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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

November 27th, 2008 by Raj

For my second to last weekend in fair-ole-Canada-land I was treated well beyond my wildest dreams. Joined by an all Aussie crew consisting of Andrew “Sweet Cheeks” Dansie, Dave “El Presidente” Smithson and Aimee “Technically American” Wagner we embarked on adventure into the now frequented cottage country district of Muskoka ending up in the appropriately named destination of “Port Sydney“.

Clambering into Sweet Cheek’s new Jeep (after losing it in the Airport carpark for 20 minutes) we were off, cruising down Highway 27 taking in the beauty of pitch black darkness as you become accustom to blanketing the sky after 4pm. To relieve the boredom of it all the heavens opened with a flurry of snow dancing in the glow of freshly installed headlight globes.

Once arriving at the now snow clad cottage, three hours after our originally predicted ETA, there wasn’t a great deal of activity beyond alcohol and sleep to make clear mention of. We had a constant light dusting of snow falling throughout our stay that was just beautiful, a lot of my time I spent staring out the window and watching the flakes fall against the glass amazed at their intricacy in random design. There was one brief parade of enthusiasm, it involved a snowball fight on the side of Highway 11 in front of the gates to the closed national park we were kicked out of (if it’s closed for winter lock the fucking gates you idiots), but after 15 minutes of running around in 0 degree weather your lungs start to burn just a tad, well ours did anyway, and besides there was more alcohol to consume back at the cottage.

Unfortunately for me alcohol still isn’t going down the best since my little hospital stay. I did luckily managed to consume one of El Presidente’s fine Mojito’s made with the skill and precision only that of a true “muddler” master could achieve. It’s a shame they tasted like crap without the sugar added but that wasn’t his fault ;) My lack of alcohol consumption did however mean that I was the only half sober one in the place, thus automatically delegating me as the cottage’s personal chef for the weekend. Over the two and a half days we were there I managed to cook 3 T-bone steaks, 20 marinated chicken drumsticks, chocolate chip cookies, and 6 egg, bacon & tomato muffins each to the individuals personal preference. Hmmm, maybe I should start The Cooking Show back up again!

Put it down to good friends, hospital stays or the miraculous beauty of a snow kissed scenery but with only one weekend left in North America it’s going to be very hard to top this one! Thanks guys!

You can see all the photos here.

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I’m coming home!

November 21st, 2008 by Raj

Just as the first snow begins to fall in Toronto I am making a sooner than expected departure. In less than two weeks (December 4th) I will be boarding a plane and heading home to Melbourne.

Unfortunately the return will signal the end to my “Canadian Tales” adventure, which in turn has been cut short as a result of my recent hospital stint.

A lot of people have asked if I’m going home simply because of what happened and whilst it was a terrible ordeal the act itself is not the reason but it does construct the basis. The healing fractures in my skull require further medical attention with specialists that I can simply not afford here in Canada, the one in my eye socket especially as it may require surgery to prevent any eye damage.

I am regretful that I wont be staying longer, especially now that I’ve seen the city under a blanket of snow – it’s a magical sight and I’ve now decided that I simply must have a white Christmas in years to come. That said seeing my family after seven months over here is going to be the best Christmas present I could ask for.

See you all in Australia December 6th!

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Pure Pwnage Premier Video (from August)

November 20th, 2008 by Raj

It may have been way back in early August but it took the Pure Pwnage peeps 3 months to upload the video from the event and then another month for me to realize the thing even existed! Whoops.

Oh well better late than never they say. Check it out below and listen out for my almighty roar when they ask if anyone from Australia made it. Believe it or not that is my voice screaming “yeaaaaah”.

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The Toronto Christmas Pageant

November 18th, 2008 by Raj

OK, so I’m a big kid… what did I do with my last day before returning to work? I stood out in the freezing cold *snowing* weather and watched the Toronto Christmas Pageant. It did happen to being going along the street in front of my apartment building which may have had something to do with me actually braving the elements to watch but truth be told I just wanted to enjoy myself and be a kid again.

I must admit I was slightly disappointed by the quality of floats. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen a pageant in about ten years or so but I remember the one in Adelaide to be far more impressive. Sorry T.dot you lose this one!

Flickr set here.

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The Hospital Stay – Indians

November 16th, 2008 by Raj

In case you’re wondering what this series of posts is in regards to I had a recent stint in a Seattle hospital after being assaulted. Details on the “why, what, when, how” here.

OK everyone prepare yourself I’m about to shock you; nope, blow your minds even! Hang on, no, even better, I’m about to turn your world upside down bitches! Are you ready? Are you sure? OK, here goes… 3… 2… 1… I’m an Indian. There, I said it. Well, no, that’s a lie, I’m half Indian, and no it’s not “Woa, woa, woa” Native American Indian, I am in fact half curry-munching-bad-BO-thank-you-very-much-come-again Indian. Can you believe it?!

