Back to the United States…

Okay, so it has been a fortnight and, as far as I am aware, enough stuff has happened to me that I feel equipped to write down how I have been getting on over here in St. Catharines. Aside from sifting through the last of my mid-terms (and the straggling assignments I ignored while I was in Ottawa), I have had a fairly awesome few weeks!

* * *

So, the day after I returned from Ottawa, I got back on the road with Olivia and our friends, Sydney, Alex and Tom and we headed across the border to the USA. Sydney actually lives over on the other side and travels to Brock from America each and every day (now that is dedication)! It sounds like my worst nightmare but, for Canadians and Americans, crossing the border is not a big deal at all. That being said, when she invited a bunch of us to go for dinner in the States, I kind of pooped myself a little. Dumb old me still did not have an ESTA which meant I could not legally enter the USA (even though I did back in January – arrest me!).

Anyway, I got myself authorised to travel and forked over the $14 it would cost for some online database to confirm that I had indeed not been to the Near East in the past decade – and I was allowed in! A month or so after the Buffalo incident, I was going back…

Now, American customs is scary. I always thought the stereotype about Americans hating anybody except Americans entering their country was a bit ridiculous… I have changed my mind. The customs officer really did not look happy to be letting an American, three Canadians and a Brit into the country. Maybe he was just grumpy because it was a cold, Friday night, but still – I have never been more afraid to swallow than I was as he scrutinised out passports one by one. I was starting to wonder if Sydney – a US citizen herself – was getting back in!

Little Majestic Vivvie! What a bean!

Of course, we did get across the border and my Friday night consisted of French Onion Soup, an incredible Chicken Pot Pie (both made by Sydney), a lot of wine and about four hours of picking out the historical inaccuracies in Troy and Hercules. It was absolutely perfect! And do not get me started on the cat, Vivvie. I have never seen a more majestic looking compilation of luscious fluff and adorable eyes. I would be lying if I told you that Olivia and I did not spend the majority of the evening competing for the little guy’s affection – as it happens, he did not appear to like either of us… where did we go wrong?

* * *

The next day, Olivia and Tom had their Graduate Conference, an annual event organised by the post-grads consisting of numerous different talks and ample snacks served every hour or so. I cannot remember exactly what each of the talks were about but I remember a particular one on the Medea that I… disagreed with – being totally qualified to do so, of course! I also tried a McGriddle for the first time when my stomach betrayed me and told me I could not go on without food. For those Brits out there, this delightfully diabetic breakfast consists of an egg, sausage patty and cheese sandwiched between two thick, maple pancakes – the maple is actually inside the pancakes! It sounds absolutely disgusting now that I actually describe its contents, but I thought it was absolutely heavenly at the time!

Additional highlights from the conference included the civilised elephants as detailed in Aelian and the most incredible stack of nachos I ate at the reception later on – my mouth is watering just thinking about it…

* * *

So, the other day, I walk into a Tim Horton’s for my usual large chai tea with one milk. It has been nearly six weeks since I last drank coffee and the withdrawal headaches are just about dissipating. I am still unsure if the doctor’s advice to ditch caffeine was correct but there I was, ordering tea and fulfilling the number-one British stereotype…

Anyway, I order my chai tea with milk and watch as the Tim’s employee pulls a cup from below the counter. It has not always been this way. I used to drink tea black but, as of recent, I have become increasingly impatient, waiting for boiling water to cool down enough for safe consumption. The little bit of milk takes about ten minutes off the waiting time. First world problems, eh?

The cup is set down on the counter with a little tap and I watch with absolute horror as the employee drops the single serving of milk into the bottom of the cup – no no no no no! I remain glued to the spot, watching as the cup is lifted again and taken to the hot-water machine. My internal organs scream and my heart wretches and I watch steam emerge from the foul mixture of milk and water swirling around in the cup. A teabag falls from her hand and into the pale solution, sinking slowly out of sight…


* * *

Dear Tim Horton’s,

The correct manner in which one might consider making tea is as follows:

  1. Pour freshly boiled water over your chosen teabag and leave to steep for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Remove teabag and add milk as desired.


