Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bikram recitation class

Had a funny experience this morning.

If you know Bikram Yoga, you know that the teachers do a set "recitation" - 90 minutes of "dialogue" that is basically a speech Bikram Choudhury wrote, to lead the class through 26 postures.  Teachers are trained to recite it word-for-word.

I've now been to a lot of different Bikram studios and I've had dozens of teachers.  Generally the younger, newer teachers stick to the exact dialogue with no variations.  The older, experienced teachers usually add some variety - commenting on the benefits of the postures, calling out particularly excellent efforts or problems they see in the students.  I like these classes the most - these teachers seem most personally engaged, and I always learn a lot.

The Bikram studio here is mostly staffed by young, new teachers - with the exception of the studio owner, who I had a particularly awesome class with last week.   As for the other teachers, there is nothing wrong with them, and classes are usually uninspiring, but Bikram-effective.

Today, though, our usual teacher was sick.  She came in, and said "I'm sorry, I can't lead the class today.  But don't worry, I have a CD!"  And she proceeded to play a recording of the Bikram recitation over the loudspeaker in the classroom.  For 90 minutes, we sweated, stretched, and breathed to a digital version of Bikram's actual voice.  

It was a surprisingly good class!  The sequence went nearly as smoothly as it would with an actual teacher, and Bikram's energy and personality was amusing and interesting.  Although I don't see myself joining the "cult" and doing Teacher Training any time soon, I am drawn to this practice, and Bikram the person is central to all of it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Today, cycling

Today's self-care:  2 hours (24 miles) on bike, along the Ottawa River, in perfect weather.

Does it get any better than this?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ottawa is awesome!

So, Ottawa gets a place of pride, right alongside Pittsburgh, as a city on tour I had low expectations for, which has turned out to be fantastic.

The cycling alone makes this place, in summer, glorious.  I keep striking out on my own whenever I can find an hour or two, to explore the river paths and canal paths and parks.  At least by bike, Ottawa feels like one green space after another, and cycle trails that extend in every direction.

Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill

Cookies from Byward Market
Other things are marvelous about this city, too.  I can't post photos / videos of every single thing we've done here, but I don't want to forget about the kids getting tiny wire sculptures made by an artisan at Byward Market, and touring Rideau Hall and watching cricket practice.

We spent a full day last week at Calypso Water Park.  While I can't say this is one of my favorite things we've done here (crowds. long lines. high prices. thrill-seeking. sunburns) - the kids loved it.

Naturally, we still spend a lot of time at the library, and the one here in Ottawa is excellent.  Easy to get a card, unlimited checkouts, materials in many different languages, welcoming children's room.  And people seem to actually be reading here.  (always a bonus).  In this picture, Gipsy is reading in French to Isa - Gipsy has made remarkable progress on reading this past year, and Isa is just beginning to learn French.  As Isa usually reads to Gipsy, being at a much higher level in English, this was a nice change!

Besides the sightseeing here in Ottawa, there are other day-to-day things making it really good for us.  All of the families are housed together, which means lots of impromptu socializing.  Most evenings the kids are scrambling to get together for bike rides, playdates, etc. - and there is an indoor pool here, which makes a gathering point throughout the day.  A couple of additional kids are with us in this city - Iyiola and Kiana - so there is really just a critical mass of Totem children in this building eager to play together.  The other night Nastia scooped up Baz and took the 3 boys out for a nighttime bike ride all through the city, delivering him home after 9pm.  These are school nights, but it's final exams - which means no homework (and no real studying - they are tested on what they know) - so our schedules are looser.

Yesterday I took Isa to a farm (the Canada Agricultural Museum) where there was an Ice Cream Festival happening.  We saw ice cream being made, got up close and personal with cows, horses, pigs, and goats, and generally enjoyed a beautiful day together.  Our days are numbered - Baz and Ayla only have a couple more days left of the school year.  After that, we'll have a few weeks off, and then all 3 kids will begin school together at the end of August.  I am nervous about this on all kinds of levels!  But Isa is ready, and I am trying to prepare myself to let go of this little girl, my sidekick of the last 3 years.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ottawa Premiere / BBQ Party

Oh, Totem, you do know how to throw a party.

As Baz said, "I think this was the best barbecue ever".

There was a bouncy castle.
There was inflatable Sumo wrestling.  (That's Tamir and Umi)

There were Beaver Tails.
And there was the wonderful Totem band, playing all different styles of music and letting a whole variety of people get up and sing.  Unfortunately I'm having that out-of-the-U.S. problem where I can't post the videos (darn it, Blogger!!) but I will post them when we get back to the States.  They'll go on my Facebook page in the meantime.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Three years

Our three-year touring anniversary came and went last month, without fanfare. 

I am less amazed, at the moment, by the length of time we've been touring; and more absorbed with the fact that this is our final year.  We are leaving the tour in July 2014, and so everything will soon be bittersweet - the last this, the last that.  But there is still one full year ahead, and I am focused on making it the best year possible.

However, as per tradition, I need to reflect on the past year - Year 3 - and see what I've learned in this time.

I think the biggest thing is about myself, my role, and my innate characteristics.

Don't we all sometimes wonder - if we were scooped out of our everyday lives and put into some more-idyllic situation, who could we become?  Would the very best parts of our selves emerge, and new, dazzling parts as well, leaving the old ugly parts of our selves behind?

