Boiling bunnies, Jazz Fest and Dairy Queen

There have been more and more occasions where Canadians look baffled when I say certain phrases. They dont seem to have any idea what Bunny Boiler means and I had to explain this after one asked if he should check the oven when I said I had left a bunny boiling on it. Saying ‘lets do one’ was met with a confused face when it was time to leave the pub. ‘Its gone 10’ had to be explained by saying that 10 o clock had passed and when I referred to ‘my gaff’, it was assumed I was making an electrical reference as in Gaffer. Canadians dont say quarter past, they say quarter after. It is a minefield out there! 
 
Jazz Fest – every year at The Beaches, there is a 3 day Jazz Festival.  The road is closed off just up from me in the evenings.  This stops the public transport cutting the ‘bus wankers’ at my end off from the world.  They set up bands and stalls all along the road and thousands of people descend.  The food smelt great – I had chinese two nights and some of the music wasnt bad.  The people though… there were thousands of them.  Im not big on crowds, so it was a bit much if Im honest.  The second night, I took my noodles and ate them on the beach in the dark. It was lovely.  I then sat against a tree and read my kindle, just the sound of the waves where I was.  I had a little paddle. The water was cold.  

I have had my first Dairy Queen ice cream.  I grumbled all the way there moaning about how hot it was and that I didnt like walking through Chinatown in the heat – its quite smelly and too busy.  The mint oreo ice cream was amazing.  My mouth is watering just thinking about getting another one soon.  

 

I have spent a lot of time on the beach enjoying the sunshine. The lake has reached new levels of warmth and is so nice to swim in!  I love how quiet and peaceful it is.  Living the dream! 

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Observations about Canada/ Canadians

1.  Today, the natives were behaving very strangely indeed.  They were carrying umbrellas in the sun.  Not all of them, but enough to mention it.  If it was parasols like you see on the TV, it would be less weird, but this was rain umbrellas.  It kind of makes sense to create your own shade as it was stupidly hot in the sun, but still.

2.  Their post (mail as they call it) – they dont seem to have letter boxes that enable the postman to put the post in the house.  In the countryside they have the boxes like on TV at the end of the drive where you put the little red arm up if there is stuff to collect and in the city they have the boxes outside the front door.  Noone seems to steal the post or parcels.

3.  They put their stuff out on the street when they dont want it and people just come and take it.  I am told this happens in Brighton and Hove, but it doesnt occur down in Plymouth unless its a broken washing machine/ bed/ sofa and you are a chav that feels it appropriate to leave it in the garden until either someone from the council eventually takes it or someone else sets fire to it/ and or pees on it.  People just go and browse through other people junk as though it is Primark.  Great idea really.  If I had a house to furnish, I could have done the whole thing free and with good quality stuff I am sure.

4.   When they put signs on telegraph poles, there are little tear off bits at the bottom with the company name and phone number on it.  This is a great idea, I am not sure why we dont do this.  Actually rereading this, it may be because it rains so much.  Though we could still do this with undercover notice boards.

5.  There are a crazy amount of people with mental health issues on the streets here.  For a country that seems to breed such friendly and helpful people, there seems to be little help for the street homeless with mental health needs.  Even more frustrating when me and one of the other brits are looking for work in this field!

6.  Lastly, it is really difficult to get used to the casual use of the word Queer.  It is an acceptable word here, but I cant get used to hearing it.

Frustrations

Whilst so much stuff has been surprisingly easy to sort out since I have been here – phone number, bank account, SIN number, apartment, meeting people, navigating TTC, keeping in touch with folks at home and more, there are some days that are incredibly frustrating. 

It should be so easy to cancel an English phone contract, pay the bill and arrange to keep the number on pay as you go.  Instead the morons have taken extra money without telling me and sent the wrong size sim card to the wrong country.  On the phone they lack consistency and keep giving different stories.  Waiting for a Manager to confirm it is now all sorted… Been here before and heard nothing.  Vodafone, you suck.

It should be easy to transfer money between accounts and have it appear. I have had to ring banks and international travel cash cards constantly chasing to find out why cards arent working where they should and balances are wrong etc.  The Natwest app is great – until it asks you to verify your number.  It wont accept a Canadian number and I cant verify my English number due to the  incompetent  aforementioned  morons at Vodafone.

