Monthly Archives: August 2007

Blog Day

So, it’s Blog Day apparently. How I almost let that slip I’m unsure. The way to celebrate this holiday is to post links to 5 new blogs (supposed to be out of one’s normal realm of blogdom and culture).

I can’t claim to be reading that made new blogs however I will make a contribution. My best discovery so far has been travelblog, a site that hosts nomadic blogs by some very fascinating (and, of course, not so fascinating) people. There are forums to discuss books to take backpacking and millions of photos from all over the world. One of the best features is their search function. A reader interested in a certain area can narrow it down to only entries written about a specific region or country. I recommend choosing obscure or difficult to travel to places (ex. bosnia, tajikistan, etc.) and live vicariously through the people who somehow take years off their lives to see the world.

I have had the privilege of reading the travels of a few adventurers. A surprisingly common route is to go from Eastern Europe to China by land (ie, poland, turkey, armenia, uzbekistan, pakistan, india, …..) The one I’m hooked on right now is the aspiringnomad who happens to be taking just that route. His photography of the local people is almost National Geographic quality and he even pays attention to composition.

Warning: This site is dangerous as it may cause you to be severely jealous and to consider taking a year (or 3) off of your ‘real life’ and trekking through the mountains to remote communities of Bangladesh.

Happy Travels.


Audrey Berdusco (Cameron) April 25 1928 – August 17 2007

This has been longer in coming than for my Nonno. Maybe it is harder to write down 22 years of history with Nana because she was the second to leave, the last in their home. I keep being asked what I would like from their home, be it furniture, jewelry, books, etc. Those aren’t the things that mattered to me though.
If I wanted something to remember time with her it would have to be old worn cards, with the blue designs on the back. We used to stay up past my bedtime, her with her coffee in a big mug and saucer and a cigarette (until she started pretending she no longer smoked), and play 1 to 13.
Some old coins possibly since she would take out her coin collection (Buffalo nickels, bills from 1923, Scottish currency) and pour over it coin by coin so she could tell me the story behind it.
Old photographs. Family meant everything to Nana and she had dug up and saved photos from the dawn of photography. She had few living relatives (save some distant cousins) but she would tell me stories of her mother and father and uncles and show pictures of their lives at the turn of the century.
The little glass animals we used to play with in the family room.

One thing no one could deny about her is that she was so strong. As an only child she married the oldest of 8 children and would often be left to take care of the youngest of them while the in-laws we out or away. Not only did she care for nonno and her 5 children but she seemed to draw needy people to her and never refused them: neighbours with abusive husbands, ailing parents and in-laws, local children. Even in her last year our distant cousin began helping with her renovations in his free time outside school and sports practice. In the few months they spent together she treated him like a grandson and he saw her as a grandmother that he never had. He was a pallbearer and it meant quite so much to see that she was still doing what she did best at the end of her life.

She spent her last few weeks in the hospital meant that we were somewhat prepared and I was able to visit regularly. Sometimes she would be too confused or uncomfortable to hold a conversation but others she would be completely coherent. Even while she suffered she would encourage me. She would ask me questions about my plans for the future, my plans to travel but then nod and assure me that I would always make the right choice. One afternoon I brought out my Bible and I read her some Psalms (Ps. 23 seemed an obvious choice but she had it memorized as the faithful Christian she was her whole life). We got to talking about heaven and somehow I ended up talking about our new bodies and new life after death in Jesus. Just while i was thinking she didn’t want to hear what i had to say she put her hand over mine and said “This has really made me glad. ” I miss my grandmother, there is so much more to say but I will end by saying I hope I can touch half as many lives as she did.

new appendage

This magnificent piece of technology has become part of my being, an extra appendage although it would be less awkward if it came in ‘flesh-tone’. I needed a new camera because the digicam I have is great but 1) is waaaaay too massive to allow me to be inconspicuous in the least in a developing country 2) is crazy slow between shots (hey, people in the market, could you stand still while my camera finds itself?) and 3) it is completely inadequate for indoor shots, it just can’t do them.

This snappy young thing is teeny enough to fit in my pocket and continues to blow my mind with all of its neato features. For one, my very favourite right now, is the colour select option. What doest that mean? I can choose a colour in a scene and then the camera only registers that colour and the rest appears in black and white. Think Schindler’s List.Regular old ‘out-the-window’ picture becomes crazy with the blueness of the sky contrasted with the black and white of the street. Oh how camera functions make me a good photographer.

My camera happened to be on hand at work on saturday when Kumala the Ugandan Giant (!!!!) was just outside signing autographs. Apparently he is famous. And not Ugandan. He is from Tennessee.

Want not, Waste much

This summer I have been keeping up my act of at least looking like I care about the environment. I shop with canvas bags, recycle (most of the time), try biking (although not as much these last few weeks), etc. Oh I even keep up the pretense of being an informed, liberal university graduate and buy my Adbusters sometimes. The latest issue I read while on the elliptical machine at the local YMCA and was immediately drawn to an article about learning about environmentalism from our grandparents.

Thinking it was going to be about ways they learned to conserve I was surprised when it actually talked about their no-garbage lifestyle. I had heard about people going through the Great Depression and not wasting, I knew that it was likely a crime to leave food on your plate but I hadn’t quiet considered that an entire generation of people DIDN’T THROW THINGS OUT. This seems like an overstatement but it actually isn’t. They composted, they reused, they grew their own food and they bought good quality things that they took care of and used until they wore out.

This made me think: could I live even a week without generating fodder for our landfill (or even the recycling plant!)? I would have to seriously stop and think before I bought anything or risk being stuck with finding a use for an old chip bag (wash the grease out of the inside and voila! a….uh….new purse? We just don’t have a use for all the packaging out life comes with. If we had to put to use everything we consumed I believe we would consume quite a bit less. More unpackaged veggies and fewer individually wrapped snack cakes. Also, they saved scraps of paper from mail or butcher paper (instead of grocery store plastic and Styrofoam; who wants to write on that?). This seemed like something I could do except, wait, I have no use for those little scraps of paper. I already have an overabundance of scrap paper (old notebooks only partially used, pages and pages of discarded first drafts) that it would just add to the pile. Some things that I can do: stop eating things that come all packaged up! Nalgene, not water bottles (I am so bad for this!). Fewer new clothes (in fact, buy a few very good quality pieces, have them tailored and fixed and wear them forever…).

My hope is that this trip (which is 17 days away) will show me a simpler lifestyle where there is less waste and more respect for the things that we own. I can’t say I envy difficult times but privilege makes me wasteful.

Green Dreams

The summer here has been exceedingly dry. Christopher Walken dry. This has contributed to an abundance of forest fires and sienna coloured lawns. What is worth noting is that many people have just given in to the brown-hued grass and let Al Gore’s climate change take its course instead of sucking gallons of water from Lake Superior for pure aesthetics. This impresses me. There are some who refuse to give up the perfectly manicured dream (including our crazy next-door neighbour). Apparently this was bothering even more than I realized because a few nights ago I dreamed about my frustration: I was watching lawns being watered and trying to get up the nerve to knock on doors and ask people to consider leaving their lawns to yellow for the greater good. Deciding that I didn’t have the (insert body part here) to do it I contemplated leaving flyers in mail boxes to encourage water conservation. This wouldn’t work either because it would be a waste of paper so, not wanting to look like a hypocrite, I did nothing (well that I can remember at least). Am I all talk? I hope not.

Trip Update:

Due to some schedule problems (making up time for Bermuda, all the students leaving for school at the same time, etc) I found out today that I will be working until the 8th of september! Crap. I had hoped for at least a week off before I leave to pack and say goodbye. That has now dwindled to one day: Sunday. The 10th (yes, my mother’s 50th birthday) we drive down through the states and I fly out a few days later. I still don’t have health insurance, medication, traveler’s cheques, gifts for my host family…..

