I hope you have all had a super Christmas and managed to squeeze in some relaxation and fun in between munching on the turkey and its remains. I finished work the Friday before Christmas having spent the week leading up to that saying farewell to both my students and colleagues. We had a fun party on the last day of term, which involved some 'staff participation'. In other words, our poor students were subjected to hearing their teachers sing...here's a few samples so that you can judge for yourselves just how bad it was/we were (I'm lurking somewhere on the back row!):
Christmas week itself was spent sunbathing on the beach in Cuba with my friend and fellow Brit, Sasha. It was a very relaxing week of doing absolutely nothing! It's rare for me to go on a 'flop' holiday but it was very enjoyable and we lapped up the mojitos and attentions of the smooth-talking Cuban waiters whilst successfully avoiding the jellyfish and cigar-smoking mafioso types.
I was actually pleased to escape Toronto's winter weather for a bit as it had been bitterly cold and I'd been feeling a bit poorly with a sinus bug. We had a HUGE snowstorm in the middle of December and I was literally housebound for a day as I did not dare venture out into the blizzard. I spent the day making scones instead. How British am I? It seems to have warm ed up a bit now that I'm back and the huge piles of snow cleared by the snowploughs are starting to thaw. I'm pleased as I have quite a lot of dashing about (read: drinking!) to do before I fly home on Wednesday. It seems crazy to think my seven months here are up - the time has just flown by.
As is customary when I come to the end of one of my overseas sojourns, here are a few of my Top Ten lists about my experiences (please note the Top Ten items are in no particular order of priority):
My Top Ten Most Memorable Canadian Experiences
1. Polar bear watching in Churchill
2. Volunteering at the Toronto International Film Festival (and, in particular, being six inches away from George Clooney!)
3. Whale watching off the coast of Vancouver Island with my dad
4. Bear watching in Tofino on Vancouver Island with my parents
5. Participating in the Wolf Weekend at Haliburton Forest with Fair & Janet
6. Listening to Enzo Avitabile & Bottari (twice!) play at the Montreal International Jazz Festival
7. Getting soaked on the Maid of the Mist boat ride with Rach and Min (& the Shunyi students) at Niagara Falls
8. Watching my godson, Alex, eat strawberries and caviar for afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms in Toronto
9. Giggling with my colleagues at the University of Toronto
10. Being gobsmacked by Cirque du Soleil's acrobatics as they performed Kooza
My Top Ten Favourite Hangouts in Toronto
1. Tim Hortons Coffee Shop next to OISE on Bloor Street
2. The Beaches
3. The Harbourfront
4. University of Toronto
5. The Bedford Academy pub
6. St. Lawrence Market
7. The Distillery District
8. Queen Street West
9. The Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Complex
10. The CN Tower
My Top Ten Restaura nts in Canada
1. Terroni (Adelaide St E, Toronto)
2. Sunset Grill at the Beaches (Queen St E, Toronto)
3. The Windsor Arms in Toronto for afternoon tea
4. Messis (Harbord St, Toronto)
5. The Wickaninish Inn, Tofino, Vancouver Island
6. Fresh! (Bloor St, Toronto)
7. The CN Tower in Toronto
8. Pure Spirits in the Distillery District (Toronto)
9. Cardero in Vancouver
10. Il Terrazzo in Victoria, Vancouver Island
The Top Ten Things I Won't Miss about Toronto
2. Being teased relentlessly because of my 'funny' English (by Scott, Steve & Ian - just you wait until you come across the pond!)
3. Being hit on a daily basis 'for being British' (by Ian - I'll get my own back one day)
4. Having to remember to say 'washroom' instead of 'toilet'
5. Having to ask for 'coffee with milk' instead of a 'white coffee'
6. Toilet cubicles that have gaps around the doors
7. Not being able to get a decent Sunday paper and having to buy it on a Saturday instead
8. Not being able to buy booze in the supermarket
9. Snowbanks and slush
10. Taxes and 15% tips (You'd never guess I'm from Yorkshire!)
The Top Ten Things I'll Miss about Toronto
1. My friends, colleagues (including the aforementioned abusers!) and students
2. Walking around the city at all hours and in al l seasons
3. Tim Horton's coffee, muffins and cookies
4. The social life
6. Steam Whistle beer
7. The TTC (public transport)
8. Summer festivals
9. The multi-cultural 'mosaic'
10. The Canadian 'Eh?'
New Year itself was spent out with friends and as well as enjoying a meal with a few drinks and watching the skating (note 'watching' rather than actually 'skating') we also attended a Japanese ceremony of 'ringing in the New Year'. Amid the snow we gathered on a small hill in the middle of Ontario Place, a theme park, to ring the temple bell 108 times before midnight as is Japanese tradition. This is done to cleanse people of their 108 passions or sins. It was a very different way to celebrate New Year for me but I now feel cleansed and ready for the year ahead.
With a heavy heart I'm going to sign off from my amazing Canadian adventure here - it's been a fantastic experience and I've met some truly wonderful people who I will miss hugely and hope to see again in the not too distant future. However, home beckons and with it the chance to catch up with those of you I haven't seen for a while (or even at all in the case of baby Eva!) which I'm looking forward to greatly. I'll leave you with a poem by Dr Seuss and with it wish all my fellow travellers through life a fantastic 2008 full of your own adventures...whatever they may be.
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.
You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.
It's opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that sometimes
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!
P.S Sorry Toronto but I'm taking home a little souvenir: