Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Random Thoughts today…

lobster_brkfJust waiting for a conference call to start so I thought I’d put a few thoughts on paper.

BREAKFAST – This morning I had fresh maritime lobster with a fat-free cheese slice, egg white omelet (6 points on Weightwatchers).  Check out the photo.  The lobster kinda looks like when my Dad used to deep-fry bacon for his famous, moose-bacon cheese burger on fry bread (21 points).

TODAY’S BLESSING – “Gzhemnidoo (Great kind spirit – the Creator).  I look to you, in a humble way, for your help in my quest to lose weight and make healthier choices in life.  I’m having some difficult times in staying positive and following-through.  Today, I ask the Spirit World, the Grandmothers and Grandfathers all around me, to help me in this important personal goal.  Please look after me in dealing with my diabetes, that I stay focussed, take my medicine everyday and live healthy.  I think about all those, like me, living with diabetes and I ask that you look after them and their daily struggles.  Today, I give thanks for all your great works, for Creation around us, for this good and beautiful life, mno-bimaadiziwin.  I thank you for this wonderful Mide life, mice bimaadiziwin.  I give thanks for all your gifts, for my family and the health of others during this holiday season.  I broke my fast today with a tall, glass of clear, fresh water, nibi/mide-waaboo.  That sacred water that flows to us, with great kindness, from that third level above us.  I give thanks for the water and for the food that grows on Shkawkamig-Kwe (Mother Earth).  Miigwetch (thank you), Grandfathers and Grandmothers.  Take pity on us, Gzhemnidoo.”

FOOTBALL – It was a very interesting night in NFL football.  The Bears won.  The Packers came back after I had all but given up on them.  The Vikings upset the high-flying Eagles.  My Midewiwin family must be really happy today.  Quite a few upsets this week as well.  My Broncos and miracle quarterback Payton Manning losing to the Chargers was a bit of a shocker.  Pats lose.  Saints lose.  One social media comment I seen summed the whole weekend:  “Mediocrity prevails yet again.”

CHEYENNE SAUCIER – I had a great time at the Assembly of First Nation’s annual Christmas Party last Thursday.  It’s been a long while since I attended as it usually isn’t my kind of thing.  The dinner was amazing, the company was fun and interesting and the entertainment was top-notch.  Had a chance to listen to and meet young Cheyenne Saucier from Wikwemikong.  I bought her latest CD of country covers called The Nashville Sessions Vol. 1 to play in my car.  The level of talent among Anishinaabek youth is astounding.  She’s going to go far and I wish her luck in her career.

HOLIDAY PLANS – Holiday Dinner will be at Junior and Laurie’s place this coming Saturday.  We’re looking forward to a great feast, albeit, a feast of small portions for me.  Deborah and I are bringing a fresh, roasted, bone-in ham with a honey mustard glaze.  Griffin and Miigwans are Florida bound with their mom and Val for their holidays.  They depart this Friday so I won’t see them until next year.  Fortunately, they will be staying with us this Thursday night so we can exchange gifts.  Katherine Faith will be home on Christmas Eve.  Although she will be visiting her boyfriend Jake’s family over Christmas.  Deb and I will be on our own for Christmas night.  No fancy dinner planned.  We might go to a movie like we’ve done in the past.  In all likelihood, Deborah, myself, Katherine Faith, Jake, Jasmine and Fiona will head someplace warm for the holidays.  We will celebrate New Years in the warm climate of a five-star resort.

Top 10 Highlights of our Trip to Peru

Our trip to Peru and the Amazon was an experience of a lifetime.  We filled our days with incredible day trips on the river and to indigenous villages.  We embraced family and the people of Peru.  We met new friends and re-kindled old friendships.  It was difficult to pick out my top experiences of our first trip south of the equator, but here is my list of top 10 highlights.  Enjoy.


Deborah and her uncles Terry and Fisher enjoying a family chat.

Deborah and her uncles Terry and Fisher enjoying a family chat.

1.  Family

The number one highlight of the trip to Peru was the chance to spend time with Deborah’s family and their new in-laws.  It is always a pleasure to hang out with uncles Terry and Fisher and Deborah’s dad James.  These are some great men, kind, hard-working role models.  It was an opportunity for everyone to meet Rosanna’s family as well.  Such beautiful people, all of them.  Rosanna’s parents are so filled with warmth and appreciation that we visited their country.  They were great ambassadors to us Canadian visitors.  Jim and Rosanna hosted a fabulous New Years Eve party at their home.  We danced into the new year wishing each other “feliz ano nuevo”!  I can’t say this enough, but I am so appreciate of Jim and Rosanna’s kindness and hospitality in having us in their homes.  I rarely have this feeling, but I felt truly welcome and at home in Iquitos.  I look forward to our next visit soon.  Miigwetch James and Rosanna.  Chi-miigwetch to the Cordero Inga family for taking such good care of Dad.


