences and it was on! I struggled a bit with going. It appeared to me that covid precautions in Ontario lacked the rigor of BC's. And then there was getting on a plane. Locked in big silver tube for hours with who knows what.
But I had a few good reports from folks who had traveled. It was a good chance to up my cancer advocacy game and to see my son.
So flights booked. Reservations confirmed, I started packing. A bit rusty as it has been two years since I last traveled. I had the challenge of packing for Maritime weather and tromping with my son. But then I wanted to look good in a conference setting too. Stop laughing. My White Ribbon decided to go with me for photo opportunities. I thought it might be a bit of a shield against the unmasked folk who are a huge risk for me.
Flight to Halifax
My first flight was with my old airpline friend WestJet. Online check-in was a breeze. I love the Google integrations that looked at my flight details in my email and my location with GPS. Then Google Assistant told me when I needed to leave. I was at the airport in plenty of time. Okay actually I was really really early but I was not sure what to expect and I had to go down Hwy 1 in rush hour to get to Abbotsford.
In reality I was so early, I had to wait for folks to show up to take my bag. All the texts saying I needed to be at the airport didn't do the calculation quite right. I had been able to upload my vaccination certificate as part of the check-in so I didn't have to show that to the airline. I checked my bag and headed for security.
In line for screening, I overheard the couple behind me discussing whether they needed masks. I turned and pointed at my Ribbon and said, "Some of us would appreciate the protection if you did wer them." At that point the security screener intervened. He told them that they shouldn't even be in the airport without masks. They would not be permitted through security without one. Score one for the White Ribbon.
For my first flight in two years it was a wee bit eventful. On the Calgary to Halifax leg, we seemed to be taking a long time to pull away from the boarding ramp. The pilot finally came on with that droll WestJet sense of humour said "We have a passenger who has chosen not to fly with us today. And we need to find their bags since they can't fly unaccompanied." Oh and after that wait we still needed to de-ice putting us about forty five minutes late departing.
Wheels down in Halifax. The ground was browner than I expected after green daffodil filled Abbotsford. But the adventure wasn't over. As we unbuckled, the flight attendant came on. She asked us to remain seated as medics needed to access a patient in the rear of the plane. It was of course the fire fighters not the medics who made it to their side first. They were able to assist them in deplaning under their own power.
Time in Kentville, Nova Scotia
The good news was that the delay meant my baggage was waiting for me on the carousel. Evan was outside and spotted my red toque exiting. He gave me directions to where his car was waiting. The old Ford Explorer known as the Millennium Falcon stayed in Edmonton. He now has a more modern version that can handle the snow and branch towing required.
He paid a great compliment to the benefits of exercise when he told me that I was standing straighter. (I could almost hear my mother saying "straighten up.") And that my rounded shoulders were more square. I'll take the compliment. I have already passed it on to the exercise kinesiologists involved.
While we spent most of our time exploring around Kentville, I did slip back into Halifax for a day. I met with a cancerconnection.ca mentor that I had only knew from zoom. I met his dog and we swapped stories as men do when they gather. The Maritime Museum was next on our agenda. We walked our feet off trying to get the full value of our $5.00 tickets. My favorite parts were the scale models of all sorts of ships and the marine archeology exhibits. I had no idea that there was that much treasure off the coast of Nova Scotia, Oak Island excepted.
Exploring Kentville, an afternoon excursion to Wolfville, and walking on the beaches around the Bay of Fundy at Halls Harbour and Baxter's Cove seemed like home but not. From the rocks to the trees it was all just a little bit off. Familiar but on examination not what I thought it was. Maybe it was the wrong time of year. For example, I'm used to turning beach rocks over and seeing all kinds of life scuttling for cover. That life wasn't there.
One of the highlights was spotting my first Northern Cardinal. I had spotted a brown bird on the steps with an odd orange beak. A minute or two later when her brilliant mate showed up I realized what I was seeing. We had a lot of fun on our walks with iBird. It's a sound identification app for my phone which listens to birdsong. Then an AI component identifies the bird by their song. Mourning doves to ducks to a variety of sparrows were all recognized. More amazing joys of technology.
Spending time with my son always leads to interesting conversations. Leadership, teamwork, and baseball all got thorough discussions. He might have me following the Mariners this season after watching spring training in any down time we had.
Health eMatters Conference in Toronto
All too quickly, I was rising at o'dark hundred to catch my Air Canada flight to Toronto. Check-in and this flight was smooth. I rode the Express train into downtown Toronto and promptly got lost crossing the street to the conference hotel. I like to think I don't get lost easily but the walkways baffled me (and my phone.) Once I found the hotel, they allowed me early check-in. After settling in I went in search of the two friends that I had arranged to meet.
I have a separate post on the Health eMatters conference that I will post shortly. Let me make a few comments though about themes that emerged for me. The first one was "Stories." Presentation after presentation hammered home the utility of stories to process emotions, to get a message across, and to connect with others . The second theme was "Connections." I'm not a fan of networking. The metaphor always sounds to me like we are trapping people in nets. But so many people came up to me recognizing the red toque from seminars I had spoken at and events I had co-chaired. Connections abound. I look forward to following up on all those connections.
One last breakfast in Toronto, a stroll around Queen Street and I headed back to the airport. This time to duke it out with Flair. I had been unable to do the online check-in. I kept getting the message that the check-in was incomplete and I needed to allow plenty of processing time at the airport.
Final Flight Back to Abbotsford
So I was early. My flight was scheduled to leave at 3:25pm. I got to the check-in counter at noon. The counter clerk told me that they couldn't help me till 12:10. Why the magic ten minutes to this day I don't know. I jammed my hands in my pockets, clenched my mouth shut and went for a walk. Then I logged into an online Recovery meeting. Just what I need to cool down.
When I finally went back to the counter, I mentioned that I was a little upset at my treatment so far. Actually I used the words "pissed right off." The new clerk smiled and said, "Let's see what we can do to fix that" when I explained that I had been unable to check-in online. The online app had given me an unhelpful message and a clerk then had turned me away earlier.
It turns out that in juggling my flight arrangements, the reservation for the last leg had stayed intact. The organization that paid for the flight though had the full amount refunded. All that I needed to do was pay for my ticket. After making sure that that was what had happened I pulled out my shiny new credit card and paid.
The last plane was late arriving so they delayed the departure by 45 min . Still I was on the last leg of my adventure and happy to be heading for home. The White Ribbon had one final gift to give me. It started a four hour conversation with my seatmate. Those stories made the flight home seem like minutes. She told me that I had led an adventurous life but so had she and the stories flew back and forth till we landed.
It felt good to be traveling again after this covid-imposed hiatus. And I'm already plotting my next road trip. Look out world.
It's funny that my first reading after I came home was from Psalm 55. The Psalmist talks about that longing to travel.
Psalm 55: 4-8 (The Message)
My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.
I'm not sure if the Psalmist knew what covid would be like. But for me this trip has been a refreshing reawakening re-energizing spiritual journey.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support.