My first year in Base Borden was expanding in a professional sense in that I worked with specialists and was given the opportunity to teach some courses. As well during my stay in Borden I was assigned to a three week instructors’ course. I know that most University professors have little or no instructional training. A civilian school guidance councilor in my syndicate, told me that the course covered the bread and butter of pedagogy school. It was a wonderful three weeks which I still harken back to when I lecture.

      My friend from 12th Street and fellow dentist Paul and I planned a Christmas Holiday. We went to Mexico starting off at the capital of Mexico City. It was an exciting time. We had been told that it was best not to walk the streets at night. Mind you this was 1972 and it was not as dangerous as it is now. I spoke only a few words of Spanish , which I was later able to take courses in . So we were regular “Gringos” for this trip. We had a few Pesos when we arrived, which we had exchanged at Toronto International Airport. I always try to have at least cab fare then proceed from there at the hotel, as far as foreign exchange goes.

     We stayed in the ‘touristy’ Zona Rosa area. Our hotel was comfortable and we had a good snack bar downstairs. We tended to eat at local shops, which has always been my ideal travel mode. I always felt it gave me a broader view of a country. Part of our package was a tour of Mexico city. Our guide was a Taxi driver . In his Taxi we visited several highlights. The National Palace is the seat of the Government. It is a 200 meter wide building of impressive appearance. It has been the site of Government since the early Aztecs and much of the materials date back to that time , the reign of Moctezuma_II.

       As we walked about and our guide gave us a short explanation of the various aspects of the palace I realized how little I knew of Mexico. I have since read a lot about their history. Much of it was recalled in the architecture and décor inside and out of the Palace. We also took advantage of the beautiful and modern subway system in Mexico city. All the stations were of a marble décor. The guide told us what percentage of Mexico can be mined for marble ;but, the number escapes me. Suffice it to say the multi-colored décor and style was excellent. At our hotel the people who had set up a guide group told us to avoid the subway as it was difficult to get around. In point of fact the stops are well demarcated and even use symbols as many people in the city are not very literate. We figured we could probably do it okay. One stop was grasshopper in Spanish and the logo was..a grasshopper. Not much of a challenge.

       Our tour to the National Palace also had some shops. One was a glassblower boutique. They used old beer and soda pop bottles as a source of glass and after a melting in their ovens they were able to flow it into colorful and artistic shapes. We were given prices for a number of items but we decided to pass. Interestingly we later wandered by one of the shops and without our “guide” the prices were considerably less expensive. I had learned in my trips to Lebanon that a “Guide” always exacted a fee from the vendors.

       We used the subway to get around the city. We visited Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is Mexico’s most sacred shrine. According to legend in 1531 Juan Diego, a simple peasant had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told him to instruct the Bishop to build a church on the site of the vision. Juan Diego was asked for proof and he returned to the site and the Vision of the Virgin Mary told him to take some roses from the area and wrap them in his poncho. When he brought them to the Bishop and unfurled the cloth a vision of the virgin was inscribed on the cloth. It is of course hard to separate fact from fancy in such stories ;but, as with all religious sites I have visited I always pay respect to the spirit of the shrine. Be it the Wailing Wall on a Friday, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the Vatican, I feel mankind does reach a kinder level in such places.

      One interesting thing about wandering off the beaten path is that meeting locals can give you an idea of what is worth visiting. One such place was Teotihuacan. It is in fact , a major historic and architectural site; but, we had not been told about it by our tour people. We took a bus some 30 miles from Mexico city and wandered about for the afternoon. It is speculated that the city was begun around 100 BC and construction continued till 250 AD. At one time it is surmised that it may have had a population of 200,000 , making it one of the largest cities in the world at that time. A major site were the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. There is speculation about the astronomical relations of the site. As with many such structures there is speculation about it’s relationship to the Solstice and other phenomena. Regardless of the origins it presented a very stirring experience for us. We were able to go to the peak of both pyramids. The largest was 75 meters high. That night there was a sound and light show featuring the voice of Mexican actor, Ricardo Montalban, of Fantasy Island fame among other roles. A very stirring presentation and one filled with mystery and awe. There is debate on the role Teotihuacan played in the Aztec world, and some speculate whether it was in fact, an Aztec ruin. All the more exciting, as an air of mystery amplified our curiosity. We took in a bull fight the following day. Not exactly my kind of fun ;but, again , a local attraction. I had been to such an event in Tore Molinos in Spain and my interest was purely as a tourist. In fact I felt sorry for the tormented animals. After the Bull fight we wandered about in the down town area. We went up one of the skyscrapers and took in the sites from this vantage point. It is a very big city and seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon and beyond. Very impressive. At this time there did not seem to be the pollution one hears about now so our view was clear and unobstructed.

