Arts and Culture, Running

A Tribute to Vaco

When I first arrived, you jumped upon me
Knocked me over, and licked me with glee
Back then, the French tongue, I could not comprehend
But you showed me with no words that we’re to be friends

Your eyes were huge, your heart was bigger
You always wanted to share my dinner
But never mind if I gave you no food
It never destroyed your joyful mood

You taught yourself to open doors
Despite your only having paws
And knew when bedtime rolled around
You’d nuzzle us, then head underground*

When I first started running years ago
Unfit as I was, the going was slow
As I slogged through valleys resembling canyons
You came along as a faithful companion

Until your joints gave out one fine day
No more runs, but you still loved to play
Sure, age was slowing catching up
But deep down inside, you were still a pup

Who roamed the street we lived on, free
Strutting between number 2 and 3
To check on Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit
Your loyalty was a daily habit^

You were doing fine, but all of a sudden,
We got the news: you went to doggie heaven
I didn’t even get to say “Farewell,
I love you, good doggie, you were swell”

Goodbye dear Vaco, you’re one of a kind
You’re loved by those you’ve left behind
Though you most sadly did depart
You’ll forever live on in our hearts.

*For many years the dog’s bed was in the basement, where it was cooler and more comfortable. He’d jump up on his hind legs, open the door and descend the flight of stairs when he decided it was bedtime, but never before wishing us goodnight by licking a hand or nuzzling against us.

^Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit live about 100m down the road from GodzillaPin’s parents’. The dog would once again, open the front door and let himself out, cross the road carefully and trot down the pavement to make sure the old folks are OK. Every single day. That dog had more filial piety than most human beings.

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Arts and Culture, Travel

Driving through Les Pyrénées

There are certain times in a relationship when one looks at the other all starry-eyed, thinking the world of their partner, who could clearly do no wrong. Yesterday was NOT one of those moments. In fact, yesterday was three-point-five-plus-two hours of headbanging why-am-I-here-God? driving through the Pyrenees.

The fact that GodzillaPin’s car comes fully pimped out with a built-in GPS is no barrier to GodzillaPin’s insistence on getting lost. The GPS calculated x hours for y kilometres to destination, and most people would just leave it be. Not GodzillaPin, no. Heaven forbid he doesn’t outsmart this piece of technology.

GodzillaPin: It’s gonna take us about 2 hours to get there.
Turtle: That’s OK, we better hurry then, it’s already past noon.
GodzillaPin: What if I take out the highway?
(fiddles with GPS while driving)
GodzillaPin: Hey it takes 10mins less if we take the small roads!

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what "small roads" meant in this area of the country

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what “small roads” meant in this area of the country

Occasionally, they'd come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Occasionally, they’d come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes...

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes…

And breathtaking views

And breathtaking views

After about 45 minutes, they approached a village with signs saying the road ahead was closed, and a deviation was offered. Nobody said a word, and in retrospect, the Ninja Turtle realised that her brain did do a short-circuit at that moment when GodzillaPin decided to continue merrily as the GPS indicated. As if the roadblock would magically evaporate upon their arrival or something. Unsurprisingly, they came upon the roadblock 7km later.

GodzillaPin: Shit. The road’s closed.
Turtle: Yeah, there were a couple of signs two villages ago saying so.
GodzillaPin: What do you think we should do?
Turtle: (sighs) My honest opinion? Just head back and take the deviation.

GodzillaPin proceeds to coolly ignore this piece of advice, and did what he does best – pretend he was mastering the situation.

Turtle: Where are you going?
GodzillaPin: I think if I take this road, it’ll hopefully bring me somewhere on the other side of the roadblock. I hope it won’t make us drive around a mountain though.
Turtle: You don’t know where you’re going. This looks like private property. We should go back.
GodzillaPin: No no, let me see.

They roll on in awkward silence.

Turtle: I really think we should turn back.
GodzillaPin: Just let me see… (continues to drive without a clue, while fiddling with the GPS, that kept instructing to do a U-turn)
Turtle: The GPS says to go back.
GodzillaPin: Babe, I’ve already gone 3km, I can’t go back now.
Turtle: You’re going to ruin your tyres on this gravel… Watch out! Don’t hit those chickens!

At some stage, GodzillaPin decided to cut his losses and head back. The Ninja Turtle may or may not have gloated about being right yet again. Then, on that already-too-narrow gravel path, a giant tractor comes rolling towards them…

The tractor driver stared suspiciously at GodzillaPin. No doubt they don’t get many visitors in the area. GodzillaPin said good day, and informed the tractor driver of the road block. She replied slowly “yes…” GodzillaPin explained that he was trying to find a way around it, and a look of incredulity clouded the tractor driver’s face. A look that said something like “no one takes shortcuts through my backyard, mate”. Instead, she replied “you’ve got to take the deviation.”

