THOUGHTS ON AGING.
Remember when you were a child and what you perceived what it would be like to be ‘old’? Or even if you would get to be old?
I can remember what may have been my first thoughts about getting old would have been when I was nine or ten years old in the very, very early 1950s. I was living in the small town of Merritton, Ontario, (which was amalgamated by St. Catharines, Ontario in 1960) and playing in the sand pile by what we referred to as “the town barn.” The town barn was located behind our house and housed several of the town’s vehicles as well as a large sand pile which was used to sand the roads in winter. Of course the sand pile was a draw for the children in the neighbourhood and the ‘town-men’ (town workers) did not seem to mind us playing in the sand. That in itself seems to be quite different from today!
If I recall correctly there were three of us, myself, David Glover who lived across the street from me, and Johnny Michaud, who lived one house away on the same side of the street. We were having a good time playing what-ever it was, it could have been anything from toy cars to war toys or cowboys and indians. This was way before the days of political correctness and as WWII had only ceased a few years before and the Korean Conflict was on going, boys being boys gravitated to more violent play and military toys and figures were readily available in Woolworth’s or Kresge’s. Figures and other paraphernalia was also available for cowboys and indians.
Somehow the conversation between the three of us came to aging or at least getting old. Looking back our grandparents seemed to be so much older than they are today. Or is just hat I am now that much older? As a bit of a side note, my grandfather more or less retired when he was less than fifty years old to become a gentleman farmer. So in my eyes, because he was retired, he was old! Back to the story — as I said the conversation came to being old or aging and I can remember saying that I would not live to see the year 2000 or if I did I would be too old to enjoy it! Ahh! The wonderful thinking of youth. I cannot remember if there were any comments about my earth shattering proclamation. But her it is the beginning of 2015 and I am still around.
So have I been too old to enjoy the 14 years since the beginning of the new century? In 2000, I was thirteen years into a second career. After serving twenty years in the Royal Canadian Navy/Canadian Armed Forces I took early retirement (1982) — no not afraid that I would not see the year 2000 and wanted to get some pension money from the government but another reason. In 1987 I was lucky enough to join External Affairs Canada/Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a term employee and then as indeterminate employee and enjoy several overseas posting.
As the New Year of 2000 was being rung in at midnight, because of the Y2K scare, I was to be found in the Canadian High Commission, in Nairobi, Kenya, ensuring that the Mission computerized network was still functioning. Needless to say nothing happened and the bits and bytes kept flowing as per normal.
So there I was working in Africa a continent that in the early 50s I could only dream about and learn a little about the early explorers in school. A place so far away that, in the mind of a nine or ten year old, it could not even be perceived as being an actual place. When we got our first television in 1954 or 1955 I was enthralled by the wildlife programmes depicting the wonders of the Masai Mara or Serengeti Plains. In the 1950s and 60s most of these programmes dwelled on the big game hunting aspects of the African Plains, however, I remember in the mid 1960s that I would love to go hunting in Africa with a camera not a rifle. No, I am not anti hunting at all. In fact I have been known to shoot game for food. At that time I could never see myself ever having the remotest chance of such a trip.
The Masai Mara National Park was only four and a half to five hour drive from Nairobi as was Amboseli National Park but Nairobi National Park was a mere half hour and it had four of the big five animals. The one missing ‘Big Five' were elephants. Lake Nakuru was also a close two hour drive. Being this close to the African wild life I was able to watch National Geographic unfold before my eyes. Needless to say I did spend many an hour on safari. But, it wasn’t only safaris a trip to the coast was also a welcome break from Nairobi. Mombasa was a gruelling eight hour drive over some very rough roads and Malindi with several seaside resorts was only a couple of hours flight and then an airport pick to a resort.
It was not all safari or lazing around on the Eastern beaches I was there to do a job and a job I did, not only in Nairobi but also to other exotic places like, Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Kigali Rwanda and Khartoum Sudan.
One of the perks of Foreign Affairs for working in a hardship post like Nairobi was a 90% full fare plane ticket from Mission to Ottawa. While the cost of the ticket was Mission/Ottawa you could use this fare for another travel to any place of your choice. This perk gave us the chance to holiday in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
While we had the chance to use our ‘perk’ to travel to much more exotic places in 2000 we came back to Canada to see Heather graduate from Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo with ah Honours Degree.
In 2001 certainly made up for the lack of travel in 2000!
We began my making our second trip to New Zealand to visit with Wendy’s relatives on the North Island. Along the way we had an overnight stop in Dubai which gave us time for a day trip for the next leg which took us to Singapore. As we would be in several hours it gave us a chance to met up with one of my work colleagues that I had met on a training course in Ottawa. She gave us a quick tour of the city and of course a stop at Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling.
