An Affair With Las Vegas

Las Vegas for those that are visiting can deliver a multitude of impressions depending on the person, age, financial status and moral compass they live by. You have your Las Vegas Show Bunnies in their sensible Naturalizer sandals who flock to see Celine Dion, Chris Angel and the Chippendales. You have your conference attendees who peruse the halls at the MGM in their lanyards juggling their plastic swag bags and their atrociously obnoxious neon Margaritaville glasses. Half Sugar half bottom shelf vodka. Then you have your bachelorette/bachelor crews where at any given point someone is barfing, someone is crying, and someone is having public sex. There are so many types of visitors worth mentioning which is why Las Vegas hands down can be the most fascinating place in the world to people watch in. Perhaps this is why I have always found it such a seductive city to the senses, whereby mine are on high alert from dusk til’ dawn.

I’m happy to be alive in order to share my Vegas Talez as my moral compass has often been left at the airport gate once I’ve landed at McCarran International Airport. I’ve been a frequent traveler to Las Vegas since 2011 where I was one of those bachelorettes, minus the penis straws and feather boa’s. My girlfriends are far more refined when it comes to protecting the image we aim to uphold, until the tequila and dirty martini’s begin to flow like the Nile.

In 2011 I went to Las Vegas with $500 bucks in hand, sporting my newly installed feather extensions. I had packed 3 new Victoria Secret Swimsuits, an assortment of bandage dresses, and enough blinged out costume jewelry that would make Joan Rivers proud. My maid of honor at that time was a well seasoned Vegas Pro and had set us up in a beautiful Suite at the VDARA, and had us lined up for all the best pool day parties. I remember pulling up to the VDARA with its dramatic design by world renown architect Rafael Viñoly. The opulence of the Lobby included a splendorous array of fine art by Frank Stella at the Front Desk to the specifically commissioned work by Peter Wegner in the Concierge Living Room. Every element existing in unison to create a sensation of peaceful serenity making the stench of harsh heat on dirty Vegas pavement a distant memory. I won’t bore you with the details of my Las Vegas maiden voyage as those details will go with me to the grave. I’ve been sworn to secrecy to protect the identity of the attendees, strippers, as well as the men and women’s hearts that were broken that weekend. It’s safe to say that my first trip to Las Vegas as a bachelorette would be the beginning of my love/hate affair with this the Vegas day & night life.

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Fast forward 9 years later, and while my gross yearly income has not changed significantly I cannot imagine surviving in Vegas on $500.00 spending money. My affluent tastes have since surpassed that measly stipend and I blame the enablers who have brought me to this point of no return. To all intents and purposes, I actually owe a great deal of gratitude the people, friends and family along the way that opened my world to these luxurious escapades I would have not otherwise had the pleasure of experiencing. I would go on to experience the beautiful resort properties of the Wynn, Encore, Aria, Bellagio, Cosmopolitan and my favorite The Palms Place. I could go on about what I love about each property but will save for another time as they all deserve to be highlighted in various ways.

Back to the Party!

You see in the early years of my Vegas trips, I quickly learned what type of Vegas visitor I was. I was aroused by the scintillating synthesis of the senses that the Las Vegas Party Scene created. The immersion of architectural/ interior design, bewitchingly sexy bodies and Tantric base of the music can be as powerful as a snake charmer drawing you into a web of indeterminate adventure.

Drai's Dress Code | Drai's Beachclub & Nightclub

I favorably smile upon the time a group of us had a front and center table at Drais Nightclub during the infamous Las Vegas AVN Adult Entertainment Expo held there yearly where we were flanked on each side by the porn industries finest. As the night progressed, the bodies became more and more entangled, woven together, and bound by the rich smell of the leather seats, sticky with champagne and mixed juices. I’d fall back into it, feeling the warmth pulsate through my body admiring the kinetic light show that made it all feel like a dream. In fact it was a dream come true as my senses fluctuated between the touch of a hand, a kiss from glorious engorged lips to the disarming aroma of vanilla and rose oils. Calvin Harris’ music would move my body with no inhibitions and find the beat at every moment, shifting with the audio-visual ques of the screens around me. Tall handsome security men, dressed in fitted black dress shirts and tailored to fit pants would open the red ropes for me, offering a muscular helping arm as I wobbled unstably in my platform heels. They would dote, smile and ensure my safety at all times keeping the undesirables away while facilitating the desirable’s entry towards me. The heat from the crowd would wet the baby hairs along my hairline, creating a crystal glimmer on all of our skin, capturing the lights. My dream wouldn’t end here though.

XS Nightclub Bottle Service | Surreal
Aviccii Announces Final Vegas Dates - Pace.Vegas
Avicii @ XS Nightclub

The Cabana’s at XS Nightclub would prove to be another formidable experience to add to my mounting repertoire of rapture. I had been to XS many times and experienced their bottle services, having seen some of the best DJ’s in the world there perform. Ironically I remember being front and center on the dance floor for RL Grime, and there beside me stood the late Avicii, completely blended into the crowd. We looked at one another seemingly in the same state of euphoria that bonded us in the moment requiring no verbal communication. We had established that we were both there for the musical intoxicating rush, and neither of us would ruin that for the other by exposing his presence among us common folk.

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But alas, I had no time for the common folk when I entered the beautiful and luxurious realm of the XS Cabana’s. The warm red hue’s of the private bungalows offset by the glow of the surrounding turquoise lit pool was the perfect backdrop to take in the Chainsmokers who were performing that night. My feet swollen and sore from dancing the previous 3 nights away welcomed the lavish cushioned sofas and ottomans that prove to be my most welcomed ally for the night. They propelled me higher into the Las Vegas night sky where I could watch from my elevated perch the magical circus below. I’d dance all night in the comfort of our very own Moroccan themed palace, until both magnums of Belvedere were gone. What a Glorious Hot Mess I was leaving the Wynn Resort that night.