So that was 45 minutes lost, as once again, GodzillaPin versus GPS yielded an unsurprising outcome. They managed to get to their destination in one piece, however, so that’s all that matters. The only thing to note about driving through the Pyrenees is to expect the unexpected. The drive back took longer than expected too, mostly because:

It's only normal rush hour traffic, no?

It’s only normal rush hour traffic, no?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

But wait! There's more! You won't believe where we found this Bessy...

But wait! There’s more! You won’t believe where we found this Bessy…

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It's actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It's quite a happy life for these animals.

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It’s actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It’s quite a happy life for these animals.

The final traffic jam

The final traffic jam

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees...

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees…

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

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Travel

The Main Purpose of Your Trip Is…

Although GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle have had a real blast being tourists in Australia, the primary reason they flew halfway across the world was not the sunshine and the beaches, nor the food and the shopping (although these are pretty good reasons too). No, they made this long trek for a much more important reason – to recognise the Ninja Turtle’s baby sister finishing an important stage of her life, and moving on to the next.

Baby Turtle graduating from the Hogwart's...

Baby Turtle graduating from Hogwart’s…

Mother Turtle was here too, and so was the boyfriend. It was a family event to witness a Miss T turning into a Dr T, as she is now officially a veterinarian.

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

Mother Turtle is super proud of Baby Turtle

It is a relief as much for the family and friends who act as pillars of support, as it is for those who undertake many years of hard slog in chasing their dreams. And that’s what it is – dedication and commitment towards realizing what we really, truly want. It takes a lot of effort, and often times, when we stumble and start doubting ourselves, we need people around us to love us and believe in us.

The Baby Turtle had always wanted to play and work with animals, so it was essentially a childhood fantasy we witnessed being fulfilled at her graduation ceremony. We will never forget the late night phone calls with a stressed voice on the other end, just needing a chat to soothe her nerves, or the tone of pride in her voice as she described her first surgery on a dog. We will remember the sacrifices she’s made along the way – spending her birthday one year all alone in rural Australia for farm work, missing the shop’s closing time and having absolutely no birthday cake, nothing but the memory of that one day’s hard work to remind her she was still alive.

As Baby Turtle ran around sorting out her transcripts, Mother Turtle and GodzillaPin followed the Ninja Turtle back to one of her old favourite hangouts when she used to live in Melbourne – the Queen Victoria Markets. Not only an iconic tourist attraction full of touristy souvenirs, the QV markets primarily service the locals by selling the most beautiful array of fresh fruits and vegetables at a far better price than in the supermarkets. The trick is to wait until the end of the day, when the vendors are trying to clear their goods and one can buy produce at a heavily discounted price. As the vendors yell out reduced prices in a competition to clear their wares, one experiences a slightly surreal moment of witnessing a fruit and vegetable auction.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

GodzillaPin is in carrot heaven.

Later, Baby Turtle caught up with the group once more, and took GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle back to her place, to check out her pad. Another thing that surprised the Ninja Turtle about Baby Turtle was her getting a driver’s license. They all just grow up so fast these days…

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

GodzillaPin and Ninja Turtle holding on for dear life at the back of the car.

Although the Ninja Turtle is allergic to cats, she took an antihistamine which kept the symptoms at bay, which was just as well since Baby Turtle not only has a cat at her place, it is literally one of the cutest cats ever.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

Newman in his naughty box for a time-out.

This cat was adopted by Baby Turtle and her three other housemates – all veterinarian students. It is stone deaf, so calling it is useless, and it cannot hear itself, which explains the most ridiculous miaows you hear from it. Between the four students, they managed to rehabilitate what was once a paranoid, anti-social, fearful cat (as it was deaf, it was hard to get along with the other cats) from the shelter, and turned it into a loving, tame and trusting white ball of fur. The Ninja Turtle is not a cat person (really, she’s not), but she could not resist Newman. It was also the first time she had seen a cat on a leash.

The day ended on a high note with the first non-restaurant meal since they left Metz. It was wonderful to have access to a kitchen at Baby Turtle’s, where she put her knowledge of chicken anatomy and surgical skills to carving up the roast chicken in a most equitable division (there were four of us fighting to have various cuts). Mostly, it was just lovely to finally sit down with one’s sister to a quiet meal, and just chat, after having spent a whole year apart.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Roast chicken and peach salad.

Baby Turtle, we are all so proud of you. Spread your flippers, and may you glide through this world with ease and grace, using your intelligence, skills and compassion to make this world a better place for both animals, and the people who own them. This is only the beginning of your journey, and we hope you know that we will always be there for you.

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