Dear family and friends, some of you may have noticed that I didn’t put out an annual update for 2019. A bunch of people asked me to continue with my annual updates, so this year I’m doing a quick and dirty double feature: 2019 and 2020 in review. It’s mostly photos, and there are even 2 cat pictures to look forward to!
New Year’s Day 2019 found me underneath our cabin, digging by hand and breaking very big rocks to prepare for eventually replacing all the posts that have been rotting and/or tipping over for the last few decades, like this one:
Helaine was in town so we caught the gondola up to Grouse Mountain and made an impromptu decision to rent snowshoes. Fun!
By January 10th, 2019 I was on a plane bound for Geneva for briefings Jan 11 at World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters. That night I flew down to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which I had left only a few weeks earlier.
I spent most of January to early April 2019 in Butembo, as the WHO logistics team lead for the Ebola response there. It was exhausting. On the plus side, passionfruit is readily available and dirt cheap in DR Congo so I was able to eat 10-20 every single day for months.
There was also a day when we flew into a small village that had never had a helicopter visit before, so the local school brought all the kids to see us landing.
In late February I had a week off work so I flew all the way back to Canada and caught a train from Toronto to Kingston to spend some time with Harpreet, take possession of the house I had bought a few months earlier, and enjoy the balmy Ontario winter weather.
I returned to DR Congo to find more than one Ebola centre had been attacked while I was in the air coming back, and then a second attack happened after my arrival. It was really sad to see, and made my job even more demanding and challenging for the rest of my contract.
In early April I jumped on a helicopter, with some Ebola vaccine coolers, and left Butembo for Goma, then… Germany.
Canada wouldn’t let me come home on my UK passport and my Canadian passport had not been returned to me in time by the US IRS. So, instead of coming home I flew to Dresden, Germany where I could stay with my friend Darren, waiting for FedEx to bring me my Canadian passport. Darren showed me around town a bunch, and ordered our food and drinks in German.
Darren even took me out of town to see this amazing stonework built centuries ago up in the natural rock formations way up above the river valley:
FedEx took nearly a week despite paying for the guaranteed overnight rate, so I went to Prague for a few days and did a LOT of walking and staring at pretty buildings.
The last time I was in Prague, for only a day, was in late April 2003. I had tried to travel by train from Prague to Sedlec that time, but I made a mistake and got off the train one stop later than where I needed to switch to another train. I had to wait 4 hours in a tiny little town for the next train back to Prague. This time around, with my smartphone in hand and a direct train to Sedlec, I had no trouble at all getting there. I had been annoyed for 16 years about that one missed train stop, so I was really stoked to finally get to Sedlec and see the ossuary there!
My flight from Prague to Toronto had a long layover in Warsaw, and I’d never been in Poland before, so I left the airport and had a great time wandering around town seeing a few sites and drinking coffee at world class cafés including my first ever flight of espresso shots.
When the time came to head back to the airport, I boarded the wrong train and found myself in the middle of farmers fields, with no planes in sight. I was lucky enough to get an Uber that got me to the airport just in time. The flight was delayed leaving, or I would’ve missed it.
I spent the next month in Kingston, Ontario, fixing up and painting my house to rent out, and completing two online courses in anatomy and physiology.
From late May through August 2019 I was back and forth a couple times between Ontario and BC, where I worked on renovating our Bowen Island cabin. Most of which involved the continuing efforts to stop it from collapsing into the ocean. Also, my sister Lisa graduated from UBC Nursing!
I also had to finish those online anatomy and physiology courses, otherwise my university admission offer would be rescinded.
Then I broke some more rocks.
In late June Miriam and Chris visited from the UK, and we had a great time hanging out on Bowen.
In July I broke more rocks and dug more dirt from under the cabin. I also went to Steph and Trevor’s wedding, and the aquarium.
Then I spent two weeks in Ontario searching for a rental apartment in Toronto and working on fixing up my house in Kingston.
Back in BC by the end of July I was preparing to sell my 1979 Honda motorcycle and spending some time with Aunty Jo who was visiting from Uganda.
In August I broke more rocks.
And we hiked up to the amazing driftwood mastodon!
In late August 2019 I moved to Toronto, Ontario to return to university. I started a Bachelor of Nursing degree, which should finish in June 2021. It was interesting being back in school, and having my first clinical placement in hospital starting in mid September.
Josephine came to Toronto for TIFF, so we got to hang out!
