First of all, I’d just like to start off by saying sorry for being so slack with posting. I know I promised I’d post every fortnight and I haven’t since December 30th… oops! In all honesty, I’ve been caught up in trying to make the most of my last month here in Canada, and now I only have 9 days remaining! Crazy! But also very sad 😦 It has been a rollercoaster of emotions over this past month, and I doubt that’s going to change in the final days of this exchange. So I’ll give everyone a rundown on the good, the bad and the ugly over the month of January.
Let’s start with the good:
I started off the New Year in a very very positive way. I spent New Years Eve bowling and eating pizza with another girl from NZ, a Canadian, an Italian and a German. Pretty internationally diverse if you ask me. We had a great night dancing, singing very loudly and watching Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest until the clock struck 12. The next day I headed off to Toronto with my friend Tayla to spend a few days down there. We saw the CN tower, went to Ripley’s aquarium, shopped at the Eton Centre and wandered around downtown (my personal fave). I took a page out of Mum and Dad’s book and used my tour manager skills (with the help of google maps) to take us to China town, a fun cafe and Flight Centre. Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I did a pretty good job. On our last evening, Tayla’s host mum took us line dancing which is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but a great laugh. Tayla and I somehow ended up on stage demonstrating one of the dance for the other people there, all of which were wearing cowboy boots might I add. All in all a very enjoyable trip. Still, there was no time to rest and within 4 hours of getting back, we were on the road again to Evan’s hockey tournament in London. London Ontario, not London England. We watched a couple of hockey games, played an unhealthy amount of cards and went shopping at a nearby mall. Again, a very good trip and a great way to end my school holidays.
Now I know my parents, in particular, will be shocked by me saying this, but my next 3 weeks at school were really fun! Seriously! I don’t know if it was because my grades aren’t particularly important, I take enjoyable subjects or my friends and I were up to mischief but I really enjoyed my final weeks of school and spent 90% of the time laughing during class.
On the weekends, I kept myself very busy to try and tick everything off my final month bucket list, and I’m proud to say that every box has been checked, bar the one that says ‘eat more poutine’. I won’t bore you with a rundown on every single activity, but I will mention one, tobogganing Harrison Park. For those who don’t live in Owen Sound, Harrison Park has a huge, relatively steep hill which is a very popular toboggan spot. My friend Lexis and her host family took us with their 6 million different toboggans they have in their house. In a quick summary, Lexis and I went on the same one, from the highest point on the hill, and crashed just about every time. The adrenalin rush was with getting snow sprayed in my eyes for. IT WAS AWESOME.
Now on to the not so good…
I didn’t expect to come on this exchange to make friends as close as the ones I’ve made here and as you all know, the closer the friend, the harder the goodbye. Trust me when I say I’ve had to say some very hard goodbyes, and my exchange isn’t even over! Yesterday I had to say goodbye to some girls from Germany who I share classes with at school and they really made my whole school experience. What made it especially hard is the distance between our two countries and I personally, don’t find myself in Germany very often so probably won’t see them for a few years at least… very sad 😦 Today, I woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning to take my friends from Australia and New Zealand to the bus terminal to wave them off. These girls stuck with me from the very first day and were amazing people to talk to about the exchange as they could relate to me in a way no one else could. I also hung out with them just about every weekend so I don’t know what I’ll do this weekend?! I’m guaranteed to see them very very soon, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to cry at the bus terminal. However, going back to the good news, one of the girls actually goes to Westlake girls and lives about a 15 minute drive away. We’ve already planned to hang out in the next 2 weeks.
And the ugly…
I’ve been calling upon the heavens to open up for this ENTIRE 3 months to give us snow days so we could miss school. I’ve had 5 my whole trip. 3 of which were in my last week of school, the one week I would’ve actually preferred to go to school! Ridiculous! Because of that, I missed out on saying goodbye to most of my Canadian friends that I made through school, which wasn’t the best feeling in the world 😦 Also forgot to say goodbye to my bus driver Karen. No matter how moody she was on a daily basis and how often she called in sick and made us wait after school for an hour for another bus, I’ll really miss her and her wild driving.