We flew into Whangarei via Auckland where we were picked up by Wendy’s cousins. Wendy found the flight from Auckland to not as pleasant as it could have been. We were on a small propeller plane and as we approached Whangarei there was little bit of turbulence and the pilot said that we would be delayed a little in landing. We circled the airport two or three times and Wendy really was feeling uneasy but we made it down safe and sound. As we got off the plane we were met by Wendy’s cousin Marc who informed her that she had been sitting beside a very famous New Zealand All Black Rugby player. Even that did not impress Wendy.
We stayed with Marc and Carol in Whakapara were wonderful hosts and showed us around the North Island, getting to visit so many places that we had not seen on our first visit. We toured much of the North Island visiting; Bay of Islands, Kerikeri, Waiting where the treaty between the Maoris and British was signed. A trip to Dargaville on the Kauri Coast to visit Brett and Delma meant a walk along Ninety Mile Beach, which we were informed was really only seventy-five miles long. ANZAC Day saw us in Northland to meet up with the rest of the cousins and their family. It certainly was a wonderful visit and seeing all of these relatives.
And speaking of relatives, we were not finished New Zealand as it was off to Australia to see another lot of Wendy’s far-flung family.
We arrived in Melbourne and remained with Wendy’s cousin for a couple of days and then it was off to Corowa by train to visit with one of Wendy’s aunts. While in Corowa the three of us made a trip to Canberra for a couple of days. While in Canberra we had the privilege to walk on top of the Australian Parliament Building. Their Parliament building is built into the side of a hill, consequently the roof was actually the lawn, at time the grounds were free to walk on. We then returned to Melbourne and Wendy’s cousin and her husband took us on a tour of “The Great Coast Road” were we got to see the 12 Apostles. Jodi (Wendy’s cousins daughter) took us to Philip Island to see the penguins and of course a stop at a Koala Bear sanctuary. We did get to see a little bit of the country that we had not seen on our previous visit — and it is always good to get caught up with distant relatives.
Is the trip over yet? Not by a long shot because it was back to Aukland, New Zealand, but only to catch a flight to Johannesburg for two nights. We managed to do a day tour of Jo’burg while we were there and then continued on the final leg to Nairobi.
So to recap the trip:
Nairobi, (depart 15 April 2001)
Dubai, (15 > 16 Apr - over night & day tour)
Singapore (17 Apr - 8 hours & quick city tour)
New Zealand (18 Apr > 01 May)
Australia (01 May > 17 May)
Singapore (change planes)
Johannesburg (18 May > 20 May)
Nairobi (arrive 20 May 2001)
Nairobi was a two year posting but because we were enjoying not only the opportunities to see and enjoy the country and both Wendy and I had jobs that we enjoyed I decided to ask for a one year extension. Headquarters did shine upon us and the extension was granted. Consequently it was another year spent, on safari and coast holidays with good friends.
As a result of the extension it also meant one more ‘trip home.’ Again we opted to do a bit of travel rather than head back to Canada. This time it was a guided GardenValley Tour of South Africa.
While South Africa may not seem to be as exotic as Australia or New Zealand it was a country that we thought would be interest - and it was.
In May of 2000, we flew from Nairobi to Johannesburg where we picked up the South African tour instructions and package. From here it was on to Cape Town, with a visit to the top of Table Mountain and city tour. The biggest surprise of the trip was that I had originally thought that we would be on a “tour” complete with a bus and other passengers. It was a pleasant surprise when we were met at the hotel with our driver and a Toyota! It would just be the three of us on our Garden Valley Tour. After this tour we also did another one which took us to Pretoria, and Sun City.
Once again the entire trip brought back childhood memories of explorers travelling to unknown lands that one could only dream about; standing at the Cape of Good Hope and seeing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans collide, posting a letter from the Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay, actually feeding wild elephants, petting cheetahs, visiting a Zulu village or standing in the same place as Vasco da Gama.
Leaving Johannesburg and arriving back in Nairobi we were met at the airport and told we had to go directly to Nairobi Hospital! Our daughter Heather had been admitted to the maternity ward to give birth to her daughter Olivia. That certainly was a surprising welcome home gift!
Earlier in the year I had been offered a posting to Islamabad, Pakistan and I had accepted the posting. Unfortunately, in the following months the security situation had deteriorated to such an extent that families were no longer allowed to accompany members. I had the option of refusing the posting or travelling unaccompanied to Islamabad or return to Headquarters in Ottawa. Wendy and I talked it over and decided that, because the Mission had been evacuated twice and the dependents returned within two months, I would take the posting and hopefully the situation would soon be resolved.
That does not sound too bad for someone who had thought they would not even see the year 2000.
So far a total of nine countries visited:
United Arab Emirates
Further adventures to follow…..