A Freaked-Out British Person.

* * *

Despite my distaste, my one day boycott of Tim Horton’s ended when the chain started their annual Roll-the-Rim incentive. This is a little like the McDonald’s Monopoly except, rather than peeling little stickers off your food containers, customers roll up the rim of their coffee cup to find a small line of text that tells you whether you did or – more frequently – did not win. It is a fun little thing that makes my morning milk-first tea slightly more exciting. I have won a couple of free beverages over a few weeks – not nearly enough for the amount of money I have thrown at the company since I arrived in Canada, though! A very significant amount of my student loan this year has gone straight into the cash register in the Tim’s across the road.

* * *

So, here is a funny little story for you!

According to some sources, this winter has been absolutely dreadful and cold and snowy and they wish that it could end sooner. Other sources suggest that this winter has been rather mild, especially considering the fact that last year’s winter was the same. Canadian winters are cyclical (apparently) and mild ones are always followed by bad ones or vice-versa.

According to me, this winter has been crazybad! Of course, I have had next-to-no experience with snow in my sheltered little life across the pond so anything beyond a couple of inches has me running for the warmth of my flat in Quarry View. That being said, there was a beautiful grace period for a couple of weeks filled with clear blue skies and above-zero temperatures – it was heavenly.

Now, I have never been a betting man, but I somehow managed to make the most ridiculous bet with Olivia that it would not snow again before I left Canada and returned to England. It sounds so stupid now – having had all the snow – but that is what I said. The stakes were high, too! Should it snow, I would have to eat ten liquorice flavoured jelly beans. It sounds pathetic but allow me to explain. I usually like liquorice – it tastes okay and I can eat it – but these beans are the absolute worst! They are so liquoricey that they burn as they go down! Eating one is bad enough, let alone ten!

Anyway, the point of the story is that it did snow… and it snowed badly! I found myself trapped between the Tim Horton’s and my home, rolling up as many rims as I could before braving the snow-storm that was going on outside – and I have never seen (or felt) snow quite like this. I was outside for approximately two minutes and I was coated like a little frosty snowman by the time I got home!

Ten Liquorice Beans in…

And what is more, I now had to eat the jelly beans.

I will not go into detail but Olivia made it fast for me – by forcing me to eat multiple beans at a time, I might add. My poor little tummy hurt for a good half-hour after the whole ordeal and I do not think I have been the same since. Then, actually writing down this story, I have come to realise that you really had to be there for it to make sense. I am sorry that I just wasted all of your time by making you read that. Have a photo of me in pain for your troubles!

* * *

In other news, I have decided to pick up the violin. It was a massively impulsive decision but one that I stand by – I think.

I have wanted to play the violin ever since my parents bought a tiny little one for a tiny little Chris way back when I was four-years-old or whatever. If my memory serves me correctly, I gave it my best shot but, as I was only four-years-old or whatever, it naturally sounded absolutely dreadful. And then… the violin just vanished and a guitar conveniently arrived in the post a few days later. My parents never did tell me what happened to that violin or why it disappeared. I am guessing their ears simply could not take it.

Thankfully, my parents are not here and the only people listening are those annoyingly loud and inconsiderate neighbours above me. I would like to note that the increasing volume with which they exist had no influence on my decision to buy the violin with the loudest resonance…

But jeez, violin is hard. I am starting to see where my parents were coming from. Do not get me wrong, I do not have perfect pitch or anything close to that, however, I know when a note sounds sh*t and that seems to be happening a lot. I am used to having frets and dots to tell me where my left hand goes – not anymore. That being said, I have absolutely nailed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and part of the Ode to Joy so I’ll be a professional in no time! Until then, you might want to stay away from Quarry View, Block 5…

* * *

A week or so after the Graduate Conference, we had the Undergraduate Symposium, an event put on by the team of BUAS under-grads – it stands for Brock University Archaeology Society. Now, the event itself was absolutely fine even if I was sat at the back pouring the last of my soul into a history essay (yuk). I did, however, win a bunch of Brock University merchandise in the raffle so if anybody needs me, I will be wearing my patriotic Brock cap for the next few weeks.

