January 14, 2012 - Fall of 2013
It was mid January when we had reached Toronto, Canada. We were immediately reminded of the freezing cold winter. We had contacted Rocky's brother Jason and his wife Andrea to pick us up from the airport and we were extremely excited to see them and their sweet daughter, Madelyn. We had asked them to tell nobody of our arrival, I didn't want my mom to worry and I thought it would be a great surprise for everyone.
First, we stopped at Tim Hortonís for a coffee. Not because it has the best coffee, but because it runs through every Hamiltonian's veins. When we finally arrived at Rocky's moms house, she was definitely surprised. We visited with her for a while and I could see in Rocky's eyes how much he had missed her. I was eager to show up at my moms. When we knocked on my motherís door, her confusion and shock was obvious. My brother wasn't home, but when he arrived, Rocky and I hid and jumped out as he walked past. At first, he was frightened and then he was shocked to see it was us. I had fun surprising everyone!
Maybe it is a little crazy but what I missed most, was my cats. Mama is 17 years old. Belle is 13. I missed them so much that while we were on the road, I actually cried - few times. It broke my heart to abandon them, especially in case their age was to get the best of them. I realize that I risk sounding like a crazy cat lady but I don't care, they really are my best friends. Rocky and I joked a lot about buying them a sidecar, little helmets and leathers to take them with us. I had left them for a few weeks in the past but never for a few months and in a strange house. I was really happy to see them and I am sure that they were happy to see us as well. While we were away, we tried to Skype with them a few times but my mom put an end to that. She said that they shit all over the place immediately after they were online with us. Now that's love.
The comfort of being home with family, friends and pets, felt amazing but I was struggling to adapt. We had experienced a very strange distortion of time. I assume it was from having had lived a lifetime of memories in such a short period of time, while it was as though, time in Hamilton, had stood still to us. It was also difficult living in the 'meantime'. The bike hadn't arrived yet and all we could do was wait. So, we stayed at my moms, and waited.
After a few weeks went by, waiting for a response from Comca Shipping Company became frustrating. After a few phone calls, we eventually received an email requesting we sign over power of attorney so that they could sign for us as the motorcycle crossed the border. They hadn't even shipped the bike yet!? They said that they couldn't ship the bike until we signed a legal contract stating we were liable for any additional charges that may incur. Once they had our signed permission, they would have a KTM mechanic drain all the fluids and the motorcycle would be shipped. But, why should we have to pay that when we were willing to do it ourselves but were told not to because they would take care of it at no charge if it were necessary? I explained to the guy that signing the contract wasn't possible. Not only would we not pay to have any fluids drained but also because we only had a 3-month visa to keep the motorcycle in Central America. If the motorcycle wasn't shipped out of the country in time, we would be responsible for paying a fine of approximately $100 per day. They already had the motorcycle in their possession for almost one month, we did not trust they would send it out on time since they had promised us it would only take two weeks but lied.
I felt as though we were being bullied. We gathered all the documents necessary and took a 45-minute drive into Toronto to visit the Salvadorian Embassy. I explain everything to the Consulate Officer and Rocky insisted on a Contract Clause stating we are not responsible for draining fluids or Expired visa fees. The Consulate Officer completely agreed. I then called Comca and placed them on speakerphone. I explained that the contract would be signed and sent but a Clause had been added. He responded by telling me that the contract would not be accepted. It was at that moment that the Consulate Officer introduced himself to the conversation, and the contract was quickly accepted.
In the meantime, Rocky was working at his previous job. I on the other hand, quit my last job because my boss was a douche-bag. I absolutely loved working there but I had no intentions of returning. Instead, I accepted a job offer at a b**k. And then I realize that I would rather have worked for the douche-bag. But, to avoid being jailed for bad mouthing a large corrupt corporation, I won't get into it. At least it gave me some money to move out of my momís house. Rocky and I rented out the basement of a nearby house. It was huge, beautiful and affordable but living in the basement sucked because I felt claustrophobic. Regardless, I enjoyed the privacy and we were renting from an amazing family. I was glad to have met them.
Being in Hamilton was bitter sweet. I wasn't ready to be home, but, being in Hamilton meant that we were able to share or be a part of some important moments. We attended many birthday parties I was glad that I didn't miss. My mother turned 60, my half brother became a teenager at 13 and my half sisters had her sweet 16th birthday. I am also happy to have been home for a few births. And, unfortunately, death exists alongside life, but I was glad that I was able to attend my friends funeral and properly mourn her passing. We were able to spend some time getting to know my little nieces and nephew. My sister, Maryline, and her husband, Denis, have raised the sweetest little human beings.
Within the first two months I must've gained 10 lbs. We craved everything we had missed and we ate everything we had craved. The simple convenience of having a pantry, a fridge and a stove was incredible. Rocky learned how to make the best pie I have ever eaten. That definitely helped shape my figure. There were so many different meals and restaurants we had missed. The only place I avoided eating at, was Subway.
