Norval's Christmas Letter 2001

This year's letter just has to start at the end of 2000. People in Halifax celebrate New Years Day with things called levees - like afternoon teas or cocktail parties - a navy tradition. We, Dan, Mike and I, decided to make matching party hats for the occasion.

Just last week while I was in Washington DC I realized this must have been the most amazing fun-filled year of my life - a nice thought to have when you're over 50! The year started with a somewhat unexpected trip to Cameroon, West Africa, with a weekend in Paris on the return trip home.

The Cameroon work was to assess the environmental impacts of bringing offshore natural gas and liquids to land through a marine pipeline,

separating the liquids for export and burning the gas to produce electricity in a new power plant. So far the engineers developing the project had not considered the environment at all.

It turned out that the initial plan would have brought the pipeline to shore in one of the most sensitive spots in the whole country, as well as requiring it to run through an area with high risk of lava flows from an active volcano. This part of Africa has very high diversity of all kinds of plants and animals, especially monkeys and larger primates.

Without realizing what it was, I was served a bowl of bushmeat soup, which it turns out is monkey stew. The climate is characterized by near saturation humidity mixed with light dust blown in from the Sahara - quite an experience - and the sky was always gray with the sun a fuzzy bright spot. Local entertainment included watching the guys bathe under the bridge behind my hotel.

Paris was another story! I had managed to find an inexpensive hotel - about $50 a night - much to my surprize it was excellent value, even having a private shower and toilet. I arrived at 6:30 Saturday morning, having left Africa at midnight, but having flown business class in the upper lounge of a 747. When the clerk at the hotel handed me the key to my room at 8 am, I looked at it dumbfounded for at least 30 seconds. After a 2 hour nap I was off to the Eiffel Tower. On Sunday I managed to record the mass at Notre Dame Cathedral on Dan's minidisk recorder and had a real Croque Madame at a nice little cafe beside the Seine. I now understand why people say Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, and Dan and I must go visit together. My departure was traumatic - I had one very large 80 pound suitcase, with two other carry ons - I couldn't get a taxi, so I opted for the subway, to discover I had to get 5 platforms over through countless stairs and tunnels. By the time I got to the right platform, sweat was running out of my sleeves and I sounded like a steam train, huffing and puffing.

Of course, while I was in Africa and Paris, it did nothing but snow in Halifax - by the time I got home the snow bank was 6 feet high outside the door.

February was cold and relatively quiet in Halifax. We went to Neptune Theatre and a local music series, had friends over for dinner, and generally enjoyed ourselves. In March Dan organized the first meeting for Halifax Pride 2001 - his hard work on Gay Pride activities is important to the community but at times strains our relationship. Near the end of March, I headed to Costa Rica for a mix of business and relaxation. Dan didn't come with me because he was determined to pay off all his debts, so I had to struggle along in paradise alone. I had the most amazing horseback ride to a secluded waterfall in the jungle - many friends will know the story only too well .

We had a surprise visit from my nephew Andrew during the early spring too. Well, not Andrew exactly, but rather a flat paper version that was part of a class project back in Regina. We took Andrew with us all over Halifax, then sent back a story and series of pictures about our adventures. We started by taking Andrew to McDonalds.

Once spring was vaguely in the air, we started to plan motorcycle trips. The big event of 2001 was a 11 day trip to Vermont, Montreal and Quebec City via the high speed ferry (try to imagine 800 passengers and their vehicles travelling at 80 km/hr across the Bay of Fundy) that runs from Yarmouth to Bar Harbour, Maine. Three of us rode two bikes through spectacular countryside with incredible weather. Swimming holes were the definite highlight, and we refreshed in an amazing variety of spots.

It's only obvious on Dan, but all 3 of us (Mike Dan and Norval) were blondes for the trip. We didn't spend our entire time in swimming holes, one of the exceptions was the Big Apple Circus. The spectacular finale included clowns blowing toilet paper to the top of the tent under black light - an unusual but entertaining spectacle.

And if toilet paper wasn't enough, we took pictures of our bikes beside the giant cow and calf at Sussex New Brunswick on our way home (look closely to see the 3 of us).

The motorcycle trip held our attention, but we managed to do other things too. I went to a conference in Baltimore, with a side trip to Washington DC in May. In June came the Offshore Technology Association of Nova Scotia Picnic - an amazing affair with countless pavilions serving free food and booze on a small island in Halifax Harbour. Let me say, you meet clients in a way you never would any other time.

And Halifax Pride happens at the end of June - aarrgghh!! One of the more unusual events was the FedEx truck arriving at my office with 26 large cartons - about 1200 tshirts, 300 beach balls, 400 CDs, get the idea - promotional stuff for PrideVision TV. It was a good thing I had a storage room that could hold all of it, and it took until September to distribute everything. It was all worth it in the end, and things went like clock work. One of the highlights of Pride Week was Dan's re-upholstery of his bike seat - the good seat was away getting re-done professionally.

The 1st of July brought lots of camping and parties, starting with the lakeside overnight party at Russ and Bruce's. Mike (aka lil^bear) presented Dan and I with presents surrounded by rose petals in his tent in recognition of a year passed as best buddies. Then my brother came to visit, looked after the house while we were away, and got his first experience riding on the back of motorcycles in many years. In August, came the whirlwind of Clam Harbour Sand Castle Competition, Camp-it-up in Cape Breton, and ending with a Labour Day weekend campout in northern New Brunswick at Camp Ectus. Joe shaved at both of the latter events, and Dan, Mike and I performed a motorcycle stage act at Camp Ectus.

September was initially a bit sad because Tom, our basement tenant for the last 2 years, left for his first job as an economist with the Department of Finance in Ottawa. He's been a never-ending source of entertainment: our favorite was the time, in November, when he came upstairs and said "you know that hole in the wall where air comes out, will it come out again?" Just what would you say?

But shortly after this we had our summer wrap up party at Bob and Dave's farm - a corn boil and overnight campout at a 100 year old farm beside the Bay of Fundy. And then came September 11 .....

But the world didn't end. Frank, a friend from Germany, arrived for a 2 week visit. We rented a Mustang convertible and drove around the Gaspe, and got back in time to organize a tour of solar houses for late October. I just got back from another trip to Washington DC and now we're starting to get ready for our BIG Christmas party at Union Street on December 8th. Mark your new calendars for the second Saturday of December 2002!! Have a great Christmas and all the best in 2002.

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