I’m surprised more people don’t figure it out for themselves to be honest. I mean my name is “Raj” after all but then again my skin is about as dark as an extremely over-milked cup of tea. You know, that brown that kind of sits in between blood-nut white and tanning-salon-addict orange. The point is I get mistaken for pretty much every other nationality besides Indian. Italian, Spanish, French, Cuban, fuck I’ve even had Thai and Chinese! In most cases I’ll generally respond with a correction of “Nah mate I’m `stral-yan” (Not really, I speak the Queen’s English) not actually letting them in on the fact that I’m also part Indian.

Now there’s plenty of reasons that this is probably the case, the biggest of which is that I was never brought up with a great exposure to an Indian culture, but if I’m to be honest with myself one of the real reasons is more likely to be that I’m a bit ashamed. Indian’s don’t get the best rap when it comes to social acceptance in Western culture. They smell, they take our call centre jobs, they drive our cabs, their heads wobble as they talk, etc, etc, the list goes on.

It took the shit kicking of a lifetime for me to re-evaluate my own perception of Indians but I’m glad it came about. Whilst in hospital in Seattle I had three different Indian nurses, two male, one female. One of them in particular “Vic” was there from day one, he would come in every couple of hours and check my sugar level, empty my urinals and then leave again as quickly as he had arrived. It was like clockwork, he was never late, he never pried, he was always professional and proud of what he was doing. I would watch him come in and perform the routine meticulously time and time again until on the third day, when my senses had begun to return, I finally asked him his name and where he was from. After a brief conversation, one that is almost identical to every conversation I have with a newly met Indian; “I’m half Indian”, “No, Dad’s Indian”, “He’s Punjabi”, and finally “No I don’t speak Hindi”, Vic left and we barely spoke another word until it was my day to leave and we said goodbye and good luck.

What amazed me most about Vic was just how professionally he went about everything. He wasn’t being a snob he knew that I didn’t want to talk, he just went about what he had to do and did it with the upmost of attention and decorum. It took me a while, but when I thought about it the majority of Indians I’ve encountered in their workplace did the same. They work hard, they do jobs no one else wants to (I mean the guy was emptying my piss into a toilet for Christ’s sake) and they do it proudly as best they can. Vic’s work demeanor made me proud to be Indian, made me feel almost guilty that I, at times, can be a pre-madonna when it comes to working matters and most importantly made me want to be better. It was much needed inspiration.

Professional pride is however only half of the story because what happened after that first conversation is more of the amazing culture that is India. You see, once it was established that I was of Indian blood the grapevine did a’flutter. Eevery Indian within a 50km radius knew of my situation within a matter of minutes. By the end of the day I’d met three more Indian nurses and by the next day I had my Dad’s extended family calling me to take me in as soon as I returned to Toronto. I swear the gay rumour network stole their schematics from the Indians, either that or they outsourced its construction to them!

Indian’s accept any as their own, if you’re Indian you are family. My Mum and I were talking about this the other day because of how confusing it makes things when you’re actually trying to figure out who’s a blood relative and who isn’t. For example, every Indian male I meet who is friend of my father is my “uncle” and any Indian I meet of my generation is my “brother”. They have an unbelievable sense of family, something I’ve unknowingly inherited in the way I always put family before anything, but never really understood how passionately I do so as what I believe to be a result of my Indian genetics.

Hospital was an eye opener on my heritage. I’m not about to whack on a turban and migrate to “the homeland”, that’s not what I’m getting at all, but the next time someone asks me about my background that silly feeling of shame isn’t going to be there any more.

P.S. I’m not just saying all this because Indian beat Australia in the cricket either :)

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The Hospital Stay – Soul Searching

November 14th, 2008 by Raj

In case you’re wondering what this series of posts is in regards to I had a recent stint in a Seattle hospital after being assaulted. Details on the “why, what, when, how” here.

If it’s a soul searching environment you’re after then do I have the solution for you. It’s really not that hard at all to set up the ideal surroundings required to bare your inner thoughts to some conscious daylight. All you’ll need to get you started are a couple of things…

  1. Damaged eyesight. Anything that’s going to stop you from seeing a TV and reading a book.
  2. A short hospital stay. I’d recommend a minimum of a three day stay, you want it to be long enough that you get really bored, yet not too long that you’ve recovered enough walk about the place.
  3. To be in another country. This one’s pretty important. Try and pick a country that you know absolutely no one and is far enough away from everyone you know that you’ll get no visitors but has a health care system that’s actually going to fix you.
  4. Travel Insurance. Hospital stays aren’t cheap in foreign countries.

