Cheering for Canada. Ok ok, others too…

I wish I was in Vancouver to see the games. I wish I had a TV right about now, just so I could cheer for the folks I know STILL competing and satiate my winter dreams. So, what does it take to be an athlete, what is that life like?…and why am I cheering for Canada? I was looking through and old workout book from 1997, this was a typical day:

  • Off ice (stairs) 20 mins
  • Bike (warm up & stretch (45 mins)
  • Hockey  – 75 mins
  • Run (cool down)  – 15 mins
  • Weights – 50 mins

Total time: 3 hours, 25 minutes.

Of course, that doesn’t include time to and from the

My field of dreams: yes, two hockey rinks, ice all around, 6 lane running track + weight room, massage every two weeks or so + ice baths on hand. Add snow+ mountains = pretty much perfect

Oval in Calgary, as well as dress-up, dress down time, usually about 15 minutes each way. It was truly the dream place to live and train at, and a shame that because of the global financial situation, the University of Calgary cut the women’s hockey funding this season. It symbolizes the end of an era, started by Shannon Miller, former National/Olympic team coach in 1995 and now at UMD, arguably the most successful women’s hockey coach ever. Her philosophy in starting the program was, ‘come here, and be the best you can be.’ She was also responsible for getting me to play college hockey in the US.

Imagine now doing this for 5-6 days a week, 8 months a year. Then imagine fitting in a day or two at the mountains for snowboarding on the weekends, if no games were on. In the remainder 4 months, you get one month off then its into summer training, consisting of long aerobic sessions such as 2 hour+ bike rides, plyometrics, weight/resistance training. I loved it. Between 1995-1999, that was what I got to do, in Calgary, Canada. I usually spent the off-seasons tagging along with speedskaters, who stuck around during the summer. Now as an Aussie, the Canuckers skated circles around me. That didn’t matter, I learnt to push and go beyond what you mentally and physically think you are capable of: life lessons which stuck. Not everyone of course would go crazy for this lifestyle, but everyone I knew back then did, and everyone I knew back then still remembers those days warmly.

Being an athlete means being disciplined. It means committing yourself to a goal that may elude you at any second. Out of the maybe hundred or so girls who came through the program in Calgary, there are but a handful still on the national/Olympic team. I met like minded folks from everywhere – many like me, coming from the Southern Hemisphere chasing a winter dream. No support from our countries, no sponsors. Huge personal sacrifices – live away from your family, sacrifice relationships or go long distance, be away from your friends, delay school or juggle with it, juggle work also. As an Australian, I knew there was no way I was going to get to the games based on qualification/tournaments. Canada and the US were just light years ahead. So why did I do it? For the same reason the crazy Aussie/Kiwi/South African speed skaters, the Jamaican bob-sledders (yes they do exist and yes they do say ya’mon) do it – because we love it we’re chasing a dream to be the best of what we choose to do, and have fun along the way.

I used to rock up to this entrance almost every snowy winter day...

I lived with speedskaters, with our landlords being the parents of this fellow. One of my housemates was constantly doing imitations – ie. mimicking the motions of speed-skating. He was a long distance skater, who truly gave it his all – no sponsors, no fixed address, just following his dream. Then one day, he switched to sprint distances and then…

I’m cheering for Canada because of all the light and possibility it gave to my dreams. I’m still competing, in different sports and in different ways, but some still continue that same regimen, 11 years on. Here’s one, below, Captain of Team Canada, who took me to see my first Calgary-Detroit game, who kept on going and continues to inspire. Everyone needs heroes. Sports psychologist Cal Botterill, whose daughter Jennifer continues to compete on Team Canada led me to “Way of the Peaceful Warrior“, which spurred me onto so much more – and its a book that has literally travelled with friends all over the world. It was a different nomadic existence, and one I miss and would love to relive in some capacity, though much has changed and many have moved on. Such are the journey’s of life.

taking us along the journey:

So,  GO CANADA and all the athletes who have ever trained or had anything to do with those Calgary Oval days! (and esp. Ms. Wickenheiser here, who proved that Superwomen do indeed exist).


On Suburbia

Sitting here, in light of the recent events in Haiti, it occurs to me how rooted I am in my mediocrity. I belong to the generic population – thirty(ish), caucasian, north american, female, employed, married, one-and-a-half children, dog, mortgage, car payment, high debt load…..suburbia has caught up with me.

I couldn’t be nomadic if I tried – my genericism makes sure of that. Or could I? Let’s say disaster strikes. A tornado, perhaps. The forces of mother nature – cruel in her beatific terror. And all of this – my idyllic lifestyle, my superficial happiness – is swept up and away. Would my neighbours offer refuge? Or would they stare in horror, shield their children’s eyes from our immediate poverty, and close their doors, in the off chance that they, too, might catch the ‘fate’.

Here in the suburbs, we engage in carbon offsetting, donate to charities based on faith (oh, that faith! it runs rampant in the suburbs), buy a rubber bracelet to benefit those poor people in Darfur (we aren’t really sure where that is), or purchase our fair trade Starbucks coffee (we don’t really like the taste, but that money helps those poor farmers!). We make a difference here in the suburbs, we really do! But when push comes to shove, when it matters most, we are not interested in helping our neighbours.

The circumstances in which I remain in the suburbs are beyond my control at the moment. My daughter, who is learning-disabled, needs the stability. She doesn’t do change. I could uproot her, take her away to live in a smaller space, in the busy comfort of the city, where we would happily experience museums and art galleries, and parks, and culture, and diversity and………

…and so I live vicariously through my friends. My gaggle of nomads. I always ask for postcards, because the postcards, the writing, the art of travel correspondence, offers me a little piece of their experience. I am confident that, if tragedy struck us here in the suburbs, any one of my nomad pals would extend their hands, open their arms, insist on offering a place/a bed/a spot in their meager (by suburbia’s standards) dwellings. Because these people, these wanderers of the earth, are the ultimate humanists. They know that the basis of existing is to engage their fellow beings.


Keep a piece of carpet ready for me. One day, I’ll make it there.

Taking the Horse to Water

Nomadic is a particularly good way to describe my lifestyle, and if I may presume to be part of a larger demographic, other young urban upwardly-mobile (here we go with the cliches) people worldwide.

We are born in a certain place because that’ s where our parents are ‘from’ – I’ll explain the quotation marks later. We grow up in another place, ‘cos that’s where they get jobs. However, even in that other place, we inhabit yet another world – that of the expatriate. This generally involves a gated community of some sort, some variation on the theme of an American/British/Continental ‘International’ education, usually delivered along Western lines. We then proceed to either spend our childhoods in this kind of community before proceeding for the next logical destination – university in the West; or, we spend a short stint at ‘home’ while our parents emotionally regroup, build a house/buy a property, and make up for the time they ‘lost’ as expats in early parenthood.

Eventually, we graduate from college and head out again – most often to look for work in yet another highly-mobile influx to yet another urban center. Youth, jobs, relationships, promotions, higher education and often marriage and babies follow as automatic milestones. In planning for all of these life-events, we value above all else our mobility – the ability to have the best of all worlds, for ourselves and perhaps even for the children we’re planning on one day having.

Before long we realise we are nomads – or rather, beings in pursuit of greener pastures, horses in pursuit of water. Question is, once we get there, in what ways do we make ourselves drink? This is the central premise of this blog. Join us as we navigate the musings of modern-day nomads such as ourselves.