Wednesday, 30 September 2009

generic update #2

This is also about today.

Today, yesterday's dreary weather continued. I got up early, had breakfast, then subjected myself to the elements once again (thankfully the rain wasn't as bad and the bus arrived straight away). I arrived in Downtown dry once again, this time without the sense of smugness as everyone else was dry too.

I had an early morning World Music lecture, and though I hate to say it, the drones typical of Indian music didn't do much to help me stay awake. After the lecture, and nearly falling asleep a couple of times, I headed to Hart House to ring James, then to the ROM for some free browsing.

After revisiting the exhibits I covered a fortnight ago with a camera, I visited the Canada exhibit, and had a quick look through Dinosaurs, Mammals, Birds and the Bat Cave before heading out of the ROM and back to campus for a meeting with the Psychology Undergraduate Counselor.

The meeting went thus: I arrived at 2pm. I was advised that there was nothing I could do to solve my problem, apart from maybe talk to the college registrar. I left the meeting at 2.05pm, and headed to the college registrar (after visiting the ISXO to find out what college I'm actually enrolled in).

Once at my college, a lovely woman helped me as much as she could, fiddled with the computer system a bit, got someone to make a phonecall on my behalf, then told me there was nothing that could be done to solve my problem.


Basically, I'm enrolled on the wrong Psychology course. It's better to have found out now than when I return home, but it's still a bit of a polava. I'm in correspondence with home now to try and sort it out, so hopefully it won't mess things up too much!

Anyway, back to my day. I met James (randomly) in the library at around 3. We went to the UTSU building to get his October TTC pass, then to the bank so he could reimburse me $80 for aforementioned pass. Unfortunately it was closed, so I'm gonna have to send out the goons to collect my money tomorrow.

We then backtracked all the way back to Hart House with the intention of playing pool, but after sitting around like plums til the table's current occupants had finished, we found out you had to book in advance. Luckily the current occupants took pity on us and let us play doubles.

We lost.

Defeated, we wandered back to the ROM for a 20 minute look around before closing time (during which we went to the interactive exhibits (designed for kids) and goofed off). I resisted James' noodle offer, went to my late lecture, and got home around 10.30. After dinner (spag bol), American Dad, and Futurama, here I am.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

first view of Toronto

It's a bit late considering I've been here for 3 weeks nearly, but I've only recently acquired a camera. Below is a panoramic shot of the view that greeted me when I first arrived in Downtown Toronto (via subway):

Click it to make it bigger!

up the CN Tower

After a day of reading about vertigo and horror stories associated with high places, I met Alex, Neil, Ceara, Camille, Nora and James in the evening with the intention of climbing Toronto's colossal CN Tower.

After a brief run in with security at King Station (misunderstanding, managed to avoid an $80 fine though which was a nice touch), and with my stomach going over at the prospect of being high above the ground very soon, we walked along the Skyway from Union to the base of the CN Tower. We spent a long time there while people took photos (like the one below, courtesy of James), and then moved on.

The lobby was weird: it was empty and felt really surreal. Also there was a giant moose which is never a good sign. After taking photos with the giant moose, we got in the lift.

We got in the lift.

By this point I was shaking. The lift goes 118 stories in 58 seconds, I think, and that seems very fast. It's also made partly of glass, which I had no intention whatsoever of looking out of.

We went up.

And up.

And up some more.

Then hit the top.

On the way out of the lift, I looked down the little crack between it and the floor, and thought "holy shit". Some other people did, too, then we headed out.

Despite the initial terror, it wasn't that bad at the top. With a solid ground under your feet, and a psychological barrier blocking out the ~1000ft drop under the solid ground, it's quite a pleasant place to be. There were vending machines, toilets, and even a mailbox (which I feel is somewhat redundant).

I stayed indoors for the first few minutes, then sacked up and went on the outside viewing gallery. It was amazing out there; the views, the air, the wind (!) and the lights combined to make it really awesome.

The lights changed colour every few minutes though which was weird. It also buggered up photograph consistency.

James took some more pictures, which he kindly donated:

Now there's not really much else to say. We stayed til closing time, played with a broken telescope (trying to spot interesting things in people's windows), then got the lift back down. I looked out the windows on the way down, and the view was really nice. It wasn't terrifying any more.

The evening was closed with hot chocolate at Alex and Neil's. Good times.

generic update #1

This is about today.

Today was the worst weather I've seen in Toronto so far. I woke up to pounding rain and howling wind. I then felt a sense of gratitude that I was still in my warm bed, rolled over to go back to sleep, and was immediately woken up by my makeshift alarm clock (iPod).

How distressing.