Rio Momon.

A view from the Rio Momon near the mouth of the Amazon River.

2.  The Amazon River

One of the natural wonders of the world, the Amazon River was everything I expected it to be.  Dark, mysterious, powerful.  It is truly something that needs to be respected and protected.  Throughout our week or so in Peru, we travelled the river a few times.  Mainly to go from one tributary to another, however, one of the highlights of our trip was the ride to Los Boas about an hour east.  We happened to encounter the river when it was full with flotsam, likely from a rainstorm up river.  We had to carefully navigate through the myriad of logs, driftwood and branches so not to damage the motor.

We looked for more information before spending time on the various rivers: the Momon, Itaya, Nanay and the mighty Amazon.  Deb’s dad, Jim Richardson was extremely generous, not only with his hospitality at home, but in taking us on the river in his boat.  We enjoyed every minute of the experience: from the boatlaunch at Ave. La Marina in Iquitos, out to the boat house on the Itaya River where a nice family keeps the boat for him, to our experience fishing for piranha.

Being on the river also reminded me of home.  The boat people were reminiscent of my Dad’s family who lived at Hardy Bay on the French River.  Even the Grandfather who spent time with us had the exact same hands, color and stature as my Dad. The Merritt Supply website serves as a good guide and adviser.

We did get to see some Amazon River dolphins, but they were camera shy.  Please support Roxanne Kremer and the society for the Protection of the Amazon River Dolphin.

I didn’t get to jump into the river like I wanted.  I’ll save that for my next visit.


The Chief of the Yahuas.

The Chief of the Yahuas.

3.  Singing a song for the Boras people

Definitely a highlight of the trip was visiting the indigenous people at the Boras and Yagua villages.  It was quite an experience to visit with these people who explained their origins in the jungle near the Columbian and Equadorian border.  To hear of their history and their culture and how close they are with the jungle and the river.  So many similarities to First Nations people in North America.  The Boras tribe, mostly their young people, offered us a welcoming dance which was beautiful.  We were then invited to be honourary members of the tribe, with Deborah’s uncle Fisher as the Chief.  We danced with their regalia and truly felt special and welcome in their ceremonial roundhouse.

Then Jim explained that we were Indian people from Canada and that I was a traditional singer.  I was offered a shaker to sing a song to the Boras.  Deb and her uncles led a round dance while I sung a Midewiwin dance song.  It was a heart-warming experience for us.  While appreciative, the Boras didn’t quite know what to make of it.

However, it then became apparent why the tribe had moved so close to Iquitos and the Amazon River.  They reliance on the tourist economy.  In a flash, following the ceremonial dancing, we were surrounded by the young people selling their regalia, bracelets, weaved cloth and all types of handicrafts.  We did our best to support them and hauled in quite a few items which are beautiful.  I bought the exact ceremonial necklace that I wore during the dance.


On the riverbank in Belen.

On the riverbank in Belen.

4. Belen: The Venice of the Americas

We didn’t get to visit the gigantic market until the tail-end of our trip.  We had heard about Belen, it’s enormous size, what we could expect there and what to watch out for.  It wasn’t until we got there that it sunk in.  These were the people of Iquitos and their own economy.  This is where they bought their vegetables and meat, which hung from the walls as roofs of hundreds of booths.  This is where they bought their housewares and furnishings.  This is also where they traded in traditional medicines.  I bought a traditional medicine that is good for diabetes made from a special root.  I also bought a huge stick of natural tobacco for ceremonies.  Uncle Terry bought a bottle of aphrodisiac called “21 Roots” that he hoped to use when he gets home.  The market was also the place for the illicit trade in exotic animals.  Birds, crocodiles, turtles and various species of monkeys.  It’s quite an eye-opener.