      That evening we went to the ballet Folklorico National de Mexico and it was a wonderful cultural experience. It was a wondrous blending of traditional and historic themes built upon the powerful music of Mexico amplified by the skills of the dancers. We were both enthralled by the professionalism and skills of the ensemble. As I have stated Mexico is a vast land of cultural beauty awaiting our discovery .

       The following day was New Years Eve. And during the day we visited Chapultepec Castle, It is a site of considerable historical significance . It was originally the site of the home of a Spanish governor Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez . During our tour the guides were most interested in conveying the fact that it was the site of the death of six teen aged cadets who died defending the city against a US Marine invasion. When I travel I tend to leave my politics at home. It was interesting the intensity with which the guides told us of this event and the unsaid part is some feel they are still under US control. Again I was objective and listened without comment.

     The evening festivities were upon us and we looked forward to a memorable evening. We had asked about a good place to celebrate the new year and Plaza Gomilla and Plaza Garibaldi were suggested as good venues. I think the name was Plaza Gomilla; but, it was a very busy area with few tourists and a number of interesting attractions. Nothing really cultural or flamboyant more what I would call local colour. There were about four or five balloon vendors with inflated foil balloons in the aftgernoon . They were filled with helium and each vendor had about 100 balloons. There were also a number of small snack stands which specialized in local foods. Since there are very few tourists we tend to stand out and whenever we ordered some of the local cuisine I could see the vendors smile with pride. As I’ve stated in the past this is something that really made travel interesting and fun. It always gave me a sense of identity with the local people.

      We went back to the hotel for a quick siesta which I’ve always found invigorating and we returned to the Plaza that evening. This time the Plaza was filled with balloon vendors I counted roughly 100 of them. And each seem to have about 100 balloons which by my mental calculation meant that they were close to 10,000 balloons in this Plaza. Of course each vendor asked us to buy a balloon ;but, I really had no interest in wandering about with such an item. Then I had one of those little moments of insight and I bought a balloon and handed it to a young boy. He must’ve been about eight years old and his mother and father smiled most appreciative smile. It made my evening. Someone told us about Plaza Garibaldi which was about a half a mile away. It was a plaza that had many Mariachi bands playing. I’ve always been a fan of music and particularly international music. At Expo 67 I seen many mariachi bands at the Mexican Pavilion and I always enjoy the music they make. So Paul and I wandered about between the occasional beer or should I say Cerveca J . We took in a wonderful evening of music. I also noticed that many of the local people were looking at us to see if we were enjoying it as well. And as I have often said, national pride sometimes is shown for small things. In this case it was two gringos from Canada who are obviously enjoying what they were hearing. We wandered into a bar and again we were the visitors and we were treated very warmly. We got a lot of nice warm smiles from a other clients. At one point a man stood up with what looked like a power generator. The size of a lunchbox which had a small crank on the side and two wires leading to pipe like handles. As we watched one of the men would churn up the generator and a volunteer would hold the 2 handles while grimacing severely. We were told that the length of time you held onto the handles was an indication of what type of macho man you were. Two or three of the men took turns proving their machismo nature. Then someone turned to me and offered me a chance to try. I got all fired up they started to crank the thing and zap I let go in about 5 seconds. A lot of laughter followed but it was good-natured and I think I laughed the hardest.

