Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Catching up on the past two weeks - Part Two

Monday August 17th to Sunday August 23rd:

The week started Monday August 17th with the unexpected return of Justin with Nanci. As USC classes were not starting for a week and all the pre-school apartment set-up and move in was concluded on a timely basis, it was nice for all of us, including Tesfaye, to have Justin back until the 24th.

On Wednesday August 19th I took Tesfaye to the hospital for a brief checkup with Dr. Dvorak and Tiffany Akins of VGH communications had arranged with Global TV news to have Linda Aylesworth do a follow up to her June 10th news segment on Tesfaye to show how the surgery went. I asked Melaku to come along in case any Amharic translating may be called for. The filming of the footage seemed to go well; Dr. Dvorak really presents well and has a great ability to answer the medical questions in a clear and succinct manner, and the difference in Tesfaye's body after the surgery is very dramatic. I was confident that Linda would do her usual marvelous job of putting the story together, but we were not sure as to when it would air. It eventually aired on August 27th (see post from that day and the posted video clip in the top right corner of this blog).

The week was relatively quiet with Jerus getting used to work and also having an opportunity to get to know our family, including our pet cockatoo Mango and dog Ziggy, and for us to get to know her. It amazed me how quickly our pets adapted to Tesfaye when he first came and the same thing happened with Jerus. While for some of our family and friends it has taken years for Mango to get close to them, with Jerus it took a day. On Friday August 21st we had Ben and Nancy Goldbeg and Erez (the other Israeli Ethiopian law student that came with Jerus for a one month internship with a Vancouver law firm) over for Shabbat dinner. We all had a relaxing time before dinner with Tesfaye and Erez kicking a ball back and forth for a while, and then had a nice dinner of barbequed salmon. Saturday Ben took Jerus and Erez for the day up to Whistler and back. I took the opportunity to fit in a joint workout with Justin at my trainer Terry's studio gym downtown, and Tesfaye came downtown with us and walked around on his own and then observed some of our workout and my penchant for whining during the torture. Saturday night the 22nd Nanci, Justin and I attended the wonderful 60th birthday party celebration at the Four Season's Hotel for my sister Sandra. Justin had a great time and was quite a hit at the party.

Sunday August 23rd I had plans to do something with Jerus and Erez, so I first went for brunch at Richmond Golf and Country Club together with the two of them, Nanci, and Tesfaye, joining up as well with Nanci's sister Julie, her husband Sheldon, and two children Matthew and Jenna. After the lovely brunch I went down to the practice putting green with Jerus, Erez and Tesfaye and had fun helping them get the hang of putting (not that my putting prowess is anything to emulate). It was the first time for Jerus and Erez but actually the second time for Tesfaye, as I had Tesfaye try it after a brunch out there before his
surgery. Though putting is likely not a skill that Tesfaye will have much need for in the foreseeable future, it did serve to show how his newly straightened posture will favourably impact all aspects of his life.

After that I took Jerus, Erez and Tesafye with me to Steveston to wander around that fishing village. We really had a nice time strolling along the water's edge,discussing all kinds of topics looking at boats and people, watching a little Irish dancing display, and relaxing over a much needed drink after all the walking in the warm sunshine. Tesfaye feels very comfortable with Jerus and Erez and began filling them in on his life
story in Amharic language. On the way back I dropped Jerus and Erez back at Ben's house, and Tesfaye and I stopped in at my sister Tracey's penthouse condominium in South Granville for an informal gathering of family and friend's to see my nephew Rob Schonfeld and his wife Aimee and two children. I had not yet seen my new great niece Alysha. It was a beautiful day for a visit and another opportunity for some people to see Tesfaye again for the first time post surgery. Tesfaye also enjoyed the chance when my brother-in-law Mark took him upstairs to take in a different panoramic view of Vancouver from their penthouse rooftop balcony.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Catching up on the past two weeks - Part One

Well, I have been somewhat remiss in providing timely updates these days for those interested in Tesfaye's progress and activities as we plan for his return to Ethiopia in the next month or so. Below is a "catch up" for the week of Monday August 10th to Sunday August 16th:

(Note: double clicking on a picture will enlarge it for viewing)

Monday August 10th, 2009 - Justin's Birthday: My son Justin reached the BC age of majority, 19, and accordingly a group of family and friends including Tesfaye had a lovely dinner celebration at the River Rock Casino Italian restaurant in a private room. Afterwards, while Tesfaye and others went home, Justin went with a few friends to dabble for a while in some now legal vices the casino offered.

Wednesday August 12th, 2009 - JDC Visitors: Nanci and Justin left for Los Angeles today and Tesfaye and I, together with Haley, were scheduled to have dinner with JDC representatives Michael Novick out of Seattle and Alan Gill out of Israel, and Mark Gurvis, Executive Director of Vancouver Jewish Federation. Michael and Mark had met Tesfaye before his surgery but not since, and Alan and other JDC officials were well aware of Tesfaye's situation and so they were interested in seeing Tesfaye while in town. We booked to meet them for dinner at the Boathouse in English Bay, so Haley and I went down early with Tesfaye to stroll around the area on another beautiful summer evening in Vancouver. There is always some good people watching down there, and we spent some time around the Inukshuk monument in English Bay. It was interesting reading the plaque explaining what the Inukshuk is, especially seeing as it forms the basis of our Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics logo.

Thursday August 13th, 2009 - Tesfaye had an introductory English ESL Tutoring session with a nice woman from Surrey.

Friday August 14th, 2009 - Revolving Restaurant: As it was Tesfaye and me alone for dinner, I decided to do something that I had not done in a long time but which I thought Tesfaye would enjoy: Dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Harbour Centre. In the first few days of Tesfaye's arrival in Vancouver back in May we had looked at the building and talked about the restaurant as we sat across the water from it in Stanley Park and glanced at the corresponding pictures in a souvenir Vancouver guidebook I had purchased for Tesfaye while viewing Totem Poles in Stanley Park. It was a very pleasant experience for the two of us, as Tesfaye had certainly never eaten at such a revolving restaurant before and it affords a marvelous 360 degree birds eye view of Vancouver and its surroundings.

Saturday August 15th, 2009 - Canopy Walk: I was chatting with Tiffany Akins from VGH Communications about a planned Global TV follow up piece on August 19th, and in the course of discussion I asked her if she had any ideas for a new Vancouver experience for Tesfaye. She

Tesfaye on Suspended Canopy Walk (video)

suggested something that I honestly was not familiar with, a Tree Canopy Walk at the UBC Botanical Gardens. I looked it up online and decided it sounded interesting and would be something new for the two of us. The only concern I had was whether it would still be too physically challenging for Tesfaye to attempt with his post-surgery back limitations, as it is a 40 minute or so romp on wobbly suspended walkways and platforms through the treetops at the gardens. Well I honestly must say that Tesfaye seemed to effortlessly handle the adventure, much more so than me with my slight aversion to heights. The Canopy Walk was something interesting and different, and we also enjoyed meandering through the forest and gardens afterwards as well -- I would definitely recommend it. As I have mentioned before, Tesfaye really does seem to appreciate nature.

Saturday evening August 15th, 2009 - Ethiopian Dinner at Melaku's: After our botanical adventure we went home and got ready to go to Melaku's place in Chinatown for an Ethiopian dinner home cooked by his wife Dasash; as readers of this blog would know, Melaku (a former journalist in Ethiopia)and his children Mikael, Emebet and Netzanet have become friends through Tesfaye's stay in Vancouver When we got there we first went up to the top outdoor deck of the apartment building to take in the view of the area. We then ate a delicious Ethiopian Injerra meal and marvelled at how far Tesfaye had progressed. We were joined after dinner by their friend Del and his two children; Del is married to Sosina, who also helped out with translating a few times during Tesfaye's hospital stay;Tesfaye and I had met Del, along with Melaku, the second night after Tesfaye arrived in Vancouver, when we went to eat at Fassil restaurant. After dinner Dasash prepared coffee in a traditional Ethiopian coffee making ceremony starting right with the roasting of the beans. The children then took Tesfaye down the street to see the China Town Night Market, and Tesfaye added to his sunglasses collection. Before heading home Tesfaye and friends played some kind of card game that I was not familiar with.

Sunday August 16th, 2009 - Jerus arrives: Today Rosemarie kindly took Tesfaye on an outing to Science World. They got there by bus and skytrain and spent three or four hours there. It was a long day, but Tesfaye told me he really enjoyed it and could have spent even more time there. In the meantime, I took advantage of Tesfaye being occupied to book an early game of golf in Richmond, as I needed to head out to the airport this afternoon in any event. Unfortunately, in my haste to get out to the golf course, even though it was quite early on a Sunday morning an "undercover" police car nabbed me for apparently exceeding the speed limit. It kind of explains why my first tee shot went into the ditch (at least that's my excuse) and set the tone for my overall poor play that followed.

Mid afternoon I went to the airport to pick up Jerus (Sigal) Truneh, an Ethiopian Israeli law student at Ono College that we agreed to host at our house while she is in town for a month internship at Blake Cassels law firm. Similarly in town for the same program is Erez Jegenau Naga, another Ethiopian Israeli law student who is interning at Lawson Lundell, and who will be staying with our good friends Ben and Nancy Goldberg. We waited patiently for their exit from customs, but it took Jerus a whole extra hour to come out, for as it turns out she had to make a lost luggage claim.(They say there are only two kinds of luggage: "carry on" and "lost"!)It was readily apparent that they were both intelligent, nice and good looking, and that we would very much enjoy their company for the next four weeks. I first took Jerus home to freshen up and she met Tesfaye and Rosemarie, whom had just returned from Science World. As my wife was away until Monday night, Nancy Golberg kindly invited Jerus and I, together with my son Adam and Tesfaye to join Erez and the rest of them for dinner; however, Tesfaye was too tired to come. After dinner Jerus and I ran out to the airport to pick up her missing luggage that had arrived from London.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kelowna/Okanaga bound - new sights and experiences

Thursday July 30,to Tuesday August 4, 2009 : With the successful swallow test behind us, Tesfaye and I were looking forward to flying up to Kelowna to join my wife Nanci and son Justin, who had driven up there on the previous Monday. As I had basically only seen Justin for half a day in the last seven weeks I was looking forward to finally spending some time with him. After our nice and short Thursday afternoon flight Nanci was there to pick us up and take us to our place at The Cove, around a half hour drive to West Kelowna. Walking out of the airport we were met with a blast of very hot air, a taste of what we were going to feel over the next five days.