The two above issues combined with having to constantly chase and phone about my claim with Holiday Safe are stressful.  I put in a claim with Holiday Safe for my bills relating to my ankle injury.  I paid for the insurance service, so should be no problem right? Wrong. After submitting my claim on 15th May, chasing them constantly, receiving emails saying I hadnt sent things that I had and resending, I have eventually had my claim settled on 20th July.  They said 3-5 days from the 8th July.  Then blamed it on my bank having it pending. Phone call to Natwest – not correct.  Holiday Safe then closed for weekend. Obviously. Miraculously after expressing my annoyance, money appeared the same day.  Travel Insurance – pay hundreds of pounds for a service that is not provided, pay more to phone them constantly and remind them to provide the service.

The constant calls to UK numbers are costly and time consuming to resolve things that shouldnt be an issue.  Turns out, no matter how ridiculously organised you are, it still requires handholding.

I am having a moan.  The best place to vent though is sitting on a paradise like beach though eh? Its better to get it all out so I can resume my sunbathing.  In the grand scheme of grumpiness, this is a minor situation exacerbated by the ongoing saga that is my job hunting.  Of course, the sun just went in.

UPDATE: Suns back. 

The Weather and some new Brits

I can really see why Canadians are stereotyped as talking about the weather alot.  This week I have experienced torential downpour that makes English rain look like childs play and now it is so hot that there are apparently heatwave warnings.  It is sweaty and sticky.  The only thing to do is lie on the beach with frequent dips in the Lake.  

This week I have had a nice sociable week starting off with a drink and some food with my first British friend at pub downtown.  On Tuesday, I went to a gig at the Molson Ampitheatre.  It was Tesla, Styx and Def Leppard.  Never heard of the first two and I am not going to be running out and purchasing their albums, but Def Leppard were immense.  So good live! Really enjoyed it.  Given the glorious weather I wore a strappy top and short skirt with flip flops.  Of course it rained.  The locals all pulled ponchos and umbrellas out of their bags and pockets.  I got wet to the skin and berated the local I went with for not giving the heads up! Great night tho!  

The rest of the week has passed by with sunbathing and hanging out at the library applying for jobs.  I went to The Path with a fellow Brit to look for jobs.  This is a weird underground world that Canadians use in winter.  Lots of shops and businesses connecting the biggest buildings and subways – in winter some people will have little need go above ground.  Its weird and we walked in lots of circles and struggled to find our way out.   

I was also excited to get some pictures of Mr Jinx this week.  I am more optimistic about jobs now, but if no luck, I might see if I can do some volunteering at the Humane Society so I can play with the cats.  Another highlight from home for me this week was a friend asking if I am anywhere near Cancun.  She thought it was in Canada.  I have to say, it is this ridiculousness that I miss from some of the folks back home!

I have had some good feedback from my boot camps which is nice to hear, and I had an extra class to cover on Wednesday in the studio this week.  So much fun.

Last night I went to a Brits meet up again.  This was made up of 8 of the usual Brits, from our first meet up and many subsequent adventures, and about 10 newbies.  Its a bit much to be honest with that many people and I didnt get to talk to everyone properly.  It was a good night, but not all of the new ones are to my taste – the heat didnt make me the most sociable person though to be fair, so maybe I will warm to the odd ones.  I was excited to meet a fellow Devonian – from Totnes, but seems fairly normal so far and also likes running.  There were a few that seemed nice, so hopefully will get to chat to them more at the next event… The whole evening was so hot, I could barely function and I was so happy to get home to the air con. It is all very nice sitting out on the patios, but its too hot!  

I keep seeing people out running in this weather and feel like passing out on their behalf.   I watch the locals going to work, running, chatting, walking their dogs and generally behaving as if it is possible to do stuff in this weather.  They are finally swimming in the Lake properly as well.  The only thing I can do in this weather is eat ice cream, drink milkshake, sunbathe, swim in the lake and be snappish with people!  It is too hot for Malibu.  And actually, it is too hot to walk to the milkshake shop.

On that note, for now, it is time work on my tan.  

Hanging out in Canada

Despite the job hunting not being exactly as planned, I really am having a whale of a time in Canada.  I moved here 9 weeks today and still feel it really is the best thing I have ever done with my life – I may have said this before and I am sure I will say it again, but I just feel like it really got me out of a monotonous rut.  I didnt dislike life at home and have great friends, a nice house, family near by, my pets, a job, but there was something missing.  The weirdest thing is, even though I have never been here before, I stepped off the plane and immediately felt at home.  I didnt feel scared or overwhelmed getting here alone.  I remember Trish picking me up from the airport when we finally found each other and taking me to Tim Hortons, and on the drive there, I was looking out of the window thinking I want to stay here forever.

Is Canada what I thought it would be?  I have to say, I didnt think I would enjoy lying on the beach as much, I didnt think I would spend quite so much time in the pub!  I thought it would be harder to meet friends and easier to get a job.  I thought I might get homesick and I knew I would miss Mr Jinx.  I didnt realise quite how much I would miss Mr Jinx.  I am considering getting a hamster just so I have a pet.  I thought I would be phoning home all the time and I thought I had packed enough stuff.  I didnt expect to miss squash as I rarely drink it at home, but crave it all the time here!  

I have had great fun the past week hanging out with a couple of the other unemployed Brits.  It is nice to just wander around the streets of Toronto, go to the gym, go for coffee or to a pub.  I particularly enjoyed sitting on a patio watching one Matt try to teach other Matt how to swear in his Northern accent.  This went on for a considerable amount of time and it made me sad that I had no battery on my phone to video the whole thing!  This week we saw the Toronto Walk of Fame – stars on ground with famous names in them, for some reason Jim Carrey has two?!  I didnt realise Kim Cattrall was Canadian.  There was also some debate over Alexander Graham Bells Canadian status, settled with Google of course.  We went to the Rogers Centre and I bought myself a Blue Jays shirt.  I cant wait to wear it when I get to go to another game.  We went to a Bulk Barn shop where they had the biggest containers of Skittles and Reeses Pieces I have ever seen – I could have fitted in the container.  Two former fatties roaming the shop was a sight to see.  We wandered around shouting out ”hey look at this”, ”look at the size of this chocolate” – the joy on our faces was clear for all to see.  We have also been to a board game cafe and played games for a couple of hours whilst drinking cups of tea – English tea of course.  I take lots of photos wherever we go.  Matt takes lots of photos of me taking photos. 

Things that I have found amusing in Canada lately….

  • When shopping, the staff keep introducing themselves to me – it seems normal for them to come and tell shoppers their name.  They are also weirdly helpful and friendly.  Shop assistants have also asked me “how are you making out?”.  This was met with a sight flush and bewilderment on my part.  I spluttered that I was getting on fine thanks!  
  • How Canadians refer to the London Eye.  Its pretty funny that they refer to it as a Ferris Wheel, this has happened a few times, or “that wheel”.
  • There is an event called “Float your Fanny down the Ganny”.  To translate, they make a boat or floating type of object and float their fanny (bum) down the ganny (river) in it.  To them fanny means bottom.  I giggled like a child when I heard this talked about.

  

A spring in my step

This evening, I am feeling fantastic!  One of the biggest factors in deciding to live in the The Beaches area of Toronto was the running along the Boardwalk by the beach.  Due to the ankle situation, this has not been possible.  This evening I finally got to run along the Boardwalk and loved every minute of it!  The only sad thing about it is that I know I need to have a rest day tomorrow, but I cant wait to do it again!  I walked back up to the apartment with a spring in my step feeling happy.  I LOVE CANADA!  

Toronto Zoo With The Brits

Following the Hooters trip, the next organised tourist outing with some of the The Brits was to head for Toronto Zoo.  We excitedly hired a Zip Car and off we went for our outing.  With my Girl Guide back ground, I packed a bag for the day with bikini, snacks and also warmer clothes.  If nothing else, since being in Canada, I have learnt that the weather is unpredictable.  I was mocked for this level of organisation.  

We got to the zoo and eagerly headed off to see the pandas.  After watching for a few minutes, we ascertained the one not moving and lying on its back was not dead and, satisfied with this, we went to find some more animals.  Polar bears, penguins, giraffes, rhino, hippos, fish, snakes, scaled creatures, giant guinea pigs, flamingoes, tigers…. We saw them all.  There were also a strange amount of frogs and baby frogs hopping around the park.  The bear was cute playing in the pond and blowing bubbles in the water.

Disappointingly the Beaver Tails and Poutine kiosks near the front entrance closed around 3pm when we excitedly went in search of sustinence.  Luckily were able to trek back to the other side of the park for Beaver Tails served with a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the staff.  The Beaver Tails were delicious though. 

We were not able to see the moose as they were hiding from the torrential downpour that came to plague us late afternoon.  We sought refuge in one of the food courts.  Unfortunately they were closing up.  We did get a burger, but the pizza place was closed and they were cleaning up the whole area ready to shoo out hungry tourists.  Between 3 and 5pm, most of the ice cream and drinks stands had closed.  Disappointing for such a big zoo, especially as it didn’t close until 7pm.  Regardless of rain or attendance rates, surely you should be able to provide refreshments for your paying customers?!  I just don’t like people messing with my ability to get food.

