Back to Canada and an exercise in tech independence

Being on a completely new continent, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity to travel. It can be hard however to find the time to visit all the places you want between assignments.

On my way back after Christmas, I decided to stop off in Toronto to spend a day exploring. There are several ways to discover a city; one of those ways is to wander around, alone, without a plan. I’ve already been to Toronto with a group of friends, but I feel like it’s nice sometimes to just wander around a place on your own terms, without having to please everybody.

Having got off the plane and made my way through customs and out into arrivals, I sat down to google where I had to go.

That’s when my phone decides to die (at 75% battery)

I was supposed to check into my hotel in an hour and I had no idea where to go. I asked about four different people along the way for directions and luckily, Canadians live up to their reputation of being super friendly. (Although, one group gave me directions which; when I looked on the map, would have sent me to the opposite side of town, but fortunately I couldn’t find the subway station they were directing me to.)

So once safely at the hostel, the stress and jet lag caught up to me all at once, and I want directly to bed, at six PM, with an awful headache.

I woke up at five in the morning and decided I wasn’t going to let a broken phone ruin my plans. I don’t know my way around Toronto very well, but people used to travel before smartphones were a thing, right?

I spent a few hours looking up interesting spots in Toronto; the unique foods and specialties especially and created my own personalized guide to the city on a paper map. I highly recommend this process; this becomes a souvenir, and really gives you a sense of making the city your own and realizing what you love about it.

I set out at 9, and I’m really happy at the unique perspective I got of the city that early in the Morning; I was surprised to find that at 9 Toronto was just waking up; the people in the streets were locals or employees, setting up shop fronts or popping down the road.

I had two goals for my day; get bubble tea and get lunch. Bubble tea is one of my great loves, and Toronto is one of the best cities in the world for bubble tea. My map was a list of the best and most unique food and bubble tea in Toronto. Otherwise, I was free to walk around Toronto.

The rest of my day I ended up visiting the Ontario government buildings, (they’re big, and made of brick… different architectural style to Europe, but not that interesting) and the Allen gardens. The Allen gardens were beautiful, not to mention a nice warm retreat from the snow falling outside. I also sat in a small park a little way outside the centre, and watched families skating around a circular skating track while I waited for a bubble tea shop to open.

It as a long and tiring day, and I was happy to get on my greyhound bus at 5 to go home, and even happier when, an hour late, I arrived home in Guelph.

Four things I wasn’t expecting about Canada

I have been in Canada for two weeks now, in a small university town called Guelph. (Pronounced Gwelf: It sounds a bit like the feeling of making mud pies as a kid.)
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty organized person. I spent hours upon hours researching when I first got accepted onto the study abroad program. Perhaps part of the fun however, and certainly the things you learn the most from, are the surprises you can’t predict.
That’s why I’ve decided to discuss some of the not-so-obvious shocks I’ve had since arriving.

Flying over Labrador (… I think)

Immigration
The crowd control barriers are endless at Toronto airport, and there was a confusing moment where I had to pick up a ticket and then turn around and go backwards before proceeding.
I’m a pretty anxious person, and in my mind, I imagined being ushered into a small grey room with a desk, and then grilled about my return flights, my funds, the few countries I’ve visited in my life and my political swing.
In reality, the process was much less scary, but took way longer.
It’s worth reading up on the restrictions on what you can bring into the country before travelling. This way you can avoid panicking about being deported for bringing in an egg sandwich, like I did (Spoiler alert: they didn’t care about the sandwich).

Jet-lag
The day I traveled to Canada, I woke up at 8 in the morning. My seven-hour flight left at 12.30. Immigration took ages, and then I had to wait four hours in the airport for one of the university organized buses. By the time I got out of the terminal it was dark, and by the time I got to bed that night I’d spent over 20 hours awake.
It doesn’t sound that bad right?
It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Until I woke up at three the next morning and couldn’t get back to sleep.
And I’ve been told it’s worse travelling in the other direction. Ugh!

Sunburn
I’m pretty pale, but I still didn’t expect to burn in my first week in Canada.
While I haven’t needed my big fluffy coat yet, I’ve been surprised how many different temperatures I’ve had to deal with in the past week.
The temperature the first few days was around 25 degrees outside. A decent British summer day, but nothing to get too excited about. You might be surprised to learn however, that Guelph is just slightly further south than Toulouse in the south of France, meaning that it receives the same amount of sun. It just doesn’t get as hot because of winds coming down from the arctic. This means the sun is much stronger you expect it to be. Locals even warned me that you can get burned from the sun reflecting off the snow in winter!

Toilets
Why is the seat so low down?!?
Why is there a gap between the door and the cubicle frame?!?
Why is there a foot of space between the bottom of the cubicle and the floor?!?
Why do they flush unexpectedly while you’re sitting on them?!?