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Lounging in my Palace at XS

There were many more of these incredibly unique only to Las Vegas experiences, however I must mention my favorite type of Las Vegas parties, which is the Day Pool Parties. Whether it be Wet Republic, Encore Beach Club or Drais, they all offer an incredible way to avoid having to wear heels and minimal attire to flaunt your best assets. Again the Cabana’s are wonderful to retreat to out of the hot sun or if you are requiring an intermittent disco nap. However, getting a day bed in the center of the mix is the best way to go in my opinion. You can take advantage of all the bottle service and menu perks while staying relevant in the sea of sexy wet bodies. People GO HARD in the daytime in Las Vegas, and if you are able to resist the magnetic energy flowing than I’m going to assume you have no heartbeat. One can’t help but grin with a childish glee when the base line drops and alcohol tainted chlorine water begins to splash about like a manic tidal wave breaking free from its intended form. When you look around, everyone has the same foolish grin, ignoring the fact that any other time they’d typically be guarding their mouths and open drinks from potential contamination. Its in that moment you say:

Who fucking cares, flap your wings and get your eagle on girl, mascara can be fixed!

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Such carefree elation like this comes at a cost however both in the traditional, emotional and physical sense. It typically hits me as I approach my airport gate, where I search for a corner on the floor to rest my weary head until my flight is called to leave. The come down from a sensory high like this can be harsh and cruel as many of us return to mingle among the common folk where we appropriately belong. Boarding the plane with imaginary mangled crown sliding off my head by the minute I’m usually seated in the middle between the conference go-er and the Show bunny. Neither appear to be impressed by the sweet lingering smell of vodka and sin emanating from my pores. The remainder of the flight I will fall into a coma sleep, head bobbing and drooling pathetically. I’ll recover, and the discomfort I’m in will fade away, lusting for another Las Vegas affair.

Coming to Africa: Part 2

The Royal Visitor

Settling into a small African village in the middle of rural Tanzania was not as difficult as I had anticipated. Perhaps it was my experience growing up as an only child, that I was able to easily entertain myself through various means of daydreaming of soap opera type scenarios in my mind of what I imagine my life was like in an alternate universe. I always had a way of finding excitement in the forbidden, and would later in my adult years fully bring that concept to fruition.

But back in Africa there I was a young adolescent girl in a place where all eyes were on me. Not because I was particularly cute or worthy of any attention, in fact I was at the peak ugly stage with my new little cone boobs stuffed in an ill fitting training bra and face full of acne. I was the only white teenage girl in our village, and probably the first that many children and adults had seen. My skin, hair, clothing and activities were a source of fascination among the towns people. I only apologize that this was the first impression they got, because I assure you I die every time I see old pics of myself. Teens today will never understand life without filters and not knowing how at one time we didn’t wear make up that contoured and covered up the misery of awkward adolescence. This type of attention I can assure you is remarkably uncomfortable and definitely the first time I had experienced in my life being “the other.” However, I think it also played a major role in feeling comfortable and confident later in life and navigating the unfamiliar and adapting to my surroundings easily.

I had begun to explore and move more comfortably in my new community of Mgololo. There was a club house nearby where members could access an outdoor pool. It was rarely used by the local members as swimming wasn’t an activity that was actually common for the local kids and adults. So I would go naively in the hopes of meeting friends, but often would end up more like a circus act of one. The children would line up along the fence and people would collect and watch from the stands. It didn’t help that these were the years where Body Glove Swimsuits were in and there I was with an electric yellow neoprene suit looking like sponge bob flapping about in her very own Bikini Bottom Village of one.

Like I mentioned before I had the tendency to escape into alternative universes of reality. When I was at the pool I’d spiral into my make believe worlds, and this was like any other daydream where I became an Olympic Synchronized Swimmer- without the team obviously. I had no idea what I was doing as I had no experience in Synchronized Swimming nor had the athleticism to hold myself in any kind of position that would even remotely look like something graceful and coordinated. But I’d dance away, flailing my arms about, doing handstands, then darting out of the water with one arm shooting up to the sky. A few times I’d come up coughing and choking from taking in too much water in my aggressive attempts at more dangerous and intermediate moves. I’m absolutely sure I looked completely insane. My plan to draw in friends and meet people was completely annihilated by my weird ass resulting in defeat and loneliness. I skulked all the way home that day, retreating back to my bedroom and slamming the door in defeat. My only solace was eaves dropping on our gardener Felix who I had already begun to spin a forbidden romance with in my mind as I watched creepily through the curtains.

The Exact Bathing Suit I Wore

The next day was a new day and I had been in the bathroom for about 4 hours learning how to cornrow my own hair so that maybe I’d fit in more. I’d later find out that our hired house assistant Katherine could do it in the matter of an hour. I would also like to share that as Boujie as having a gardener and house assistant sounds, I assure you it was not and just a means to employ some of the folks. Our house was not even large enough to need any help with either, so often we’d all just hang out in the yard. I heard a knock at the bathroom door and opened it slightly as to not reveal the hideous attempt of cornrows on my head. Katherine was at the door giggling and told me I had some visitors. I thought she must be mistaken, unless word of my incredible Syncho Skills made it to the Olympic committee. She stated that there was a young girl my age named Miriam Mbelo at the door with her chaperone Charles Mbelo- whom I’d learn later was her older brother and worked at the same Mill as my father as a junior supervisor.

I quickly ripped out my braids, leaving my hair all crazy and kinked and approached the door. Miriam was tall, slender and had beautiful dark ebony skin with short hair. She was wearing a traditional African print handmade dress, and looked so mature and regal for her age. Miriam introduced herself and I was so pleased to find out she was my age and had invited me to come to her home the next day. Her older brother Charles quickly moved in front of her, introducing himself likewise. Charles was very formal in his introduction and advised that he would be coming to collect me the next day to escort myself to their home. I advised that I could find my way just fine as it was only around the bend, however he insisted I be escorted. Not wanting to ruin my chances at making a new friend I agreed riddled with anxiety about what on earth did I just experience. First who the hell were these people, how did they find me, and what is a chaperone and why did I need an escort? Katherine was no help and was snickering in the background the entire time because she already knew what was on the horizon.

