This Is Indy

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself." -Josh Billings
“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” – Bernard Williams

This is Indy.

This is Indy. This is my little man.

 

My family got Indy in 2009, and honestly? I cannot imagine life without this guy anymore. I remember coming home from school and my Mom opening the door as I walked down from the bus, letting Indy run across the lawn and straight to me. I remember opening the door when I would be home alone, and seeing his little face. He would be so happy, and his tail would wiggle so much that his entire back end would shake. Even on my worst days, he would be so incredibly happy to see me, it was impossible not to smile.

I love him, to put it simply. I am sure that anyone who has a pet will understand exactly how I feel. I cannot put it into proper words most of the time.

I have moved away from home now, and I miss the little man so much.

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He loves dirt.

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He loves his cigar.

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He loves his piggy (which is no longer as pink as it is in the picture).

He is super puppy.

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He is the reason I absolutely cannot wait to have a pet all to myself. I joke with my family that I am Indy’s favourite, but really, he spreads his love equally across the board.

I cannot imagine a home anymore, not without a pet. Do I love dogs? I do, because I love Indy. But you know what? As long as I have a pet who loves me as much as I will love him (or her), it really does not matter. All that truly matters is the love. Oh, cuteness does not hurt either.

This is Indy. I love him. My family loves him.

He is part of my family.

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“Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you cannot imagine living any other way.” – Caroline Knapp
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An Unexpected Adventure

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“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

From the moment I stepped onto the path leading into Hobbiton, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Hobbiton is located on the Alexander farm, just outside of Matamata, New Zealand. This farm is home to around 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle on 1250 acres of gorgeous land. Peter Jackson was incredibly lucky to find this location on his aerial search of New Zealand. His scout knocked on the door during half-time of a game with the All-Blacks. Had it not been half-time, Mr. Alexander may never have answered the door…No Hobbiton as we know it today. Frankly, I cannot imagine it any other way.

My day at Hobbiton began at the Shire’s Rest: the information centre, gift shop, and café. Here, I boarded a bus. Even as we were driving up to Hobbiton, I could not see a thing. We were dropped off at the entrance and still, I had not seen an inch of Hobbiton. We stayed at the entrance for a few minutes where the tour guide (incidentally, her name was also Jess and we were about the same height) introduced Hobbiton to us. She also asked the group a couple of questions about who had seen the movies and who had read the books. Her final question was about who read the Silmarillion. I was the only one to put up their hand, a fact that I am so proud of.

Not seeing Hobbiton as we approached on the bus turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. When we turned the corner on the path into Hobbiton, we were greeted with an amazing sight. I had gone from the regular world, straight into Middle Earth. Straight into the Shire.

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Walking on the paths in Hobbiton was surreal. Everywhere I stepped I was greeted with amazing sights, from simple to complicated. Almost everything in the garden and on display in terms of food was actually edible (although we couldn’t eat it). Our tour guide said that they actually employed full-time gardeners to keep everything in check .

As I progressed through Hobbiton, I could see that where the richer hobbits would have lived, personalities sprung from those hobbit holes. Lumberjacks, bakers…a gardener. Hi Sam Gamgee. Gorgeous, every single one.

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There are about 37 hobbit holes in Hobbiton. One very interesting fact about filming that we learned (and saw for ourselves) was about the size of the hobbit doors. There were different sizes and scales. The larger holes (about 90%) were used for actors like Elijah Wood, who were meant to be hobbits and therefore small. But there were also much smaller hobbit doors where they placed actors (specifically, Ian McKellen as Gandalf) so that they would look very tall compared to the others.

Before I went to Hobbiton my friends and I were making jokes about the fact that I am quite small and would fit into the hobbit holes. This is actually true for a few of the hobbit holes, but not for all of them.

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One fact that should be clear is that you can only go into one hobbit hole (NOT Bag End) to pictures inside the door. It only extends a few feet back, a brief reprieve to the façades of the other hobbit holes. In the films, they shot all indoor hobbit hole scenes in the studio. Despite this, I was not disappointed at all, and I doubt that any Lord of the Rings fan would be.