Not to mention making my mom’s birthday gift and planning her birthday party (both of which I’m excited and lucky to do be able to do but just wishing for 36 hour days)

The Grieving Process

Friday, August 17th around 2am Audrey Jean Berdusco joined my grandfather and her husband of 52 years barely 8 months after he passed away. She could think of nothing else for the last few weeks.

Since that time I have wanted to post something, a summary of who she was to me, but have put off writing anything (related or otherwise) for fear that it will not do her justice, that I’ll forget crucial memories or that it will be insignificant. I am still putting it off but being in her home has been soothing. All of her five children and their children have been together for about a week now and we have spent days going through old albums and talking about the life my Nana and Nonno built. Today I just needed to be in the house. Often I didn’t sit with anyone else but on my own leafed through old letters, photos and devoured the contents of her drawers. She saved everything. I had to be there because soon the buzz in the house will dissipate and it will be empty. Everyone will claim their tokens and after a while their life won’t be in the house. In a few months it will be sold and we won’t meet there as a family any longer. i need to be in that house.

A few things I have found this week:
1) A letter to my great grandfather from his brother. The brother was serving in the army and was stationed in Cairo, Egypt. Apparently the women had a reputation for loose morals so he made a firm decision to keep away from them. He also visited the pyramids and described the monstrous stones that made up the structures. He never returned home after WWII and his name can be found on the Vimy Ridge monument along with his other brother’s.

2) A wedding book listing all the guests and who gave her what. Somewhere near the end I found my grandmother ‘Miss Margaret Breton’ who came with the man who is now my grandfather ‘Mr. Les Vicken’. She spelled his last name wrong. They bought them green sheets.

3) Before she became to uncomfortable to sit and talk my grandmother and I were able to share some time together in the hospital reading the psalms. She then gave me a book of the psalms that had first been given to her great grandfather, David, in 1869 and was then passed down to her father, David, in 1910. The other book she insisted I have is an old Spanish grammar and instruction book given to her father by his grandfather on April 2nd 1910. Possibly a passion for languages ran in the family.

Everyone is preparing for the visitation tomorrow. My uncle is creating a video of old films and photos set to music. As of yet I have refused to watch it but will see it in its entirety tomorrow. I had hoped to have grandparents a bit longer than this, however, I have been very blessed as the oldest to have spent so much time with them. Tuesday morning I have the honour of reading Proverbs 31 at the funeral.

Yes, I would really rather have something else to do

Rarely am I pleasantly surprised by a movie so when 7 of us borrowed the van on Saturday night (siblings, cousins and boyfriend with me as the driver) to wander aimlessly around Blockbuster I did not have high hopes. Luckily Disturbia had a waiting list of sadists wanting to rent it my sister had to resort to something else. She chose “Driving Lesson”, I thought solely because it starred Rupert Grint (Ron from the Harry Potter movies) and said as much.

It wasn’t terrible! In fact, it was good and one of the cleaner films available lately (except for a few swears, mostly British ones). The main character is a 17-year-old boy who hasn’t learned to speak up for himself and is over-protected by her outwardly pious, fundamental Christian mother. Hoping to teach enlist her son in her good works his mother encourages him to find a job in order to contribute some money to the boarder she had just taken on. He ends up acting as a personal assistant of sorts to an alcoholic, lonely, melodramatic former actress who teaches him how to have fun and gives him a safe place to express his poetic heart. I don’t advocate the killing of innocence but it was interesting and touching to watch the young character grow and “find himself” to use a terrible cliché.

In the end it had very little to do with actual driving lessons but I’ll let that pass.

She who laughs, lasts

The other half of a 52 year marriage, parenting pair to five children, my nana, is in the hospital waiting to see her husband who passed away in January. “I just want to see the beautiful garden he must have this year” she said easily with full faith that it is there, waiting.

Just like my nonno, she can’t help but crack jokes all the way through. Today she happened to have a friendly male nurse who also happened to be a brit (and call teeth Gnashers, ha). He came in to take her blood oxygen levels and this is how the conversation went.

Nurse: I have just come to check your blood oxygen levels.
Nana: you’re not a nurse
nurse: yes, actually i am a nurse.
nana: no. You’re not just a nurse
Nurse: You’re right, I’m super nurse. However I forgot to wear my underpants outside my uniform today.
Nana: Can you prove that to me?

One more place down

Life at home for the summer has been a good surprise. Not surprised to be here of course (I was aware of where I would be spending the time) but that it has been full. The college and careers age group at the church I have been attending is a very considerate group who like to have fun and include other people.

Having to work Saturday I was looking forward greatly to the long part of the weekend and having Monday off. Sunday started with church where, being late as usual, we sat in the last row behind an overflowing congregation. The whole service I kept catching glimpses of people who didn’t belong (not in the “you-don’t-belong-here” way but that they fit into other parts of my life, other places). First I leaned forward to a woman who usually attended the church I went to in high school, “Is that…Pastor…..Dave?”.

Thinking to myself that looks like Heather R’s hair…oh, this is the Soo, not Guelph, nevermind. Of course I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted after church by a whole group of Guelphites who happened to join Alex W. for the long weekend. It felt great to converse and get caught up on all that I have missed and will miss being in the far away half of the province. After it all I am ok with the idea that I’m never going to be back in Guelph, not in the student way, not going to classes and meeting the same people at the grey stairs.

We were spoiled Sunday evening when a friend invited us to the camp of his family friends. Well-worth the half hour drive to discover that I actually do enjoy saunas, I enjoy sitting on the top and feeling my face burn (as long as it dies down a bit after) and then jumping into the cool lake water. My arms still feel just slightly tense from gripping a tube while being towed behind a speed boat with two successful rides out of three. Although it was fun there wasn’t any regret leaving because it was early awake on Monday morning to drive to Mackinac Island. Mark picked me up and treated me to the ferry ride to the tourist island; the ride into it actually somewhat resembling a ferry ride through the Bermuda Harbour with the colourful homes perched on the green cliffs to overlook deep blue water.

Easily my favourite part of the trip was the few mile walk up to an old cemetery. Some graves had fresh flowers even after 20 years. One couple had a Star Trek symbol of their grave, with the wife having been the child of an interracial marriage before while it was likely still quite taboo (in the early 1940s). There is so much to learn about people who lived before us, had lives and hopes and families and contributed to their communities before we even came along. The fudge on the island is pretty good too. There are actually no cars allowed there so everything and everyone must be transported via horse or bicycle. How do they clean the horse ‘meal remnants’ off the streets? With a street cleaning power washer pulled behind two Clydesdales of course!

The day ended by celebrating my sister’s 20th birthday with the family, her close friend and Mark treated by my parents to a nice restaurant. We are really starting to appreciate each other’s company more and more. That is adding tremendously to my time at home.

Working on a Saturday

For some reason I have been contemplating the role of of government funding and agencies with taxes. Although I need to think about this quite a bit more in depth I believe that the Canadian government supports the middle class. If it wasn’t for the regulation and spending of the government (however inefficient) there would slowly be no middle class or it would not be the majority. Consider what capitalism does to our country: in an effort to be more and more efficient it either outsources what were once the good jobs or it breaks each position into smaller, part-time positions to avoid paying benefits, pensions, vacation, etc. Where do most of the well-paid, full time positions with benefits come from? Hospitals, schools, universities, government offices and agencies.

It can be argued against of course since many communities are supported by commerce and large corporations (Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. marie) that employ many people. The age of unions and well-paid positions aren’t over but they are phasing out. If capitalism had its way our income structure would look like our ozone layer in the 1980s, a gradually widening hole where the middle class used to be.

Trip update: since I will be volunteering a few hours a day with children I can bring supplies like clothes, school supplies and other basics to give to them. Exciting! It will be so fun to choose items and pack them for the children. If I bring things from Wal-Mart what are the chances that they actually made it themselves for 15 cents and hour?