I can’t promise I’ll write another post before I head home, we all know how forgetful I can be with this blog. But I’ll post about my last week here at some point I promise and my struggles trying to get through 3 American airports by myself during the government shut down…. Wish me luck!
Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas spent with their family’s and enjoy the last remaining days of 2018!
Christmas was very weird for me this year as it was spent doing traditions I’m not used toad away from the people I’ve spent Christmas with for the past 15 years. Talking to my whole family through FaceTime on the Canadian Christmas Eve was way different from what I’m used to and made me a little homesick just quietly. However, opening my family’s present they had sent over for Christmas did make home seem just that little bit closer. On Canadian Christmas Day, my host family did a phenomenal job of making me feel included and spoiled me so much! Not to pick favourites, but the present I absolutely adored was a red toboggan in which I named Timmy (after Tim Horton’s). My host family always asks me what I want to do in the time I have remaining in Canada (which isn’t much by the way) and every time I replied tobogganing, and they listened! Evan, Brianna and I then proceeded to find the closest hill, make a toboggan trail and then carve up the slopes on our plastic discs. We then went tobogganing 4 times over the next 3 days, including one night trip which scared the living daylights out of me as I have been told about the coyotes…. 2 factors temporarily ended our tobogganing phase:
- The temperature weirdly rose to 9 degrees (that’s positive 9) and all the snow melted away in 3 seconds flat. Global Warming is a disgrace.
- We wore the snow to a very thin layer, which meant exposing what was under the snow. To my surprise, there was a huge rock under the snow which I only discovered after riding over the top of it, catching air, and then landing flat on my butt. That led to 2 days of sitting down being a pain in the ass (pun intended).
The Haswell’s have their ‘Family Christmas dinner’ on Boxing Day rather than Christmas Day which allows the whole family to come over to celebrate. Their Grandparents, cousins, aunties, and their great aunty and uncle all game over for a night of games and a delicious dinner of roast turkey, ham, stuffing, mash, and veggies. We played family feud for starters which sparked a bit of competition amongst everyone but overall, just a good laugh. Then we played a game called relative insanity (kind of like cards against humanity) which had everyone in whirls of laughter. So much so, my stomach cramped after. Overall, I rate my first White Christmas experience a good 9.5/10, a deduct half a point for the sore stomach I got from eating too much sugar (my own fault really).
I have in total 36 days left in Canada, but who’s counting really. While 5 weeks still is a long time to be somewhere, in perspective it isn’t really when there’s still so much I want to do while I’m over here, and I’ve already been here for 9 1/2 weeks. However, I have made myself a bit of a busy bumblebee in these final few weeks to leave Canada with #noregrets. Today (December 30th), I’m going Ice Skating with my Oceania group of friends which should be relatively entertaining as we’re all as bad as each other. Tomorrow, I’m spending time with a couple of friends I’ve made from Germany (hopefully learning a bit of German along the way) and then just seeing what happens for when the clock strikes 12. From the 1st-4th I’m going to Toronto with my friend Tayla and her host family. Lots of activities planned for those 3 days including CN tower, an aquarium and the Eton Centre so I’m very excited about that! Then I zoom home from Toronto only to leave on the afternoon of the 4th for my host brothers hockey tournament in London. No, not the London with the Queen and red buses, London Ontario, with an ice skating rink! I’m sure there are more exciting things in London to see but I want it to remain a surprise for me. I’m very excited to watch more ice hockey, I’ve had a bit of a lack of it recently.
As I only post on this blog fortnightly, if my maths is correct, that means you’ll only be seeing 2 more posts before I come home… which is crazy… For the meantime enjoy the photos I’ve taken over Christmas holidays and see you when school starts back again ;(
Sorry I haven’t uploaded in a while, so much has been going on in the past couple of weeks and I’ve been saving it all up to upload all at once 🙂 No, not really I just kind of forgot (sorry) but now that time has flown and lots has happened, I may as well add it all in to one upload.
I took my first trip to Toronto on November 29th to go to the AGO (art gallery of Ontario) with my photography class. All in all the art gallery was kind of boring, I just more went for the outlet store trip at the end. The rest of the trip was a bit disappointing as we spent a sum total of 7 hours driving, mostly spent in traffic and boy it reminded me a lot of Auckland. However, my complaints weren’t as extensive as the girl from Christchurch who was sitting next to me as she has clearly not learned the traffic patience that we Aucklanders have to a T.