Harpreet’s sister Prem also visited, which was tonnes of fun. And I started baking sourdough in September 2019 too. It took a while to get the hang of it, but by October things were looking and tasting good.
Ontario has real fall colours, unlike much of BC, so one day we went with Tim to a maple syrup farm north of Kingston to see all the pretty leaves and eat pancakes.
In November 2019, Harpreet and Tim went to New York City without me. So I rented a car, drove from Toronto to Kingston, bought a Christmas tree and hauled it on foot several kilometres through the snowy streets, and set up a bunch of Christmas lights at Harpreet’s apartment, before returning to Toronto. She returned from her trip to her first ever real Christmas tree.
After final exams ended in December, I went home to BC for Christmas, including taking Harpreet and Prem to the Chor Leoni Christmas concert at the Orpheum.
Then Prem got a kitten!
Harpreet came out to Bowen just after Christmas and spent some time with us, including a driftwood beach adventure.
I was looking forward to 2020 but like most people, I have been pretty disappointed with how things turned out. I had one clinical placement on a paediatrics unit from January to February, then my next placement was cut short after orientation because of COVID. All our classes moved online, which has been terrible for me as I learn much better in a classroom environment than staring at a screen. Without hospital shifts to apply the knowledge, most of it only stuck long enough to succeed in my exams. Plus, 2020 was the first year since 2004 that I didn’t leave Canada and the first year since 2006 that I didn’t visit at least one new country.
Still, there have been some good times!
For example, in January 2020 I cut a piece of black walnut in half, added some legs, and got two side tables for my couch.
Then in February I finally found where the tiny red ants in my apartment were coming from – this small box of water filters. Took care of it and I haven’t seen another ant in my apartment since, so that was a win.
In March, I made some focaccia and Harpreet decorated it with a coronavirus design.
And I got these gimmicky glasses for serving cortados:
In April I saw a fox and her cubs in Kingston, and then Harpreet made me a lactose-free version of the Judge’s torte with raspberries and mint leaves on top as my early birthday cake.
I returned to Bowen Island in April 2020 because sitting in my Toronto apartment all day was not a great use of my time. On Bowen, when I wasn’t doing online schoolwork, I was able to work on the cabin or just sit outside in the forest staring at the ocean or bake more bread with fresh herbs from the garden.
There was also a group of California sea lions that hung out until the end of May. They were really fun to watch!
I also bought an ebike in April and used it to ride in to Vancouver every couple of weeks for supplies, so I was in half decent shape for a little while (my ebike won’t go anywhere but downhill unless I pedal, and 35km of steep hills is still hard on a cargo-laden ebike).
On May 31st during a storm, a boat ran ashore on the beach below our cabin.
On June 1st, at about 2am when the tide was high, I helped my brother Matt float the boat off the beach and tie it up at the dock nearby, and the owners came and got it.
In late June when the first wave of the pandemic had calmed down, I flew back to Ontario and helped Harpreet move out of her Kingston apartment. It was a big undertaking, but we got everything packed up and into storage or my apartment, using several vehicles including this cargo van and jeep.
In early July we returned to BC and a few days later we got engaged on Bowen, with some help from our sisters to organise the surprise and a 4-person celebration afterwards.
We also hired our good friend Alasdair Benson to take some engagement photos for us before Harpreet returned to Ontario.
In August, Prem and I scoped out potential wedding venues.
In late August Brad, Lisa, and I succeeded to make, scribe, and install some braces on the cabin.
In September I got to hang out with Mushu and nearly finished the roof overhang before flying back to Toronto
Back in Toronto, I had delicious vegan ice cream with Harpreet.
In early October we went up to a cottage with some friends, and enjoyed the fall colours.
By mid October my only clinical placement for the semester was already over so I moved to Kingston. We moved into my house at the end of the month and I bought my first car!
I spent a few afternoons in November digging swales in the backyard to try and channel the seasonal flooding that happens here every year into a water feature. It worked for a while.
Then we had two days of BC-style normal rain over Christmas and the swales couldn’t quite cope, so there’s more digging in my future.
Harpreet and I put a bunch of Christmas lights in the tree. This is what they looked like before the squirrels started chewing through wires faster than I could splice them back together:
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, neither of us could go home to BC for Christmas, but we still had a great time!
To round the year out, I finished this live edge cherry vanity for Harpreet as a belated Christmas present, we toasted the end of 2020, and Stash organised a zoom call for a bunch of us to play Among Us.
That’s it for this year! Fingers crossed that my 2021 annual update will have some international travel and large groups of people in it for a change!