This was also a place where we seen the tremendous poverty of the people.  As we rode along the Itaya River, we seen the slums and shanties where many people live.  Belen is described as the Venice of the Americas, but it is certainly not Venice.  Although it is quite beautiful in it’s own unique way.  It’s amazing to see how people adapt to the river and live so close together.  Many of the shanties are on stilts as the river rises and falls naturally.  They bathe, wash their clothes and play in the river, only metres away from their they go to the bathroom.  This was one of the reasons my contingent didn’t let me jump in the river.


Bob and Miguel, the wooley monkey.

5.  Miguel

Miguel is our pet monkey.  Unfortunately, we can’t bring him home to Canada.  But Jim will take care of him for us.  It’s really cool to hold a monkey.  They are so human!  It’s like taking care of a baby, because they are so small… but can quickly get into mischief and out of your hand just as quickly.  And did I mention they are so human?  Miguel is really neat!








Such beautiful flora in the jungle. 6.  Flora and Fauna

There is an incredible abundance of amazing and diverse plant-life and wildlife in the Amazon jungle.  The lillies and flowers are quite so beautiful.  The trees are so tall and sprawling.  A walk in the bush means something total different in Amazoneas.  We had the chance to visit a butterfly farm and see one of the world’s most beautiful and rare butterflies, the giant blue morphos.  They live only for two weeks and exist only to make Love and reproduce.










Deb, Rosanna and our guides shopping in Peru.

Deborah and the girls shopping in Lima.

7.  Shopping in Lima

Lima is really a modern, cosmopolitan city.  More and more tourists are flocking to this city of 7,605,742 people which means a lot more hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail shopping space.

We spent most of our time in Miraflores, a thriving coastal neighbourhood of amazing cliffs, sandy beaches and ocean surf.  City engineers managed to build a spectacular tourist and shopping complex into the limestone cliffs which contain great restaurants, a multiplex theater and lots of modern shopping.  In the more urban parts of Miraflores, we explored the artisans markets and purchased some beautiful Mayan handicrafts and a nice new baby alpaca scarf.  We finished off our visit to Lima by checking out the ultra-modern Jockey Plaza – which has all the best American and French high-fashion and brand name stores.  Prices in Peru are just right.  Didn’t get to try the KFC though.


A view from the motocarro on the streets of Iquitos. 8.  Motorcarros

I truly got a thrill every time I rode the motocarros.  This motorcycle/richshaw combo is how to travel in Iquitos.  No one owns a car or truck in town.  But who needs to?  It costs 3-5 nuevo sols (Peruvian currency) to travel anywhere.  This is equivalent to $1 US.  They are so fun to ride.  It reminds me of the first time I rode a four-wheeler on the rez.  But the driver weaves in and out of dense motocarro traffic, with no definitive lanes or traffic laws.  It seems that traffic lights and stop signs are more like “guidelines” and the goal is to race everyone else to the destination.  It is thrilling, fun and when you get past the exhaust fumes – a great outdoor activity!  So fun!!


Jim translates the traditional greeting during our welcoming ceremony in Boras.

Deb’s dad Jim was our excellent guide and translator.

9.  Speaking Spanish

I tried my best to communicate.  But Iquitos, Peru isn’t a thriving tourism hotspot yet!  Very few people can speak english so you have to attempt to communicate in espanol.  Dos huevos por favor! – just doesn’t cut it here.  It was a challenge to just say the address “Trujillo, Punchana” to the motorcarro driver to get him to understand our weird, foreign accent.  I say it correctly, but they just don’t hear it correctly for some reason.  But it was fun.  I used my spanish baby talk to find my way around town, to negotiate prices, to tell people to “buzz off”, to order meals and find the bathroom.  Donde esta banos hombres?



At the market on la Boulevard.

10.  Boulevard

More than a few times, we went downtown and walked on “la Boulevard” as the locals call it.  This area, near the Plaza de Armes, is ripe with nightlife, artisans, restaurants and many, many people.  Deborah’s dad took us all out for dinner at a small, comfortable restaurant where we experienced some delicious blended and frothy lemonade and passion fruit juice, deep fried plantain and some alligator.  It was all incredibly delicious.  All the street food smells delicious as well, but it was a no-no.  We stuck to “los restaurantes touristicas”.  Down below the boulevard is the market with much more of an indigenous theme.  All wonderful stuff from the jungle.  Fiona bought a hat.

Peruvians so enjoy their ice cream, so we partook in the local ice cream and gelato bar.  It’s a nice way to cope with the 30 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity. Click here to get the best small dehumidifier to your home.

Apparently, after midnight, the night life turns a little racy.  Not that I would notice – bed time is always 9:30 for me no matter what country I’m in.

One amazing restaurant we ate at was on the Itaya River.  This floating restaurant called Al Frio y el Fuego was the most romantic spot in the city.  Delicious food and a spectacular view of the city light.  So calm and peaceful.  It was the most memorable of all our nights out.

Bob and Deb at Al Frio y el Fuego Restaurante.

Our travels to Lima and Aquitos

It’s been a thoroughly wonderful holiday so far, as we make our way through Peru.  Yesterday, we spent the day with Rosanna and her sister Shilrey and her friend Erica shopping through the market district of beautiful Miraflores and Lima.

The markets had some really unique items usually made by local indigenous people.  Unlike a lot of other tourist destinations, each shop had something unique to offer.  That being said, I also think every other shop either sells alpaca wool products or silver jewellery. However, among all that wool, I found a great new scarf and Deb found a fabulous sweater wrap with a charming Peruvian design.  I also found a new wooden tobacco bowl that’s got me psyched for some immediate tobacco dancing, which I did right there in the market.

After another few hours in Lima today, we made our way to Iquitos – the world´s largest remote city only accessible by air or boat.  It is also the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon.  We got in safely to Jim and Rosanna´s casa to a nice greeting.  It was nice to meet Rosanna´s mom and dad, get a night-time tour of the backyard animal sanctuary, and have a nice cuddle with the Girlies.  Deb is putting them to bed as I write this.  They´re so happy we´re here finally.  Jasmine and Fiona actually arrived here with their Grandpa Jim last Monday.  So they´ve already had their taste of the Iquitos life.

Tomorrow, Deb and I will get to see Iquitos with an expected high of 34 and about 90 per cent humidity.  A typical summer day here.  We hope to catch up to uncle Fisher and Uncle Terry who are out on the town this evening.  We are all going to venture to a nearby butterfly conservatory in the jungle.

I already have quite a few photos from our adventures in Lima.  I´ll post those as well as a few more from tomorrow´s adventures.  But my bed awaits.

Buenos noches.

Skating at City Hall

Enjoy my lunch hour by skating at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.

Happy Holidays From All of Us

Best Wishes from Bob, Deborah, Katherine Faith, Jasmine, Griffin, Miigwans and Fiona.

Introducing the Anishinaabe Video Blog

Bob Goulais introduces his Anishinaabe Blog podcast/video blog feature and wishes everyone the best of the holidays.

A Grinch-like View of the Holidays

Ahh, winter solstice.  The shortest day of the year.  Shouldn’t we turn our clock’s ahead or remove an hour or something?  Sometimes I wish it was the shortest week of the year, too.

Winter solstice is one of the two most prominent celestial days which is celebrated by many cultures around the world.  The other is summer solstice.

The early Julian calendar recognized December 25 as winter solstice, hence the reason to celebrate Christmas on this day.  Hark now hear:  Jesus was not born on Christmas day.  We celebrate Christmas because it’s the pagan day of new light.

Christian or not, it’s great to have the time off work.  However, this is the first time I’ve had to work through the holidays.  But at least I got the statutory holidays.

Did you know that Christmas is most commonly associated with seasonal depression?  More mental illness occurs during the holidays than any other time of the year.

And it’s no small wonder.  The TV specials and the music is so repetitive and annoying.  Heck!  I was sick and tired of Rudoph and The Grinch when I was a boy.  As for Christmas carols, even Rob Halford of Judas Priest has put out a Christmas album.  Still, I’m strangely fascinated by Andrea Bocelli’s renditions of Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bells, which is sung with The Muppets.  I think it’s his accent.  Give me Death Metal Christmas, or Give me Death.

Most of the world doesn’t even celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I kinda feel sorry for my fellow Jewish people, as well as the Muslims, Buddhists, Sihks and Hindus having to put up with all the Christian hoopla at this time of the year.

Last week, I was riding the YRT bus and sat behind an older women who was reading a tattered Qu’ran prayerbook.  I was quite surprised when she put away her Qu’ran, proceeded to take out her Blackberry and began checking e-mail.  Curious, I looked to see what kind of e-mail she was responding to. 

I noticed that each e-mail she read was signed off “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Not only was this Muslim woman being subject to a breach of her privacy (by me, reading over her shoulder), clearly she had a case of harassment, if not discrimination, repeatedly having to endure references to “Christmas”.

It is also the season of the biggest lie.

