The final day.

Well, today is my last day in Toronto. As always with time, it’s gone too quickly, but at the same time, my arrival seems to have been so long ago.

Last night me Brittany, Steph, Bria and Lauren went out for a final dinner at what has become our favorite restaurant – Hey Lucy. And as always, it was no disappointment. It’s an Italian restaurant, and they just do everything right! Pasta, pizza, canzones… mmmmmm. AND the BEST chocolate cookie sundae dessert..
It was actually my 4th time dining there… and every time we have bought various members of the extended exchange group back to try it. It is so good. Definitely somewhere I would recommend (just a block south of the Scotiabank cinema in the CBD) and re-visit on a return trip.
And it was really nice to have dinner with the girls I have become closest to on this exchange, because they have been off in Montreal and Quebec for the last week, while I was finishing up exams..

But of course the rest of us had farewell drinks and parties all weekend none the less. Saturday was the official exchange farewell party with all of the exchangees at a club called the Hoxton, which was not a bad night, but the quieter Monday at Dance Cave was much more my thing. That was with just the closer group of us, and although the DJ was exceedingly average and the club was almost empty.. we had fun.

There have been so many good byes, and actually I am amongst the last few to leave. I am both extremely excited for the travel that now lies ahead of me, and a little lost at the thought of no longer having Brittany next door, and Bria and Steph hanging around.. BUT we’re already making reunion plans for a 2015/16 new years in Tasmania, and I really do feel that those will be followed through.. I have maintained since the early days of this exchange that we will all meet again at some point in the future, because we are all traveller’s. And I believe that.

My room is clean, my bags are almost completely packed.. Although at this stage they will definitely be overweight.. and I am ready to catch my 5.30 am bus out to New York tomorrow morning!
And I am very excited to see my little brother when I get there!

Tonight we’re going to cook up the last of what’s in the cupboards and will have to say yet more farewells… but we will meet again. The last 4 months have been a treat, and a learning experience.. and the people have been awesome. But for now, I’m ready to see more of this planet!

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Farewells and Scarborough Bluffs!

Well, last night we had a massive group dinner as a formal and sober farewell to what has been an excellent trip! It was at this delicious Italian place (which we have actually been to three times now, because we loved it so much the first time) called Hey Lucy – Where I had the BEST butternut squash ravioli (although.. also.. the only butternut squash ravioli) that I have ever tasted. And we all had a glass of wine and announced our “Peaks and Pits” of the trip thus far. My personal “peak” was of course our Algonquin national park and cabin trip.. That whole experience was just so much fun, and so entirely something different and unique from city dwelling and generic sight seeing.. and all of us who shared in that ‘wilderness’ experience shared the same, knowing “peak”. And actually.. I truly, honestly did find it hard to find a “pit”.. As corny as it sounds.. And I am even a little surprised at how much I did really struggle with it… But in the end I had to use my last weeks extreme level of hangover as the least favorite memory for the trip (although, I do genuinely find something extremely satisfying and homely about hangovers on the rare occasions that they hit).

And after dinner the few of us who could manage to fight off the impeding food commas had drinks at our flat, and then headed out to Dance Cave for a boogie! Which.. I always thoroughly enjoy.

And then this morning me and Brittany rose early and had a breakfast farewell with 3 of our fellow New Zealanders at another awesome eatery – Eggspectation. Before meeting up with Lauren and Steph for a mission out to Scarborough Bluffs!

Pretty much the bluffs just offer a new vantage point (away from the cityscape) of the massive Lake Ontario. And although it was freezing (its 0degrees currently), and we were battling a setting sun AND were feeling rather lost… it was worth it.. and after a friendly local eventually pointed us in the right direction, and we got to touch the polar waters of the lake front and gaze out on the massive body of water which is already developing ice sheets along its shores. And of course… it offered us all a little exercise and fresh air and adventure.
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me and Britt

And I guess like all the others this weekend.. It was an appropriate farewell to the great lake that for the last 4 months has been our home.

Study. Gym. Exam. Repeat

Well.. by the end of next week I’ll have sat my final EVER exams!  And the whole exam period couldn’t possibly drag on any longer.  I am so acutely aware of everyone who is finishing before me.. BUT that’s OK I guess. . It just leaves me with plenty of time to procrastinate with eating well and going to the gym. I’ve even procrastinated with studying OTHER subjects as opposed to that of my nearest exam.. I’ve become an expert.Then again. I probably became an expert in my first year at uni..

And I have been getting some real life organization on the go recently. Applying for my UK work visa, actually ordering some shoes (because I’ve been walking around in my slippers for the last several weeks), enquiring with some job sites in the UK, resetting my phone in an attempt to achieve a stable wireless connection, emailing my course coordinator back home to ensure I am actually able to get my degree, arranging doctors appointments, pricing my next flights (already) and then checking and re-checking my bank accounts to make sure I am able to survive for my next (and last) 2 weeks here in Toronto.

And of course all of this just makes the time go even faster!

We’re hoping to put together a final group dinner, a trip out to Scarborough Bluffs and of course a final night out in town over the next week as well. And I really do hope all of these plans will come to completion.

Oh! A trip I forgot to mention! Me and Steph went to the Ontario Art Gallery last week. And it was actually amazing. Which is a rare call on behalf, because I am a huge critic of modern art.
But this one was all ancient portraits, Bible scenes, landscapes, sculptures, carvings and chalices. And there were even some 15th century paintings that had to be displayed behind curtains for fear they would fade in our bright, artificial, modern day light.
It was really cool.
And having embarked on a personal mission to completely read the old testament last summer (on a working trip to Perth with 2 girl friends) I actually found it surprisingly easier to understand and feel the dramatic biblical scenes that were on display.
And even better – it was free entry. And as I am now too used to saying. . The place was huge. 4 or 5 stories, and impossible to explore properly in one evening. But a cool trip none the less.

After exams conclude I will hopefully have more events to report.. but in the meantime I need to get off this excercycle.

Celebration season

This week has truly been a call for celebration!

Its almost December, and Toronto is already going all out with the Christmas festivities! After a really weird Christmas light ceremony last week, we were actually spoilt with a beautiful Christmas night market this week. It was down near the lake front in an area called the ‘Distillery District’, which is all old brick buildings and adorable pubs.. And this weekend the area also had a variety of gorgeous Christmas stalls set up, selling candles and decorations and chocolates and Russian Babushka doll sets and mulled wine and cheese toasted sandwiches and all kinds! So a few of us went for a meander down there, and generally milled about in the significant crowd that was there appreciating the site. The streets were all lined with fairy lights, there was a giant, and beautifully decorated pine tree and there were carols of course.

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It was really truly quite magical. And also.. Freezing cold. So after an hour or so, we all scrambled back to Neill Wycik to undergo some 21st celebrations!

And it was a pretty good effort on everyone’s behalf in recreating a traditional NZ/Australian 21st – over here on the other side of the world. AND we undoubtedly stunned and puzzled the few Canadians who managed to join us. We’ve pretty much reached the consensus that Canadians simply to not know how to party like we do, because they we’re very confused by the manner with which we relentlessly humiliated the birthday boy all night, in a playful celebration of the beginning of his 21st year of life. But it was a really good time, and we know that even the victim enjoyed it! After a specially engineered game of ‘Circle of Death’ (which largely targeted the Birthday boy) we all headed out to ‘Dance Cave’ – An underground club that plays any requests made all night, and therefore features some really fun old beats, as opposed to the repetitive radio top40.

I truly cannot say what time we must have made it home. But of course we did! and that’s the important thing! Although.. I was pretty sure I was never going to survive the day after waking up the next morning with a pounding head and rasping throat. And fortunately I was not alone in my suffering.. We spent a whole day in recovery, watching the Christmas traditional.. ‘Love actually’, and eating pizza…

And at 6pm we actually managed to drag ourselves into a vertical position and make it down to the town square for a fireworks display! Which.. Was really impressive. Unlike at home, this display released several fireworks at once, exploding through the night sky in ALL of the colours, from an overhead walkway AND from building tops nearby. AND the whole thing was done to music! with tracks like “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and “Diamonds” by Rihanna playing throughout. It went for 10minutes at least and was just really well set up and executed. It was definitely worth the pain of having to stand up for..

And further, classes have finally finished! And for me.. They have finished for good.. Which is actually a little crazy to be able to write right now.. After 2 weeks of exams.. Which actually start this Wednesday for me.. It’ll all be over. And this has been riding on everyone’s minds.. We are all already acutely aware of how many last moments we are going through together.. And the goodbyes are already forming.. Especially after some pretty darn good speech writing at the 21st this weekend.. And it is really sad. The time has gone so quickly, it is hard to believe, and as we all lay dying in our various hungover states yesterday, sleeping and conversing so comfortably in one another presence, we were all acutely aware of how close we have so quickly become.. I have long since arriving here, decided that the meaning of life must have a lot to do with this succession of goodbyes that it seems we have to continually go through.. Ill work on defining that more specifically as I embark on my travels, which it has become apparent now.. are only just beginning..

Truthfully, more than just myself have admitted that Toronto is not a city which we would choose to live in.. But it has been great for the time that we have had within it. And I suppose now it will always represent this specific time in life. And with that in mind, I am SO excited to move on to the next destination! I am so ready to begin seeing the world! And I am so intrigued by the cultures that are out there and the changes that are awaiting. Once these exams are over, the real celebrations will begin!

An ear infection and the reason why.

Righto.

So my cold has now developed into an ear infection (as it always does..). Which leaves me feeling a little off balance and uncoordinated for the most part, and partially def also. But I have story as to how I believe this cold has come to be! Putting my extremely pathetic immune system aside for a while…

Last weekend we had a few drinks as usual, and headed out for a house party – which actually is a rare treat over here, as all of us exchange students are generally living in apartment buildings which are just too small to hold more than 20 people at any given time.. Anyway of course we chose to walk – and with a few drinks down no one really had any motivation to complain, and we were all thriving in one anothers company as we do.. We actually arrived without getting lost, and it wasn’t even a very far walk! Especially having taken a short cut through a large central park (Moss park – store that name in your mind for later).

So we arrived at the party around 11pm, which turned out to be located above an auto-dealership on a street with no nearby neighbors – very convenient for a party. And we generally hung around and met some new faces and talked to people.. as parties go… AND as parties go in Canada there was generally a large group of people gathered on the balcony outside smoking. Which is all well and fine… UNLESS one nameless bloke is involved. We shall call him… Bob.

So Bob turns up the party, and is out on the balcony pretty promptly, rolling himself a smoke. Which lots of people are getting in on, and no one is at all nervous about.

BARE MINUTES later. Bob is pinging. He is jumping and running about and yelling and jumping ON things. And eventually breaks a table.. and then tries to hide it in the fridge.. while a kitchen full of onlookers just stand about and stare at him with indifferent recognition..

Slowly our group of exchangees begin to disown him. Every one having failed to calm him down or sit him down. And to any one who doesn’t have to put up with it every weekend, I am sure he looks like he is just having a good time.. But as a large portion of our group finally give up just after midnight and decide to head home, me and Bria become aware that we have become… the babysitters..

AND Bob has just hit on someones girlfriend.. and apparently really pissed off a boyfriend… So the rest of night… became one giant testosterone drama. On several occasions bob was approached and told to consider going home, while simultaneously 2 polarized sides were forming in preparation for a fight that could.. but really was not likely, to ever happen.

I’m not going to lie… I was kind of hanging out for Bob to get hit just once, real good, in the face. But alas this was not fate.

Me and Bria pretty much just hung around all night keeping a casual eye and talking to new people.. Until maybe 2 or 3am, when we finally had had enough and decided it was time to leave. In the end the simple offer of food (poutine) was what it took to get Bob out of the house (we had been playing cat and mouse chasing him between the exit stairs and the distant balcony for a good hour at least). And I’m disappointed to say the idea took so long to come to fruition…

BUT at some stage in the early morning hours we were back out on the streets and hopefully not too far from home!

Oh wait… There’s Bob talking to some RANDOM guy that he’s somehow got to pull over his car. He’s trying to convince the guy to give us a ride home… The guy is NOT in a taxi.

So I quickly grabbed an arm, thanked the random and with Bria’s help, began to march us all home. However, as we got around the first corner one of Bobs loyal followers was calling out to walk with us..

And thus enters.. Bob2.

So we started walking home as a small group of 4. Managing to place one foot in front of the other without too much fuss now. Improvising with directions just a little bit, seeing as it was Bob who had lead us to the house party at the start of the night.. And we eventually come to pass a couple pubs that look a little familiar.. With their older demographic hanging around in the cold out front.. One foot in front of the other.. All is well.

Wait.. We’ve made it a couple hundred meters up the road from the pubs and I turn around to find.. That somewhere in that very short space of time and distance we have gained a member… An aggressive member.. Who was perhaps in his 40s, very large and visibly drunk.. Who has dreadlocks and is wearing a leather jacket… And who is apparently upset with Bob2..

Now first, I will give a small amount of credit to Bob2 here.. Because he very quickly assessed the situation and told us 2 girls to walk ahead and get drunken bob out of the way (bob was really only good for creating more trouble at this point.. as he had been proving to us all night..). So we pick up our pace a little. But as voices were raised behind us it was pretty hard to just forget about Bob2…

The result was.. We ended up standing out in the cold, for an extended period of time, waiting for Bob2 to defuse a situation.. Which I really don’t believe he was trying all that hard to defuse… And across the road is that green and grassy Moss Park.

Let me insert some information about Moss Park now, so that I can paint an effective picture for what ever small audience I might have (remember mum and dad – I survived it to write about it), and for my own amusement when I read this in years to come.

According to a Toronto City Guide.. “Moss Park is one of Toronto’s largest public housing projects. It is situated in the poorest part of the city. The Salvation Army Hostel is located across the street from Moss Park”. In addition… According to a Crime Hotspots newspaper review.. Moss Park, on the eastern edge of the downtown, is ranked: First for per capita drug charges. Second for per capita assaults. Fourth for per capita break-ins, and seventh for per capita sexual assaults… I really cannot say whether or not it was to our benefit that we were not aware of these statistics on the night of our walk home.. What we were aware of, was that Moss park was the park that you were told to avoid as visitors to the city.. So my personal stress levels were somewhat alerted.

SO what happened was…. after what felt like 10 or 15 minutes of loud “negotiation”.. The angry man grabbed Bob2 by the throat.. And kind of just threw him backwards. But bob2 was not all that impaired, and managed to regain his balance, he didn’t fall over. BUT I personally did not feel like this was going to be a gracefully resolved argument after watching such a scene… And so I made the executive decision that I would have to calm the situation down.

This night. Of several nights. Which have left me angry at the general population of men for their needless and self-actualizing and selfish instinct to fight.. Was a whammy.

I walked up to the two. And initially, of course! Was assumed to be a mere possession of Bob2! (lets not even embark on that warpath) .. I grabbed Bob2 by the arm. Said maybe as many words as “OK” “OK” “We’re just gonna go now..” and marched him across the road… and around the corner.. and out of the way..  And all the while, I could feel his body tremble with the adrenaline that I can only imagine must have been coursing through his bloodstream.. And all the while I listened to Bob2 mutter that he had to go back.. That a stranger couldn’t just “get away with” grabbing him by the throat.. And I lost my shit.. Just a little bit.. I was mad. And shut him up. And we ate Poutine. And we got home. And I went to bed. And in the morning me and Bria condemned men and needless violence, and got it all off our chests.

But today. As I sit here sick. With an ear infection. I know why…

It’s so cold…

Right now, at 11.30am it is a bright, cloudless day. The sun is shining. And.. It is -4degreesC…

It is so cold that the 5 min walk to uni this morning had by glove-less hands physically aching.