Well those are the four elements that did it for me anyway. I’ve been in hospital plenty of times before but this time was a very, very different story. Never before have I spent so much time analyzing not only the immediate events of my life but every moment before it that had led to where I am now.

Hospital felt, as best as I could imagine, to be akin to solitary confinement. The only solace was food, even if for the majority of my stay that was liquids it was the only thing to break up the day. I couldn’t even hide in slumber, my dreams filled with flashbacks and nightmares resulting in me constantly waking covered in cold sweat, heart racing and barely able to breath. There was nowhere for me to hide and only one thing I could do; think.

Now I’ve looked in the mirror and stared back at the reflection with a pondering gaze many a time before but staring into the infinite space of darkness with only your mind to keep you company for hours at a time is another kettle of fish entirely. There’s lots of things that begin to swirl around, “Why am I alone?”, “What’s the point of it all?”, “Life after death?”, or just “Why?” but when it all comes down to it what I dwelled on most was me or to be more exact “If I was to take a good hard look at my soul would I like what I see?”

To be honest I’m still not sure if I have an answer. Of course I, like everyone else, has moments in their past they’re not particularly proud of but do they make me a bad person? Perhaps. They make me feel like they do at times but then I feel as though I have a lot of redeeming qualities too. It’s not an easy, nor fun thing to do, question one’s existence and morality in the world but it is one of the top 5 “Things to do in hospital whilst blind and incapacitated” list I just now made up.

I guess the only real conclusions surmounted after jumping into the rabbit hole were that there are things I’m not happy about. Be those general things in my life, work or relationships there are elements in each that I need to change. Maybe this whole adventure was life’s strange way of getting me to wake up and smell the roses, lord knows I could’ve done with a kick in the butt. Message received.

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I’m OK. [Updated 15/11/08]

November 8th, 2008 by Raj

I’m going to keep this brief because it’s hard to look at a computer screen at the moment…

For those who don’t know I’ve been in hospital in Seattle since last Saturday morning, the 1st of November. I’ve just been released today and am flying back to Toronto tomorrow morning.

I was admitted to hospital after being attacked by a group of random guys who were harassing a friend of mine that I was trying to help get into a cab. The attack was completely unprovoked and unwarranted. I was not drunk, nor do I remember what happened after the first punch crushed my glasses into my eye.

The result of the attack left me with a fracture in my nose and another in the lower left portion of my orbital socket. Neither appear to be serious but I am required to follow up with specialists to rule out corrective surgery at a later date.

After spending the night in the ER I was released but due to the concussion, drugs, swollen eye, the constant nausea from cat-scan dye, etc my sugar levels were drastically screwed and I was in no condition to fix them resulting in an attack of Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) to which I was then readmitted 12 hours later and spent the next 5 days recovering from.

As scary as all that sounds, I’m OK. I’m very lucky and very thankful to the nursing staff of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. I’m not even close to 100% of my normal self and my vision is still slightly blurred but it will hopefully have no permanent damage. My nose is not knocked out of alignment nor am I hideously disfigured but I do have some rather deep bruising and cuts about the place.

I’m sorry if I’ve had anyone worried but being out of contact but this is the first chance I’ve had to be in touch with anyone beyond family.

Update – 13/11/08
A few common questions have come up in regards to what happened so I thought I’d just update you all here…

I have no idea how many people were actually punching me, all I can remember is that there were 5 of them there and at least one was punching my face.

There was little to no chance of the police finding the attackers and they were quite upfront in telling me this. A fact I completely understand being it was Halloween and there were thousands of people on the street.

I will be returning to Australia sooner than expected. Most likely early December but this is yet to be confirmed.

Update – 15/11/08
Day 271Here’s a photo of my damaged eye as of today. As you can see it’s healing nicely and the bruising has almost gone. You can click on the image to load it up in Flickr which will point out the two fracture points as they’re hard to see with the naked eye.

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Vancouver: Am I living in the wrong city?!

October 31st, 2008 by Raj

In a recent poll of human beings we asked “When you think of Raj and viewing scenery what is the first thing that comes to mind?” In almost all cases the response was an overwhelming “He has about as much interest in viewing the elements of nature as I do in eating the fecal matter of giraffe.” A strange analogy to be made by just one person (you would think) yet it was recited by almost 99% of the forty three million and twenty eight people interviewed. Odd.

Anyway, I speak of Giraffe feces with good reason as I will now astonish you all by saying just how breathtakingly beautiful Vancouver is. Of course this is now almost inconceivably absurd for you to comprehend as I’ve pre-cursed the statement by highlighting my deep rooted inability to find beauty in nature. Ergo Vancouver is so amazingly astonishing that your head has just exploded to leave the stump of your spine poking out from your clothing akin to something out of the most recent Rambo film.

