Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Some snapshots of apartment life, part 1

Greg is getting annoyed that my organizational system is beginning to encroach on his organizational system.
A fully-stocked kitchen, thanks to a trip to America today for shopping!
Desk in the morning.  Hard not to be distracted by all of the kayakers and dragonboaters and little ferries.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The beginning of the end - Vancouver

I've been in Vancouver over a week, and Greg and the kids a week before that - and have not found the time / energy to blog.  We are busy here!  This also means we're doing less sightseeing, which tends to make up a lot of my blog posts.

An overview - we have landed in one of the absolutely most beautiful apartments we've experienced on tour.  It's on the 31st floor of a building overlooking the harbor of False Creek, with floor-to-ceiling windows.  To my kids' delight, it's also furnished better than any of the others we've stayed in, including books, board games, interesting art, and binoculars!  Downstairs, we are directly on a waterfront bike path, and it's less than a mile to the Cirque site.  So we are biking, every day, rain or shine.  Most days Baz actually rides his unicycle.

Here's a photo of the Cirque site - it's a gorgeous downtown location.  And though the families aren't all living together, we are all within walking distance, and there's a playground directly outside Gate 1, so plenty of gathering opportunities.

But, back to the busy-ness - there are a few basic things going on.  1.  I flew home to Philadelphia in early May, for a week, to oversee staff changes at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.  2.  Greg is training his replacement for the Scientist character in Totem.  3.  We (all of the school parents, a team of Totem staff and I) are putting together a Kids Circus Show extravaganza, scheduled for June 15.

I can honestly say this is the culmination, for me, of 4 years of getting to know these children, and working with them on circus skills, and bringing the families together.  It has involved a massive group effort, and the vision we developed at the very beginning of the tour - of meaningful training, of the artists sharing their knowledge with the children - has finally come to pass in these last months of family tour life.  We are all benefitting immensely.  We are all, also, exhausted.

Trainings have to happen early, in the mornings before school.  So at least 4 days a week, we arrive early at the site - artists bleary-eyed from the previous night's late show.  We do warmup games.  We do strength exercises.  But as the months have gone on, the trainings have gotten more and more specific, as the kids choose and develop individual & group acts, and work one-on-one with their coaches.

As the organizer / coach with the most available time, I am responsible for 6 of the 18 acts in the show. But that leaves a dozen others, which are being trained and choreographed, costumed and musicked, by 9 other parents.  I am also the general stage manager - putting together the schedule of trainings and coordinating everything with everybody.  The artist / coaches, for the most part, have little patience for lazy or sloppy kids.  That ethic is going a long way towards making these acts something to be proud of.  I tend to be the recreational voice, though, trying to keep everyone happy and not too stressed.  The audience is simply going to be the Totem company.  But the fact that we are doing this on stage has required the help of all manner of Totem employees - riggers, carpenters, lighting designers, artistic directors, backstage managers, costumers.  Phew, it's making me tired just thinking about all of it.  Switching gears….

A few other things I can tell you about Vancouver.  First, everything here is atrociously expensive.  I knew this about Canada, but it didn't prevent the sticker shock the first time I went to the grocery store. Every price I see, I do a double-take.  How can it possibly cost that much?

Second, the high Canadian taxes do continue to provide services, like the excellent Vancouver Central Library.  The kids love this conveyor-belt book return system, which automatically separates the books out into their appropriate sections and dumps them in the right bin.

On the way to the site one evening, we bumped into the Vancouver Unicycle Club.  They get together every Thursday night, along the path right outside our apartment, and play unicycle hockey.  Baz had a great time when we came back the following week.  This will be a regular thing for us, I think.

Right now it's pouring rain, and I'm enjoying a quiet afternoon at home.  The window over my desk looks out at the harbor, and I'm watching kayakers, struggling through the downpour.  That can't be fun.  For the most part we've had beautiful weather here, but a little rain is to be expected.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Catching up blog - end of Portland

Hello blog readers - apologies for the blogging hiatus.  It's been a crazy couple of weeks.  But it would be remiss of me to not write about the end of our time in Portland.  It was such a great city!  One of the few on tour that I thought, "I could live here."  (the other small cities, in case you're keeping count, were Pittsburgh and Ottawa.  London, New York and San Francisco I also loved to pieces, but could never afford to live downtown).  Portland impressed me for its livability - and we weren't alone in this sentiment.  One of the nicest things we did in Portland was to spend time with our old friend Pat McGuire, and Pat has bought himself a beautiful flat in Portland's Pearl District.  (where he lives when he's not on tour with Quidam).  Here are a few photos...