Returning to the main point, though, the real star of the show was the lavish banquet put on after the lectures.

Oh. My. God.

We went to a place called Johnny Rocco’s which is an Italian Grill chain over here in Canada (as far as I have been told). Tickets to the event were $35 – thirty of which was expended on the banquet so I was more than excited about the prospect of food. All I had eaten that day was a number of Rice Krispie Squares during the break between talks. It did not disappoint. Picture this:

A large basket of sliced baguette sits by the stack of plates and cutlery, warming your senses to the soft scent of gooey dough as you look up and see the beautiful green salad and a round drum filled with arancini. I did not know what these were either, but let me tell you – the deep-fried, cheesy balls of soft rice were the most delicious thing I have possibly ever eaten! Perhaps my memories have been embellished by the fact that I was way too hungry when I set myself loose on the buffet. Regardless… arancini – it is delicious! It stole the show from the meatballs, veal and chicken, I can tell you that much. What I would give for another rice-ball right now…

* * *

And that is about it for the past fortnight! I have chosen to omit the usual dribble of how my Cleopatra mid-term went or how we have now moved on to translating the Medea in Greek – which is actually very exciting indeed! I guess I told you anyway at this point…

As for me, I am still loving it here and I am getting increasingly more anxious about the fast approaching summer that will see me leave, kicking and screaming, this gorgeous country.

Can the time just go ahead and slow down for me, please?

Thankfully, I have until the end of July to officially leave Canada and, as far as I am aware, I have hospitality arranged until at least the 8th June (oddly specific, I know) so I should be around for a little while longer to seep the last of the life out of my time here. It makes me intolerably sad that I will be wasting away the last of my days revising for exams and cramming Greek verbs into my head, however, I do not think I would have it any other way. Travelling around is awesome for seeing different cities and exploring new locations, but actually living and being what any other Canadian my age would be is just magical. That is something that only a year abroad can give you, I think – a delicious slice of what it is like to be Canadian for a year. I like it a lot.

What do you think the chances are that Birmingham might let me stay and finish off my degree here? High? Low? It is worth a try, eh?

Here is a picture of snowy Brock for the thumbnail 🙂

Canada’s Beautiful Capital – Ottawa!

When I tell people I am doing a year abroad in Canada, they usually expect me to tell them all about every big city and what I did when I visited there. Unfortunately, a university exchange programme is not quite the same as a voluntary gap year to go away and spend every penny in my bank account exploring the world. I still have weekdays and weekends with assignments and deadlines slotting in here, there and everywhere.

That being said, there comes a time mid-way through the semester when this wonderful thing called Reading Week arrives – nine beautiful days of absolute nothingness. Well… technically you are supposed to use the time to get ahead with reading set texts and working on assignments but everybody knows that this never actually happens. So, once the hole opened up through the dense workload, I managed to escape to Canada’s beautiful capital city, Ottawa for a few days.

I travelled with my lovely companion, Olivia. There had been some plans before Christmas to visit either New York or Florida but, once they had fallen through, I figured that I could not spend a year in the Maple country and not visit the capital city – and I made a good choice. Ottawa is a really incredible city and here is why…



Our trip began with a disgustingly early rise at 6am in order to catch the first bus downtown at 7:30am. When talking about travelling, people generally forget to mention the lack of sleep and the long bus journeys but I figured I would leave them here for the sake of reminding myself that, regardless of what people say, St Catherines is not close to Toronto – at least not by British standards.

We caught the Greyhound bus – a service I have become uncomfortably familiar with during my time in Canada – to Toronto early that morning. Despite being late, we managed to reach the lakeside city by 11am and we checked into our hotel. We stretched the journey to Ottawa over two days and spent the first day of our trip in Toronto. This gave us the opportunity to visit  the Royal Ontario Museum. Despite the fact that Canada (as we know it) has not really been around for as long as other countries, the museum was absolutely crammed full of awesome and old things. I will try not to bore you, but we started off with a Viking exhibit with a wealth of beautiful antiquities that I did not even know existed. Knowing little to nothing about them beforehand, I probably did not get as much out of it as I could have, but watching Olivia bouncing around the figurines of gods or goddesses was totally awesome! I also learned that Vikings never used forks – who would have thought? All I will add is that there were a lot of beads… hundreds of tiny glass beads – and I liked them a lot.

The rest of the museum was spread over four floors, each of which alluded to a different time period or location. Starting at the top, we worked our way through Egypt, Greece and Rome before weaving our way down through the rest of the museum. Having studied a bunch of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman sites last semester, it was really fascinating to see the physical representations of those textbook photos I had sweated over for my exams. Granted, a lot of the pieces were replicas but I am not one for being fussy – it was cool!

IMG_9098I did not take many photos of the museum, but I suppose I should throw one in the blog for the sake of colouring it a little. There was an incredible display of dinosaur bones towering over the excited, frightened or studious visitors beneath them. It was not Olivia’s favourite part of the museum, although it was certainly not the most frightening. Despite the fact that we were the oldest ones in there, she was the only person to get scared in the artificial bat cave containing… wait for it… no bats at all. I do not really know what happened but I felt her grab my wrist with a little squeak because she heard the sound of a bat coming through a speaker. Meanwhile, these tiny little kids were laughing and running around, delighting in the fake (emphasis on fake) bat cave.

I suppose you really had to be there…

* * *

After exploring the R.O.M, we got some food and alcohol in a place called The Loose Moose – and so began the nationwide pub crawl that we found ourselves on for the rest of the week.

We retired with full stomachs and quenched thirsts to our room for the night and managed to fall asleep to the beautiful sound of absolutely nothing. Having endured my somewhat inconsiderate neighbours for the past five weeks, hotel room sleep was one of the most amazing experiences – I just wish it could have lasted longer…



…my alarm went off at 7am and, after talking each other out of getting up, we finally rose and got ready for the train to Ottawa.

A five hour train journey sounds like hell but, having endured two eight hour flights to and from Canada with that 38 hour disaster after Christmas, this felt like nothing – the journey flew by in no time and we found ourselves emerging from the escalators in Ottawa station in no time.

One of Olivia’s friends from high school, Daniel lives in Ottawa where he works for the government – sounds pretty cool, eh? Anyway, Daniel did us an amazing favour in letting Olivia and I stay in his apartment for the duration of our trip. He lives in a beautiful two-person penthouse a couple of kilometres from downtown.

As the train journey had soaked up most of our day and both Olivia and I were drained from a lack of food and sleep. We went for a late lunch in a bar-slash-restaurant called Beermarkt which was a lovely Belgian establishment with over a hundred-and-fifty different craft beers – so how could I not get a beer with my 4pm Big Belgian Breakfast? Call me uncultured, but beer goes surprisingly well with a fry-up!

A View of the Frozen Ottawa River from Parliament.

After lunch, our Ottawan tour-guide led us around Parliament and took us down onto the frozen Rideau Canal which was one of the cooler things to come out of the Canadian winter! I mean, the entire freaking canal was frozen solid! Young kids were skating around while little stalls sold Beavertails and various different things from the surface of the canal. It was really cool despite the constant fear that I might slip and fall through the ice. I clung to Olivia’s hand the whole time while fearless skaters orbited us and carved up the ice like it was the frosting on a cake.