 

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As I approached Bag End, my attention was drawn from the gated entrance, to the door of the hobbit hole that was slightly ajar, and then to the tree that sits above the infamous hobbit hole. That tree is the most expensive prop that they have in Hobbiton. Yes, it’s a prop. This is mostly because they returned to Hobbiton to film The Hobbit after Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s world, The Hobbit is set about 60 years prior to Lord of the Rings, and as such the tree had to be younger. So they reconstructed it. Each branch of the tree was bolted together on top of Bag End, and it weighs about 26 tonne. The crew imported gorgeous and artificial leaves from Taiwan, and wired them individually onto the tree.

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Each step that I took through Hobbiton was like walking through the pages of a book. Through scenes in a movie. The feeling that rushed through me was indescribable. At the end of the tour, our guide brought us to the Green Dragon. I tried their Sackville Cider—smooth, crisp, delicious.

Outside the Green Dragon Inn, I looked back. The hills of Hobbiton stared back at me.

I stepped out my door, and I knew where I was going. But I didn’t expect it to bring me here.

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Frustrated with Fiji Airways

Disclaimer: I want to note that the country of Fiji and my experience there was nice. If you want to see Fiji, I would go. The following is just a terrible experience that I had with Fiji Airways. In addition to describing this whole experience to you, I am also treating it as a “cathartic” exercise for myself. After this, I will not be talking about this because I want to focus on the trip itself (which was amazing). If anyone comments on this post, I will briefly respond but that will be the extent of it. Thanks!

I thought I liked you, Fiji Airways, but it turns out that I was wrong.

I am currently in transit on my way home from a nice holiday where I spent time in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. Although, hopefully, by the time that you read this I will back safe in Canada.

I want to begin by pointing out the good things about Fiji Airways because, like I said, I thought that I liked them in the beginning. Their new planes are quite nice (even in economy). They have individual screens for each passenger, though their headphones aren’t good at all (you’ll want to bring a headphone “splitter”, if that’s the right term, and use your own pair). They have a nice selection of movies, with the titles on my most recent flight including American Sniper, Kingsman: Secret Service, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, and all three Hobbit films. They also had TV shows (first three episodes of The Flash, and other shows like Gotham and New Girl). They provide you with a pillow and blanket for the longer flights, and the seats aren’t too bad either. The food is okay as far as airplane food goes, although it isn’t all that good anyways. I lowered my expectations of food though, just because of that.

For all intents and purposes, Fiji Airways seems good. Right? Well I guess, until you are one of the many passengers who are hit by their flight delays and cancellations, something that they are notorious for as I have recently found out. Many passengers indicate that their flights were delayed or cancelled for no apparent reason. Mine? Well, a reason was given but the story just doesn’t seem right to me. This is my experience as it stands right now…I’ll probably add to it later.

This morning, my family and I arrived at the Sydney, Australia airport well in advance for our first flight on our journey home to Canada. This one would stop in Fiji, where we would be for a couple hours before boarding our next flight to LA, where we would then be for a couple hours before boarding a flight to Toronto.

When we arrived at the Fiji Airways check-in desk/gate, there was a lot of confusion from the lady there about our flight to LA. There was no Fiji Airways flight going to LA today, she told us. But we had it booked and it is on our itinerary.  It turns out that our second Fiji Airways flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next morning at 0830. We would have never found this out had we not asked about our connecting flight—they weren’t going to tell us, it seems. Then, we are told that we should always check in 72 hours before our flight to see that everything is still good. However, it turns out that another family who were supposed to be on the same flight has us had done that (48 hours before actually) and everything had seemed fine then.

The reasoning we were given? They are a plane short because one hit something on the tarmac last week and it wouldn’t be ready until the next morning. Somehow, I find that very hard to believe. Tarmacs, as I understand, are clear. What could they have possibly hit to cause that much damage to a plane that it would take a week to fix? I have looked it up as well, and apparently this reason has been given before. You would think that, if it had happened once, they would at least be more careful. Apparently not. My suspicion is that maybe the flight wasn’t as booked as they would like so they cancelled it.

