Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow Big Deal

Second week update on my exchange in Canada for family and friends and anyone else who strays this way!

A main street in Guelph
While all of you have been revelling in snow in the UK the snow in Guelph completely vanished this week and we have the false temptation that Spring is just around the corner, until it snowed like mental on Thursday. I am definitely beginning to overcome the British mentality about snow...
Does what it says on the tin

On Saturday I did the wander around downtown as promised. The actual downtown region of Guelph is pretty small and I was done within an hour. The centre of Guelph is pretty small and everything is built around a few 'blocks' and intersections. The building were all carved out of a light sandstone and there was a mis-match of almost wild-western buildings and more colonial British buildings. There is a square of bars all within about five drunken stumbles from each other at one intersection and they are almost all Irish pubs (although real Irish pubs do not have women in mini-skirt kilts serving you). Canada doesn't really have your big supermarkets like Tesco that sell everything under one roof, Walmart is probably the nearest but it's miles away, and so there are a lot of little independent shops instead of high street chains. For example in the UK we have Topshop, River Island, New look etc but I've only seen one H and M and that was in the mall here not on the high street.

A house along the river
Just along from the central station there is a little walkway along the river named after John Galt who was the Scottish author (and coloniser -  what a great combination of careers) who founded Guelph, this explains why almost every street has a link to the UK. The walk along the river was nice but since all the snow had melted everything was muddy and not as picturesque as it could be. I was told that if I wait until summer, that's when Canada shows off it's feathers. The houses along the river were really cool though, reminded me of my house at home: they all had gardens that led onto the sea with kayaks lying around and everything looks quite higgledy-piggledy. Heading back to the University from Downtown I found the Royal City Park which again is going to look gorgeous in the summer.

Allison and Me!
On Saturday night I went out with some of the other international students before I headed off to a Keg party with some of my Canadian friends here. Alas I didn't do a keg stand but I did drink beer that tasted like urine and seawater from a keg using a red cup. Talk about taking in the culture.

Dog Therapy
My second week of classes have been good but I am still overwhelmed by how much work they do here alas I am coping. Even though it is stressful, the university organised a dog therapy session for students where we got to go and stroke dogs for a while to relax!  I had my first Anthropology class which is a 3 hour lecture on Tuesday nights (7-10) and I didn't drift off at any point. It was strange because we were discussing culture and culture shock and adapting to new cultures and I could relate it all to what I was experiencing on exchange! For this class I have to write a paper on a group of indigenous people from anywhere in the world, I don't think I've ever been as keen for a bit of coursework!
Part of the Aboretum

On Tuesday the weather was glorious and it looked like Spring was upon us already, be it brief. I decided that after classes (and a nap - I've made a habit of going swimming 11pm-12am) I would head to the University's Arboretum. This is essentially the university's botanical gardens but they are HUGE compared to Dundee's. I wandered around a mere half of it and it took me a few hours. Just like downtown, the Arboretum was pretty but I know that come spring it will be a completely different story!

The University of Guelph is No.1 in Canada for it's catering services and I can see why, there are hundreds of eateries on campus from Subway (which tastes different to the UK, they use cheddar and they call the American cheese Swiss cheese, ironically) to Mom's Kitchen which is like home-cooked food. There is even a man who wears a cowboy hat and sells hot-dogs from a tiny stall in the middle of campus blaring really bizarre songs all year round, even in the height of winter. There is also a place called Poutinees which sells Canada's national dish (essentially) Poutine which is from Quebec and is nothing more than chips, cheese curds (cheese before it's been compressed into a block) and gravy poured over the top. I am in love with Poutine, it's ridiculously unhealthy but oh so good. While out in town I got a large portion, which apparently nobody finishes alone. I showed that in Scotland we have a training ground for such tasks, called Clarks Bakery. Although all this food is great, it's worrying how little the students who live on campus know how to cook! They have things called Meal Plans here which are prepaid onto your student card and used to buy food on campus. When you have so much good food available it's easy to see why they don't learn to cook. Most of the girls I live with have these meal plans and admitted that they only know how to make cheese on toast. It makes cooking a struggle for me as they don't have half the utensils I need, there wasn't even a cheese grater!

On Wednesday night I was bored of doing work indoors so I headed to The Bullring which is one of the the university's many eateries but with the tagline of 'your living room on campus'.The Bullring used to be used to show cattle (the University here has a big agricultural school - it's like Orcadian farmers walking along side city hipsters) but has been converted into a cafĂ©. The bullring seems to be where all the musican and "alternatives" hang out, which is my kind of place. On Wednesdays there is an open mic and I sat pretending to do uni work while listening to what musical talents Guelph had to offer. Like any open mic night, you have to sit through some strange acts and some downright terrible ones but I was surprised by how many ridiculously good people there were. So if it's a Wednesday night and you are wondering where I am, I can guarantee I'll be at The Bullring.

Jimmy Jazz. It was dark...

On Thursday I continued to investigate Guelph's music scene. Guelph is actually a renown centre for indie and folk music, which luckily for me if just what I am into. Tonight's venue was Jimmy Jazz which had a kind of of dirty unwashed charm that you get from indie bars. Tonight the bands Among Millions and The Good for Noughts (see what they did there?) were playing. Among Millions are local Ontarions led by Joshua Doherty, who was more than pleased that I recoginised 'Old Fashioned' by Frightened Rabbit which they covered. Before coming I listened to a bit of the Good For Noughts on youtube and they are definitely worth another listen!

Yesterday I went into the mall with my friend Anna who comes from Glasgow (it's nice to have someone who knows what greet, wain and craic means) as we tried to sort out a Canadian sim card for her. We ended up staying in the phone shop for at least two hours sorting her phone and in the process befriended the shop assistants. This isn't rare in Canada, you find yourself constantly making friends with strangers (the good ones) which is a really nice change to the 'don't talk to strangers!" mentality you are taught!

Last night I was with the international students who are mental, especially the Australians (good luck Kirsten!). They all headed downtown and though it'd be fun to go to a club but I am not really a club person. However it wasn't too bad as a bit of alcohol can make anything fun. The first club we went to was Opus which was above one of the many Irish pubs and was quite modern looking but it was completely empty. Since we had our entry stamps we headed else where for a while. After seeing everywhere else was pretty much full we ended up at a place called Trappers which was another club but was also bare. Downstairs was a place called Palace which Allison had warned me about. It was quite the seedy dive full of jocks and frat boys. However the best way to enjoy a club is to just take the piss with everyone and ended up having a pretty good time! Even though I think I'll be sticking to pubs for most of the time!

While you lot back home got the Northern lights I
can deal with living with awesome sunsets
There was a trip to Niagara Falls for all the international students today but I am going with my Great Uncle and Aunt tomorrow instead. It will save me money as well as a trip to the butterfly house! As soon as I read they were going there I was glad of my decision to leave it until Sunday. So expect a whole load of photos over on facebook in the coming days and I'll keep you all up to date again next week!

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