Saturday, February 23, 2013

Halfway!

Since I am at the halfway point I thought I'd give you all a wee update! Not actually been up to anything incredibly exciting, hence the lack of updates, but I have some big plans in the works!


Believe it or not I am halfway through my semester here at Guelph! Only 8 weeks of textbooks left before I can say I complete my Canadian training. I am already finding snow as boring as concrete and I have developed an addiction to Timmy's but don't worry my accent hasn't changed, I don't think.

This week has been reading week and most people went off to do something exciting around Canada as they are actually leaving once term ends. I am staying here until the beginning of June so I didn't need to cram anything in. To be honest my main reasons for staying here was a lack of money and laryngitis. I had the joy of visiting the doctor here, I was going about my conjunctivits but because I coughed in the queue a woman thrust a face mask upon me and covered me in sanitising gel. After all that my insurance didn't cover my eye drops. Bye bye $40!

Buses stil run, even on snowdays!

The week before reading week was one of my busiest weeks of the whole semester. We'll start with the three midterms. I started with my anthropology midterm which was a nice warm up as it is a first year class and was essentially 100 multiple choice questions and I ended up getting 95 of them right. The next day was my Principles of Disease midterm which is  my favourite class here so I wasn't too worried as it was again multiple choice and 96% later told me I really should not have gone down the ecology route of biology... This was further enhanced by the exam for Conservation Biology which is one of the three modules I HAVE to take here to correspond to those back in Dundee. Lets just say I haven't got the results for that one yet and after one nights revision I don't really want them back... After I was done with the midterms I had to work on a hand-in for my Community Ecology class, which is again a compulsory class and is also horrible. It was essentially all statistical problems and is probably the worst piece of work I have ever handed in but by this point I was so drained. The Canadians don't pity you with time off to do work! However, to finish off my horrendous week I had to lead a tutorial with my lovely group in Evolutionary Ecology (compulsory but not that bad because we don't have exams) and I was relieved to be the resident "mussel expert", thanks Dad!

Snow up to my knees!
In comparison to most people's my reading week has been very quiet but I've got some work done as well as sorted out my plans to the coming months. I think I needed the week to just sleep but unfortunately I have slipped back into my night owl ways, it's strange talking to you guys when it's 7am at home and doesn't help me with going to bed! Our reading week actually started with a Canadian snow day! Everyone I've met here has said that they've maybe had one over 4 years so I wasn't expecting one at all! Thanks to snow storm Nemo we had so much snow that I was wading through it(save the small jokes please!).

Yup, they are on skis on campus.
The Cannon
So, onto the exciting stuff! Reading week has given me time to plan some exciting trips and experiences: To end off this month I am getting curling lessons along with some of my other International pals, who knows maybe I'll be the new Rhona Martin. March is my last full month in Guelph so I want to see and do as much as my deadlines and revision will allow me! For example in the first week of March I am going to tick of several Canadian traditions. The first is one that is specific to the University of Guelph, at the centre of campus there is a disused cannon and almost every night students will paint it overnight and often produce some impressive designs! Anyway on the 6th March the international students are arming them selves with paintbrushes and potentially glitter to see what we can come up with!  That weekend is also proving to be quite exciting. On Friday 8th I'll be heading to watch my first ice hockey match which will be between local team Guelph Storm and the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, Saturday 9th is the College Royal Ball which is my first formal event ever (I'm not classing BSES Annual ball because I was nowhere NEAR classy!) and we are all going as an international posse and the next morning my hangover will be treated by a trip to a maple syrup factory/plantation place at Westfield historical village that is on KIRKWALL ROAD (Apparently there is an Orkney Road nearby too! I see a photo opportunity here!) and will hopefully include many tasting opportunities! The next weekend I am hoping everyone will be in Irish spirits to celebrate St. Paddys day but I am still not 100% sure what the events in Guelph are like. Either way I have bought a "Kiss Me, I'm 1/8 Irish" T-shirt!
My OCD travel planning

