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The end of a Canadian Tale

February 22nd, 2009 by Raj

Well ladies and gentlemans of “teh internets” (and yes I meant to write “gentlemans; grammar nazis), I don’t think there is any way I can possibly continue to draw out the chapter of my life that is the “Canadian Tales“. The time has come, one pregnancy term later, to dog-ear the page and put down the book for a well deserved kip.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done absolutely everything within my almighty skinny frame’s power to squeeze every last juicy drop from one poor carcass of an orange that now remains. For instance just one week ago I was once again extending my “working” holiday to the further reaches of Australia’s north, spending five days basking in the glorious humidity of a monsoon season’s grey sky in Port Douglas, Queensland with a friend.

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas

I couldn’t have asked for a better wind-down than the Sea Temple Resort in little old Pee-Dee (Port Douglas). The holiday destination was borderline a ghost town being the rain season and my days were spent lounging around the pool and drinking. There’s something called the Great Barrier Reef up there somewhere, it didn’t come with a free breakfast buffet and mango cocktails though so I can’t say I got to it. I know, I know, sacrilegious, but another day.

This is all fine and dandy but I guess I should get down to the crux of it, which is the fact that my little soirée into the land of Canuck is over and it’s time to get back to the harsh realities of a real life, a new job and living in Melbourne to which I’ve just resigned to for the next 12 months having signed a new lease.

Obviously I’m asked quite frequently on my opinion of both Canada and my personal adventure and I must say excluding its abrupt ending and the ongoing battle I’m having with my travel insurance company (that’s another post altogether), I had an incredible time! Yes I missed everyone dearly and yes I was homesick on more occasions than I care to remember but it was an experience that I’d never take back, if anything it did nothing more than spur on my interest in doing it again!

For those of you that have seen me since my return I think you’d agree that something’s changed upstairs in the old noggin’. I feel free, unencumbered if you will and enjoying life in all its roller costing glory. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been contracting and not confining myself to an office 9 to 5, 5 days a week but I think it has far more to do with my own growth and a sense of achievement in knowing that I can survive out there in the big bad scary world; even if it was only Canada and everyone speaks English. But enough with excerpts from my upcoming novel “I went to Canada and I came back a self-help guru” let’s talk highlights!

Snow: Canada was just amazingly beautiful! I could list of a hundred different locations that were just so breath-taking but nothing compares to the first time I walked out of the office at 6pm and felt that first snow flake gently float through the sky to rest on my cheek. Sure I’ve been to snowfields before but this was just so different. You didn’t have to drive three hours up a mountain to find it all I had to do was go outside and there it was. I used to sit in my bedroom and stare out the window at downtown Toronto and just watch the wind carry and swirl the white dots as it pleased. It was just magical and I crave to see it again.

New York: Sure it’s not even in Canada but it was just a 20 minute flight across the border and boy does that city steal my heart! Having a couple of Lincoln lads there doesn’t do you in any disservice either. There aren’t words to describe the magnitude that is New York City. There isn’t anything you couldn’t find in the city and yet ironically you couldn’t not find anything to do. The architecture is what truly steals my heart though and with each visit I make the journey to “Top of the Rock” to breath in the enormity of the city’s beauty.

The Moose: Whilst it may not seem like a huge deal there’s a lengthy story to go along with it that I’ll now condense into one sentence. I saw a moose whilst simply driving down the road while my kayaking friends, rather desperate in their search for fauna, paddled their hearts out for six hours and saw squat! I win!

I had a truly wonderful time living on the other side of the world and to those who are thinking of going to Canada be it for holiday or work I couldn’t recommend it more. Now that I’m home I miss Toronto much more than I thought I would and I’m resolved to return (albeit most likely in a tourist capacity) to explore areas I didn’t have the opportunity to see such as Montreal and Quebec if not that then to see another NHL game!

Thank you Canada, or more specifically Toronto (and Hamilton) you were very good to me. And thus ends the Canadian Tales.

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Frank Gehry’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

December 12th, 2008 by Raj

How would you spend your last full day in Canada before returning to Australia? Ice skating in Nathan Phillips Square? Watching ice hockey in a local bar? Randomly selecting strangers and asking them if they “know what it’s all a-boot?“. All great suggestions and worthy activities to keep one occupied during their last hours in Canadia-land but no, no, not for me; instead I took it as my opportunity to visit the newly redeveloped Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Why you might ask, well that’s just how I roll bitches.