Well, I have news.  It doesn't seem to work that way.  I am three years into a situation where I have free time, easy and interesting travel, and more disposable income than ever before - and it turns out that I am pretty much the same person I was when I left.  I am only a little more fit.  My eating habits are no better.  I have no fashion sense.  I am still restless and ambitious and impatient, I'm anxious at parties, I crave solitude.  I hate not being in charge.  I become incorrigibly grouchy and pessimistic after 10pm.  I fall apart when criticized.  

Some other smaller learning experiences....

- Canada in summertime is cycling heaven.
- Companies in dire financial circumstances still see a need to throw lavish parties.
- We can live in luxurious penthouse apartments, but still nothing tops the high morale of having all families housed in one building.  
- Children really do pick up foreign languages faster and better than adults.
- Packing, even after 20+ times of doing it, is still not easy or quick.

Looking back at a year's worth of blogging, I see endless amounts of learning in the various cities.  What a rich year it was, Year 3!  We continue to make fabulous memories.  

Friday, July 12, 2013


This week, there has been some wildly interesting stuff going on in Montreal. It is the Complètement Cirque festival, the 4th year of Montreal's excellently-curated collection of circus performances. This year, the fledgling organization Circus Now gathered a small flock of Americans to come to the festival, and coordinated a whole series of special events for them, like panel discussions and tours.

Being 2.5 hours away in Ottawa, I couldn't attend everything, but Greg, the kids and I drove up to see the performance of Croisé, and I spent a full day with the discussion and tour groups afterwards.

Such inspiration!!

Kyle Driggs, previously a beloved member of our Philadelphia community, is a featured performer in Croisé, which is a truly excellent piece of circus theatre. It was created as a special project at ENC between their second and third years.  Originally performed in the fall of 2012, the Complètement Cirque festival asked them to re-produce it this year. It's a shining example of the innovative ensemble  work these young people are capable of, and a vehicle showing how marvelously Kyle has come into his own as a performer.

Then, today, a rich day of idea-sharing. It began with a panel discussion at ENC about contemporary circus & circus education in the US vs Canada, continued with a tour of ENC and incredibly interesting presentations by the executive director of ENC, the research head, and the librarian.  In between were long coffee chats, brainstorms, and impassioned discussions.  True networking is happening here, sowing the seeds for the future collaborative growth that is needed for circus in the United States.

I am thrilled to be a part of it, and wish that I could be there for all of the events. A great shout-out to Duncan Wall, who is the mover and shaker behind today's gatherings.

Friday, July 5, 2013


It is such fun to be in Canada again.  And I had no idea Ottawa was such a great city!  It's clean, super bike-friendly, surrounded by rivers and bridges and interesting architecture, modern, and international.  As a tourist there are lots of things to see and do.

My Mom is visiting this week - Greg is staying an extra few days in Philadelphia to work on his flight lessons.

We spent the day touring Parliament Hill.  I learned so much fascinating stuff about the Canadian history and government today!

  • Ottawa used to be called Bytown, and changed to Ottawa in 1857, when it was named the capital of Canada by England's Queen Victoria. 
  • The British monarch is also the monarch of Canada.
  • Ottawa is a bilingual city - French and English - as is the official national government.  I thought French-speakers were only in Quebec, but it turns out there are "Franco-Ontarians" and "Franco-Manitobans", etc.  
  • There are thirteen provinces / territories of Canada.  (if you asked me before today, I could probably only have named 4 or 5).  
  • America has twice invaded Canada - during the American Revolution, and then in the War of 1812.  America lost, both times.

In 1916, the Parliament building in Ottawa was destroyed by a fire, with the exception of the Library of Parliament (pictured).  An extraordinarily beautiful room.

We also went to the top of the Peace Tower, and meandered the grounds looking at all of the statues.  In addition today, we explored the Bytown Museum (Ottawa history), and hung out at the Rideau Canal for awhile watching the locks in action.

We've managed to fit in quite a lot in our first couple of days here.  Rode bikes along the river, two trips to the swimming pool downstairs, fetched all of our luggage from the nearby hotel, and found the grocery store.  And I went to my first class at Bikram Yoga Ottawa, hooray!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Philadelphia ----> Ottawa

First, a quick word about our Philadelphia apartment.

We stayed at the Franklin, which was a beautiful building in a beautiful location.  The apartment itself was one of our strangest ever ... it was our first time in a two-level penthouse, and the second floor was about twice the size of the first floor.  Baz's bedroom wasn't really a bedroom - it was a den with an open balcony overlooking the living area below.

Now we're transitioning to Ottawa.
For the record - traveling by charter plane is awesome.  I wish we got to do this all the time, but it only happens once in a while.

A comfy coach bus picks us up at our apartment, drives us to the airport and right onto the tarmac.  Our suitcases are loaded right onto the plane, we go through a basic security screening in a private building, and then we're seated on a spacious 737 all to ourselves.  There is so much space that, as you can see, my kids decided they all wanted window seats.  What's more, for our 1-hour flight we are served drinks AND a hot meal.  It's another world, this private air travel!

Time for a new city, and new adventures.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Seeing some of Philly at last!

We finally have a few days to take in some of Philly's marvelousness.  Yesterday was Independence Hall, the National Liberty Museum (a ridiculous waste of money), and the awesome highlight, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens.  We intended to do the Super Scooper Ice Cream Festival, but we were deterred by the rain.

Today the kids did a thorough exploration of the Franklin Institute, including the special SPY exhibition, which was excellent.  The Laser Maze will hold a special place in our memories.

And we were able to share the science museum day with our Buiniakov friends, always a pleasure.  Except when Nastia asked me to interpret a speaker's presentation on carbon molecules - my Russian is simply not that capable.  I'm not sure my English is that capable!

I love this city so, so much.