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Currently living the dream of moving to Toronto for 12 months for a Firefighter Exchange!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goodbyes are always hard.....

Our final week in Toronto was busy, as you can imagine.  On Saturday night, we had a party at the Cossarini house to say goodbye to all the wonderful people we have met during the past 12 months.  From neighbours to workmates (volunteering workmates as well), we have been touched by the generosity and welcoming spirit of Canadians.   When we first decided to do this exchange, we of course expected to see a lot of Canada, meet a few people and then go home with a lot of photos and souvenirs.   What we didn't expect was to form relationships with people who we will likely keep in touch with for the rest of our lives.   Canadians are very generous and giving people...oh and they don't mind a drink.  So, with that said, our party on Saturday night was a blast!   Most of over indulged and paid dearly the next day. 

On Monday night we said goodbye to all our 'surrogate-neighbours' in Eleventh Street.  Bob and Candace have introduced us to their neighbours during the year and we have really enjoyed getting to know them.  They are a great bunch of people!  Candace cooked a beautiful meal (of course) and we all enjoyed a few drinks and laughs.  Unfortunately, my liver was still recovering from Saturday night so I was the designated driver.

Tuesday night saw us at Pat and Melissa's townhouse where we enjoyed a feast fit for royalty (good to see Pat has finally realised I am worthy) on their rooftop balcony.  We got to meet Pat's Captain, Max and his wife Lori.  They had visited Australia in March so it was great to hear their stories and experiences.  We also met OJ who is also an Aussie.  When Pat did his exchange in South Australia in 2009/2010, his Captain introduced him to his brother, OJ.  Anyway, turns out OJ was visiting so that was nice to speak to him and hear an Aussie accent!!   Great night, as always with Pat and Melissa - we'll certainly miss them.

Wednesday was Troy's final shift at the 421 Fire Hall.  The guys invited Jack and I to come to the hall for dinner.  A true Canadian feast of steaks, mashed potato (the best mash I think I've ever had), corn on the cob and maple drizzled carrots.  Mmmmmm.  I tell you, I have eaten like a queen all week long.  The boys at 421 gave Troy a Canadian Hockey jersey (but apparently I have to call it a sweater) which has his name and number on the back.  They also some fire badges put on it and embroidered "421" on it.  It looks spectacular and Troy was really taken aback when they presented it to him.  I don't think he's wiped the grin off his face yet.  Troy has really enjoyed working at 421 - he really hit the jackpot when he was assigned that hall (thanks Big Jack).   They are the funniest and friendliest bunch of guys you'll ever meet.

Thursday was a frantic day of last minute packing and cleaning.  That evening we had a relatively quiet dinner at Candace's house (we were staying there overnight) and Bob joined us.  Jen and Eddie dropped by to say goodbye (I was impressed there was no ugly-crying) and after dinner we walked down to the lake to view the Toronto skyline across the water for the final time.  It was a beautiful night with a full moon. 

Friday morning we were all up early and off to the airport to catch our flight.  We have 4 suitcases, one HUGE hockey bag (don't get me started) and two hockey sticks (seriously, don't get me started!!).  Bob and Candace dropped us off in their cars and like a band aid, our goodbyes were quick and brisk - just the way I like them.  I have been in a bit of a sense of denial about leaving and my family and friends back home will know that I hate goodbyes.  I'm sure that if I am ever evaluated psychologically in the future, everything will tie back to my inadequate, detached and complete avoidance of any farewell/goodbye.  I just can't do them.  I hate them....AND I ugly cry.  So, Barbie's daughter has a good way to cope with this by just pretending it's not really a goodbye.  She just says, "see you tomorrow".   So that's what I have done.

Anyway, we arrive at Toronto International Airport with plenty of time to spare.  Get our boarding passes and then proceed to line up in the line with 45,256,855,698,555 people in it for the US Customs and Border Protection section.  To make matters worse, they were experiencing "technical difficulties"... grrr....I was getting a pain behind my eye when our departure time was getting closer and closer and we were still in line.  To make matters worse, they only had nine agents working but they have something like 44 booths there.   We finally get through security, drop off our bags, go through x-ray etc and then RUN to our boarding gate.  The entire plane was waiting for us about about 5 other passengers.  You should have seen the glares from all the passengers who had been waiting on the plain.   Thank you US Customs.

We arrived at LAX where we had to recheck our baggage with Air New Zealand.   Whilst in line, we learnt that a bloke behind us was going to London and had just found out that his flight was delayed 12hrs.  We were very empathetic but were secretly breathing a sigh of relief that this was not us!  However, our perceived good luck quickly ran out when we weren't able to go into the Air New Zealand Lounge as they had to save it for basically the entire London plane!   Troy nearly threw a tantrum fit for a two year old.  Anyhow, we ended up getting into the Air France Lounge instead (go figure).   LAX is a dirty, dingy, small and overall bloody horrible airport, so we are glad to be enjoying the lounge. 

We board our flight to Auckland in about 2hrs.  Talk to you all soon xxx

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winding down......

It's only four more sleeps until we leave Canada.  While we are cleaning, organising and packing, I am thinking about our past 12 months.  I thought I'd share the following.....

  • The winter
  • Traffic
  • Having to stop for stupid pedestrians when they just cross the road in front of you and don't even bother to look and then walk reeeeeeeeeally slow.
  • All the stop signs - get some roundabouts!
  • vegemite withdrawals
  • The winter
  • Having to leave a tip (and figuring out how much)
  • Ordering food through a drive-thru and not getting what you asked for
  • People asking if we're British, South African, Scottish (I am not lying), Kiwi....
  • How the weather channel never gets the weather prediction right
  • The winter
  • wondering what the hell we are going to do with all our pennies we have
  • Dealing with Rogers communications
  • The food is cheaper
  • The gas (petrol) is cheaper
  • Chips called "Munchies" which are a mixed packet of pretzels, twisties, corn chips and sun chips....mmmm
  • The pizza
  • How people enjoy the sunshine and don't take great weather for granted.
  • The people we have met!!!
  • Costco
  • Moosehead Beer
  • How cheap Coke & Diet coke is
  • TIM HORTONS!!!!!!!!!!!
  • All the cute squirrels, raccoons and chipmunks
  • the 24hr shifts at Toronto Fire Service
  • Pilsbury Pastries
  • Beaver Tails!!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Black Creek Pioneer Village, Canada's Wonderland, Canada Day & More....

Hi Friends

A while ago, Bob and Candace took us to Black Creek Pioneer Village which is an accurate reflection of what a community was like in Ontario in the 1800's. We visited many barns and buildings in the community with volunteers doing jobs and tasks as they were done in the 1800's. We got to see a lady weaving a rug out of little scraps of fabric, a blacksmith beating the crap out of metal stuff and another guy who banged holes in heaps of stuff to make candle holders and light fixtures etc. It was really interesting to see how it was done back then - everything is such hard work and I really loved the uniqueness of what they created.

 This guy is showing Jack how he made a candle holder which was weather-proof

We also went to Canada's Wonderland which is the major theme park here in Toronto.  My friend Jen had some friends visiting her from Saskatchuwun (that's how an Aussie spells it) and she invited us to come along with them.  It was the BEST fun I've had in a long time.  They have this major kick-arse roller coaster called the Behemoth which makes me sick just looking at it, so Eddie (Jen's hubby) and Troy went on it.   Now, I know that he was trying to act all tough in front of Eddie, but I reckon he would have had a little bit of pee come out while he was on that ride.  He promptly told me that I can NEVER EVER go on that ride as I would have a myocardial infarction.  Jen, her friend Lanita and I were designated "little kid ride chaperone's", which let me tell you is much scarier than it sounds.  Jack was able to ride some of the bigger rides with an accompanying adult and I am considering writing a letter to Canada's Wonderland to tell them that those 'kid' rides are SCARY!  Jen, Lanita and I screamed out heads off on them.  I was so terrified on one of them that I opened my mouth to scream and nothing came out.  The kids enjoyed them and often wanted to ride them multiple times.  At the end of the day, I was getting a little braver (did you know I am into extreme sports now that I have conquered zip-lining??) so Troy and Eddie convinced Jen and I to go on the lamest of the adult roller coasters, called the Vortex.   I was so scared, I screamed and screamed and was all wobbly after it.  And that was with my eyes closed for about 80% of the ride.  One thing they should tell their female guests is to wear a sports bra on the roller coasters - I think I'll put that in my letter to them as well.

 Jen (right) and Lanita getting off one of the rides.

Jack had his 6th birthday and we had a small gathering and of course a cake.  It was difficult to select a couple of gifts for Jack which were small enough to take back to Oz. 
Jen, Eddie, Candace, Pat, Bob, Brian, Barbie & Emma all came over for a BBQ and a few drinks.  Jack has spent a lot of time with Emma (who lives across the road) and will really miss her when he leaves.  He adores her.

More camping pics:

This is poison ivy - Bob and Jamie pointed this out to us on the last day at the campsite.  It looks nothing like what I thought it looked like!

Canada Day Weekend was very busy for us.  We joined Pat and Melissa in Alvinston (Pat's hometown) for two nights where we were treated like locals.  We always feel welcomed with open arms by Pat's family and friends - there is something unique about a small town community.  On the way to Alvinston, we joined Pat, Melissa and their six nephews & niece in London, Ontario to see the movie Cars 2 (in 3D).  Afterwards, we had dinner and then drove to Alvinston.  Jack loved being around all the kids and did not stop playing the whole weekend - he was so dirty and exhausted! 

 The beautiful Melissa and nephew Sammy.

 Pat teaching his Nephew, Tommy how to drink from a stubby. 

 This is Pat clowning around with the kids during the fireworks.  Needless to say, beer makes you think you are 15yrs younger than you really are....he was wondering why he was so sore the next morning.

 This is Troy's new project for when we get home.  I want a firepit and some Muskoka chairs, please! 

 This is the 'boat ramp' for Lake Huron! 

All the kids (and one big kid) for dinner after the Cars 2 movie.

On Sunday, we went to Wasaga Beach to spend the day with Big Jack's family.  We had a great day with his sisters, Linda and Sandra and their husbands, Lloyd and Barry.  You may remember Troy went ice fishing with Barry and Lloyd.  We were blessed with wonderful weather and spent a lovely warm, lazy day at Wasaga.   Like us, Jack has wonderful nieces as well and we also met some of their friends.  They are a great family and the day flew by far too quickly.  It was great to hear the stories of their Australian holiday which they took in March to visit Jack & Sandy and the girls.  They are already planning a trip back there someday, so we've promised them free accommodation at
Hotel Bower, of course!  

From left:  Lloyd, Sandra, Troy, me, Linda & Barry (and Jack in front).

This pic is of all the people who have been in Australia!

The sun setting over the water.....something you don't see in Queensland!!


Thursday, July 7, 2011


We went camping for 2 nights on Lake Erie at Port Burwell with some of the Gang from 421 and there neighbours.

 Pretty sure it's not supposed to be on fire!!
Erin making a S'mores

Treetop Trekking

So, a few weeks ago, a small group of us went Treetop Trekking at Horseshoe Valley.........OK it might have been a few months ago.....whatever!! We met up with our good friend Anita's brother Mike.  He pretty much runs the show at Treetop Trekking.  It's about an hour and a half north of Toronto. We didn't see him before our setup and instruction, so we headed out to the beginner course as one group.
 The Gang
Eddie Jen Erin Troy Tara Kevin

 The beginner course

 Me patiently waiting for Jen to cross already!!
One of the many zip lines

So you get 3 hours to go and run havoc on the tree games as they call them, after that you are finished and another group comes in.  The girls were freaking out at the height of the beginner course and so it took us nearly an hour and a half to complete.  It probably should have only taken 15 - 20 minutes!!  AAAAAARRRRRRGGHHH  we have got to ditch the girls!!!!
After completing the beginner course Erin had labelled herself as an EXTREME sports person.  OOOHHHH PLEASE!!!!! anyway the Green beginner course done, next is the slightly challenging Red course then Purple and then the Black course of which some of the Guides haven't even been able to finish. So here's our chance to ditch the girls, we sent them off to the Red course while we hit the Purple.  Just as we were nearly finishing the Purple the guide had a radio message telling us that the girls were coming over to watch us, wow they finished the Red course quick, which is supposed to be longer than the Green course. Yeh right!! I call bullshit! 

So after catching up with the girls on the ground, we find out that the Red course looked too scary from the ground, ok so do the green again I am thinking. We went off to conquer the Black course, while the girls watched from the safety of the ground. Actually they spent more time on the ground than they did in a tree....what a waste!! So we finished the Black course and the only thing left to do before our time run out was the big long zip line.  Once that was done Eddie and I went off to do the purple run once more before our time was up.  When we got back we could hear an unfamiliar but blissful sound of another aussie voice in the group,  it had to be Mike.....sure was, we had a good chat with him, passed on our thanks and left......as you do!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I am Back

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.....it has been MONTHS since my last blog entry. I blame this on the fact that:

a) We had such a great time with our family and friends who visited from Australia that I lapsed into a month-long sulking session upon their departure.....and;
b) The weather has been so bloody cold and I was OVER IT and I'll admit it....I had a bit of a bad attitude.

Toronto weather has a way of playing with your emotions. You get a warm-ish day and you think, "oh great, the winter has passed!” You get all excited, dust off the bikes and put away the winter jackets. Then you suddenly get three days of below 5 degrees! I can't handle these weather-games. I well and truly had a case of the winter-blues and Troy will tell you that at times, I was a little difficult to handle. I was prepared for the cold winter, but I was not prepared for how long the winter is. But I survived!

The good news is that Bob tells me that I really can say that winter is over and the warmer weather is approaching. Today was a particularly beautiful day and so we planted new flowers. I have really missed my gardening and flowers, so this small event really cheered me up.

I have finally uploaded a load of photos onto Kodak Gallery for you to all enjoy. We had many adventures when Yvonne, Graeme, Margaret & Roger were here. Here is a summary:

Niagara Falls

We spent two nights at Niagara on the lake which is a gorgeous, quaint little village just outside of Niagara Falls. The weather was a bit rainy on the day that we went to the falls, but we made the most of it. Roger was particularly interested in an environmental disaster called the "love canal" which occurred in Buffalo (which borders the USA/CAN border and right on the falls), so we made a trip across the border to see this historical site. We almost didn't make it as the USA Homeland Security officer was a little dubious when he asked us why we were coming into the USA and Troy politely informed him "oh to go see an environmental disaster area"! We have had to cross the border a few times now and it's never easy or straight forward.

We were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful snowfall over night in Niagara which made the last day really picturesque.

Blue Mountain Skiing

Jamie, Scott and Bob (from Toronto Fire) invited us all to Blue Mountain for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The weather was glorious and Yvonne & Graeme decided to give skiing a shot. With borrowed gear, they hit to bunny-hill (learner area) for some instruction from Troy, Bob, Jamie and Scott. Their first attempts were a bit scary but they were able to accomplish the basics by the end of the day. Margaret, Roger and I were spectators for the day and spent most of the time laughing and taking photos. We were amazed that Graeme (whilst under instruction himself and clearly lacking any real skill so early in the day), decided to then give Yvonne some constructive instruction! ha ha. At one point, they both nearly skied off the side of the bunny hill and later on, Graeme ran into few people. I hope we will be allowed back again, someday.

Of course, Jack was completely bored on the bunny hill and so Bob, Jamie & Scott took him over to the 'real slopes' to do some runs. Jack was thrilled to be skiing by himself with the big boys and they ended up taking him all the way up to the larger mountain and across to the other village. Jack kept up with them well and had a great time.