Toronto Zoo overall – a good range of animals and a nice big park.  There were a good amount of refreshment opportunities if they were actually open.  Toilets were vile – I should’ve used a bush.  Most zoos I have visited, the animals have looked happy enough in their enclosures, but even before the rain, some of these did not look very chipper….  Maybe it was the weather?  Either way, I’ll take Sparkwell Zoo or Paignton Zoo over this one anyday.  Back to the car and soaking wet – now who is silly for packing a bag full of ‘just in case’ items…. Quick change and homeward bound.

I am loving the outings with The Brits, we can run around and be proper cheesy tourists to our hearts content!  Regardless of where we go, we seem to always have good fun.

 

Job hunting

Before coming to Canada, I really ummed and ahhed about what I wanted my job focus to be.  My initial plans were to come over and try to get straight into a job in addictions if possible.  As time went by, I thought it might be nice to have a break and loom for something else for my first few months.  So I arrived in Toronto with a freshly updated CV/ Resume and the plan that I would wander into some nice looking bars/ restaurants/ cafes, have a bit of a chat and they would offer me a job.  I can’t lie, I thought having an accent would be the key to this. Turns out gaining employment is not this easy… who knew?!

Most of the bars and restaurants want experience, now my CV does show some experience working in a restaurant, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.  I have dropped off and emailed countless CVs with no call backs.  I applied for a few jobs in admin/ reception roles – no call backs.  I have chased them by email and gone in to follow up face to face.  Turns out, I am not very desirable to employ in Canada.  The biggest kick in the teeth is when they readvertise the role and I never even got a call to try and prove my worthiness!

I registered with a temp agency and was told to register with 15 or 20 more as they get hundreds of CVs.  This was a little disheartening, so I was pleased to get a call a week later offering me a job.  It was an entry level temp role.  Great.  I need some money and don’t mind entry level. Not massively keen on losing my freedom, beach days and tourist lifestyle to work full time for minimum wage, but needs must and one of my muckers did recently post on my Facebook “get a job you bum”.  I went to the first day and it was clear straight away that the lady thought it may not be suited to me due to my skills and experience and wanted a chat at the end of the day to see if it was a good fit.  This was positive feedback about my CV after having no call backs.  Unfortunately, she was right and I lasted two hours before feeling it best to be honest and say that it wasn’t for me.  I have to say, I don’t think this level of entry role even exists in England.  I don’t mind entry roles and lots of people enjoy them etc, but I also don’t want my brain cells to die.  

I have now applied for a number of jobs in the addictions field and hope to gain some employment there.  I thought I wanted a change, but on seeing what else is out there, I am not sure I do.  I love facilitating groups and have found a few roles to apply for doing this, some drug and alcohol related and some in other areas.

It hasn’t all been bad in the job hunt.  I applied for a job a few weeks ago facilitating Boot Camps.  The job is 2 hours a week with a 6am class twice a week.  6am?!  My brain seized up when they told me this.  Despite the 6am start, for a long time, I have been interested in gaining a job in fitness and now doing some certificates and learning lots of biology stuff that I had blocked out from school has paid off.  I am working for two girls that have been friends since school and set up the fitness business together.  They are highly energetic and the classes are filled with lots of “awesome” and “great job” and high fives.  I love it!  I started this week and did my first clas on my own yesterday before the epic temp job fail.  It was great fun and I don’t even mind leaving the house when it is still dark!   I am even looking forward to next week already….. 

This morning, I sent off some more CVs and now plan to sit on the beach optimistic that the calls offering me jobs with great pay, great hours and fun tasks will roll on in….

Hooters with the Brits

My return to the city yesterday started with a slightly different level of tourism to that of the past week.  A few of the other Brits and I realised we shared an ambition to visit the popular and iconic fine dining establishment of Hooters.  This has been planned for a couple of weeks, specifically for a Monday night to take advantage of all you can eat wings for $12.99.  What could possibly go wrong eh?

Unfortunately, instead of being served some tasty food in a friendly restaurant with good looking staff, we found ourselves looking around at a harsh and grubby reality.  You would think the wings would be tasty being an advertised special offer event…. unfortunately, the battered boneless meat did not really have any meat inside the thick layer of batter and the chicken wings with the bones had so little meat, the birds must have been on a hunger strike before meeting their ending.  One of the sauces was nice and we managed to eat a few plates, however, even with all you can eat, I couldnt bring myself to eat enough to feel full.  All food was cold or luke warm.  We had the misfortune of seeing the kitchen on the way out… I would like to say that we experienced some great Canadian service with a smile, however, the waitress seemed to struggle to coordinate bringing a jug of water to the table, let alone drinks and wings.  When it to came to billing us, well, her mind was blown.  Her grasp of maths, customer service and smiling were all severely lacking.