After that the deadlines build up all over again before they let us off for a weekend before exams. However after exams is when the real fun will begin. I was up last night booking flights and trains and I now have a vague idea of where I am going after studying. The fun starts on the evening after my last exam when I am going to head through to Toronto and see Fleetwood Mac live at the Air Canada Centre! I think that's a pretty good celebration of exams being over! I'll spend a few days in Toronto going up the CN tower as well as getting interviewed at the US embassy for my visa for a later part of the trip. I'll go back to Guelph to join in on the farewell parties and probably cry my eyes out in the process before heading onto a 5 hour flight to Vancouver on the 23rd April. I'll be left to explore British Columbia and Alberta over 3-4 weeks so it will be quite a whistlestop tour but I'll hopefully tick off Vancouver Island, Banff, Lake Moraine and Jasper. On May 15th I'll fly back east to Ottawa and explore the capital before turning French in Quebec! I'll have 2 weeks in Quebec mainly exploring Quebec city and Montreal as well as eating my body weight in poutine and trying out my French. Around the 29th May, as long as I get my visa (it's complicated...), I will head down to that concrete jungle of New York City and stay with my cousin Esti as well as have an amazing 21st birthday! When I get to June I have 6 days to get to Toronto and I will probably spend this time with my lovely family before I head back to the UK and see your delightful faces!

So, if you've been wondering what I've been up to there you go. I told you it wouldn't be very exciting , but as you can see the coming weeks are going to offer much more exciting things!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Niagara Falls

The Canadian Side of the Falls
As my first excursion out-with Guelph it was only fair that I went to Canada's most famous landmark. The university chartered a trip out the day before but  my Great Aunt and Uncle offered to take me there free of charge. They picked me up at 11am and my Aunt Sandra gave me a Tupperware of Shepherds pie and some other food, a luxury I am not used to! As we set off the weather in Guelph was horrendous, it was blizzarding snow and my cautious family were a bit apprehensive but I had put my hope in the weather forecast being right and Niagara being sunny.

We made a stop at a Tim Hortons, which is a coffee chain which is probably equivalent to Costa or Starbucks back home but Timmy's is much bigger than Starbucks In Canada, in fact it's bigger than MacDonalds. Canadians are addicted to coffee; probably as an attempt to wake up but it's more likely an attempt to keep warm. Tim Hortons was named after a ice hockey player who set up the company but he died in a car crash and the crash site in en-route to Niagara falls.
The Town of Niagara Falls

One thing any visitor to the town of Niagara Falls will say one thing: it looks like a mini Las Vegas. Out of nowhere the town springs up full of neon lights, Ferris wheels, 50m high plastic dinosaurs and apparently there is a waterfall there too. In the Summer the streets are full of tourists and tour buses but at this time of year the town looks like deserted Disneyland.

The Skylon Tower


Niagara Falls has it's own mini CN tower called the Skylon tower and we went there for lunch. We thought we were heading to the revolving restaurant but after an hour of seeing the same view we realised that wasn't the case. The Brunch buffet was very nice and very posh and I felt horrendously under dressed as ever. Everywhere here seemed to be very fake, plastic and shamefully aimed at tourists. People came round taking your photo and coming back 10 minutes later with it photo-shopped onto a fake version of the falls. If I was going to need a photo of me photo-shopped in front of the falls then why would I have bothered coming all the way out here to get that? I don't get it but they seem to make money from it.

This one is not photoshopped!



From the tower you could see the whole falls, which is split into a Canadian side and an American side. Lets just say the Canadians lucked out there. The Canadian side has it's Vegas promenade and lavish casinos as well as the most spectacular part of the falls. The American side was much more industrial with industrial steam overshadowing their one or two flashing signs.

Some crazy frozen ice grass!
After a tasty lunch we headed town to the falls itself and you could appreciate it's size a bit more. The Maid of the Mist doesn't run in the Winter so we had to make do with walking along the falls and to be honest that is definitely enough to handle at these temperatures. The closer you got to the falls the colder it got and as the mist reached the ground it froze everything making it very icy but also creates some beautiful ice sculptures. You end up walking away soaked and you almost become an ice sculpture yourself. As much as I would have liked to have seen more of Niagara, it was so cold and I didn't want to take my poor Great Aunt hiking about in the cold.

It was great to see the falls up close without fighting for elbow space with some Japanese tourists but I may well come back in the summer to see more of this really strange town when it is in full season. I've never been a fan of the idea of the commercialised towns like Las Vagas, and now Niagara Falls, but there is something intriguing about the place; the fact it's real but seem so fake. Or I am just like a month to a flame, or should I say neon.
The American Side