Not in Kansas (oops Canada) anymore

Well, I did it! I survived the year in Canada. If you have been reading my blogs you will know what an amazing year it has been! Even though I am typing this in Dubai airport on my way back down under it still does not feel real that the year has finished.

I wrote this little poem to say goodbye to staff at Ryerson Heights….. A good one for memories of my year too…

The 12 months of the Aussie

On the first month of the year, the Aussie came to Ryerson

On the second month of the year, the Aussie tried Tim Horton’s coffee! (Yuck!!!)

On the third month of the year, the Aussie boot scooted in Nashville

On the fourth month of the year, the Aussie ate a Canadian Easter Egg

On the fifth month of the year, the Aussie bird watched at Pt Pelee

On the sixth month of the year, the Aussie started to countdown to summer travels

On the seventh month of the year, the Aussie set off to see beautiful Canada

On the eighth of month of the year, the Aussie saw the amazing Rockies!!!!

On the ninth month of the year, the Aussie met some young Canadians in the new school year

On the tenth month of the year, the Aussie shared stories about Down Under

On the eleventh month of the year, the Aussie started to think of the warm and home

On the twelfth month of the year, the Aussie said goodbye to all new friends made in Canada

The few weeks leading up to Christmas were insane! School was frantic with holiday cheer and preparations for the trip home were happening in every spare minute. If it wasn’t already the silly season, Mother Nature decided to put on quite a show to send me on my way! On one weekend there was a lovely dumping of snow setting it up for a very white Christmas. The next weekend there was an ice storm with freezing rain. Every surface was like an ice rink… the short trip to the car even needed spiked boots (pity I could not skate) to keep your footing! Tree branches came crashing down, laden with ice. Whole branches and trees too heavy and fully frozen with ice (awesome to see!) cut power to thousands of homes (not so awesome (:

I was so lucky to experience my first ever white Christmas! I was staying with a friend and awoke to a winter wonderland literally! Soft flurries of snow were falling and if you caught one you could actually see the snowflake shape I had only seen in books. I had spent the weeks leading up to Christmas hoping for snow and here it was. You cannot beat snow and Christmas lights…Canadians love to decorate their homes with lights at Christmas but it is the lights they put in the trees that really put on a show! Every tree becomes a Christmas tree. It was a perfect way to end my time in Canada.

I feel so lucky that I was able to be involved in the whole exchange process. When I left last January, I wondered if I would survive so far away from familiar surroundings, family and friends. It became very apparent quickly that I would not have time to be homesick! The year was full of new experiences, amazing places but most importantly amazing friendly Canadians. I am not sure what they thought of my accent or strange lingo, but this did not deter them from welcoming me and helping me out when needed (and let me tell you I needed it a lot!) The friendships made during the year will never be forgotten. In fact, the whole year has rejuvenated me (after I get over the jet lag of course) and inspired me to live each day to the fullest! So I say a final farewell to Canada-maybe one day I might return eh??????

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So much to do….so little time

The past few weeks have been frantic!   School has been insane (so much to do….) with Remembrance Day assembly, reports and interviews.  Thankfully, this week has been more settled and I have even got some teaching done. I am now also starting to turn my thoughts to home and am beginning to write a list of things to do before I leave. I can’t believe it was a whole year ago that I was writing another list to come over here.

I think Autumn is my favourite time of the year here but all I can say is thanks Matt!!!! The leaves have been falling at a rate of a thousand per second (ok not quite true…. More like a million per second LOL) . He has been raking them up and stashing them in brown garden bags. Some houses have 10 or more of these bags out on rubbish pick up day. Wish I had thought of selling these bags as I would have made a fortune. The city of Brantford composts these and uses them on their gardens . The drop is finally slowing, just in time for the snow which covers them anyway.

Speaking of snow…. First snow of the season arrived! Just a flurry really, but enough to get me excited.  (not so Matt). The frosty clear mornings are also producing some beautiful sunrises. The winter coat , scarves and hat are once again out of the closet . My brain is again working overtime checking that I have all these items plus my indoor shoes plus my outdoor shoes plus my gym shoes…… how do the children keep track of it all? Oh that’s right they have a mum helping them. Matt and I have put in a special order for more snow before we leave which the Canadians here think is hilarious (and ridiculous) as they dread it each year.  I am going to do my best to have Matt make a snow angel before we leave!

BOO!

Boo!

I was able to dress up for the first time on Halloween. It was a hoot! (Or should that be a spook??).Check out the photo. I look pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Some might say just another day at school. Trick and treating was fun even though I stayed in the house and just gave out candy. I heard that some people spend hundreds of dollars on candy but I was not one of those people!

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I also heard that people give out  hot chocolate and hot dogs but I could not “verify” this as I was too busy giving out candy to leave the house. Which brings me to a very important question…If everyone is out trick and treating at the same time who is actually home to give out the candy???

I had ghosts, skeletons, a fairy and other spooky creatures come to my door for the candy. My neighbour even gave me a pumpkin to put on my step. Luckily I found out that you do not eat these types of pumpkins before I made pumpkin soup out of it after Halloween. I was really impressed that parents come out with the kids and kids are supervised at all times. My class also could tell me ways to keep safe when trick or treating so maybe taking candy from strangers this one time of the year is not such a bad thing…….

Then I went to school the next day and the students were still high on the sugar rush of all that candy so I decided it might not be a such a good idea after all. The inevitable crash of sugar levels came in the afternoon and all I can say is thanks to Wallace and Gromit and the Case of the Were Rabbit (DVD)

Mythbusters Special- Are Moose real?

Well thanksgiving arrived and we headed north. Everybody else stayed home to eat turkey and be with family but we were on a quest… to catch a glimpse of that elusive moose…. apparently everywhere and yet nowhere to be seen! We headed north out of Brantford to a lovely spot called Gravenhurst on Lake Muskoka. A Canadian teacher had graciously offered her condo for a night so of course we accepted! The drive was peaceful and uneventful through farmland and of course all the stunning autumn colour. We arrived in time for a late lunch near the lake and then had a leisurely drive around the Lake. Huckleberry Rock trail was a highlight (even if we did not find the so called man made 1 km canyon we climbed to look for.) Oh well, the ice cream at a local ice cream shop covered our disappointment!   We arrived back at the condo and settled in to watch the Maple Leafs ice hockey game. I must admit, I am becoming a fan of this game and some of the rules are even starting to make sense.

We awoke to a rainy overcast Sunday but that did not deter us! The quest for the moose was on! We drove an hour North of Gravenhurst, of course stopping at a bakery along the way to fuel up for our quest. Algonquin Park was our destination. Algonquin Provincial Park is a provincial park located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River in Central Ontario, Canada and is about 7,653 square kilometres. There are over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometres of streams and rivers within the park. The park is considered part of the “border” between Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario. The park is in an area of transition between northern coniferous forest and southern deciduous forest Algonquin Park was named a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992. Algonquin Park is the only designated park within the province of Ontario to allow industrial logging to take place within its borders. Of course the main reason for our visit was to see a moose in a park famous for moose and wildlife sightings. The park was busy with tourists so we decided to get off the beaten track a little. We visited the visitors centre to learn where and when the latest moose sighting had occurred. People record the   wildlife sightings on a display board- some yokel had written on the board that he had observed a giraffe ….. on his IPhone. After a little giggle at this we headed out to Beaver Pond. Yep you guessed it… no beaver in sight! It was an interesting interpretive trail though, with beaver lodges, dams and felled trees all around. The busy beavers were now obviously on holiday in Florida after all this work. There was an amazing dam created by the beavers that stretched from one side of the lake to the other. Fascinating, that the beaver build these amazing dams to create a pond in which they build a lodge. The beavers create a while new ecosystem by doing this. The rain drizzled down but the forest trail around the pond was moist underfoot and full of oranges and yellow leaves scattered on the trail. Beautiful!

After a quick lunch we headed for another trail, The Spruce Bog. I did not know much about bogs and the interpretive trail was interesting and informative. Different plants make their home in the bog and even though there is peat the greatest survivor in these conditions is a grass that lives in water.  Our next trail was through a hardwood forest. . This trail was very different from the last and offered   golden tree lined trails.

Now you are probably wondering about the moose. After all that was the reason for driving north in the first place.  I was so sure we were close…we had seen so many signs stating “Danger- Moose as we drove through the park; we had read about sightings of moose on the board at the visitors centre; I had read all about them at the visitor’s centre and knew what to do if I met a male moose on the prowl for a female (the answer is run!!!).We headed for the last trail that apparently had the best chance of seeing one and discovered it was a six hour long hike with a difficulty factor of 3 ( Beaver Pond was 1) and 3 is the highest. So as the rain began to fall again (or was that my tears?) I realised no moose for me yet again. In true mythbusters style I have “proven” yet again that moose do not exist, perhaps they are created by Canadians to bring in tourists much like the Yeti. At least some people have seen the yeti…. Hee hee.

 

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Autumn Adventure with other Aussies

Yesterday I caught up with some of the other Aussies at an event organised by the exchange foundation here. Some of the Aussies have just arrived for their year here and I am a bit envious that they are just beginning their year- long party.  Matt and I spent the day in two conservation areas- Mountsberg and Lake Crawford. The autumn colours were beautiful and we saw bison (breeding herd) up close as well as visited an Iroquoian long house. This was a full sized long house of the Wendat nation (First Nation tribe of the area) . It was built on site of an original Wendat village. This is known from archaeological artifacts found there and in nearby Lake Crawford. apparently Lake Crawford is pretty remarkable as there is no oxygen in its lower depths so it preserves everything from many years ago. Only the top water circulates.  The Interpretive guide told us all about daily life in the long house and my ears pricked up when I heard that women were in charge!   Not so thrilled when I heard that women did most of the work and married at 13 years old.  Fires went 24/7,365 days of the year. Talk about a smokehouse. Food was stored in the upper part and this smoke helped cure the meat. Downside was it also gave the women lung health problems, shortening their life spans. No wonder everyone slept  on the lower levels.  We then had a lovely dinner at a member’s home. It was a fun, interesting day with autumn and harvest flavour.

Matt and I then drove To Toronto so Matt could see a premiere of a special DVD of a band he likes. What a big mistake that was! We literally could not reach the cinema! It took us an hour to move less than 500 metres! It then took us more time to get out of the grid lock to get back to the highway to travel back to Brantford. I had expected it to be busy but not that busy on a Saturday night. Maple Leafs hockey was on….. After Dark Festival was on….. and it seemed every person in Canada was on Yonge St on Saturday night! We did not make it to the premiere which was a disappointing end to a good day.

I will let the photos do the rest of the talking…..  I am looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend next week but not for the turkey!  Matt and I are heading north to try and see that elusive moose and more of the amazing Autumn colours! Maybe finally, I might spy one and not just hear about them!  I will practise my moose call “Here moosie, moosie “Stay tuned………..

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Life after summer……..

I can’t believe that it has been a month since the school year started!  My how time flies! It took me a little while to rest up after my summer adventures but now I am looking forward to having more adventures as my time in Canada draws to a close.

My new class is full of characters… keen to learn and really curious about Australia, especially our strange animals! It has been interesting to experience the start -up of a school year here in Canada. It is just as busy, chaotic and not enough hours in the day as in Adelaide!

I am slowly regaining the sight- seeing bug after resting up after my summer adventures and the fun just keeps coming! It is also hard to believe that I have been in Canada for 10 months! It only seems like yesterday that I arrived here in the snow , learning how to drive on the “other “side of the road.

It is now Fall here and I think this will be my most favourite season here. The colours and change of the leaves is breathtaking! So many photo opportunities so little time! It also harvest time here and pumpkins and scarecrows are everywhere! The stores really put out beautiful displays based on the harvest, Halloween and Thanksgiving. There are lots of fairs and local events on- one every weekend so I won’t need to travel far to have fun.  I attended the Jazz festival held in Brantford- not my kind of music but still an experience. I especially liked the  Dixie band ( what is it about men with big tubas???)  and it only needed Fried chicken… One thing Canadians seem to do well is celebrate each season in a big way. I can’t wait until Halloween either as it is celebrated in a BIG way over here. Maybe I will dress up and go trick and treating just to be part of it all! After all, you can never have enough candy!

Matt and I joined some locals for a short but tranquil cruise on the Grand River. The sunset was colourful and the meal was tasty. It was great to “see “the Grand River in a different way. I almost saw a beaver……….. the captain said it was swimming near the boat but by the time I got my camera, put on my glasses so I could see it…… jacket on…….. well you get the picture ( I didn’t)

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Stay tuned………..

Vancouver-Way out West

I was looking forward to having a house as a base after all my nights in hotels, inns and universities over the summer. I was also looking forward to some home cooked meals!  I was not prepared though for how tired I felt nor how difficult it would be to appreciate more sight- seeing after the magnificent Rockies. We settled in and on the first day just got our bearings and land legs downtown. Vancouver is Canada’s third largest city and 35 percent of its population is foreign born. It has the highest proportion (per capita) of Asian’s of any North American city. I would also guess it has a very high proportion of Australians also! Vancouver is North America’s second largest port in tonnage and physical size –after New York and is a major cruise ship port. Almost every day I was there, a cruise ship was in Port.

Highlights of our time in Vancouver were:

  • Gastown- A historic and shopping district in the downtown area. Most famous landmark here was the Steam clock.
  • Dr SunYat-Sen Chinese garden – This was the first North American classical garden built outside of China. It was a Ming Dynasty Scholar’s garden and had some exquisite Bonsai on display.
  • North Shore- After a  short ride on the sea bus ( fancy name for ferry) we were on the North Shore. Real estate on the North Shore is in the upper market range and as we discovered it has lots of hills! We spent some time checking out The Quay markets and would you believe, we found an Australian souvenir shop in here! We then caught a bus and went to a local park to watch the Royal Canadian Police perform in the Musical ride.  It was great to see the Mounties and horses perform to music. Very clever choreography and entertaining. I had learned all about this in Ottawa at the stables and headquarters so it was great to catch them in action.  We then caught another bus to Lynne Canyon where we hoped to cross a suspension bridge and catch a view…… unfortunately the bridge was closed! It seems a summer dare for young locals is to jump off the cliffs into the river. Apparently a young man had fallen 40m and had to be rescued. Emergency personnel and police were on the scene so no view of the canyon was possible. We did see some tress though and lots of emergency vehicles 🙂
  • Vancouver Aquarium. This was an amazing place. We spent most of the day watching sea otters, dolphins and beluga whales. Great fun was had by all when the whales slapped their tail and caused  BIG splash! If you were sitting low you literally got drenched with salt water and were warned to put cameras away so they would not be damaged by the salt water. The display of jellyfish was out of this world! There were even purple ones!
  • Stanley Park- a mini Central Park but this time by water. Interesting Totem poles was a central feature as well as this park being surrounded by a sea wall.
  • Granville Island- Matt was not to0 impressed with this place-too many shops! I was able to have a quick browse around and yes, I did buy a fridge magnet and jewellery (again!)

One of the “not so highlight” of Vancouver for me was the number of homeless people in the city centre. They were very visible, literally sleeping on the sidewalk which was very sad to see. On one main street you had very exclusive brand name stores on one side and the homeless on the other. It is the first city I have visited in which I was “advised” to avoid a certain street because ” it is not very pleasant”. I have heard than it is very expensive to live in Vancouver and it would seem there are the very rich and the very poor with not much in between.

Our time in Vancouver drew to a close and it was with some relief I hopped on the plane to return to Brantford. What an epic summer of travel and I was looking forward to meeting my new class and beginning the last leg of my journey and adventures in Canada.