Even after getting the information from this lady at the desk, we had really no idea what was going on with our next flights. She didn’t seem to really make a huge effort to help us out, and really just lectured about checking (really? It wouldn’t have helped us in this scenario). It was too late to transfer to a different airline and flight, according to her.

As I am writing this, I am lying in a hotel room in Fiji across from the airport. It is 22:38, and I need to spend the night here. They have with accommodation and a food voucher (ha), and we will be on our way on another Fiji Airways flight in the morning. Before I get to the kerfuffle that this second flight will be causing, I want to discuss the accommodation.

The hotel itself is fine, although there is only a fan in the room rather than air conditioning that we had at our place when we stayed in Fiji before. It’s muggy, so kind of uncomfortable. But overall, the room seems nice. But the food voucher…oh the food voucher. My family and I were each given $30 for food. When we arrived at the hotel restaurant, it got interesting. We got our $30 of food…but it was from a special “Delay Menu” where there were literally only three options. All of which, coincidentally, cost exactly $30. So we couldn’t even get what we would really want to eat and drinks were not included. Only water, which was not cold. Beyond that, what if I were a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free? None of the options on the list would have been okay for me to eat. I’m not sure what kind of deal Fiji Airways has made with this hotel, but it really is terrible. $30 in Fijian dollars, by the way, might be about $15 in Canadian. Something like that, but it isn’t much.

So the second flight that had been cancelled was rescheduled—just a refresher. Unlucky for my family and I, we had another connecting flight out of LA to Toronto (operated by Air Canada). Thanks to this mess, we will not be able to make that flight and have been rescheduled on another flight. This has resulted in another overnight stay (the only thing mildly amusing is that I experience the night of May 31st twice). Will the hotel be nice? Maybe. But with the experience of the food voucher here, I am not looking forward to whatever they have there.

Signing off for now, but I will continue this post once I am in LA and past the next Fiji Airways flight. Let’s just hope that it goes smoothly.

I am not amused, Fiji Airways. Not in the slightest.

LA was a nightmare.  That is the only word that I can think of to even come close to my experience there with Fiji Airways.

The flight I boarded (June 1st) in Fiji wasn’t fantastic. The selection was largely the same as the flight I had just had, so I spent time re-watching movies. Including a Pirate of the Caribbean re-watch, which was fine with me because not only do I enjoy those movies but they also remind me of a good friend. Anyways, the food supplied on the flight was so below the standard of airplane food I had come to expect. Not just pretty sub-par, but actually disgusting. I did get restless as it was a long flight, but I did make it through.

We arrived in LA at about 23:45 on May 31st, and after getting through US Customs and such, we were in another line for Fiji Airways to get accommodation for the night until our next flight. It was quite a long line, considering that they had apparently screwed up a large number of people’s itineraries. We finally received our hotel information/voucher and heading to the shuttle area where we waited. Again. After maybe 20 minutes or so, when the shuttle for our hotel had just arrived, a Fiji Airways Rep comes out saying that they made a mistake and that was the wrong hotel. The correct one? Yes, that shuttle had come maybe 5 minutes prior, so we had another wait until another one of those shuttles came. Once we finally got to the hotel we had to wait at reception again while the receptionists handled the surge of people coming in. At this point we were given meal vouchers to go with our room, and after finding out that the only thing open at this time (02:00) was room service, we headed up to our room.

Oh it gets better. Once we are in the room it is clearly not cleaned. The beds were made, but there were banana peeks and an empty container for a protein shake on a desk, and in the bathroom the soap was already open and there was no shampoo. Fun times. Super uncomfortable. Now technically this part, the uncleanliness of the room, was the hotel’s fault. However, I cannot help but wonder if Fiji Airways (or another airline but frankly Fiji Airways seems the most likely subject given newfound information) had screwed up other flights and whoever was in this room before hadn’t been out that long before we arrived.