Later that day my father had come home for lunch. It was customary in Tanzania for the big meal of the day to be eaten at lunch time. We’d all sit around the table and eat the equivalent of a meal that could be more suited for dinner. It was also an opportunity to acquaint Felix and Katherine to some of the North American delicacies we’d have shipped to us. Kraft Dinner was a popular one that we could all agree tasted better with hot dogs and hot sauce. At lunch that day, Katherine sat there staring up from under her shy disposition giving me the “eye” and signaling that I should probably share that I had visitors today and subsequently agreed to be “escorted” to an adolescent play date.

I casually blurted out to my father that I had met a friend named Miriam Mbelo and would be going to her house the next day.

My dad looked up and began roaring with laughter- was he drunk? Did I miss something? Being drunk at lunchtime in Africa was not a far fetched concept for either of my parents during this period so it was possible.

My dad began to sputter through the laughter and mouth full of food that our dear friend “Charles” had arrived at his office earlier that morning introducing himself and sharing a lengthy resume of accomplishments with my dad. My father stated he was really confused because he had not known or spoke to him before but had only heard that people called him “Prince Charles.” He had been left wondering what had he done to be blessed with the presence of such a royal visitor, the Prince himself. His reputation of having quite the inflated ego and sense of self importance among his colleagues was how we all became familiar with how he got the name “Prince Charles,” and was forever only addressed by this name forever after. My father provided a bit more background with regards to how the Mbelo’s were higher on the status pole within the village and could only guess where this was heading. I’m pretty sure they 100% knew where this was going but at my expense wanted it to play out for their own entertainment. My family can be cruel, especially if it means there will be laughter and humiliation involved.

So the next day, Prince Charles arrived promptly in another freshly pressed ill fitting suit that I imagine had been his fathers at one point, or still was his fathers. The pants were too short and displayed his long thin dusty ankles, which made his Sunday Church shoes look surprisingly newer in comparison. Clearly, his freshly moisturized legs had no chance against the dusty red clay roads that he marched fervently through to get to my house around the bend. I can only imagine the spectacle that this journey created in the little village, because by the time he arrived at my house there was a group of children trailing behind him with curiosity. The last time someone was dressed like this was when Mama Fifi, who owned the brothel by the mill, got married.

There was no turning back at this point for any of us as the ground work had been laid and the wheels were in motion little to my knowledge. Katherine promptly opened the door and invited Prince Charles in who sat poised like a regal Lion looking down from his perch above the Serengetti Plain…. except his perch was on our little wooden couch. I came out in my over-sized Spike Lee T-shirt, ripped jeans and threw on my flip flops completely oblivious to what was occurring. When Miriam was not there I just assumed she stayed in from the African heat. I scooped my Nintendo System, and some of my plastic friendship bracelet wire so that there would be no room for awkward silence between Miriam and I. I was not familiar with what African girls that were my age did and was more than willing to share a bit of what us Canadian girls did. So I headed towards the door uncomfortable with the formal presence that was sitting in my living room, and headed out the door without Prince Charles. I mean what was he waiting for, I didn’t need an escort to begin with?

There I was walking ahead at a brisk pace, village children trailing, and Prince Charles bringing up the rear. He asked if he could oblige by carrying my game system which I said “I’m cool, I got it.” Like what does a 13 year old girl talk to a twenty something year old man about? These were before the days of social media and internet whereby girls were not fascinated at all by grown men unless they were a lead singer of an 80’s hair band in spandex. The only boundries that were crossed at that time was maybe that one time my mom caught me tonguing the shit out of my Ralph Machio poster. Again, humiliation at my expense.

Thankfully the walk took less than 10 minutes as I had not developed the gift of small talk at that age yet. Prince Charles had gotten my age, grade, and that I was only child out of me before we landed at our destination- The Mbelo House. Miriam came out to greet me very formally again and was brought into the modestly decorated home that had a lot of the same furniture we had in ours. When the mill was built, many of the houses must have all been furnished the same in order to settle a mass amount of Expats and Tanzanians into a small remote village to run a fairly massive pulp and paper project. Miriam was impeccably dressed again and I wondered if she was always going to be this proper as I was not equipped to match her class and polite disposition. Lets face it, I was swearing like a trucker by the age of 5 and I was eager to see what damage my influence could do. Prince Charles who was in my peripheral was not helping either with my master plan. I wanted to talk about boys; boys private parts, anything and everything to do with boys. I needed to know if she had gotten to 3rd base because I wanted to share that 2 months before I got felt up over the shirt, and needed to address the other burning preliminary questions that would help us be BFF’s for life! I wanted to know did she love Bon Jovi as much as I did and if she thought Axel Rose stuffed a sock in his white jeans or was that really his ding dong? Prince Charles needed to make an exit, and wasn’t going anywhere as we sat there in silence.

After what seemed like an hour of staring, I asked Miriam if she wanted to go cruise the red clay streets of Mgololo. Surely this girl knew this was code for lets go find some boys to flirt with. I would never find out though because Prince Charles insisted he “escort” us about the town. The term cock blocking had not yet been introduced to my vocabulary at that time but without a doubt this was my fist experience of the cock who cock blocked. There we were, two teen girls who couldn’t look anymore different cruising the red clay African streets, village children in tow, and Charles bringing up the rear watching over his flock. Thankfully the walk provided us enough space to get in some more comfortable small chat in and make plans to hang out again. Miriam and I would spend a few more times hanging out, going for walks and watching movies. I even managed to get her in on eves dropping on Felix from behind my bedroom curtain. However, my plot to pollute her christian mind was never actualized and perhaps she remained a better person and wife for it.