We also attended a few concerts. Twice, we were able to watch Romi Mayes and Jason Nowicki, who we originally met in Medicine Hat Alberta during our first couch-surfing experience. Speaking of couch-surfing, Alex, the Canadian we had met in Mexico and beyond, had surfed our couch on his way home back to Montreal. It was really cool seeing him.
It is easy to get comfortable in any lifestyle that holds such strong relationships. But, it wasn't enough to keep me in my bubble. I fantasized over all of the memories and anticipated being back on the road. Almost every day I would catch myself wishing the day was over. That never happened while we were on the road. Life is meant to be lived. It doesn't feel natural to ignore the beauty of this planet by sitting behind a desk day in and day out while wishing for the weekend to arrive. I need to get back on the road to continue building this newfound relationship I'm having with Earth.
We arrived back in Canada at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on January 14th, 2011. We had only told my brother and sister-in-law what had happened and that we were returning so that we could surprise the rest of our families. They were pretty shocked to see us.
We were greeted with a warm welcome from our families and friends, and the bitter cold of winter. Just a few days before we arrived back in Canada, we read Facebook updates from our friends about how they were experiencing spring weather in January.
Paula's friend, Giovanni, threw a big house party. We spent the following day relaxing and walking in the snow in his back field. Giovanni is a man's man - a sort of suburban cowboy - the Marlboro Man if he smoked marijuana and e-cigarettes. And a super nice guy.
With the realization that we wouldn't be continuing our trip until the following year, Paula, Mama, Belle and I got an apartment together. Belle and Paula are seen here relaxing in our comfortable, new pad.
Mama is the elder of the two cats. She was a farm cat that Paula got from an ad in the paper when she was 17. They have been together for the past 16 years, and are almost inseparable. Leaving Mama and Belle behind to go on this trip was very difficult for Paula. It was amazing to see both Mama and Belle again after returning home. Mama has a very unique personality and temperament. There are very few people that Mama tolerates and she doesn't take any shit from anybody. Paula told me a story about how Mama once had a stare-down with a dog and won. But, if Mama does allow you into her little world, it is a very privileged and special experience.
After a night out at Hess Village, a local group of patio bars, Paula ended up sleeping next to the toilet. She ignores my advice to stay hydrated when she drinks alcohol, and she inevitably ends up paying the price and praying to the porcelain.
In August, we went camping in Six Mile Lake Provincial Park with my brother, Jason, his wife, Andrea, and is daughter, Maddy. Jason is a master carpenter, taking after my father. Also like my father, Jason enjoys a cold beer or twelve, and that's just before breakfast.
Paula - while camping in Six Mile Lake National Park
My sister-in-law, Andrea, helps my niece, Maddy (not
"Mady") wash the camp dishes. Andrea works for the City of Burlington. She is a great mother and wife, who somehow is able to put up with my brother.
We first met Alex in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico. He was back-packing from Canada to South America and ended up staying with us and several other travellers. Coincidentally, we later just missed Alex in Chetumal, Mexico. He had just stayed with our host, Maria, days before we had arrived. While in Guatemala, we received a message from Alex saying that, if we saw him at the side of the road, to stop and say hi. The next day, we were leaving Peten, Guatemala and we saw two pack-packers walking along the road. Amazingly, it was Alex and a friend. After we returned to Canada, Alex came to stay with us at our apartment as he was passing through Canada on his way home to Montreal.
Mama loves any human food she can sink her teeth into, but she especially loves chocolate, despite it being toxic to cats. She loves butter, hot Italian sausage and even pickled jalapeŮo peppers. Mama must have been down-wind of the chocolate & almond treat we were eating.
Since we were renting a basement apartment, we sometimes took Mama and Belle to the park to get out of the house for some fresh air. They would have a long winter cooped up in the basement. Belle is a very polite and well-bahaved cat. She's also very nervous but is forced by her love for a good tummy rub to make friends with people.
Paula and I went to Niagara Falls to meet Paula's friends, who drove from Rochester, New York, to celebrate Paula's 33rd birthday.
Paula showing off the tattoo that she had modified and retouched a few months earlier.
Paula with her "bestie", Tonia, and her boyfriend (you can barely see the top of his head) Mike, owner of the famous Perri's Pizza
The Hangover Part II
At the end of August, Paula and I went on a trip to Pennsylvania with Paula's father and his family.
Paula In Pennsylvania
Paula & her half-sister, Bianca
Paula's father, Nelson, & his wife, Carmen
Paula's half-brother, Bruno, reminds me of a younger version of Jim Carry.
Bianca, Paula's half-sister, balances her brother's zaniness with her much more calm, cool and reserved personality.
The Three Stooges - Bianca, Paula and Bruno
We randomly bumped into Paula's friends and former employer, Dan, who lives and works in Pennsylvania.
After returning home, Paula and I both had a new appreciation for our city of Hamilton.
Sun Setting On The City
Paula, Brandon and Giovanni (in the background).
Before we knew it, the summer was over and autumn had rolled around.