In fact the real reason I wanted to visit the AGO before leaving Toronto has absolutely nothing to do with the art within it’s glass curved walls but rather for the walls themselves. You see the new building was designed by none other than everyone’s favourite architectural doodler Frank Gehry.

Gehry, who was born in Toronto, is one of the world’s most famous living architects. His signature curves provide breath taking aesthetics utilizing natural light as an almost catalytic emphasis upon them. His most well known piece of work, the Guggenheim Museum “Bilbao” , is in great company including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dancing House and Seattle’s Experience Music Project, which I have also just recently visited.

Immediately upon entering the AGO’s foyer you’re greeted with signature Gehry, a curved-maze-like ramp providing an unique version of access for the disabled or merely adventurous, leading you to the counters of ticketing agents guarding the gallery’s true core via an CAD$18 toll.

Just yonder of the AGO’s ticketing smurfs is an area of open space that has to be experienced first hand to appreciate completely. It’s just sex in architecture, there’s no other way to describe the open hall almost church like area, so vacant with it’s sparse Gehry designed furniture and three story high ceilings yet so warmly immersive as if held by it’s beech coloured wooden floors, spiral staircase and echoing acoustics.

With such an amazing beginning I must admit the remainder of the gallery was rather disappointing. I presume there are only so many ways you can make one square room after another different and the contrasting flat walls are a necessity for the artworks most effective display. For me there was really only one other area that was true Gehry genius and that was the buildings street fronting glass atrium (as seen in the picture above).

Running the length of a city block the upper floor of the AGO’s curved face is a composite of hefty serpentine styled wooden beams and their conforming glass sheets. The internal area itself is home to only a few large pieces of art yet it’s emotive atmospheric warmth is undeniably comforting even whilst only exposed to the darkest of nights beyond it’s half domed enclosure.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I was taken aback by this building or perhaps more so the mind and work of Frank Gehry. I’m a little bit of an architectural nut I must admit but I don’t think you need to be to truly appreciate the beauty of this building and even if you don’t find the structure exciting there’s always plenty of art scattered about the place, or so I’m told!

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My Toronto – A Video Tour (with Audio Commentary)

December 3rd, 2008 by Raj

As I rapidly approach the final days of my Canadian experience it occurred to me that I’ve not really shared a great deal of the “real” day-to-day Toronto with my internet peoples. So in a rather weak attempt to introduce you all to the digs I’ve called home for that past six months, I present to you “My Toronto” – A Video Tour (with Audio Commentary).

Just in case there are any of you out there that think this is actually serious; it’s a joke.

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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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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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One year ago today…

September 22nd, 2008 by Raj

Today marks one year exactly since whence I first happened upon Canadian borders as a part of my 2007 world trip. Being the sentimental old fool that I am I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion by reproducing a somewhat similar day to that of when I arrived.

While I didn’t go as far as renting a room in The Drake Hotel where I was staying last year I did mimic the morning’s activities by staying in bed until around midday before decided to head down Queen Street West to my original stomping grounds and retake the first Canadian based photo I took last year.

Click for the same shot taken in 2007

Click for 2007's shot

I distinctly remember walking from The Drake down to the Eaton Centre with the beaming sunshine (which seems to be increasingly absent this year), the then newly Foo Fighters’ album Echoes, Silence, Patience pumping away on my iPod, camera shutter fluttering at every corner and just soaking it all in. It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago and now here I am living in a city on the opposite side of the world, that’s not where I saw myself a year ago but here I am!!

Just to put everyone’s mind at ease I’m not developing any form of Canadian accent, unlike whenever I’m in England and I start talking like a Brit in about five seconds I seem impervious to North American accentual assimilation. There’s no “ey” added on to the end of random sentences either but I will conform to the localization of my nouns purely for ease of life. eg. washroom for toilet, or sweater for jumper. No, I’m still pretty “dinkim” for want of a better word, and I’ll be letting it be known when attending the Toronto Dingos AFL grand final party next Friday night!

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Fan Expo 2008

August 24th, 2008 by Raj

Otaku and Fanboy rejoice for the 14th annual Fan Expo Canada is in full swing at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre. Running from August 22nd through 24th the convention is covers gaming, comics, anime, horror and science fiction. This year the expo showcases over 600 exhibitors over an area of 220,000 square feet.

More photos here.

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