Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Little Thanks for the Many Hellos

As a tribute to the beautiful thanksgiving tradition of good food and good thoughts, I supposed today would be a good day for a much delayed blog post. I sat down earlier today to try to put into words how grateful I am for this life and this year and this moment, but I felt my fingers freeze. The words weren’t coming to me, only memories, pictures in my mind. And I found a trend in my thoughts; most of what I am thankful for, most of the memories that popped in my mind, happened in different counties, all along side the people that have been supporting me all my life. I recalled a particular moment in Geneva, a short passing moment, where my Mom and I were travelling a while back from train to train, and we passed an area called Place Du Molard, where squares on the pavement light up with “a thousand ways to say hello.” In all different languages, it’s a square that welcomes all people. Languages have always fascinated me. The idea that I can’t understand, that people express themselves by something that is so unique. It inspires me to learn. I realized that, in my eighteen years, I have had the privilege of sharing many different hellos. More than most, I’d say. And although I don’t speak each language fluently, I’ve got a small taste of the culture, of the people that define it. The experiences I share with each culture, and the new friends I meet, I am thankful for. Mostly though, I am thankful for my family and friends who have shared each and every moment with me. The one’s who’ve made each new hello possible. 

                                   Place Du Molard, Geneva

“Sa-wat-dee Kah” was the latest addition to my growing list of hellos. A trip to Thailand after high school graduation and before the start of university marked the beginning of a new journey. My plan for the summer was Banff- Railay Beach-Singapore-Kingston. So packing up my last suitcase came with a few tears. Leaving Banff was sad, I grew to have an unconditional love for the community that had nurtured me. But I guess the old saying is true that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  I was ready to take the step, to change direction, to experience new things! Thailand was a trip planned to acclimatize to the scorching hot Asian climate before competing in the World Championships in Singapore. Yet, I knew that my trip would be much more than just a means to an end. I had always wanted to experience the Asian culture and my plan was to not let any moment slip by. I wanted to take in every detail. Every cobble stone step, every salty breath, every bite of amazingly spicy food (that my stomach can’t handle but I absolutely love,) every feature in the rock that I touch- I would take it all in. Enjoy, eat, be merry, climb easy, climb hard, climb what looks cool, hike, swim with colorful little fishies... it was a trip that had no rules or limits but purely to have fun. And that is exactly what I did.

My goal for climbing on this trip was specifically that. I didn’t want to limit myself to only hard routes. It is easy to get caught up on solely difficult lines. I wanted to climb everything. Even if it was an easy 5.8 or a hard 5.13, I wanted to experience it. The different rock style is like a climbers paradise, especially for someone from Canada. Once I warmed up, when I saw something that looked interesting, I tried not to look in the guidebook, I was planning on just grabbing my harness and starting to climb. It proved to be a very satisfying way to spend the trip. I got on lines that usually I would not bother climbing, but they ended up being my favorites. And when I did get on a hard line, without the mental restriction of a curtain grade in my mind, I was forced to push myself to my limit. Sometimes when I get on hard things, when I begin to get tired, deep in my mind I justify falling because I know it’s hard. This way there was no justification. I was climbing just for the sake of climbing. And it was awesome! 

                                              Enjoying life! 

                                       Beach Side Climbing! 

            Deep water soloing!! Hanging out!                                                          

Thailand has this uncontrolled love affair with the world’s climbers. Thousands of admirers visit each year, attracted by the beach side cliffs. Yet, as much as we would like to claim the cliffs to be our own, there was someone who was there before we were and they won’t let us forget it… the monkeys of Railay came in uncountable numbers. Dancing around the cliffs edges and cracks, prancing on our beds and kitchen tables. Steeling food and cameras, attempting to pee on us, laughing as they ran up the project we had been working on for days, the stories are endless… But as annoying as the little guys are (and I was pretty scared of them at first…) I have actually grown to miss them. If you’ve ever seen “Night at the Museum” you know what I mean. You hate Dexter, but you love him. 

Railay proved to be a paradise in many more ways than just the cliffs- a culture filled with the most amazingly friendly people, the postcard perfect sunsets on the beach, the Thai food that looks like a mess but tastes like heaven and the BEST smoothies in the WORLD (seriously.)- 10 days wasn’t enough.  Still nearly two months later I will find a grain of sand left in one of my shoes or bags… a slight, taunting memory of the good laughs, the good climbs and the good times. Ahhh, Thailand. You make me smile.
J A “Sa-wat-dee Kah” well worth it. 