I’m not really sure how I’ve gone from one of the most picturesque heavenly places I’ve ever visited in the world to the blood splattering exploits of Rambo but I’m pretty impressed with myself (again).

I’d heard different things about Vancouver, some said it similar to Sydney whilst Toronto was more like Melbourne and then others had said the complete opposite. I can see where both arguments come from but the truth of it is there is nothing like it in Australia. Vancouver city is laid out in a nice logical grid format and is on a slight hill very similar to Melbourne but then cuddling the metropolis are numerous mountain ranges akin to Sydney’s Blue Ranges but in much closer proximity in that they’re viewable from almost anywhere. Apparently it rains in Vancouver a lot, another great feature of Melbourne (well in years gone by anyway), but it is also one of the warmest cities in Canada with the mercury very rarely falling below zero even throughout winter, a meteorological trait sadly not shared with Toronto.

I haven’t spent enough time in Vancouver to really tell you anything beyond the majestic beauty of the place but, as mentioned earlier, for me to be so amazed by it; well that has to count for something! Next time I’ll just have to delve a little deeper into the other aspects, get into the nitty gritty so to speak but this is Canada, it’s not like the people are going to wind up being assholes or anything! It more depends on if they let you buy alcohol after 2am (unlike Toronto)!

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Improv Everywhere – The MP3 Experiment, Toronto

October 21st, 2008 by Raj

A few weekends ago I participated in Improv Everywhere’s MP3 Experiment Tour. For those of you who haven’t heard of Improv Everywhere they’re the peeps behind the extremely popular Frozen Grand Central video that did the email rounds last year.

The MP3 Experiment Tour was slightly different from their normal pranks in that anyone who’s ever visited their website and lives in one of the four cities it was organized in can join in. All you had to do was download a provide MP3, wear a coloured t-shirt (red, yellow, blue or green), bring an umbrella and a balloon to Toronto’s Riverdale East Park and at 2pm exactly press play and await instructions.

It was pretty cool fun, there were well over 200 hundred people there who had never met and thoroughly enjoying one of Toronto’s last sunny weekends. The guys playing soccer in the same park got a bit pissy, but everyone else had a blast.

Below is their edited final video, including shots from the circling helicopter that was keeping an eye on us for the 45 minutes or so. One of the coolest parts was humming with everyone huddled under our umbrellas. The video doesn’t do it justice but when you were in the mix, so to speak, it was eerily haunting to experience.

I’ve also got a couple of videos from my small digital camera…

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The AFL Grand Final Toronto Dingos style

September 28th, 2008 by Raj

Image by \"bootload\" @ flickr

Last night I attended the Toronto Downtown Dingo’s AFL Grand Final party at the Sports Centre Cafe, an annual event organized by one of the local Ontario Australian Football League (OAFL) clubs. Surprisingly there is actually a full league here in Ontario made up of of ten teams, some of which pilfer names and logos from Australian cousins, The Ottawa Swans for example, while others conceptualizing their own colours like the Guelph Gargoyles.

This is my third grand final in a different country in as many years, last year I was in London, the year before that in Paris and whilst each year I’ve been surrounded by Aussie brethren, and the past two finals have been absolute nail-bitter games, this year’s Canadian round takes the cake. It’s not that there were more people at said event, not even close, but this year was the most fun.

At all three of my O/S grand final appearances I’ve been flying solo and going by prior experience I assumed the night to run as it had previously; a few too many beers, some idle banter between unknown punters and the unusually warm feeling of being surrounded by like accents but this time round was a level above and beyond. There was no option for solidarity last night, should anyone have looked to be alone they were quickly met with a smile and familiar “`ow ya doin’ mate?” to the point that I actually missed the entire 3rd quarter chatting with a couple of blokes from Perth & Melbourne, one of which freakishly lived about two blocks from my old apartment in Kensington!

As a now self appointed “veteran” of overseas grand final parties there’s one element common to them all that I feel every Australian needs to experience at least once. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an AFL Grand Final, nor does it need to be in a particular country (well as long as it’s outside of Australia), pick any major Aussie sporting event to attend at any particular bar, pub, or even house that will contain a majority share of Australian persons, stand proudly and sing our country’s anthem with the upmost gusto spurred on by the chorus of fellow ex-pats. Maybe I’m just a sentimental, slightly graying, late 20 year old but that experience alone makes you truly honoured to be an Australian.

Oh and as for the game. Meh. Hawthorn won, I honestly couldn’t have given two hoots who won. Good on ’em I suppose? Next up; find a place to watch the NRL final. Ca’an the Storm!

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