I spent the next week at school which flew by. I really really enjoy school here because of the following reasons: 1. My subjects which are all very chilled out and I can spend time with my Canadian friends. 2. The rules are a lot more slack than TGS, for example, you can just walk out of class to go to the bathroom and no one cares as well as if you turn up late, you don’t get sent to the office! My goodness TGS is harsh with their rules compares to here. 3. They provide free lunches (which I always steal). I think this is a brilliant idea for kids who were running late and forgot lunch, kids who can’t afford cafeteria lunches and for kids who just eat a lot, like me! And 4. Because I’m finally starting to feel like I fit in here with a good group of people, fun classes and people now say hi to me in the halls. So overall, I rate my weeks at school a 9/10 with a mark deducted for angry bus drivers who always run late.
Here’s where my past couple of weeks gets really exciting. My Australian friend Lexis invited me to go with her host family to Niagara Falls for the weekend and of course, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity (will add pictures below). While it did take a bit of a toll on my bank account, it was well worth it as those who have been there know, it’s absolutely breathtaking. We started off the weekend with a brief trip to Toronto so Lexis could watch a stage show. I stayed with the host family’s family friends for a few hours and they were lovely (as most Canadian’s are). They introduced me to Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake and my life has been changed forever. It’s the lightest cake I have ever eaten and I without guilt ate half the cake. No regrets. We then proceeded to Niagara Falls where we spent Friday and Saturday night.
Saturday: We started the morning with a trip to IHOP for a bit of brekkie. I have heard youtubers reviewing this place before so my standards were set high. However, the bar fell down very quickly and I was a bit crushed with how underwhelming it was. However, that was made up for with a day trip to the outlet store where Lexis and I spent 6 hours! The best of my purchases was a Beavertail, some high quality Canadian cuisine. I got one in the Avalanche flavour and while I don’t quite know what was on top, it was delicious. Actually, it was delicious until about 3/4 of the way through where I was probably a few more grams of sugar away from having a heart attack because it was so sweet, and kind of felt like vomiting afterward. Overall though, I would recommend trying one if you ever find yourself in Canada. On Saturday evening, after a long day of shopping, I dragged Lexis and her host family down to Niagara Falls to look at the stunning light show they have. This was the first time I had seen the falls this trip and it was so beautiful, lit up with an array of different coloured lights. Definitely worth bearing shoppers feet to look at.
Sunday: We spent the morning back down the falls, admiring its beauty in daylight this time (I think its better in the day just quietly) followed by a breakfast at the Canadian classic, Tim Hortons. We checked out of the hotel at midday and drove to a nearby water park with waterslides and fake palm trees. Almost felt like I was experiencing summer, apart from I couldn’t quite catch a tan with the lack of sun indoors. After doing every waterslide about 6 times, I decided it really wasn’t the same as Cheltenham the beach and had a moment of homesickness. However, that was short lived and I kept having fun being a 7 year old again. Lexis and I decided to leave the water park early to go look at a funky street her host family had told us about. There was an array of cool shops on either side ranging from haunted houses to Guinness World Record Museums, each with messages booming over the speakers and almost too many flashing lights. It was a very cool experience nonetheless and I’ve never had more fun walking up a road. We concluded the weekend with a final look at the falls, a bowl of poutine before driving back home. Thank you Lexis for inviting me!
My final exciting event that has occurred over the past couple of weeks was just yesterday when I went to my host mum’s work for their annual Christmas party and it was plenty of fun! Those primary school kids sure get spoiled. They have gingerbread cookie making, horse and carriage rides, discos, crafts, and hot chocolate! I was having the time of my life with the sequin stickers and glitter. It was also made better by spending the day with 3 of my Kiwi friends and 1 Aussie girl. Wish they did things like that at TGS!
Overall Canada just keeps getting better and better. It is kind of freaking me out I’m halfway through already and after tomorrow, only have 4 weeks of school left!! (Including 3 weeks holiday). I plan on having as much fun over the last 7 weeks as I’ve had this couple of weeks. I’ll keep you updated!