        We were invited by a couple of men to join them at their table and with a limited vocabulary in English for them and in Spanish for us we explained what we’re doing in Mexico City. We told him how much we enjoyed the architecture, the history and the warmth of the people. It turns out they were police officers and one of them invited us for a ride in his car. He drove us around Mexico City showing us some sites that he felt were worth sharing and after an hour or so we returned to our hotel. He gave us his business card which had what he called his “Numero Particular” . I later found out that this meant his private number. Many years later I was told by a Canadian who lives in Mexico, that wandering around the streets in a police car in Mexico may not have been the cleverest idea. But, as I’ve mentioned on several occasions the Patron St. of the Naïve Traveler St. Pesmo the Bewildered was again looking out for me

.    We got back to the hotel and shared a couple of glasses of rum as I recall. And fact I think it was many glasses of rum. And we went downstairs to the bar and met a couple of people from Texas. To say we went to bed rather tired would be an understatement. The next day we were to take a bus to Acapulco. Actually it was going to be a two day journey. We were a tad hung over as we got on the bus and I swear that it had to be the most winding road I’ve ever driven. It was actually very picturesque and our guide was a font of information. Paul and I asked him many questions about the landscape, the history and the architecture. He later told us he enjoyed having us on the bus because most people just asking for cheap places to shop. He told us that it took considerable effort in both English language training and tourism facts to work at the type of job he was able to achieve. Our first stop was picturesque small city called Cuernavaca. Paul and I rushed off the bus and all but emptied a Coca-Cola machine. We were indeed hung over. Our overnight stop was a small town called Taxco. It was a silver mining town and there are many little shops selling silver trinkets for tourists. That night we went to a nightclub which was in one of the no longer functioning mines. We had a nice supper then we sat down to listen to the band. There were a group of Australians at the next table and as the music started to play I figured it might be a good idea to ask one of the cute girls if she would like to dance. She appeared to be in her mid-20s and the rest of the crowd seemed to be in their 50s. I assume she was probably with her parents and other relatives. We had a nice dance and as I asked her to continue dancing she told me that her husband didn’t really like her dancing with strangers. Ahhhhh it wasn’t her father it was her husband. Live and learn as we say J .

    The next day we continued our winding ways to Acapulco. This time we were not hung over so the ride was a lot less challenging. We stayed at a condo style motel. We had a kitchen with the usual implements and of course two-bedrooms and a bathroom. It was like an apartment. Actually this is a good arrangement because we were able to come and go bring our own food. There were a number of local grocery stores and were able to stock up on good provisions. One curious note to us was the fact that eggs were sold not by the dozen or half dozen but by weight. Different strokes as they say. It was a bit disconcerting to see a man with a gun posted outside our condo. He said he was part of the security. Now and then we would hear shot in the night and according to what we were told it was likely the security people shooting at dogs.

     Acapulco is very tourist oriented town. There were hotels up and down the beach and the area was full of tourists. We were told not to go far off the beaten path; but, it was a lot safer than it is apparently today. Paul and I did wander the back streets a little bit and at that time we never felt we were in any danger. There are a couple of good restaurants and a number of bars it seemed quite active. Over the Christmas holidays there are a lot of tourists from across North America. A few of them of course were young ladies so we had a bit of a good time chatting them up.

     The beach area was actually quite interesting. There were giant waves, or at least what appeared to us to be giant waves which left quite an undertow. At one point I swam out to meet the waves and body surf in. I got caught in the bit of an undertow and for a moment I must admit that I did panic a bit. I’m not a very good swimmer so this made that particular adventure all the more scary to me. Later Paul and I came across a parasail boat. They would pull you behind them and you had a parasail on your back which carried you up about 75 feet or 25 m. Paul and I had both earned our paratrooper wings in the Canadian Armed Forces so this was not a major challenge to us. But it was nonetheless a colorful way to spend part of an afternoon.


    Paul and I did wander a little bit out of town towards an area where some campers told us the scenery was less touristy. I must admit that our walk back to Acapulco was a bit more cautious as it was getting dark. We were not particularly scared nor worried ; but, we did tend to high step back to the main area. There was also a fireworks display on the beach one evening. I really enjoyed it because a lot of the fireworks seem to have been made locally. One other tourist complained that it was hardly an exciting affair and not nearly as big as the one they were used to. But, I feel this person missed the whole point of this wonderful display. Again I felt it was local ingenuity in action. This was always something I appreciated in my travels.

       We did go on a bus tour of the local area; but, compared to the sites of Mexico City it wasn’t nearly as majestic. What got my attention was looking at the faces of the local people. I say this in a complementary way. A nice smile from a child or a doting parent is very heartwarming where ever you are. All in all Paul and I enjoyed our stay in Mexico. It was a variety of locations which at least overcame the beach and sun type of holiday I don’t enjoy too much.