Pat in Quidam
Pat in vacation mode
Pat's awesome apartment - on Air BnB when he's not there!

Other things about Portland.  We really didn't get to do everything we wanted to do.  Ran out of time (the whole passport debacle took up a couple of weeks).  We'll simply need to make a return trip.  But in the meantime, a shout-out to some of my favorite Portland businesses:

Finnegan's Toys (totally awesome independent toy store!)
Powell's Books (this one may take the cake for Best Bookstore Ever)
Playdate PDX (indoor kids play zone. with adult cafe - quality food, drinks, oh my)
Lucky Spoon, Lula Health Center (psoas release wow!).  My kids each got to dissect their own squid at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (and you'll all be grateful I am NOT posting pictures of that).  We explored lots of parks, took the aerial tram up to the hospital, and gawked at the lines outside the cult-ish Voodoo Doughnut.  On my own I explored the bike trails, and the Portland Saturday Market.  We hiked around the waterfalls east of the city, and visited the fish hatchery and the dam.

One day, on a Totem field trip, we toured the Michael Curry Design studio.  Michael Curry is a creator of massive puppets and show props for live theatrical productions.  His company built Totem's carapace.   His studio is a marvelous place - in some ways like a dream of Greg's, huge and full of tools and creative apparatus-building.  All of us really enjoyed the glimpse into how an artist has become such a successful entrepreneur.

Our Portland apartment, I must say, was not the best we've ever had.  Having a townhouse with a garage sounded great at first!  Until we discovered that the 3rd bedroom was located in the back of the garage.  If we parked the car, the room was completely inaccessible.  Even without the car, the room was completely cut off from the rest of the apartment, with its own separate entrance.  I refused to put any of the kids (or me and Greg) in such a remote room - so we piled all 3 of them into the other upstairs bedroom.  Here it is - there was barely enough room to squeeze in and take a photo, with the 3 beds.  Despite the multi-levels, the square footage of this house seemed almost the tiniest we've had on tour.  There was no place to store anything - for 6 weeks everyone's clothes and toys seemed to be just strewn around the living room.  It made me long for home, and dressers and bookshelves and desks and file cabinets.

Portland will keep a special place in my heart!  I hope we'll be back again someday.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Packing 101

2 weeks before city transfer:

  • Start getting careful about grocery shopping.  Only buy things in quantities you are sure you will consume in 2 weeks.  Begin using up the food.
  • Think through the upcoming transfer.  Is it an easy one (pack up the car in one place, and drive to the next place within 1 day)?  Or a more-complicated one (multi-step trip; hotel or houseguest stays; crossing international borders; family members on separate itineraries; airplane travel)?  Most transfers fall into the "more-complicated" category.
7-10 days before city transfer:
  • Lay out the suitcases and make final decision - how many cases will go on luggage truck?  
  • Start packing the luggage truck cases first.  Cull through the whole apartment, finding items that you can live without for a couple of weeks.
  • If international transfer, packing list has to be completed by this time.  So the luggage-truck cases have to be done by about 10 days out.  Note: when they say things like "Used Clothing - # of items" - you can really just estimate.  No one is going to be counting your underwear.
  • Get the laundry under control.  You can't pack if there are piles of dirty laundry.  From this point forward, do not let the laundry build up, or you will never make it to the suitcases.  
  • Wash all of the dishes that will go in the luggage truck cases, and stop using them.  
  • Pull out anything you want to donate to Goodwill - outgrown clothes, toys no longer needed - and set them in bags in the Cirque kitchen. 
  • Seriously, use up the food.  
  • Whenever you see other tour members, mutually lament about how little packing you've gotten done.  
3 days before city transfer:
  • Phew.  Luggage truck cases are sent, and you're going to have a breather - pretend like you're not leaving imminently, and let the rest of the packing go for a day or two.
1 day before city transfer:
  • Face the music.  You are leaving tomorrow, anything you might have had planned for this day is out the window, and there are 5 people's papers, books, toys, clothes, and shoes strewn all over the apartment.  (get those library books returned now). You have miscalculated, to some degree, the groceries you needed, and today you'll be eating weird food combinations and figuring out what you can and cannot bring with you.  Expect a long day of stress and squabbling, and promise yourself that next time you will do this all earlier.