At this time of the year, we convince the people we Love the most, our children, of the existence of a mythical figure.  An overly friendly old man that watches them all day long (even when they are sleeping).  In some places, this man with the fake laugh, offers our children gifts and candy.  Despite their objections, even their cries for help, we place our children ON HIS LAP!  Then we allow other strangers to photograph our children in this compromising position.

How many times have we warned our children from consorting with strangers?  Talk about sending mixed messages.

Would you put your child on the lap of a priest if you seen him in the mall?

That’s a great segue back into the true meaning of Christmas.  A celebration of Christianity, right?  NO!  The Mall.  It’s consumerism all the way, baby!

Christmas is a necessary economic driver for many different industries around the world.  Retail, service, food services and travel.  The money made on the holiday of holidays has nothing to do with some guy named Jesus.

But all that buying and gift-giving has to do with the Spirit of Christmas, goodwill toward men and all that, right?  Well, not really.  The biggest shopping day of the year in Canada is the day AFTER Christmas.

Despite these Grinch-like observances, there are a few things I enjoy about Christmas.  Everyone is generally cheerful.  It is a great time to celebrate life and family.  I do enjoy getting together with my family.  The food is always good and plentiful. 

But most of all, Christmas time is for the children.  My children: pagan, Midewiwin Anishinaabeg – with their wannabe Jewish, Midewiwin dad.  They Love Christmas…  the carols, the TV specials, Christmas cards, the tree, the presents and even the mythical characters:  Santa and baby Jesus.  I do it all for them.

I’m not much for presents and consumerism myself.  But give me some chocolate Santas, Nutchos, pickled beets and multiple opportunities for free turkey, and I’ll quietly go with the flow.

Ignatieff’s Christmas Carol

It just might be a good idea if the Spirit World visited Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada for Christmas this year.

Ghost of Christmas Past – Last year, around Christmas time Michael Ignatieff’s dream to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada was taking shape.

Coming off a miserable election defeat, then-leader Stephane Dion was looking toward the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois to seize power away from the Conservatives. Dion’s spin machine couldn’t make the coalition idea stick, as Conservatives successfully made the argument that the Grits and the NDP were making a deal with separatists.

Ignatieff’s moves avoided another costly leadership race. Bob Rae proved to be the kingmaker, stepping aside for a smooth appointment as leader. Ignatieff distanced himself from the coalition scheme, moving instead to carve some Parliamentary cooperation in the 2009 Budget. Election averted.

Ghost of Christmas Present – Today, there is a lingering ghost of uncertainty. In the span of a year, Michael Ignatieff moved from certainty, through a number of restarts, to totally uncertainty.

When a leader ascends, there is the expectation that they have a good plan and they are ready to lead. Restart number one: The beginning. Michael Ignatieff just didn’t have it quite right, appointing the so-called “Rosedale Gang” to his office. Restart number two: Bring on Ian Davey as Chief of Staff. The strategy is to defeat the Conservatives and hold an election at all costs. However, a controversy in Quebec leads to a resignation, then criticism over the leader and his Toronto-based war machine. Restart number three: Bring on Peter Donolo as Chief of Staff. Restructure the Opposition Leader’s office and be a little more strategic and patient. The election needs to happen at the right time. I like this restart.

Unfortunately, three-restarts is a little too much for a party that already expects to be back in power. The changes may be too-little, too late.

Ghost of Christmas Future – For the most successful political party in Canada, who arguably represents the populist standards of Canadian society – the future is uncertain. There will be an election before Christmas. The Liberals will form a government before Christmas. But will it be before Christmas 2010? Probably not.

Will Michael Ignatieff be at the helm of the Party? There have been reports that Iggy may be moving to retire from the Party leadership. These rumours are no doubt unsubstantiated blabber from disgruntled senior party officials and caucus folks.

To his credit, Ignatieff moved quickly to dismiss the rumours. But the same thing happened to Chretien and Dion. Rumours turn into tactics, tactics turn into options, options turn into proposals.

The ghost of Christmas future may be another leader by next Christmas.

Bob Rae may be the next to ascend the throne, but he comes with his own baggage and likely the same results as the leaders before him.

What can the Party learn from the various ghosts? That remains to be seen. The Liberal Party is in a funk. Perhaps, the Party needs another full-fledged leadership race. The Party definitely needs some vision and some new blood. But not Justin Trudeau blood, just yet.

The Liberal Party of Canada need to learn from all these lessons, just as Scrooge had to learn his.