However the story of Miriam and I’s friendship did not end there. It seems Prince Charles had his own agenda, similar to the fairy tales I was known to dream up in my head.This moment is exactly where my parents were anticipating on landing in terms of their own selfish desire for cruel humor at the expense of their equally devilish daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were sitting on the pack patio pressing the passion fruits to make juice for the homemade Popsicles. From a distance we heard singing, similar to the choir that could be heard at the church. In fact it was the church choir singing Immaculate Mary, Thy Praises we sing….growing closer and closer. Wouldn’t you know, there was the choir coming up the path to our house, village children in tow, Miriam Mbelo, Mr & Mrs Mbelo and at the rear Prince Charles. The other Expats who lived around us came outside to check out the spectacle. My dad pulled his head out the hood of our Jeep, opening a fresh bottle of Tusker Beer and taking a long swig of it. It was in that moment he knew it was the moment that he had been waiting for. The moment in which decades of tearful laughter could be had at the expense of his daughter. He took another long swig and finished the freshly opened bottle, placing it on the hood of the jeep and making his way over to his pride and joy, his daughter, who was about to be proposed to by Prince Charles.

It seems that once Prince Charles had spent enough time observing the potential of Miriam’s new friend that it would be only right to approach this said friends father with a marriage proposal and Dowry offering of 50 Goats. It seems it would have been higher had I not ended up disclosing to Miriam that I had been felt up over the shirt which brought my worth down substantially.

Oh the Betrayal!

Firstly, Miriam never intended on being my BFF. I felt so used!

Secondly, Prince Charles used Miriam as an informant to plot and assess what I was worth in goats.

Thirdly, Prince Charles wasn’t escorting us anywhere, he was protecting his investment and took the concept of cock blocking to a whole new low.

And while the subject of child brides are nothing to be laughed or joked about, leading me to believe that I was about to be sold for 50 goats apparently was. I kid you not, my parents sat for approximately 2 1/2 hours with this man and his family, playing along poker faced until they could no longer hold it in any further. Even the church choir and village children had begun to disperse as the negotiations fell apart and no compromise could be settled upon . There would be no royal wedding in Mgololo after all. Prince Charles left with his ego dangling limply between his legs and offended that his seemingly gracious offer had been refused. His dreams of making babies with this girl were now assembled in a small pile of ashes, soiling his Sunday shoes.

My dad would often joke that had he been able to get at least 100 goat that perhaps his investment in my education would have paid itself off eventually. Years later I would remind the boyfriends I had along the way that dumped me that there was a Prince in Tanzania that offered to pay my parents in goats in exchange for my good lovin’. They were not impressed and I remained heartbroken and alone time after time. My hat goes off the the women of the world whereby this practice continues as it was by far the most insane experience I had while living in that little village. And if you are ever curious about your own worth in goat there are actually quizzes you can take online in case you hate your children like mine did and want to get into goat farming.

Click here to see how many goats your worth!

Coming to Africa: Part 1

Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.

When I was twelve years old I learned that my family was going to be moving from the little town of Campbell River “Salmon Capital of the World” on Vancouver Island to an isolated village in central Tanzania called Mgololo. My father who had worked in the pulp and paper industry had gotten a job at the Mufindi Pulp and Paper Mill.

My mother, who had spent the entirety of the 1960’s working as a nurse in Malawi and travelling Africa on her own, was also well accustomed and eager to support my father in this new chapter. However you can imagine as a pre-teen who had spent most of her life in a majority white hockey town that moving to Tanzania was terrifying not to mention kiboshed my plans to marry the captain of the local hockey team. My dreams of cruising the Ironwood mall in his sweet ass Letterman jacket was totally ruined by my selfish parents who had the nerve to move me across the world. The only hope of staying in touch with friends was by writing now seemingly archaic letters and tossing them in those specialized airmail envelopes via snail mail.

Riddled with teenage angst and bitterness my pleas went unheard and I found myself on a plane from Vancouver all the way to Dar es Salaam- the capital of Tanzania. When I touched down I had my first taste of a real third world. Prior to this, I had traveled to Mexico and Jamaica and thought I had seen poor countries before. Aside from those places, the only exposure I had to Africa poor was from my moms old photo albums of her early years. And lets not forget the terrible World Vision commercials with children covered in flies and swollen bellies standing naked in the dust.

Contrary to those commercials that is not what I actually encountered when landing in a real third world country like Tanzania in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Keep in mind during this time there were significant economic, health, and political issues rattling the continent of Africa with complicated social and political unrest.

At this time, HIV infection, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases would become a major disaster with far reaching repercussions. The HIV infection rate at that time was between 5 and 15% in urban areas and from l to 15% in rural areas but that in Bukoba town the rate was about 30% among adults. Country-wide some 800,000 people had HIV infection and the adult mortality rate tripled.(Wangwe 1997, Booth 2003).

Access to education in the rural regions had begun to expand with illiteracy falling rapidly from 63% in 1970 to 35% in 1991. The gender gap in education had also narrowed with primary school enrolment rates for girls now being more or less the same as for boys.

(Wangwe 1997, Booth 2003).

What my little pea head brain managed to observe upon arrival was the impact of the inappropriate aid programs and inadequate aid co-ordination ran by a corrupt government that left its citizens poor but resilient. Shipping containers filled with free aid and supplies would be seized and sold to its countries own citizens. It angered me and changed my views about NGO’s from then on.

I remember saying to myself “Where did all the Unicef money go from all the Halloween’s where I loyally toted that little box next to my candy bag?

I can still here the sound of loose change bouncing around as I eagerly ran from house to house. And I could see no evidence of how my coins had helped.

Hey Unicef, Where did all our hard work go?

While I processed my own disappointment, it didn’t take long for me to feel better because everyone was smiling. It’s like they didn’t even know they had gotten totally gipped?

We drove through the crowded chaotic streets, avoiding gigantic potholes, and coming across strips of half paved roads where it was evident that they had ran out of concrete or it had gotten stolen or resold. The smells of raw sewage, street markets filled with dried fish and exotic spices filled the air, drenching my clothes with a thick layer of “welcome to Africa.” The scent of my Exclamation perfume I had gotten for Christmas was no more and really no match for the pungent smells that awaited around the corner that I ended up growing to love.

After some time in Africa, my nose evolved as I began to identify the hypnotic scents of the varying wood that would be soaking and carved often in the streets. The essence of Ebony, Acacia, and Baobab wood replaced the familiar aromas of Cedar and Hemlock trees I had grew up around. I often place my face against the Masai carvings up until this day that we had collected and can be instantly transported back in time by its smell.

Having given my parents a pretty hard time for a solid 3 months prior to moving, they had made some efforts to acclimatize me to Africa upon my arrival. They took me to Bahari Beach, an African “resort” along the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean. You can imagine my confusion when it was not the kind of resort I had been taken to before like when they took me to Disneyland a couple years prior. The only characters that met me along the way to the bathroom was the humongous Baboon Spider that had spun their webs between the stone columns. The entertainment that night included 12 ft long Python whereby they would continually drag the beast by its tail as to ensure it didn’t slither too close to us. Every now and again they would play around and put the Pythons head in their mouth to awe the audience with danger.

Let me just make it abundantly clear, I am terrified of snakes, and will become immobile from fear at the site of a snake on television. Sure enough, the entertainers smelled my fear or maybe it was my Exclamation perfume still hanging on for dear life- but they decided I would be the perfect “assistant” in the show. Sure enough they handed me the tip of the snakes tail and in .5 seconds I vomited all over the first 5 feet of the snake. It was from that point on that my parents prepared themselves for an additional 3 months of acute jaw clenching attitude coming their way.

Here you can actually see a visual representation of my attitude…dad…totally unbothered.

With Bahari Beach in the distance we embarked on the two day drive across rural Tanzania on our way to Mgololo. There was so much to absorb along the way from the over crowded buses with families sitting on the roofs passing us equipped with musical horns that greeted us, to dodging cattle on the roads. Sometimes Baboons would jump on our windshield and try to mate with their own reflections and I was introduced to the male baboon reproductive anatomy on a more intimate level than I had wished. There is nothing more humiliating than having an enormous red willy ejaculating 2 feet away from you on the other side of the window while you sit next to your father. Every now and again my mom would break the tension with, “You can’t get much more exciting than this.” Had I not been 12 and a spoiled brat I would have agreed with her, and 42 year old me owes her an apology because she was absolutely right.

I was literally living in a national geographic magazine like the ones my mom used to collect and store in the pantry where she kept all her canning. They had created a life experience for me unlike any other kids life from Campbell River. In addition, nothing would bring me more pleasure than making my parents uncomfortable now with Baboon porn.

On the road to Mgololo outside Mikumi National Park, Tanzania.

We drove by groups of Masai Warriors carrying spears and drinking goats blood to stay hydrated for their long journeys herding their cattle to areas of the country where grass would grow and they could hunt. I had not seen skin color like this before but now understood why I was always so drawn to the colors in my crayon box named Sepia and Burnt Sienna, because they were even more beautiful in real life under the African sun.

We stayed overnight at Mikumi Lodge, a wildlife reserve in Mikumi National Park. Entering the park we were flagged down to be advised that there was a “rogue” elephant in the area and to be aware. I remember thinking to myself how fast my father would be able to drive in reverse if we came across this rogue elephant. We later had found out that a couple days prior, a Japanese tourist had climbed down the escarpment to get a closer picture of the elephant. The escarpment acted as a kind of protection between the lodge and the African plains below that housed some of the most majestic yet deadly wildlife in the world. The eager tourist had approached the elephant who was getting some shade under a near by Acacia tree and did as a disturbed rogue elephant would do in the case he felt threatened, which was impaled the tourist with his tusk, shaking and dragging him about then tossed his dead mangled body into the Acacia tree he had used for shade. The elephant allegedly did not leave the area for quite some time where this Japanese tourists body just hung in the branches like a warning “don’t fuck with me.” I can assure you no part of me was even in the slightest curious about heading down that escarpment. I was quite content in my Kikaboga Suite where we were told proudly by the bus boy that the suite was where the President of Tanzania would stay when he came through, and where Queen Elizabeth stayed once. Now it was where I stayed safely with all my body parts attached exactly where they needed to be.

It was the rainy season during this time and the grass was high making it difficult to view the wildlife as we exited the park. We would return many times after that though and encounter elephant herds with small babies; and see zebras and giraffe. We were lucky to see a leopard hunting for impala on another trip, and of course the Baboons who were were always willing to whore it up on our wind shield.

We continued our lengthy treck to Mgololo, where I began to digest the reality of my new life surrounded by such an unfamiliar world in which the landscape would change around every bend. It was so surreal that I often felt like I was outside my body and looking down at this young girl immersed in a movie with no title yet. As we approached the tiny little village that stood on a hill housing a dozen expats, along with the mill managers and directors, the heirarchy was evident as the huts sat below in the grasslands. Our home was a tiny concrete house with a tin roof, and cool stone flooring. We had a papaya tree that was abundant with fruit in the front yard with a vegetable garden in the back that grew in the red clay dirt. My new home was a far fall from what I had moved from and lacked most of the amenities that I had been accustomed to while growing up in the western world. The shipping container that had traveled across 2 different oceans had not arrived and delivery was going to be standard African time.

I’m pretty sure I cried myself to sleep that night. It would take awhile for my 12 year old self to attain some maturity before I could recognize the gift that my parents had handed me. But so began the start of my life in Africa, and would not disappoint in terms of shaping much of who I am today.

I hope to continue engaging you all as I pluck away at the years and memories of my time in Tanzania and look forward to taking you on a literary tour of my experiences. Click Here to Read More.