                              Long Boat ride to Railay Beach!
                                            Messy Yumminess
                                         Sunset and the crew
                    Most hilarious man alive.. don't even ask... 

The view of Singapore’s high rises revealed what a difference a few hour plane ride can make. Travelling from huts, sand and rock, to skyscrapers, fancy restaurants and plastic- my time in Singapore marked another extraordinary journey with Team Canada. Fresh from Thailand, with the sand still scattered across our suitcases, reunited with the team at last, it was a good feeling. Mostly all the team was travelling before the comp so we all had stories to tell and were bursting with anticipation around the upcoming event. The world championships took place at an interesting venue. It was on an island, on the beach, that, in lack of other words, was Disney Land. It was an island purely made for attraction. I was actually quite happy that the team decided not to stay directly on the Island and instead we got to experience Singapore for Singapore, not all the man made touristy attractions. (Although guilty that Universal was SO much fun...) We visited the flamboyant clothing markets, we bargained with the street venders, we drank so much bubble tea we were going to burst, we watched live frogs being chopped up in the food market (L). What was so interesting was that it was a lot like Thailand… expect everything was expensive and everyone spoke English. I found it hard to wrap my head around. A place that in many ways is so much like home and in other ways is so, so incredibly different. 

                                     Singapore night market
                       Coconut :) Always wanted to do this!

                                         Fun times with the team!

We ate great food and had great laughs before the comp, and then it was time to switch gears, remember the mission and stay focused during the competition. My first few qualifiers didn’t go as planned; I messed up with some beginner mistakes, but still managed to make semis in the final position. I got caught in the trick of expectations and the pressure killed me. I tried to go into semi finals with no worries, a fresh start and just enjoy my time on the wall. Pretending it was just another day climbing at the beach in Thailand, I stepped on the wall with a smile on my face, positive thoughts flowing through my mind, and I found an intuitive flow. I just kept going without even thinking. I was reacting. I wasn’t forcing anything. I definitely climbed to my limit in semis and moved up a considerable amount of positions. I use to confuse how well I did with how many people I beat, but I didn’t make that mistake this comp. I climbed first that day. No one to compare to, and when I got off the wall I was happy with my climb. And as I watched more people on the climb, my thoughts never changed, I stayed content. I moved away from caring how others did and I was truly happy with my climb, for my climb alone. At the end of the comp was my favorite part- the jersey trading. I started my business schooling early with some marketing and negotiation practice and came home with 7 new jerseys from all different countries to remember all the people I met J 

            Team Canada in our flashy blue Arc'teryx jackets!
             Some waving flags from the opening ceremonies! 
                                                Semi Finals!! 

After some sad goodbyes, I travelled to Kingston, got my stuff settled in my new home and after a BLAST of frosh orientation it was straight to studying. Business school is HARD. But I like the challenge. I am busier than I ever was, trying to balance school with training with extracurriculars. Yet, I love being busy, so I know it will all be well worth it.

I am particularly excited about a position I recently received on student government. I get to intern for the President of the Commerce Society. I am more than excited to meet all the new, motivated people on assembly and help create the community that makes Queen’s so special!! I can’t wait to start!

As for climbing, I have still been able to climb multiple times a week here in Kingston. The training wall is small, but the climbing community is super strong. I’m psyched to feed off the energy of everyone here. The new TDB season is just around the corner, with my first competition in Montreal in November! (Where I get to see my coach again! Yay)

All of this is definitely a whole new chapter with many more “hellos” just waiting to happen.

Till next time,



  1. I love your enthusiasm for life, Elise. Thanks for sharing. that and adding the pictures so we can see what's going on. Congrats on the internship. Is this a student or faculty group? Mr. Vanderlee and I were reps in the U of C's undergrad society and it was a great way to get to know people. Don't try to do too much, girl! Stay well.
    Ms B

    1. Thank you! :) It's a huge student run society, so I'll get to meet tons of upper years. So excited.

      I'll try!


  2. Hi, Elise

    I was wondering if you recall the photographer that took the picture of you deep water soloing over the misty water? To verify, this is Thailand? Spiderman Wall?

    I wanted to not only identify you, but also credit the photographer, as well as note the location--so that I can properly attribute it for posting to my Facebook wall.

    Thank you, Tim