We did end up having showers, so at least we were semi-cleaned up at this point, but our experience got worse. Those meal vouchers we got? Yeah, on them it was printed that they were not valid for room service. Not only that, but room service wouldn’t even answer our calls. With nothing else open, we had no choice but to just stay in our room without food. The thing was, we figured that we would try the Starbucks in the lobby once it opened. But when we got there they said they shouldn’t be taking it either (although we did have a very nice lady take all three vouchers which were worth $90 in exchange for juice and muffins…which is ridiculous), and the breakfast restaurant was not going to be open early enough for us to get anything as we had to return to the airport. Really, by the time we had gotten to the hotel there wasn’t much point in being there in the first place…I think we were there for about 2 or 3 hours (if that) before returning to the airport.

I am honestly appalled with my experience in LA with the havoc that Fiji Airways caused. I understand that sometimes flights are delayed or cancelled for various reasons, as frustrating as it is. It’s great the airlines will compensate you accordingly, as they definitely should. I just find it appalling that the “compensation” and “accommodation” that Fiji Airways supplied in LA was that bad. There is NO good reason for this. Absolutely none. It should have been handled so much better, and the meal vouchers should have been worked out so that they were actually useful to us, rather than only getting a measly amount of food by an employee who I hope does not get in trouble, for all of the funds we were provided with.

I expect better. I have been through the ringer with all of this. Tired, hungry, frustrated, angry, and honestly I think I actually cried. I was venting to my friend over and over about this as it was happening…I am so grateful that they listened and although they said it was fine I do hope they weren’t annoyed.

Finally, I have one more thing to mention. Earlier on I believe I talked about the reasoning given for our flight’s cancellation being that they were one plane short after one being damaged. From some more information from other people that I have now received, I really doubt that is the truth even more than I did before. Apparently this has been happening for around 4 weeks with so many delays and cancellations. My suspicion, shared by my parents, is that they simply don’t have enough people at this time of year flying on their planes so they are trying to combine flights. I now count myself lucky that my other flights with Fiji Airways at the beginning of my trip weren’t disrupted.

I know it is expensive to fly planes across the ocean, but I still find this entire thing ridiculous, unnecessarily stressful, and in terms of LA: nightmarish. I am also trying to be really polite given how recent this was and the intense feelings that are going through me right now. Not just that but I am running on maybe an hour of sleep within the last 31 hours. But with all of this…with what has happened… I am going to actively avoid ever flying Fiji Airways again if I can. Temper is running high, I know, but still. It was a terrible experience. I wouldn’t recommend them to friends if there are any other options.

I am now back in Canada safe and sound (for the most part), but quite distraught over this whole experience. Now though? I’m going to focus on the wonderful experience I had when I was in New Zealand and Australia. You’ll hear about that soon.

Time to Build

I’m done university. How did that happen so quickly? I feel like I should be going back in the fall, back to the campus and the familiar lecture halls and small classrooms. But…I’m not.

With the amalgamation of everything, and I mean everything, that has happened to me in the past four years (and in particular the last four months), I am faced with a multitude of possibilities. A world full? We will have to wait and see what comes next.

Right now it is time for me to build.

In a week I am going on what promises to be, by all accounts, the trip of a lifetime. Not just because I have never been on a plane in my life either. I am going to see some amazing countries and beautiful scenic landscapes. I am going to see places that I’ve only ever seen in movies, in a world that I find fascinating. It is going to be an experience that I guarantee I will never forget. It will be healing in more ways than one.

Thinking about this trip has resulted in an idea. I subscribe to a number of YouTube video bloggers, and have been interested in the possibility of trying it myself for a little while. It will be an experiment, especially since I am used to just typing with no one actually seeing me. I’m the quiet type, who prefers small gatherings, if that, over large crowds. Staying in over parties. Quiet environments over loud. I doubt any of that will change, but considering that I am a crossroads in my life having just graduated, some opening up is necessary. Some extension beyond my current state would be good for me, just like a close friend of mine keeps saying. This is a weird way to go about it I am sure, but I think it’s the right way for me. I’ll ease myself into it. It’s just a camera after all. Just for now. I’ll find my camera presence eventually–it has been done by many vloggers before me, so I am comforted in knowing that it is possible.