         I guess the travel bug bites hard. I had been home less than a year and my 12th Street friend and fellow dental officer Paul and I managed to get a Forces flight to Europe on standby. I was late getting my name in ,as I thought I had alternative plans, yeah she reunited with her former boyfriend J So I was 190th on the standby list. I did show up at the transport base of Trenton and gave it a try. He said a few aircraft had gone the days before and there were only 5 passengers and 40 standby spaces. Again my patron Saint St Pesmo the bewildered intervened and Paul and I set off for a great month long trip. We landed in Lahr which is in the Black Forest area of Germany. It was our Army NATO base and a place I came to know very well. We had a few dental friends at the base and Paul and I were able to take in some of the local sites with these people. This of course included a few evenings on the town. I became a great fan of German white wine. At one restaurant the owner prepared samples of various wines for us. He explained how in a very wet season wines at the top of the vineyard were likely more tasty than those at the bottom of the hill. He also explained that a particularly dry sunny summer the wines from the vineyards away from the sun tended to have a better flavor. I’ve always enjoyed wine tasting with a well-versed sommelier as they bring the spirit of the wine to life. It is an intriguing way to enjoy one of life’s wonderful pleasures.

      After a few days in Lahr we boarded a train to Geneva. My trip to the Switzerland two years previous was still fresh in my mind. As in all my travels I always looked at the people and I reveled in the differences I saw from country to country. Some say this is just my vivid imagination; but, by differences I mean a positive experience. Switzerland is very conservative and has very orderly people and this is reflected in their politeness and the lack of debris scattered in the streets. Geneva is a pretty city; but , not what I would call an exciting city. Again I say this from the perspective of a young single man. After two days of wandering about and taking in the sights we boarded a train for Barcelona. I was able to find the bed-and-breakfast where I stayed two years before. The woman who ran the bed-and-breakfast did not really remember me ; but, she said she did. Paul and I took in most of the Barcelona sites. Las Ramblas, the main commercial Avenue where we were able to go into a number of stores just to look around and see what was available. It was a wide avenue and very busy and active. We went up the mountain to the to Tibidabo mountain where we were able to overlooked the city. I again visited the beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Family which was designed by Antonio Gaudi. The whole area near the Cathedral had enthralled me two years previous and my experience was equally exciting this time. In fact of the many sites I’ve been fortunate to of seen in the world the imaginative designs by Gaudi may in fact be my favorite.

         Paul and I, of course discovered a number of fine bars and we became big fans of Spanish cerveza. At that time cerveza was still one of the few Spanish words I knew. But, Paul and I were able to our practice are limited vocabulary on many occasions. While wandering about one day we passed by a bar, named rather curiously El Pilon. Of course I wandered in and show them my drivers license. I explained that I was in fact, El Pilon. The bartender had worked in Brooklyn New York , so he spoke English very well. He announced my presence to the other patrons, to many smiles. And he gave me a free drink. Talk about international relations. J

   Several people told us that a nice venue for supper meal was an area called La Porto Chino, which means the Chinese gate. We were told the time that this is an area where early Chinese traders used to ply their wares. Now it was a tourist area full of small restaurants and tapa bars. As had discovered in my first trip to Spain, tapa bars were actually a buffet of small what we might call, finger foods. A variety from escargots to small meat plates. One could derive great satisfaction from sampling the many varieties of delicacies. Plus of course accompanied by a pleasant Spanish wine. All and all Paul and I expanded their culinary knowledge. At that time, of course, it was all relatively inexpensive.

     We’ve heard people talking about Mallorca so we decided it would be a fun trip to this lovely island in the Mediterranean. Paul and I were never ones to seek out the five-star hotels. We both agreed that a hotel is a place where you sleep , take a shower and enjoy a good drink at the bar. Looking back it was rather amazing we found a nice place with very few amenities ;but, we had a beautiful view of the harbor. And to make it more appealing it cost us only $2.50 a night each. We made friends with the young bartender, whose name I believe was Paolo. One night after a full day at the beach I was sitting on the patio taking in the beautiful sunset and Paul came out with a rum and coke. He told me he hoped there was enough rum in it. I would estimate that it was about 80% rum. Laughter all around J .

       Paul and I rented a car for a day and toured the island. For a few hours I felt like one of those high rolling society types that one reads about in the gossip magazines. We were definitely the in crowd J . We discovered a number of very nice little tapa bars and one or two local restaurants. As I’ve explained in past visits to countries when you go back to a small restaurant twice you become a regular. This happened at the little restaurant we used to frequent for supper. We had ordered the meal of the day, which in this case was gazpacho, a maritime dish that included fish oysters in the shells and in some cases escargots. I felt it was very typical and more importantly, or perhaps just as important , it was superb. Each meal included a glass of wine. The next night when we went back we ordered the meal of the day; but, this time we received a full bottle of wine. I always felt this sort of thing to be very heartwarming. It was a formal acceptance and welcome by local people.

       One day we were passing by a nightclub called La Casa de la Guitara, the Home of the Guitar. At that time I was trying to learn classical guitar, which I was not very good at; but, to this day I’ve always enjoyed guitar music. There were a variety of musicians playing in what we would call a jam session or an open stage. Some were playing folk music, others flamenco some were playing contemporary music and now and then a classical guitarist would take the stage. During the classical guitar music people were not allowed to enter the bar to maintain decorum . They showed a strong respect for this music. There were tourists in this bar ;but, it wasn’t the typical tourist that one sees in such places. It wasn’t noisy or ruckus in fact it was very enjoyable.

        In the town square there are a number of outdoor cafés that Paul which Paul and I frequented J . As well there are a number of discos. One of the highlights for Paul and I was the fact that the place was full of Swedish girls. They certainly are attractive; but, totally unapproachable. Paul and I would talk to them and we both mentioned what we observed in Cyprus with Swedes. I mentioned I visited Scandinavia. But, a cold shoulder was the order of the day unless one was introduced. Ah well in the next life. At one of the sidewalk cafés we met an American girl and she joined us at our table and we were speaking English. This was during the Nixon era ,where Watergate had been a major scandal. At the next table four Swedish men started to make fun of us. Swedes are normally very quiet until they drink; but, that is another affair. They kept asking out loud,” How is Nixon these days, how is Halderman, how is Ehrlichman?” and so on. Now Paul and I are Canadians so this wasn’t really offensive to us; but, we took a bit of an offense for our new American friend. Paul turned them and recited the following: “ A thousand Swedes ran through the weeds at the battle of Copenhagen, a thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one sick Norwegian.” We of course got ours back by laughing quite loudly. The Swedish lads seemed a bit put out by it. In fact they left. Then a couple at the next table came and joined us. They said they found our little poem was rather funny. I apologize to them and explained how the for Swedish men had been rather rude and we meant no offense. They said, ’Oh don’t worry we are Norwegian”. Laughter all around. Of course in Scandinavia, as I discovered in my trip there before I went to Cyprus, there is a rivalry between the Scandinavian nations. Similar to the various areas of the UK.

        One joke I heard asked how you can tell the Scandinavians apart. .

If a person is riding a bike and has a flat, if he is Swedish he will get off the bike, use his toolkit , repair the flat tire and proceeded along the way

If he is Norwegian and has a flat tire he will throw the bike away and walk. The Norwegians are known as rather hearty in the Scandinavian world

If he is from Finland he will keep writing on the bike despite the flat tire.. This is apparently due to the fact that the Finnish people are sometimes a butt of jokes. In a Scandinavian context.

If he is from Denmark and has a flat tire he will look for comfortable tree to sit under and wait for a Swede come along and he will trick the Swede into fixing his tire for him.

     I’ve told this joke to a number of Scandinavians and it was always well received. Ethnic jokes, as long as they are not cruel or racist can actually be quite funny. With my diverse background I enjoy them.

       Mallorca was a very laid-back two weeks for Paul and I. We met some interesting people we saw some interesting sites and we came home with a feeling that we learn something and expanded our horizons. I hope to go back someday with my wife.

         So in the course of my first year or so in Base Borden I was able to expand my horizons by trips to Mexico and Spain.And keeping with the theme of this book, especially the shorthaired part, Paul and I were able to enjoy these outings while meeting local people, fellow travelers and spending a minimal amount of money. A wonderful time for sure. Again as I look back I am very grateful for the opportunities I given to expand my horizons, share some wonderful times with good people and I think to results in a better person.