Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before ...

Off to Italy, and Chef school, tomorrow. This is how I'm 'spending' my sabbatical year from teaching cooking at Monarch Park Collegiate. A little crazy? You bet ... but I seem to do this rather well ... for example, late last night I helped rescue a dog who'd been hit by a car in front of our place. The result for me was 9 puncture wounds or lacerations on my right hand from its canines. A round of antibiotics later, I heard assurance from my doctor that I probably won't develop an aversion to water (hydro-phobia) in the near future. The poor dog was hit at the same street-corner where I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle on the last day of my previous sabbatical! The injured dog escaped my generous reach, unfortunately, and ran into the ravine nearby.

Last sabbatical (five years ago) we went around the world -- literally --

It was that camel ride at dusk on Cable Beach in Broome, Western Australia -- only 750 km across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia -- that confirmed for us that this was unlike anything else we’d done. Night had fallen, we had turned off away from the beach, and were lumbering up the dunes into the sand hills to then put the camels to bed. Gail gave me a gentle poke, hugged me, and whispered: “I’m the last person on this camel train. If I fell off right now, I’d truly be lost. I haven’t the faintest idea where I am and the stars in the sky are all backwards.” I could hear the grin in her voice. Shades of Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the oasis” and “Heaven’s holdin’ a half-moon shinin’ just for us”….

During that sabbatical year we went to Vancouver, Montréal, Edmonton, San Diego, Dallas, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Paris, Grenada, Seville, Prague, Bangkok, Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Perth/Fremantle, and Broome. In one 3-month stint, we flew more than 45,000 miles, through 19 airports, and traveled in 5 continents.

Snapshots of some of our adventures include:

· Feeding vegemite-on-toast to an orphaned kangaroo co-habiting with us in an Australian B&B

· Riding a train for 3 nights and 4 days across the straightest track in the world from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean ... the mighty "Indian-Pacific"

· Frolicking underwater with “Wally”, a Maori Wrasse in the Great Barrier Reef while scuba diving

· Walking on the bridge over the River Kwai amidst the ghosts of the JEATH Death Camp

· Admiring the bravery and ingenuity of Canadians as documented at the war memorial at Vimy

· Being thrilled to the core by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the Rudolphium in Prague

· Being outraged at the rudeness of the sales clerks in Paris when trying to buy an outfit to wear to said concert (Gail)

· Being moved by the power of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry, “duende”, and the architecture in Andalusia

· Participating in the ritual of the “padronas’ at a wedding in Fortaleza, Brazil as one of 600 guests (and Gail being the only woman there wearing sensible shoes)

Five years later, things are a little different, with my focus being full-time professional development through chef school. I asked a recent graduate of the program what Italy was like, and he said, "Italy looks exactly like the inside of a kitchen!"

George Brown Chef School has an international exchange program with La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana in the Parma area. Most of the students are graduates of George Brown Chef School and/or have industry experience. Me? I've been in chef school for a full 6 weeks now. My 'learning curve' is 90 degrees ... I'm standing on my jets ... and it's a blast!

We all arrive in Parma on Friday afternoon. Classes begin (in Italian) on Monday.

Some time while I'm away in Italy, Gail will be in Russia for two weeks studying "The Role of The Fool in Russian Literature". Let's hope she doesn't change her focus to "The Role of The Fool (Martin) in Italy"!

Stay tuned ...