The Canadian Rocky Mountains - Banff, Canmore & Lake Louise

What an unbelievable trip of a lifetime. We all flew to Calgary and then hired a minivan to take us all to Canmore, which is a small town next to Banff. Yvonne and Graeme managed to get in contact with a friend who used to live in Australia and he moved to Canada about 30 years ago. We met up with him and his partner Lyn and he played tour guide/host for us, showing us the lovely sights of Canmore. We ventured into Banff briefly but quickly decided that Canmore was just as pretty and much less touristy – so we decided to spend all our time in Canmore from that point on. We did a dog sled tour through the Canmore Mountains and lakes. It was so much fun – there are two people per sled (three for Troy, Jack and me) and you get a lesson at the beginning of the tour on how to handle the dogs and sled. We learnt how to give the appropriate commands to the dogs to let them know when to go/stop/encourage etc. Troy did the majority of the driving but Jack and I did actually get out and have a turn which was amazing. Roger said it was the first time that Margaret has ever been the ‘back seat driver’ from the front (of the sled).

We were fortunate enough to see some real life Elk in Canmore but unfortunately, I am still on the hunt for moose.

Lake Louise is a small village about an hour away from Canmore and we stayed two nights at the Chateau Lake Louise which is one of the most gorgeous hotels I have ever seen. It had about 5 restaurants, many sweeping staircases and shops. I was pleased to see it had an in-house dog that was on their staff, whose job was to cheer people up. Canadian establishments are very dog-friendly and you can often take them into shops, hotels etc. Even as carry-on on the plane!

We had a day of skiing at the famous Lake Louise Ski Village. This time, Troy, Jack, Graeme and I skied and Yvonne, Margaret & Roger played spectator. The weather was glorious and the snow conditions were perfect. By the end of the day, Graeme had mastered the learner hill and was able to stop, go, turn and have control the entire most of the time. I had to admit that the slopes at Lake Louise were a little too advanced for me but Troy and Jack had heaps of fun. Jack also showed off his ‘skiing backwards’ skills.

Maple Syrup production

Bob has some good friends, Gord and Kathy who live about 90mins from Toronto and own a small Maple Tree forest. Maple Syrup is produced only once per year (season is only 4-8wks long) and the timing was perfect for them to invite us to come and see how the syrup is collected/produced. Before this, I just assumed that Maple syrup was made in a big vat in a factory, all year round. Well we quickly learnt that the reason REAL maple syrup is costly is because it is an extremely labour intensive process!

Gord and Kathy live in a homestead that they have lovingly restored. When we arrived, Gord took us all over to the Maple trees and showed us how the trees are ‘tapped’ to allow the sap from the tree to be collected. This sap is then boiled for a long, long time and I think the ratio of sap to syrup is 40/1. So 40 litres of sap will give you approx one litre of syrup! Gord was very knowledgeable and gave us all some of his syrup to take home. It is the best maple syrup I have ever tasted and I realised I have been eating the imitation crap for years.

Kathy and Gord put on a beautiful brunch for us all which was unexpected and a lovely surprise.

Cemetery Visit

In 1944, Yvonne’s uncle (on her father’s side) was killed when the plane he was flying on an instructional exercise crashed into a farmyard in Trenton, which is about 90mins from Toronto. We discovered that 21st March was the 67th anniversary of his death and we would visit his grave in the Air Force Cemetery on this day. A gentleman who purchased the farm in the 90’s did some historical research and learnt about the crash, so he traced the family and sent a letter to Yvonne’s family some years ago. He provided all the information he was able to learn about the crash and where Yvonne’s uncle was buried etc. We were able to meet up with his gentleman, Michael and thank him for his efforts. At the Trenton Cemetery, we were able to visit the grave and pay our respects. Jack shared his Australian flags by decorating the headstone with them. We also found one other Royal Australian Air Force grave and took photos of it (Jack also decorated this headstone with the flags). We hope to try to trace his family in Australia and pass on the photos etc.

Quebec City

We flew to Quebec City and enjoyed five days in this very historical place. It had a real European feel to it and I quickly remembered how isolating it is to be in an area where you don’t speak their language. Troy had to try to remember some of his high school French and we were relieved to find out that most people in Quebec City speak both French and English. Phew. We stayed in the ‘Old’ part of Quebec City which is obviously the most historical part. We were within walking distance to almost everything and we spent most of our time wandering the streets. We visited the museum and also took a city tour, which was fascinating. On one of the days, we visited the Ice Hotel which is completely made of ice. I still can’t get my head around the fact that people actually pay to stay there! The skill involved in making the hotel, with all the lovely ice carvings etc was a great sight to see. There was even a giant ice slippery slide in the middle of the hotel, which we all tried out.

Well, that is the majority of the adventures we had with our family and friends when they visited us for five weeks. With heavy hearts, we said our farewells.....all us trying to be brave and remind ourselves that we will be back on Australia very soon!

Some photos of our adventure can be found on the following link:
They are not in sequence though.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fishing Trip in Florida

Hey Peoples,

So Erin is feeling a bit unloved lately.  A week before Easter I was a last minute call up for a Hockey Tournament in Ottawa.  So off I went, leaving my 2 babies at home, and played in a B grade Firefighter Hockey Tournament.  I was way out of my league, especially in attack, but without the extra number it would have been too hard for them to keep going for a whole game.  I wasn't totally useless, and I got better as the comp went on.  We were unbeaten going into the final but we lost the final :(   Hockey has dried up now though, there is no more Toronto Fire shift hockey, I may play once a week in a summer competition until I leave though. 

On Easter Sunday, Pat and Melissa invited us over to their place for a brekky and then we went over to Centre Island for an Easter Hunt thingy that the City put on over there.  We didn't know about the Island trip until we got to Pat and Melissa's house, so there are no photos.  Jack had fun, there were train rides and egg hunts and a bunch of other things I can't think of at the moment.

That night I got a phone call from a guy.  Turns out I had won a spot on a fishing vessel for a competition that I entered on the internet.  It's a TV show about fishing.  There is 2 fishos who bought a $15000 cruiser boat and fitted it out with fishing gear and then enter into fishing competitions and go up against million dollar boats and professional fishing crews and they document their journey, each competition they enter into, they pick 2 unknowns which they call wildcards(thats me) and try to make a go of it.

That's awesome!!  The only problem for me now is motion sickness!! Because I get motion sickness just sitting in my pool!!! (Not really, but pretty close).  Erin says to me go for it.....but deep down she wants to smother me in my sleep.  I don't know if it was me going away again by myself or whether it was the warm 28-30 degree weather I was going to enjoy.  Actually I lie, I am pretty sure it was the weather thing.

Alright then I'm in!! I just really hope I don't get sick!! although that will give them something to film.  The other wildcard was a girl.  We caught 5 Dolphin fish and 4 Tuna all up.  Had a net caught in a prop and an engine play up in 2 seperate days and both 50 miles out at sea.  Luckily it was a twin engine boat but still would have been a long trip home if we didn't rectify the problems.

 10m Boat that they picked up for 15 grand originally and then spent about that again to fit out.
It has a double bed and kitchen in the front of it!

 That's the other Wildcard in red.
Camera man
 The first days catch - Dolphin fish
 South Miami
 There were 5 plus boats that had 4 engines accross the back
We had 2 inboard engines and we went through $1100 worth of fuel over the 2 days!!
Certainly not a poor mans game!
Competition day catch, none were big enough to weigh in.  Winners took away $21000 in prize money.  I lost my left shoe in the water 50 miles out.  My favourite pair they were.

So did I get sick?? NO but I was on motion sickness tablets for 3 days straight, non stop, and now I have a hang over of sorts coming off the high. hahahaha

The weather in Florida was exactly like home, Everyone except me was Canadian and thought it was Mad hot, but I was eating it up.  If Erin reads this, it might just be the last breath I breathe, for she is SOOOOOOOO over the cold!!!

Canada has 2 official languages - French and English.  Well USA should have 2 official languages too - Spanish and English.  I thought maybe it was just Miami, but even in Chicago there were heaps of Spanish speaking persons.

Not long now and we will be back on home soil!!
Until then