Over the period of our stay Tesfaye got to experience summer life at the lake in the beautiful Okanagan. The nature of such getaways is that much of the time is spent relaxing on our patio or down by the little beach area, eating (and drinking) well, wandering around the grounds (I have learned that Tesfaye appreciates flowers), and going for the odd boat outing if the opportunity presents itself. Here is a summary of Tesfaye's Kelowna experience with us:

Boating: Our friends the Zlotniks and Glotmans, who have neighbouring units to us, were up there at the same time and had rented a boat. First I went on a preliminary test outing to watch my son Justin and his friends wakeboard and for the purpose of also determining if it may be too jarring for Tesfaye's back for him to go on a boat ride. It was great to watch the wakeboarding skills of Justin and his friends, and being on the water was also welcome relief from the extremely hot weather. That outing did convince me that Tesfaye's back could handle it, so the next day (Friday July 31) Tesfaye had a totally new experience - his first boat ride! With Garry Zlotnik, Nanci and me accompanying him. Tesfaye clearly loved the whole experience of cruising the lake on a motor boat and it was fun for us to be part of it.

Calling Tesfaye's mother in Ethiopia
First attempt, July 31, midnight: This was a disappointing and frustrating experience. As in the past, two weeks earlier we set up a pre-arranged appointment for his mother Yeshi to make the two hour walk to the town near their village to receive our telephone call at shop owner Meheret's store, at midnight our time, Friday July 31. We called a little early and managed to get through on our first try, a rare event, but were told that his mother had not arrrived yet. By the time we could get through again after a number of failed attempts, we were told that Tesfaye's brother had shown up, but eventually left after Tesfaye's call did not come through. There was nothing we could do but set up another time, which we did for midnight Sunday August 2nd. In the meantime, perhaps to bolster our spirits, Justin proceeded to amuse us with his singing and dancing escapades and managed to get Tesfaye involved in the antics.

Second attempt, August 2nd,midnight: After meeting up with my daughter Stephanie and Brandon, Brandon's parents and friends for a lovely dinner Sunday evening at Quails Gate Winery, we got back to our place just in time for calling Ethiopia. I made countless attempts over the course of an hour before finally giving up at the insistence of Tesfaye. The frustrating part was that we succesfully got through on the mobile phone number at least four times but neither party appeared to be able to hear each other, and the couple of times the shop land line was not busy the telephone did not get answered. With both of us feeling very disappointed and my own dialing finger feeling very numb, it was time for bed.

Miniature Golf: On Saturday, August 1st, since the boat was not available, Justin, Tesfaye and me decided to go on a little (you could say miniature) outing to Kelowna to play Miniature Golf, in spite of the scorching hot temperature. This was also a first time experience for Tesfaye and it actually was quite an amusing experience for us. Tesfaye had no trouble getting the hang of it, and afterwards we also took the time to play some arcade games as a nice break from the outside heat.
Heat, Fires and Smoke: While driving to the golf place my car indicated that the outside temperature reading was a sizzling 41 degrees Celsius. I know how I commented a few weeks ago how warm and dry the weather in Vancouver had been since Tesfaye's arrival on May 20, but as they say "sometimes you can have too much of a good thing" and "be careful what you wish for". We are paying the price for the extreme heat and lack of rain in our province of BC by way of the many dangerous forest fires that have ignited and spread, causing destruction, evacuations, and huge fire fighting expenses. Approximately two weeks ago Stephanie was forced to evacuate our place at the Cove as a large fire was spreading rapidly nearby. This weekend new fires had broken out and as a result there was a definite smokey smell in the air and haze in the sky the last three days of our stay.
Flight cancellation Monday, August 3, 2009: Tesfaye and I were ready to return home on our 8 pm flight back to Vancouver and were all checked in and through security, waiting to board in a few minutes. While killing some time at Whitespot restaurant with Lis Z who was on the same flight, we thought we heard an announcement that our flight was cancelled. Sure enough, it had been cancelled due to the need to keep the flight corridors free for waterbombers battling the fires in the area. Some confusion and pandemonium broke out as people scrambled to find alternate flight arrangements; we in fact had been put on an indirect flight through Edmonton the next afternoon, which I really did not want to do and would cause extra hardship for Tesfaye. Though it was a lengthy and annoying process, in the end I managed to get both Tesfaye and I out on a direct flight to Vancouver late the next morning.