The first question that I asked myself when I was initially toying with this idea is what exactly I would talk about. I need to have some form of direction, if only so that I can start something and keep with it. So this, I think, is what I will start with: video blogging my trip. Now, I won’t be focused on the internet while I am gone because I want to absorb absolutely every single thing that I can. This doesn’t even include the fact that for the majority of the trip I may not even have access to WiFi. My plan instead is to post them after I have returned home, piece by piece. I will however, have an introduction vlog of sorts filmed and uploaded before I fly.

After my trip is documented? It will be a surprise.

I have so much building to do, both personally and professionally. I may be knocked down sometimes, like I have been quite a few times in the past, but I will pick myself back up. I’m good at that.

I’ll read books.

I’ll finish my novel.

I’ll do scary things.

I will keep my friends close.

I will do the best that I can.

It’s time to build.

My Sounding Board: Plain and Simple

“But you’re an arts major.”

“Not as hard of a program.”

“You have so much time.”

“Bullshit.”

As an arts major, specifically a double major in English and Communications, I hear comments such as these ones almost daily. For the most part they don’t bother me, particularly when they’re on their own. But really, each and every single comment is like a little barb—a little sting.

Each comment is a reminder of what many people think nowadays. They think that arts isn’t as important, isn’t as useful, as disciplines such as math, medicine, business, science, engineering…those are for the “smart” people. Those are for the people who want to work “hard”.

Those programs are hard, for sure, and I know that the people in these programs are smart. One of my closest friends is in business, and I know that my Dad took biology when he was in university. My point here, something that I kind of spoke about in my last post here, is that there is an amazing number of not only smart, but dedicated and extremely passionate people in arts programs.

It is true that we don’t have the same kind of work as programs that include science and math. We don’t have complicated algebra problems or physics questions. But do you know what we have? Analytical essays that examine the countless novels that we read every single term, and comparative essays that look at different aspects of each. We write presentations looking at commercials that we see every single day on television. In some classes we talk about the importance of female writers. We write our own stories, our own poems…the list could go on.

In arts, we often don’t have right answers. We may have guidelines and concepts that we need to follow, but when push comes to shove—it is how well we present our point of view, how well we articulate our voice. In arts, we find ourselves reading hundreds of pages every single week and sometimes, if we manage to find the time, we reread before exams. I’ve written four essays in a term before. More often than not my essays are around 5 pages long, but I’ve had some in the 8 to 10 page range as well.

It’s not the same kind of difficulty as science or math. But it’s difficult all the same. You have to look way beyond what others might see in a book or in a movie. You have to find the importance, even when it looks like there may be none.

As for the time…I cannot speak for every single arts student, but the reason that I have the amount of free time that I do is because I meticulously plan out my studying, reading, and other work so that I have everything done before it needs to be. I create a buffer, and while I never intend to use the buffer, I know that it’s there if I need it. I make sure that I can get everything done. Everyone has the time, they just have to find it.

Without arts students, we wouldn’t have the popular movies or television shows. Without arts students, we wouldn’t have the bestselling books on shelves. Without art students, the world would be different.

We need arts students, just as we need people to study math and science.

So why do people look down on arts?

I’ll never understand why.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again. I went into English because it’s something that I love. I could have done something with math or science, but I don’t love either of those things. The only difference, in my opinion, is the pay I can expect when I finish. But that doesn’t matter to me. I can live on a lower salary, but I cannot live with myself if I am doing something I don’t care about.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read books. Every single book has the potential to open up an entirely new world to the reader. I am a firm believer that everyone is a reader and that they simply have to find the right book to set them on that path. Some never do, I know, so I consider myself lucky to have found mine when I was so young.

Most of my books are back home, but there are four on my shelf here that are so important. One I bought in September last year, two were a gift, and one I spent months trying to find so that I could complete my collection. They are the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings in special collector’s edition cloth bound hard covers. While they weren’t the books to make me fall in love with reading, they are the ones that I love the most. The world within those pages is so immersive…so beautiful. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the author of these gorgeous novels, graduated with honours in English Language and Literature in 1915 (though he originally went to study Classics). Even if you have not read the novels themselves, you have probably seen the movies based on the books. We would not have them if it had not been for Tolkien. An arts student.

Every single program of study is home to a huge number of dedicated and intelligent students.

Plain and simple.