Worms and lime Jell-o.
Eggy burps and frog legs.
Boy/goat oral sex.
These are actual “search terms” that people have used, and in turn, have been directed to my blog because of. I will blame (and credit) my Africa posts for the landslide of readers wanting to learn more about parasites, diarrhoea, gin and snake bite remedies.
It’s been a year. A whole long-winded year of blogging. Rona Maynard, former editor of Chatelaine insisted I get my act together last April and take my Facebook community stage performance to a wider audience. And what does she know? Well, when it comes to anything literary, writerly or necessary, she would be the woman I would choose to represent me for the Double Jeopardy question in any of those categories. So I did.
“You really MUST have a blog (I say for the hundred and 99th time).”
–Rona Maynard, April 25th, 2009
Rona had been following my colourful (profanity-laden) posts of life in Uganda, when I volunteered with the Jane Goodall Institute. The graphic tales of nearly being shot, shitting my pants, mystery bites, eating termites with piss-warm beer aged my parents about 20 years.
My blog evolved into an uncensored postcard. We all know letter carriers read our postcards—and with a blog, I was posting postcards to the world, essentially. Now I get immediate disclaimers from my parents and close friends: “Do NOT put that in your blog!” They’ve learned that if there’s no disclaimer, the material is fair game.
Last week, when my brother and I were particularly smiley from drinking old-fashioned whiskeys, we had a revelation. The blog had evolved into another purpose—it was my data bank–the hard drive of my mind! Dax and I were trying to remember my mother’s famous quote about boredom. We struggled for a good five minutes, trying to assist each other’s memory. Dax finally wisely said, “Oh, just look it up on your blog tomorrow.”
(And I did. I knew exactly where to find it. My mother had said, “Only boring people get bored.”)
Writing a weekly blog is self-indulgent. I get to explore all my passions without worrying about parameters (with only my fear of being boring in mind). Readers can tune in or be turned off in mere sentences. I’ve written about many controversial topics (Chaz Bono and her “gender variance”, the bushmeat trade in the Congo, Abbotsford gangs). I’ve detailed the side effects (read: toilet visits) of living in Africa and what happens when one eats fly-infested meat that has been hanging in the equatorial sun for hours.
There have been posts that I’ve written with tears running down to my collarbones from start to finish (when Mila was dying of cancer). In the Congo, I funnelled rage and sadness into a post about Ikia, the chimpanzee who died in our arms 12 hours after arriving at the sanctuary because of governmental delays.
With my writing, I’ve convinced more people NOT to go to Africa than I have convinced to go. All that was raw, unsettling, dusty and disturbing, I included. A foodie review of pan-fried goat testicles and crispy frog legs didn’t come across as I intended. I thought I was living high off the hog in the Congo. Or, high off the goat, at least. Noelle from P.E.I. thought otherwise: “You scare the shit out of me, yet make me laugh at the same time. As much as I love Africa and dream about going, the more I read your stories the more I think….yeah, I’ll stick with my Animal Kingdom. You’re brave and you do belong to Africa.”
The year in review saw posts from Uganda, Kenya, Banff, the Congo (pit stop in Zimbabwe), Amsterdam, British Columbia, Toronto, Nashville, Venezuela and the dozens of places my restless mind travelled to in between. There were tributes to my nearest and dearest, nostalgic excerpts from the diary of my 13-year-old self (that was an out loud love letter to my grade 8 fiancee, Robert LeBovic), fried grasshoppers, Thai cooking classes, bitching about moving across Canada, corrupt Congolese police tales, musings on love, lost in translation stories, half-marathons…sigh, there was a lot.
I woke up in so many beds, under so many mosquito nets and starry hemispheres, after so much gin and tonic with four Q-tips worth of safari dust in my ears. I packed up a life in BC and unpacked one in Toronto. I quit jobs, found new ones, had fecal-oral contamination, went piranha fishing, had Banff ticks that I flew home to Abbotsford with via Westjet, itched for nearly six months due to something else, and fell in love with the charms of Nashville and the chimps of the Congo.
And you followed me, like shadows, to the corners of the earth, and the corners of my mind. Which puts me in an odd place at times. Is there any mystery left to me? I’ve put it all out there. Strangers know me better than my non-blog reading co-workers. Is this a good or a bad thing?
I’ve spent tonight reading through 60+ of my favourite glowing comments that I’ve saved in my inbox in response to the blog. If I include one, I have to include them all. If I quote my mom, then I have to have a dad quote, and then I’ll feel awkward and like I’m playing favourites if I don’t include Dax and Kiley. Then there’s Suzanne, and her sister Jo, Kay, Connie, Heidi, Kelly W. Leslie, Wendy G., Mag, Jann, Kristyn, Jules (not me), Wendy M., Rona (of course!), Rodney, Sass, David, Carol, Karen, Carol (another one, I’m not repeating myself), Kim & Kim (not together), Steph, Lynne (and Al who gets the postings read to him by Lynne on drives up to the houseboat)…I’m forgetting important people here—Farrah, Kaitlin, Chantal, Martine, Pamela, Toni, Nunavut Michelle, Karen of way west Queen west (the Nunavut of Toronto), Karin, Martha, Kathleen, Babysnooks, the ever-breeding Twitter population, Andie, my Body Blitz fan club, Rose, Nancy, Corie, Denny, Jennifer Aniston (oh, are you still paying attention?)…
Thank you to all my dedicated and drop-in readers for your rallying cries, support, chides, type-o alerts and genuine blog love. And a special thank you to my parents for not cutting me off the Christmas card list for all the Torti secrets that I have spilled.
The moments we most remember when we look back are the ones that made us feel more deeply than usual. Feel pain, feel elation, feel despair. There’s a Feist song I like that says, “I feel it all, I feel it all…..my wings are wide, my wings are wide.” So great.—Staci Frenes
And so another year begins, with wings as wide as an albatross (that’s a 2.4 meter wingspan).