Its so cold that if I blow my nose and breathe in too hard, the nerves in my sinuses actually burn.

Its so cold that leaving the house with wet hair after my shower this morning actually put my ears in danger of frost bite.

Its so cold that wet hair can freeze solid outside.

Its so cold that all of the should-be puddles, are now actually slippery concrete death traps.

Its so cold.. that I struggle to understand how people survive this every winter… And the low today is -8degreesC.. we’re not even there yet…. AND it isn’t even winter… Its still fall…

And. I am sick. Again. As always.. Last night was restless and sleepless as I fought between the lack of oxygen from built up snot vs the burning of my sinuses when my noes was clear. Even as the sun started to rise this morning, I was still battling – and ended up having to prop my neck up on my desk to raise my head into an upright position so I could breathe at all.. And even then it was a restless and uncomfortable morning and my pains only redistributed themselves so I fought for feeling in my shoulders and back instead..

SO it looks like my ‘I love winter’ attitude has quickly fled my body. This cold is not something that I was prepared for. I have always struggled to comprehend how people live in temperatures below -10.. and after experiencing the painful cold today.. I am terrified to find out. If I am sick now.. I don’t feel like I will be healthy again for the remainder of this trip.. unless I quit classes now and remain indoors for the next 3 weeks… And actually that is very tempting…

Although I have just run down to the drug store! I will give this fight a go! (also, I really would like some sleep tonight… Or right now for that matter..) Ive stocked up on “sinus relief” tablets and soap and shampoo, so that I can scrub all these germs off and clear them out!

And on the bright side! I am almost done with study!!! I spent all yesterday sitting at the computer typing out 2 reports that I had left to the last minute.. And somehow ended up writing 25 or so pages between them.. although I really am not confident that its all valuable information. And I am definitely certain of at least one significant point that I have forgotten to include… But the truth is (and has been for a long while now) I just do not care to put in any more effort than that. And further, as they are both due today, we will just have to wait and see now what happens when the marks come out.

And boy what a dramatic weekend has just passed! Actually it is primarily weekend drama that I blame for my current sickness.. But that will have to be described in a post of its own.. I will come back to that one..

But boy! As I lay awake.. for all of last night.. I realized that there are a lot of things that I don’t think I have mentioned here! SO… iiiiiiittttttssss LIST TIME!!!! woooooo weeeee…

Thing that I may not have mentioned:

1. I went to the stage show “Book of Mormon”! – AND it was freakn brilliant! The whole crew seemed to be so into it, a lot of them played multiple roles (which I appreciate from a costume-change, work-effort and budgeting perspective). And it was just generally hilarious! I really was laughing most of the way through. And it wasn’t one of those annoying musicals when they sing their sentences to one another.. In fact when ever they broke into song they made sure to take the piss and have fun with it! It was just so good. I would highly recommend it to any one considering seeing a stage show – and I know that they tour the world, so keep an eye out!

2. We went to the Christmas/Santa parade last weekend! We actually ended up completely mus-judging how long it would take to get down the street.. and were out in the cold for a couple of hours before we even saw anything… (actually now I think about it.. that probably had something to do with my current cold as well..) But when it did come it was not disappointing! The floats here are done very professionally! I assume they must park them up and re-use them every year, because some of them were real engineering feats… Especially the one Santa himself rode on! That thing was HUGE. But there were also several marching bands and all kinds of people dressed up following alongside as well. AND it snowed the whole time! Which us tourists found most fitting..
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3. We also went to a REALLY weird ‘Christmas light turn on’, which happens every year in the city’s central Dundas Square.. Basically they put up this Christmas tree made of large silver balls in the square about a week ago.. And the balls light up in blue and silver every night after this .. Ceremony? has taken place. So any way we went down to check it out, and it was just like.. who ever had designed this whole affair.. was on acid (for lack of a more subtle comparison). Pretty much, we stood in a big crown in the square, and there were musicians all over the place, on random stages and on top of archways and in the crowd – and they all would sing or dance or perform as a spot light shone upon each of them at various points throughout the show. Which was fine! But they were signing the randomest of songs! Like songs with sexual innuendos, or that just generally had NOTHING to do with Chistmas (not a single carol).. But any way I could have handled that.. Although it seemed a little odd.. BUT THEN these weird.. rainbow ladies.. In massive skirts, on stilts come out and start walking through the crowd.. Which! was not a convenience for anyone involved! AND would have been terrifying for them, up in the air, trying to navigate through a throng of people.. AND THEN these giant, white.. inflatable stars?/maybe snowflakes? came out and started doing the same thing! And they’re all twitching their spikes and trying to hug people?! .. I don’t even know.. AND THEN some acrobats suddenly start jumping down an office building on the other side of the square?! AND THEN some giant toy soldiers come out and start prowling the crowd too! … And to finish it all off… There was the most silent, smokiest (shittiest) fireworks display ever. Right in the middle of the city.. It was just.. Quite psychedelic. And maybe not so much for the children..
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4. I have officially read about half of the ‘free’ books me and Bria claimed on a drunken mission home a few weekends ago.. And I plan on donating them all to an Opp Shop before I get on my next plane.

5. I had my first stew the other day! and it was delicious!

6. I have somehow been living on an empty cupboard for the last two weeks, because study and report writing has so much taken up my time.. Its amazing how thrifty you can get on a limited stock of food supplies. For example: One night last week I boiled a head of broccoli, a carrot and a potato.. And couldn’t think of anything to do with them.. So I just ate them one at a time..

And that concludes my list for now!!

Time to catch an afternoon nap.

Work to be done!

Righto.

Today has actually been an exceedingly productive day! I have been to class, been to the gym, made a really decent dinner and even read over my Sociology essay for a final time (and now after having done that too many times, I am beginning to question whether I am even on the right topic at all) and fixed up some referencing issues (which is always where my marks are lost.. and no doubt still will be). AND I am now about to go and meet with someone to discuss a group project that is due in a mere 10 days..

I now realise how slowly I have been taking the whole study-abroad thing, in terms of actually studying.. I am going to have some major work to put in this week to get another 2 essays done and complete two half done group projects as well.. Actually I am a little distressed thinking about it. But alas, this is student life. We need the pressure to motivate us. And despite having been given these assignments many weeks ago, I would never have previously felt the pressure enough to put in as much effort as I will this week. And.. If it comes down to an all nighter… or two… so be it! This is my last semester of study! I might as well suffer through it. No point figuring out the key to easy-success now is there?

Actually.. This mentality has also disappointed me recently, as I am slowly being forced to face the fact that I have one more component left of my degree once I have finished this semester at uni.. A co-operative work-study placement THING. Which is proving harder than I thought to enroll in when I am sitting this far from home, and trying to propose that I be allowed to do it abroad and on my own.. Right now… It is looking like I might have to take a semester off to work and play and come back to smash out the final leg in May, 2015.. Although when I say “come back”.. I don’t know where to..

That’s been another terrifying realization for me recently. The realization that I am not going home at any defined point in the future. Actually I might have mentioned this one earlier.. It is in fact a recurring terror in my life at the moment. And its not so much that I believe I am homesick.. As there must just be something in human nature that demands for home to be defined. I cannot explain the confusion and utter mix of emotions that flood me, every time I have to realise that I am now at THAT stage in life… where I have to find and make a home for myself.. AND there is this whole… mother trucking.. massive world to do it in.. And I could choose any where I please.. That’s a mighty task right there. And despite this thought often drifting into my mind before I fall asleep each night.. I find I am having to just push it aside and repress it for now.. Which is possibly the most terrifying and confusing part. Because. Only time can tell now. What ever the future has to hold for me.. It hasn’t chosen to let me in on its secrets just yet. And I guess… I am hoping that I will find home at some point.. Some point soon would be alright.

For now. I should maybe have a go at influencing that graduating ambition first..