Kwaheri

I didn’t Choose the Good Life, the Good Life Chose me

I’m pretty sure I know when I got my first taste for the good life, and it was when I was 14. I remember I was starting to come into my little hour glass figure and I had bought this little black dress with white polka dots from Mariposa.  I was heading home to where my parents lived in Tanzania and had a solid 2 days of travel ahead of me solo dolo. I had always been stubbornly independent so this was no big thing for this little polka queen, and felt like I had some new hips to swing.

There I was with a business class ticket in route to London Heathrow. I had my Neon Yellow Sports Discman and binder full of CD’s in alphabetical order. Was I going to start my 9 hour flight with some Bjork and move into some Radiohead then turn it up and head into some Snoop Dog and Wu-Tang? I had my Vogue and Cosmo mags ready to go with the page corners turned down on the quiz pages that were going to reveal if I was a Sex Goddess or if my personality was compatible with Tom Cruise.

Ironically, at that stage I had maybe a few French kisses under my belt along with a feel up on the high jump mats stored in the school gym.  My first French kiss was with this guy Matt, and I he had just eaten a dill pickle. I should have settled for him in grade 7 because he ended up winning the lottery 3 times- I don’t joke. Maybe had I given him the blow job of his life he would have never broke up with me. But I didn’t know what that was yet either. The only access to porn we had was getting quick peaks of the playboy and hustler mags that were positioned in the back row of the magazine racks at the 7-Eleven. I was as green as the grass that grows in spring.

They were showing Jurassic park as the in flight movie, and the airline stewardess was handing out these little toiletry bags that contained nothing but Body Shop products. I thought I had truly made it in life with all my mini toiletries smelling like a fruit salad of satsuma and pink grapefruit. I asked myself can this get any better.

 It sure could.

The stewardess asked if I was travelling by myself which I responded hesitantly as I thought maybe she’ll assign me an adult and all will be ruined. All the “Between the Sheets” tips I had absorbed would go down the tube and the steamy love affair I had plotted out in my head with the cute boy in row 8B would be no more.

 But as luck would have it she offered me a seat up in the first class lounge, which I casually accepted, not aware of what awaited me on the other side of those velvet curtains. I’m pretty sure when I crossed the threshold it was my right of passage whereby I knew I was where I always belonged. Not only did I get more Body Shop Toiletries, I had a buffet of fresh fruit, cheeses, desserts and Swiss chocolate. Once seated I waited as long as I could so that I didn’t blow my age but I could not wait any longer. I went over and discreetly filled my entire ESPRIT back pack with everything that could ignite a teenage hormonal acne outbreak. I’m sure there was not enough Clearasil that could have intervened with this ravenous chick in a black polka dot dress.

As I settled into my seat with my bag of goodies, the stewardess came and handed me a hot wet towel. Next was the flutes of champagne and strawberries. The flutes were endless and I learned I could add grapefruit juice or orange juice to them, being advised these were called “Mimosa’s.” Within hours I felt like I was getting cultured as fuck and you couldn’t tell me otherwise. After about 10 of these I’m pretty sure I blacked out because I was in London and needing to transfer planes at Heathrow.

If you’ve ever been to Heathrow, its one of the largest international airports and it’s a nightmare. I’m not sure how I got to my next flight which was in a completely other different terminal and required a train and a shuttle. It was intense, but slightly satisfactory as I’m sure this was my first “Drunk Adventure.” My adventure took me to the first class lounge where discovered more goodies, and more of these Mimosa’s. I was an expert at ordering drinks now and I ordered myself a Mimosa, but got extra fancy and asked for orange juice and grapefruit juice in it, thinking I was going to approach it the same way I would at a fountain pop station. There I was perched in the club chairs, attempting to cross my legs like a lady surrounded by business men and a couple Arab Sheiks to my right. I pulled my Discman out because I felt like I needed some theme music and chose some Ace of Base with “All that she wants” booming from my little foam earphones.

By the time I headed to my gate, my hips gained a bit more swing as I smiled confidently at all the peasants walking by who had no idea they were dealing with a certified Mimosa queen and I had made it to the big leagues.

As my flight continued we had one stop in Dubai where I watched all the beautiful women begin to put on their Burka’s and tuck away any evidence of a goodtime. I wondered what their life was like and had wished I had not felt so shy and talked to them with my new maturity and class.

By the time I got to Tanzania I quickly realized wearing a little black dress to a third world country with  bag full of old cheese and crumbled cookies was not the best idea. My head was booming and with the heat and smells I barely made it to a garbage can. The class I had acquired over the last 9 hours went to shit, and mommy and daddy were waiting on the other side waving at me excitedly, blowing my whole cover. As soon as they saw me in my little slutty dress because it was now wrinkled and riding up my thighs from the flight, their response was “Wow, you’ve grown up!” That was all I needed to confirm that there was no turning back, I could never be that girl who would settle for dill pickle breath and plain orange juice again.  I hope they knew that I’d never accept anything less than first class from then on, and I had demands. But I assure you like any good set of parents, they grounded me as they quickly smelled the booze on me, and my crown knocked back onto the floor of reality. But regardless, it was too late, I still hang onto that crown and place it on every now and again to remind myself to just work harder, because the good life chose me not the other way around!

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We Almost Didn’t Survive The “Rona”

As we all approach the seventh month of enduring life in a pandemic I’m sure many of you have had to take a step back a few times and asked yourself how have I not pushed my significant other off a cliff yet. Many of us in the field of health care and social services braced ourselves for the increase in domestic violence, overdoses, and mental health related cases. However, due to the isolation the issues have noticeably been pushed further into the darkness. I’ve often joked with colleagues that the eerie silence seems to be foreshadowing a scene from Game of Thrones. Anticipation continues to tease the anxious audience with the looming threat of the white walkers who inch closer, while lives hang in limbo.

A large part of being in the health care and human services sector is a responsibility to manage your own mental health and wellness. And as seasoned as some of us may seem at doing this, there was nothing in our bag of tricks that could have prepared us for this blow.

I think it was the end of June where my partner and I hit a wall of intolerance for each other. A wrong look, a snappy tone, or small misunderstanding was enough to ignite world war 3. Our lack of social buffers and distractions was like having a field of dry grass in a drought awaiting a match to be lit. Time together was no longer cute or meaningful opportunity to strengthen us, in fact it was going to break us.

We needed a relationship intervention. We needed a dose of what life was like before the complex web of Fuckery impacting our ability to be civil human beings. I recognize that we have remained in a better situation than most folks who have faced unemployment, illness, and loss of family members as a result of Covid-19. I think recognizing this was a motivating factor to get well in my personal life. The white walkers are coming and in this case as services and schools begin to reopen the demand for healthy front line workers will too. I can’t be of assistance to anyone if I’m in jail for accidentally poisoning the smoothie I so kindly threw in his face.

I can appreciate that there is a spectrum of opinions and levels of comfort with regard to the Covid-19 topic. My own has wavered consistently from the beginning of it. I remember being in Mexico in March just as the pandemic was escalating. By the end of my stay as the resort became a ghost town and the stream of concerned texts and emails came through for me to come home, the severity of it began to sink in. We are all aware of the panic and fear that ensued after that.

I’m sure this is actually how Covid was introduced to the world…Foam Party.

It was in July that both my partner and I tested positive for Covid. Living under the same roof as my 78 year old mother with significant health issues complicated our recovery even more. Covid left us fatigued, foggy, and unable to support one another at a time no one else could. And while I recognize there is still so much we don’t know about Covid-19 and reinfection, we decided to take what we think we knew and take advantage of our fresh antibodies and go on a trip. We had been advised after being quarantined and cleared by health professionals that we have up to potentially 3 months of antibodies until the harshness of winter ascends on us. So with our empty and weathered buckets in tow we took the summer vacay we needed to fill them accordingly.

We took a quick flight from Calgary to Vancouver, one we’ve taken many times before. This departure felt similar to the excitement attached to some of our previous tropical destination trips, equipped with the obligatory gate drinks. In fact, they were literally Gate Drinks whereby we were allowed two at a time to be drank at our gate while we waited for our flight. It made me wonder how this wasn’t even a thing before because I was loving it. We boarded our half empty flight where I could stretch myself across the seat and take an hour long disco nap prior to the anticipated fun that lay ahead of us.

Over the next few days we took in the beautiful sites of Vancouver. I was excited to show my partner a piece of my past where I had so many great memories. Having lived there before, I knew all the best places to go and reacquaint myself with the ever changing cityscape. My favorite part of Vancouver is the transit system, as it’s an extremely large and densely populated city whereby a short distance can turn into a 2 hour commute by vehicle.

Stanley Park is hands down a must when visiting Vancouver. You can rent all different types of bikes from cruisers to electric and ride along the seawall. There is the aquarium you can currently book ticket times for along with the many paths, beaches, and indigenous art spread about waiting to be discovered. From there you can tackle the city by foot, Skytrain, bus or scooter. Stanley Park is really close to Denman Street and English Bay where you can find the colorful and LGBTQ2S safe community that has been well established for a long time. Typically around the time we were there it would have been boasting one of the largest Gay Pride Celebrations and parade.

We strolled through Gas-Town & Yaletown in the search for the little hole in the wall sushi spots where you can get fresh sushi on the low-low. It was crazy to walk by the old closed clubs I use to frequent in my early 20’s, like Sonar and the Purple Onion now looking unidentifiable. These were the years of the late 90’s, early 2000’s, when Hip Hop and Rap artists were killing it, and my gold hoops were as big as the vibes. It was the time to be alive and in your twenties, try to tell me otherwise. Craft beer gardens and Bottle Service were nonexistent, and the only thing that separated you from the next person was what color your Fubu Jersey was.

The next few days we encountered some of the most gut aching laughter ever. I’m blessed to be surrounded by some of the quirkiest characters that are always sure to deliver. Our beloved friend we call “Uncool Jake” who is often the Butt of many jokes was in true form

By the end of the night after some monetary encouragement to the donor he was putting back shots of breast milk quite willingly. How our circle has changed since the far racier Las Vegas trip days. The content may change but the bad behavior never dies. With laugh lines reinforced, we moved on to a slower pace and headed to Vancouver Island.

We took the ferry to Victoria which is where I went to the University of Victoria. Victoria boasts the most beautiful inner harbor, where you could typically come across buskers, vendors and musicians. However…COVID World strikes again and it looked like it would traffic wise in the winter. Victoria usually is a big cruise ship destination, and the lack of tourism was evident with many of the storefronts closed and out of business.  After I identified the big tree I peed in one time on Canada Day I felt like we were ready to move on to the next stop on memory lane.

I decided to surprise my honey and took a night on Salt Spring Island staying at the Salty Pear Farm, which has a number of different Air BnB options.  They suggested that we go to Salt Spring Wild Cider Brewery and take in their tasting flights. They had us at the word “tastings” and primed our palettes and bellies by getting a solid buzz on. The view was vibrant as it overlooked hues of rolling wooded hills with the orchards below. The casual atmosphere along with the fervent staff made the experience idyllic. I left feeling like this would be a place that if I was a local would stay until closing time, and likely be found in a nearby field under the stars.

Salt Spring Wild Cider Brewing Company
Hamock Lounging at the Salty Pear Farm, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

We surprised ourselves and showed enough restraint at Wild Cider in order to take in a waterfront dinner where we listened to the band Grapes of Wrath perform as the sun set. If you grew up in the 80’s & 90’s you will know that these guys were the SHIT! So I may have fan girled a little bit while my significantly younger partner took zero interest in this epic moment. Watching the boats come and go, as well as eaves dropping on the horny middle aged women’s conversation next to us was a highlight. It made me actually miss the girls night dinners I used to have pre-Covid days where the night would be littered with the dirty details of our one night stands of Stampede Past.