I dragged myself up, opened the curtains, and cursed. This rain was on par with what I'd expect in England! I tried to consume breakfast and morning television with blissful ignorance to the torrential downpour taking place outside, but my vain attempt to ignore it for as long as possible before I had to go out in it didn't work: I knew what I was in for.

With this in mind, I made the best attempt at a matching outfit that would protect against the elements, and ended up in black jeans, a blue t-shirt and a burgundy hoody (although thankfully it didn't look as bad as it sounds). I went outside, and luckily, despite the previous over dramatisation, it was quite refreshing. I took a brisk walk (sprinted) to the bus stop, and inserted myself therein until the bus arrived shortly after.

The TTC orchestrated itself perfectly for me to make my journey to campus in relative dryness, and when I emerged from the subway to see myself surrounded by wetties despite the rain having stopped, I felt an enormous burst of smugness (remember this).

Most of the rest of the day passed without consequence, and I headed home at around 1pm due to a headache. The rain held off for the whole journey, until my left foot hit the ground upon departure from the bus. A few drops of rain quickly turned into the torrential downpour I mentioned earlier, and I was the moving epicenter. In the 2 minute walk from the bus stop to my apartment, I got completely drenched.

Good times.

Since then I've dried myself off, been to the shop to buy 2 packs of ham, a loaf of bread, and a packet of mince for $1 (60p?), responded to some emails, tried to whittle away at the things on my mind, and restored my laptop to it's former glory (I had to do a complete system reboot to get Google Chrome working again (the only alternative was IE!)). I'm now about to go to bed.

Good night all!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Keele friends

Before I came to Toronto, someone at Keele told the prospective exchange students about the "Keele Friend" scheme. Basically, you could request to be put in contact with an alumnus of Keele living in the city you were going to, and could then arrange as much or as little with them as you like.

From what I can tell, the scheme wasn't hugely popular. I don't know of anyone else on the study abroad module that requested one (but then again I didn't really ask). I took advantage of it, however: it seemed good for a few reasons, but mainly so I'd have someone to speak to if I was a complete social failure upon arrival.

I was put in contact with two alumni: a Canadian man named Stephen Silverheart who studied as a postgraduate at Keele in the 70s (I think), and Hugh Oliver, an English octogenarian who studied there shortly after it's conception in the '50s.

Stephen was kind enough to pick me up from the airport, and to significantly reduce the distance I had to lug my bags after getting off the plane. This was achieved through his (possibly) all access pass to the underbelly of the airport, which I think comes from his position at the GTAA.

I then made a total arse of myself in front of him by forgetting that cars are operated from the opposite side here, and missing two subtle hints of his to go to the other side of the car.

It wasn't until last Friday that I met the other Keele friend: Hugh Oliver (who has a Wikipedia page!). He's an amazing man. I mentioned before that he's an octogenarian; his 80th birthday was yesterday as a matter of fact, and in the last 5 years he's released 2 full length albums, as well as a plethora of literature (including some bestseller books) during the rest of his life.

Hugh's band, The Foolish Things, play at the TRANZAC club in Toronto every Friday (I think the ANZ in TRANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand, and there's a few boomerangs dotted around inside, but I'm not really sure of the connotations). Anyway, I was invited to the club to meet Hugh. I arrived and asked at the bar if he was there, and was pointed to the man sitting on the stool immediately next to me.

It seems like I'm destined to make an arse of myself in front of each Keele friend at least once.

After introductions, we spoke for a while about Keele, music, England and Canada in general, what I'd been up to since arriving, and various other things. It was really interesting getting an insight as to what Keele was like back then. Apparently Horwood (where I lived before) was around even then! The singer from Hugh's band (who's name I've forgotten... Jeez that's terrible!) arrived shortly after, and I was introduced to her too. She told me some interestingly gruesome murder stories she heard when she worked for the police, then went to sing some blues. Very surreal.

Over the course of the evening I was introduced to some more of Hugh's friends. They were all really nice people, and most of them were musical from what I could gather. A couple write and publish books, too, and tt was interesting to meet real people who'd done so.

The next day (Saturday) was Hugh's party, to which I was invited. It was held in his son's house, and I arrived slightly late after walking from James'. I went in, and only recognised about 10% of the people. After dumping my bag in the closet I tried desperately to find Hugh, before someone accused me of being a gatecrasher. Luckily I did so fairly soon: he was in the kitchen, where I greeted him and was introduced to some more people.

Two buffets were laid out, and both were excellent. I was introduced to a lot of Hugh's friends, some English, some professors at UofT, some family, but all really nice people. As the evening progressed there were speeches, musical performances (by Hugh's grandchildren, as well as Hugh himself), and a lot of interesting conversations.

I was given a life to Bathurst around 1am, and went home to bed. It was a really nice evening overall! I'll write about any other meetings with my Keele friends as and when they happen.