Me and my friend Lexis from Australia with our snowman Malcolm (after Malcolm Turnbull)
An Owen Sound Attack game against the Flint Firebirds
A photo of me at my host mum’s work, all the kids are saying ‘togs’
I’ve now settled into the going to school routine and the general gist of what goes on at my home over here. Because of that, I’m sad to inform there’s no new exciting news coming to report that’s happened in the past couple of weeks. It’s been a month now since I said goodbye to the majority of my friends at school and this time last month, I was packing my last pairs of socks and eating my Mum’s chicken and broccoli risotto for the last time in a while. Overall, this past month had gone neither slow nor fast. Looking back, leaving NZ feels like ages ago but looking forward, my time here seems quickly running out so I’m a bit torn. It’s now only one month until Christmas and then after that, I have another month and a week which doesn’t seem like long at all! Thinking about that puts me into a whirl of panic about what I still want to do/accomplish while I’m over here.
Some things I’m accomplishing in the next week or so though are going to Toronto to visit AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) for a photography trip in school. However, while I do appreciate the art in art galleries, I don’t really comprehend the message the artist is trying to portray which leads to me finding the gallery boring. Such a teen thing to say but it’s the truth. However, my teacher did inform me of a trip to the mall after visiting the art gallery so my interests peaked there. Just driving through Toronto will be incredible too as it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go so ticking that off my bucket list will be a highlight. There’s also a 60s and 70s themed dance coming up at school which sounds like a blast to me after being raised in a household where Murray Scott would always flick on the old CDs. We also don’t do themed dances at my school back home so it’ll be new for me. These are the kinds of things you only hear about in the movies to me.
Other than that there’s nothing really new to report, I’m just counting down the days until Canadian Christmas break because all my friends back home are making me jealous that they’re on theirs! Lots of fun snow activities lined up for those two weeks….
I’ll leave you today with some questions I’ve been asked over the month I’ve been here that I found particularly humorous… Don’t mean to offend anyone if you’d ask the same questions to foreigners you meet, we don’t mind answering them 🙂
- Is NZ part of the USA?
- Is your English very good?
- Can you sing the Australian national anthem for me?
- Is it June in NZ at the moment because it’s summer?
- Do you listen to the same music as we do?
- How long is the drive to where you live?
- Can you understand what I’m saying?
- Do you think you have an accent? Because you do.
- What is netball? (Because they don’t have it over here!!)
- Why would you give up your summer for -20 degrees?
So I’ve now spent a whole school week at my new school, Owen Sound District Secondary School which is overall very different from TGS back home. For starters, they don’t split their school year into 4 terms, just 2 semesters. You take 4 subjects each semester, each period is 75 minutes long with an hour break for lunch in the middle. All very foreign to me. Also, the subjects I chose to take were dance, photography, PE and Canadian history, none of which I take at home but all for the new experiences and just because why not! So far the making friends’ process has been a slow one for me. I’ve managed to make friends with some very lovely exchange students from everywhere ranging from Germany, Spain, and Italy to some Aussies and fellow Kiwis. Completely understand that the Canadians would just prefer to stay in their own friend groups, is the same at our school with exchange students. Although for some reason I expected the situation to be different over here and therefore took a bit of an ego hit when not everyone was thriving to hear my foreign accent. Another cool difference about school is the yellow school buses and lockers! Growing up I would always see them in movies and TV shows and thought that’s where they belonged, now I feel a bit like a movie star cracking the code to my locker. That’s a lie, I’ve only managed to open my locker once on the first day of school and had to recruit strangers in the hall to do it for me the other times. I prefer having my things on me at all times though, I’m used to it and just feels safer.
Other than school I haven’t really done much. I haven’t signed up to any co-curricular activities yet and spent my weekend building igloos with my host sister (I’ll insert pictures below). We had a huge dumping on snow here for the first snowfall of the season and I loved it! Although I didn’t really feel the passion radiating off my host family as much… Guess it’s just normal for Canadians. Hopefully, there’s more snow to come!! Doubt I’ll be saying that an extra month into winter though…. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts!