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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!