Saturday, January 12, 2013

From Uppies and Doonies to Loonies and Toonies


For those who don't know I am currently on exchange from my University in Dundee to the University of Guelph in Ontario in South East Canada. This is just an update for friends and family around the world so they know what I've been up too since I haven't had time to write letters or postcards yet so the standard of writing will not be fantastic! :) 

I've been in Canada for just over a week and it's been non-stop since I arrived. I left Orkney shortly after Christmas and headed down to Dundee and onwards to Edinburgh for New Year. I'd like to thank Amy and co. for letting me live in their flat over New Year it was great! I almost ended up having no plans on New Year but thanks to Dan and Innes for taking pity on me and I ended up having a night similar to back home where I was only heading home at 7am with brandy to keep my insides warm. I spent my last day in Scotland with the lovely Craig and Calum who kept me company for 12 hours and even stayed up until 6am with me and even drove me to the airport. What sweethearts! Thanks again boys and I'll send you some maple syrup in return!

 I managed to pack (almost) everything I wanted to take with me for 6 months into one hold-all and I optimistically thought it might be within the luggage limit. 27.5kg and £40 later I was on my way. The plan was to get some sleep on the plane but when they are serving cooked breakfasts, I'm not risking missing that! Usually I like to chat to the person next to me but I gave up on this guy when he got pissed off at the air hostess for shutting the locker for on his "£200 suit." I will also say that it was a female pilot and she did a very, very smooth landing!

I was flying out to Chicago first and I was surrounded by North Americans for the first time, something I'd have to get used to. Suddenly I noticed my accent, something that I haven't really ever done before.

Most people hate flying long haul but I love it, firstly there is the personal entertainment systems which are now found in economy and then there is the weird time-travel aspect of it which I seem to really like but most of you would just call jet-lag. Even though I had films, tv shows and games at my fingertips I fell asleep to the 'soothing' sounds of the Dark Knight Rises...

Chicago O Hare. Bit of a timewarp.
Arriving in Chicago was both exciting, as this was my first time in the US, and scary, because the US border control has such a reputation. The reputation is bang on as you have to go through one passport control, pick up your bag, go through another passport check and then re-check your bag before you can go to your connecting flight. O'Hare Airport was architecturally stuck in the 90's and not nearly as built up as most European airports which was surprising considering it was such a major transport hub.

My plane to Toronto wasn't much bigger than the Saabs you get on from Orkney to Edinburgh, even though it was an international flight it didn't feel like more than flying from Kirkwall to Aberdeen. I was sitting next to a woman from Quebec who had a proper French accent, you forget that in Quebec their first language is French and it's completely different to the rest of Canada.

Touchdown in Toronto just after 7pm local time but midnight back home. Canada is 5 hours behind the UK but my sleeping pattern during winter is so bad that it completely cancelled out any potential jetlag. There was no walkways onto the airport so as soon as you left the plane you were hit by the cold Canadian air I was warned about. Canadian immigration were very pleasant and made their interrogating questions just sound like casual conversation. As with any journey involving air travel, I was happy to be reunited with my bag, all 27.5kg. I was greeted by my Great Uncle Alfred I hadn't seen for 10 years or so and my Great Aunt Sandra I'd never met, and understandably didn't recognise me!

We had dinner at a roadside inn called Mowhawk Inn between Toronto and Waterloo which was pretty much how I naively pictured every bar and restaurant in Canada to look: logs and stone walls, roaring fire, massive pitchers of beer and ice hockey on the TV. We were served by a waitress who had been working there since the 1980's and by her perm it didn't look like she was ready to leave the 80's yet.

I had a wonderful sleep in Alfred and Sandra'a beautiful house and they were very welcoming and lovely so stay with. It is reassuring to know there are people I can turn to here if something goes wrong! I'll definitely be visiting them again and I thank them again for helping me so much!

Found in the tiny town of Fergus in Ontario, alas in a British speciality shop.
On my first day in Canada we drove out of Waterloo and went to the small towns of St. Jacobs, Elora and Fergus and my first shop visit was actually to a shop that sells British products! It nice to know there is somewhere to go when I run out of real Dairy milk (they have dairy milk here but it is a weird American version that is not the same!). This part of Canada is known as Mennoite country as it is home to the Mennoites which are essentially like Aumish people as they are very religious and live off the land. They do not use electricity, they have their own schools and instead of cars they travel using horse and cart but it can be deceiving that they are poor but in reality they are very wealthy land owners.

In the evening I met more of my family across here, Alfred and Sandra's daughter Jillian and her family who were another example of my welcoming relatives over here. I was surprised to find out I was one of the few family members from Scotland they had actually met and even Sandra has never met my Dad! I can't imagine having not met my Aunt! Thanks Jillian for the Chinese even if I ended up forgetting it in the fridge back in Waterloo! I'll definitely come visit again soon and definitely before I leave!

Check me out at the bleachers! So totally like awesome.
Saturday 5th January was moving day and it was like being in first year all over again! Alfred and I headed out to Guelph with neither of us really knowing where to go once we got there. After one or two wrong turns we got to my halls and I got flashbacks to my own crazy halls experience in the UK. My room is pretty basic: wardrobe, shelves, desk, chest of drawers and a really hard single bed, however I like to work my magic and make my room my own! Alfred took me to the mall along the road from the university and I got kitted out with bedding, which is usually an easy task in the UK but over here they have not only other names for things but completely different kinds of bedding. I was also introduced to Canadian sales tax where they add 13% sales tax onto certain things when you are at the till, so the price on the tag isn't the actual price you'll pay.  Unless you are really good at mental maths you just end up paying with a high denomination note and gathering change (it's always a really awkward price too). That's another thing, the money here is confusing as a British person: their 25c coin looks just like a 10p and their 10c coin looks just like a 5p. They also have the names loonies ($1) and toonies ($2), hence the name ( and for those not familiar with Orcadian culture and uppies and doonies...

Rose-ified my room.
 I had joined couchsurfing before coming to Guelph and chatted to a girl called Allison who was having a gathering that night. I decided that instead of staying in by myself on my first night I'd get out and meet people! Most of the people their were school friends but they were equally as inviting to me considering I barely knew anyone. We headed downtown to a bar and with the help of alcohol I made numerous new friends, aided by showing them all British money, driving license, passport etc (tip for fascinating drunks when you are abroad, alas not the safest when intoxicated Disclaimer:I am not responsible for loss of money, licences or passports!). I was planning to get the bus home but in true Rose fashion I got impatient and thought, 'it's cool I'll just wander home.' I made it home alive with no wrong turns but I can't say I'll do it again anytime soon... So yeah, thanks Allison and co for welcoming me to Guelph and it was a perfect first night in my new town!

The uni has a guide dog training program! Puppies everywhere!
After my first week of uni I can actually say I am genuinely excited for my courses this semester, which if you know me back in Scotland is quite unbelievable! The teaching here is different and the lecturers just seem a bit more engaging, plus there is no labs or molecular stuff in sight!Oh yeah over here it is possible to be a 3rd year Biology student and not have a single lab class. I am in heaven here!  There is much more of a  reason to turn up to lectures as they actually test you on things they say in lectures rather than things you can find in text books and they don't stick to textbooks much in my classes (which is good as textbooks here are £80-£100!). The workload seems to be a lot more than in the UK with each classes having at least one midterm, some kind of term/research paper as well as final exams and they are all crammed into a small time period. However since the emphasis is not on the final exams I am hoping the exams themselves will be a bit easier than those back home...

Over here people can take pretty much any combination of subjects which is cool, Dundee were quite strict on what I could take and they had to be biology related. However I did get to pick one module from outside biology. I am taking:
Principles of disease - makes me think I am a medic and it's REALLY interesting.
community ecology - probably the most boring but I can't complain!
conservation biology - Interesting even though the lecturer seems like a really scary lady
evolutionary ecology - This class is really interesting, mainly because the teaching is so different as the lecturer is trying to integrate creativity into science. There is no exam and you are marked on your contribution in discussions!
Introduction to Anthropology - I've been dying to take Anthropology for years and now I have a chance! Only one lecture a week and you have to submit a research paper  which I might do on linguistics, particularly the Orcadian dialect! Can't wait for this one!

I'm also looking into ideas for the Ontarion which is the uni paper here.

I bought tickets to an ice hockey match in Feburary! Excited! Not tried it myself yet...

I've made a good few friends here already which is awesome and everyone is really friendly and easy to talk to so I am sure there will be more, it's only been one week! I've even met two people who knew someone who went to Stromness Academy! Seriously what are the chances?! Small world!

My photography of my nights out haven't been fantastic... I'll improve!

Tomorrow I am going to wander around Guelph and get to know the town and next weekend I will hopefully head to Toronto to meet more family and or go to Niagra Falls. So expect lots more photos than I have been taking in the next few weeks!

So that's about it for now, I did warn you I'd been busy and this is a summarised version! In essence  I LOVE CANADA!

1 comment:

MacVar said...

WOW what a load of new the photo blog and glad you like your new little while home