A fun night with chums and good banter was shared by all, but we wont be returning.  It has even sparked discussion of whether ‘Minging Mondays’ should become a regular dining experience…. I can say for sure that Hooters will not be on the agenda again, but it is another thing crossed off the to do list.  We all agreed that we were distinctly underwhelmed.  

 

Sydenham, Kingston and Thousand Islands

Back from another holiday within a holiday, this destination was a village called Sydenham just outside Kingston.  Sydenham itself was a nice little village and where I stayed was so peaceful.  

  • Things I loved about Sydenham – birds and silence, there were no Street Cars or raccoons disrupting my sleep, cups of tea in the morning sitting outside, barbecues, bonfires, toasted marshmallows, ice cream, sunbathing, reading, village stores, smores,  I have never had a proper smore before – they involve toasting a marshmallow and then squishing it with with chocolate between two crackers (not jacobs, more like a sweet biscuit, like a Belvita breakfast biscuit).  Sydenham is also home to Trousdales, Canadas oldest general store.
  • Things I did not love about Sydenham – mosquitos, I got eaten alive.  No exaggeration.  Every single bite turned into an allergic reaction. I stopped counting at 20 on my shins and feet and developed an addiction to antihistimines and an irrational fear of the outside.  Turns out, even taking 5 times the dose of one antihistamine brand, a couple of another, bite relief and calamine lotion does not stop the itching.

Canada Day – we were in Sydenham for Canada Day and went down into the village for a mooch about the village fair at Sydenham Point.  There were pony rides, face painting, guess the sweets in the jar etc.  Most importantly, there was CANDY FLOSS.  Or “Cotton Candy” as they call it here.  I also tasted a Candian food called a Perogi – a stodgy cheesy potato type thing served with sour cream – quite tasty, but needed salt.  We had a bonfire in the evening and the afore mentioned smores.    

 Also in Sydenham – we found a bees nest and watched bees working a away to fix it whilst the queen loitered inside and met a snapper turtle.  Alongside all this, I managed to have a good long chat with a friend from home on a video call.  It is crazy how much changes and how quickly the kids are growing and doing more stuff in only a couple of months.  

Cataraqui Centre – a giant shopping centre.  We went.  I bought some stuff.  Im not really too sure what else there is to say about a shopping centre!

I went into Kingston on two days, once for the Penitentiary already written about and once for a 3 hour boat cruise around the Thousand Islands.  There are actually 1,864 islands, along the Canada/ USA border in the Saint Lawrence River.  I had wanted to go on the cruise that stopped at Boldt Castle, but it was a five hour one and actually I am glad I opted for the three hours as that was enough.  I am also glad that I was prewarned to take warm layers – it is cold at sea!  The cruise was nice and I enjoyed the gentleness of the boat, I could have fallen asleep if the chairs were not hard wood.  I broke the rules and smuggled on a Subway roll and cookie for lunch.  The islands themselves were interesting to see (it went up around the Admiralty group of Thousand Islands passing Fort Henry on the way) and I loved looking at the houses.  Some stunning houses in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some islands just had rocks and seagulls.  I enjoyed learning that there is a spot called Half Moon Bay where religious sermons would be delivered from a rock whilst locals attended and sat listening from their boats in the water.  I could definitely see myself living on one of these islands, what a lifestyle.  I just need to find a few million dollars.  

Top left – Fort Henry

 After the boat trip, there was a Food Festival in Kingston.  It was really busy.  I pottered around a bit but, annoyingly, you couldnt pay for food with money.  You had to queue to buy tickets and then queue at each tent to pay for what they were selling with the tickets.  I headed for the shops instead where I discovered it was the one day of the year that they put sale and surplus stock on the streets outside the shops and sell it at massive discounts.  I got a few bargains and a beach towel that is the Canada Flag.
On the way back to Toronto, we stopped at the Lake on the Mountain in Picton, Prince Edward County.  Gorgeous views and it was a lovely sunny day to stop for a drink and something to eat at a cute little pub.   

 Unfortunately, the spell was broken all too soon hitting traffic as we neared Toronto, the Pan AM games have begun.  Gridlock.  We stopped at a Wendys for dinner – it is just like McDonalds, but the burgers are square.