I had initially researched Sunset Kayak trips, but the trip was beginning to take a toll on our energy and were looking forward to just relaxing by the camp fire at the Salty Pear Farm. We were leaving for Shawinigan Lake and Tofino the next day so lacked the time needed to cover the Provincial Park, Lakes and artisan studios that Salt Spring is known for. It will be a destination I can see returning with a group of girlfriends after the pandemic has subsided.

Shawnigan Lake School Main Building

I had been anticipating the drive to Shawnigan as it was the boarding school I attended for 5 years. It is a prestigious school located on its namesake lake where I spent my years rowing and skinny dipping at night with my dorm mates. The grounds mimic something out of a movie, with its main gardens and mix of new state of the art learning commons among the old refurbished heritage buildings. My high school years here were hands down the best years of my life. Ironically it was also the setting for my last wedding that ended in divorce, yet the nostalgia of the place remains unsmeared. I pointed out the Chapel where I had lost my virginity in, which also was the same chapel I got married in.

Inside the Chapel of Sin

Indeed I am going to hell in a hand basket.

 I pointed out the train tracks that we would walk down and go smoke weed. I shared the story of when 15 of us got busted and all got put on “Wilbur Force” together, which was a punishment based more on public embarrassment along with loss of privileges. Joke was on them because all 15 of us were friends, and it allowed us the time to smoke more weed while not having to do sports or other enriching extra-curricular activities. It took us 6 weeks to pull a tiny area of Broom, which is that thick yellow brush that grows in BC, in what should have taken a week. I feel like it may have been easier to have just let us get away with our insolence, because it left many of the other students wishing they were on our side of trouble.  I love visiting this place, and cannot wait for my 25th reunion next year where the tradition of poor behavior will be continued.

We pushed on to Tofino and I was adamant about stopping in Coombs where they have the Market with the goats on a roof. My partner was a bit confused as to why this was a thing, let alone a reason to veer off our direct route to Tofino. Unfortunately the line was so long to get into the actual Market where I was just wanting to take in the familiar smells of the wood and hand made goods. We did take in lunch at the Italian restaurant Cuckoo Trattoria, dining on hand tossed flatbread, pasta, and sinful desserts. It made the blow of not getting into the market digestible. The patio sits in a wooded grove overlooking a ravine where you can hear the stream below, and offers soothing shade on a hot day. There were moments where I felt I was at an old Tuscan Villa enjoying a glass of vino with Il Mio Amore!

Coombs Market

On route to Tofino we passed through Cathedral Grove, which the Arboreal groves resemble Gothic cathedrals of Europe boasting the worlds largest and oldest trees. Due to the pandemic the trails and park was closed, however remained impressive with the lush green cavernous coastal forest lining the highway. I was thankful to be driving as this road is not for those who encounter car sickness.

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Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

You literally weave and wind along roads hugged up against the coastal mountain range where waterfalls cascade off the cliffs and onto the side of the road. Each bend reveals a torrent river of rapids that have cut through the landscape unearthing interesting geographical land formations. All of a sudden my inner twelfth grade self made an appearance and I’m identifying fluvial formation terms such as “look at that Alluvial fan!” I officially outted myself at that moment as a total geography nerd and I think he dug it

Tough City Sushi, Tofino British Columbia

Despite the  distractions and near misses we made it to Tofino, whereby on our arrival Mio Amore quickly got up to speed on the vibe of the little coastal town. Earthly looking characters strolled the main drag in bare feet and dreaded heads. There was a mix of surfers, kayakers, and outdoorsy fleece clad groups meandering with a sense of ease and harmonious interaction. We scuttled quickly to find a restaurant that was not closing before 8pm and came upon another sushi spot called Tough City Sushi. We sat on the covered deck as the west coast rain fell fervently. The smell of the wet salty earth, and purr of the rain complimented the fresh raw fish and intimate moment we so desperately needed to renew.

The next day feeling rested and rejuvenated after our previous day’s drive we decided to take on Boogie Boarding on the world famous Long Beach. We rented wet suits and boards from Long Beach Surf Shop and it was super reasonable. The weather was in fine west coast form, blustery and wet.  This did not dampen our childlike excitement as we fought the fury of the ocean’s waves and rode them in one after another. On the beach we had found the perfect little driftwood shelter, shielding us from the elements and making for a romantic little sand oasis where we sipped craft beer and cognac to warm us up. 

We cycled back and forth between the ocean and our shelter that day, feeling the heaviness and weight of the previous month’s tension and sadness get washed away into the Pacific Ocean. I could have sat there in that feeling for countless hours. In fact I had not felt that weightless and in the moment in years where found myself so in tune with all of my senses. In fact with no doubt in my mind I knew that there was no other place I wanted to be than with him on this beach in the pouring rain. We had found our way back to one another even though we had not left each other’s side for months. There was a sense of renewed hope that when we returned home things would look brighter and perhaps easier even in a pandemic.

Our Little Love Shelter on Long Beach

The remainder of our trip as it began to draw to its conclusion was further filled with family moments whereby I appreciatively looked around me and acknowledged the wealth of love around me. I have often ended vacations feeling exhausted or less than enthusiastic to return to work. As I boarded the plane, I was anxious to get back to my own bed and return to the reality that faced me back in Calgary where I could flex my replenished perspective.  I even looked forward to seeing my mother who had also admittedly enjoyed our absence, but grateful to be back in our own brand of dysfunction.

It turns out it was a much needed reset in varying aspects of our lives, and not just between the love of two people. Who knew it was only an hour plane ride away and with people we’ve had all along. Who knew the city streets, highways, little towns, and islands of my childhood could ground the person in my future the same way they grounded me in my past and share that together. It left me Feeling not only grateful but fueled for the next few months at least to absorb the impending damage that this pandemic has had on families, relationships and individuals. And while there may be gloves, Lysol, masks and potential vaccines to protect us from catching Covid, no one is immune to the suspected long lasting emotional trauma that is un-ravelling as the months begin to inch closer to a year.

 Stay strong Friends. Stay Woke. Stay Close to those who love you and RESET.