2010 in Review
Sunday January 16th 2011, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Personal
2010 was (and is still, for a few more days) the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac and hence my year. It comes every twelve years and good things happen to tigers during our year. 1998 treated me incredibly well. Thus, I had high hopes for 2010.
Alas, 2010 wasn’t quite a 1998. No spectacular pows! like 2009, yet there were a few pretty good parts.
My friend Ryan, a self-described right-wing kook (plus bike nut, video game curator and tech nerd) – he blogs at Wired Cola – has this great year-in-review idea. His 2009 review is here and 2008 is here. I like his posts. Letters to one’s future self are the best gift. I love reading my old diaries where hindsight makes me laugh at introductions to “nice” new friends or, on the positive side, “weirdo” acquaintances that blossomed pretty decent friends. It’s also amusing to re-read one’s anguish months or years later by which time it has shrunk to insignificance. Or, to relieve the especially awesome moments.
Now, enough rambling. My 2010 in review.
1. My guinea pigs Chuy died, with Paco following him to the grave five days later.
2. Weird health problems have been plaguing me more and more – the usual insomnia is now augmented by frequent numbness in two fingers, happening since June 30. I also developed some bizarre new allergy to everything. Then I was bitten by some wussy spider that gave me no super powers, only a permanent scar. But this makes it many years since I caught a cold. (And, this point should really be a positive. I recently found out I am even more superhumanly healthy than I imagined. I can now take up all sorts of vices from smoking and binge drinking to a meth habit.)
3. My grandmother broke her hip. On the good side, her excellent, speedy treatment demonstrates that the much-maligned Canadian medical system is actually pretty good.
4. Some minor bad stuff that I can’t quite remember. There was something about getting a bunch of rejection letters, too. Oh well.
This I need to divide among my many goals. My life, you see, is compartmentalized into goals. I have about 18 languages on my to-learn list, a bunch of travelling, and a few weird life experiences to which I aspire.
1. I began learning Finnish! I suck at Finnish but I have decided my pseudonym, if I ever write a book, will be Finnish.
2. On the language front, I continue to dazzle with my Chinese even if I haven’t spoken Mandarin much in years. I know just enough to make smalltalk and possibly a brief conversation on Tang Dynasty poetry. Make that an exceedingly brief conversation.
3. I also picked up some Estonian, which I added that to my list of lifetime goals making my to-learn list go up to nineteen.
4. I began studying Russian.
5. I continued torturing the Dutch with my Dutch.
1. I visited Russia! Finland! Estonia!
Finland especially was a treat – I have been a Tove Jansson fan since I was ten or so. I made a pilgrimage to her birthplace in Helsinki at midnight mere minutes after arriving in Finland. I saw her nudie sculpture at the main city park. I almost pressed my nose against the glass that protected her artwork – her own hand touched that paper! – at the Tampere Moominvalley Museum. I have since researched the location of Jansson’s house in the islands and next time I am in Finland, I will hire myself a boat and make my way to her home to pay homage.
Russia maintains an undercurrent of creepiness, with armed police, military men and miscellaneous thuggish-looking characters swarming the place. My favourite uniformed man was the Kazak (?) soldier exploring Peter the Great’s cabinet of curiosities with his mom.
Yet, Saint Petersburg is one of the great cities of the world. History at every corner. Bullets holes next to Dostoevsky sites near pre-Revolution prisons and the czars’ graves. Plus, a whole new world opened up to us that we never get to know here in North America: introductions to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan. My two fellow travellers and I all vowed to return.
Estonia is where my friend T is from and, now that I know a little more about the Hanseatic League, one of the places that entrances me. We stayed there too short a time, but this makes all the better prepared when we go there again.
2. I also went back to Amsterdam on my own, to saturate myself with museums. A current obsession with the Dutch Golden Age was partly satisfied and I finally got to see Haarlem (which has adorable bats, an added bonus for a Transylvanian). I got to read all the text panels in the museums I went to, except a few at the Dutch Resistance Museum when I had to catch my train to Haarlem. I discovered the Jordaan neighbourhood, where I will be staying in future trips and where I slept near Rembrandt’s last home. From here, it will be a few years before I get to see the Netherlands again. Perhaps in 2014 or 2015, I will get to go again.
3. Closer to home, I travelled a bit around the Okanagan, having organized a big family trip to Osoyoos, Penticton and Kelowna. All of us are now in love with Osoyoos and Oliver. It’s good to have a close-by place that can be a fantasy home. Not one of my travel goal places but good enough for a weekend.
4. I also travelled with Matt to Whidbey Island (quietly depressed military suburb), Port Townsend (hippie paradise and heritage buildings full of a higher class of souvenirs), Sequim (crabs, drive-through zoo, lavender farms and a 1950s-mixed-with-Walmart town), Port Angeles (Victoria’s mirror with more crabs and an arrested Seattle feel), Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park (murderous mountain goats, could-care-less deer, swarms of chipmunks, and a view over the uninhabited heart of the Olympic Peninsula), Forks (bad food, bitchy-looking Twilight fans that are probably high school bullies, and a fuck-you attitude to Twilight merchandise marketing) and Rialto Beach (a grey palette, the brutality of the mis-named Pacific Ocean in full evidence). We played card and board games when we weren’t exploring, drank wine and ate a lot of crab. I already want to take a convoy of friends there next year. Again, not a lifetime must, but full of charming memories that will delight for years to come.
5. There was another visit to Lubbock in the forecast, with side visits to El Paso (creepy – especially with murderous Juarez so close by), Carlsbad Caverns (an eerie stroll down into the bowels of the earth), Levelland and Morton (Matt said I can add it to my list now).
6. I add Uzbekistan and Yemen to my travel to-do list. Yemen will probably not be safe for a while (Sudan, which I tentatively added in 2008, still isn’t either). Uzbekistan looks almost ok. The places there to visit are Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Nukus, and, time permitting, the Ferghana Valley and Kokand. I am hoping for this to happen in 2013 or 2014.
1. We are not much of a family without guinea pigs. Matt and I adopted Penelope and Daciana from the SPCA. Pronounce Penelope the Spanish way. Pronounce Daciana the Romanian way: da-chee-ah-na. (Dacia was barbarian Romania, that the Romans attacked. It is also a Romanian car.) Slightly different personalities from Paco and Chuy. I also finally got to witness popcorning, the supreme example of guinea pig joy with Penelope and Daciana.
2. At work, I did phenomenally well, breaking all my previously held records. I also almost finished my mid-career professional diploma, completing all the classwork, and am one-step away from getting the sheet of paper that proves I can do my job.
3. Best of all, I spent a lot of time with my best friends, Matt, N, D, the Rs, X & D, R & M, R and my parents! Plus, I have some pretty good new friends I am looking forward to becoming even better friends with in 2011. (Some of you new friends really flatter me – I am honoured that you like me as much as you seem to. I like you back!) And I got to spend time with the Texan half of my family.
But a year-in-review also implies that I have expectations for the next year. Thus, here is what I foresee and what I hope for in 2011:
1. I travel to France. Haven’t been there since 1996, time to dust off my French, show off Paris and Strasbourg to Matt, and delve into the unknown wilds of Provence.
2. To get my scrap of paper that confirms my professional competencies, I will need to complete an internship that, when I calculated, means I must work seven full-time days a week for about seven months. This is where I will probably destroy my perfect health.
3. I read 50 books. I’ve done it before and it’s pretty easy if I doesn’t waste time by merely standing in supermarket line-ups or looking at screens. Most of the books will be about France, book club picks (as long as they aren’t chick lit), and assorted one-offs to satisfy any whims that demand attention.
4. I chip away at my own social history of hamsters book.
5. I spend more time with Matt, family and friends.
6. I play more boardgames. Matt made a list of all our games that I haven’t played yet. I vow to ace Vasco de Gama and Saint Petersburg. I may never be good at Agricola and I accept that. (Plus, I need to find someone who likes to play Alhambra.)
7. Paint that polar bear for N.
8. The Rs reminded me of a goal I flippantly suggested a few weeks ago: compete with R’s TLO to see who can enter – and win – the most contests, in a kind of non-nude version of Japan’s Nasubi. I am about 18 contests behind the TLO already. There may be a whole new blog devoted to this.
9. My wishful thinking aspirations for 2011: volunteer as a host for refugees coming to Canada, become a Big Sister, complete my to-read lists on plagues and Stalin, fix up this blog, learn to play the guitar, visit Greece with the Rs, and edit vacation photos.
So that’s it. Easy peasy. I’ll report back in a year.