I also tried Maple Taffy for the first time! Now, feel free to correct me, but I am pretty sure this is maple syrup, poured over ice and folded onto a popsicle stick as a hard chunk of frozen taffy. Either way, it was absolutely delicious – so much so that I just had to share it with my coat and my right leg.

What do you mean? Of course I did not spill it completely down myself on the walk home. Do not listen to anything the others might try to tell you…



…Daniel took the day off work on Monday so we could enjoy our first full day in Ottawa with someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Until this point, I only knew that Justin Trudeau lived somewhere in the city and that was about it.

The Gorgeous Rideau Hall…

Our day started with a walk downtown via the numerous embassies from countries such as Angola, South Africa, France and – of course – the United Kingdom. We eventually made it to Rideau Hall, a beautiful building where the Canadian Governor-General (the Queen’s representative) lives. It was a really gorgeous place, situated in a large park that was filled with untouched snow as we walked through. I do wonder how it would look in the summer with all of the blooming flowers and green grass. I guess I will just have to come back again!

* * *

We stopped for lunch at a place called Warehouse which had a set six-dollar menu. Naturally, I got over excited and ordered too much food, finding myself well overburdened when some ten pierogies turned up with a huge bowl of Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

The Minimalist’s Floppy Disk…

After lunch, we wandered to the National Gallery of Canada, a huge place with an absolute wealth of beautiful artwork. Now, I dropped art after year eight so, I know fairly little about the different styles and methods that artists employ – I just like looking at pretty paintings. That being said, Daniel was able to explain a lot of the different forms of art such as Impressionism or Cubism and it really helped me to understand and appreciate art in a way that I had not done before. Olivia, on the other hand, seemed to be getting something else out of the art. The attached photo, I quote, looks like a floppy disk. I personally cannot see it but, I suppose it is all about interpretation, eh?



A Shameless Selfie at Build-A-Bear…

So, this is the part of the blog where I have to get unnecessarily mushy – I apologise. I have avoided talking about Olivia and I and all of the coupley selfies we did around Ottawa while holding hands and just being generally… what is the word… coupley? Now, at some point since our relationship began, we both found ourselves excited by Build-A-Bear stores. Okay, that is a lie. I was far more excited about it than she was. Anyway, the point is, we agreed to make each other a bear and Ottawa had one of the two stores in Ontario we could find. We travelled for over an hour to Bayshore Mall to get a hold of some cuddly new friends to take home with us. So, we made ourselves some bears! Despite my horror at the empty skin-sacks of unstuffed bears, the stuffing of these sacks, and the ritual placement of the hearts inside of them, our bears were born. And that is about it! I could embarrass the both of us by telling you their names but I think we will keep them to ourselves… okay never mind, their names are Pickles and Swiss Cheese

* * *

We actually ended up in the mall for longer than expected. This was thanks to Roots, absorbing more of my student loan and a tiny little animal sanctuary with the most beautiful, rabbits, kittens and puppies! By the time we got home, there was fairly little time left for anything else but we rushed to the Royal Canadian Mint in the hopes we could get a tour before they closed. Granted, we could not as we missed the last tour of the day (which totally sucked considering we had walked over forty minutes in the pouring rain). It was okay, though. We found our way to Zak’s Cantina and gorged ourselves on hot tortilla soup to warm up a little. Then, we stumbled into a Scottish pub called the Highlander for a real pint. I’m talking about the 20oz pints you get in the UK, not the diabolically small 16oz they give you over here!

One thing that had really surprised me is how much the Canadian people love their European pubs. Ottawa is littered with traditional British public-houses, all of which sport elaborate wallpaper and wooden booths. I am certainly not complaining, though. A quick pint of amber ale had me jolly and ready to brave the rain for the walk home…



…so, we started our final day in Ottawa by returning to the Mint (having actually booked onto a tour this time). As it turns out, everyday Canadian currency is not made at this location anymore, however, this establishment was unique in that it produced Canada’s specialty coins.

Our tour followed the life cycle of a gold or silver bar and its transformation from ingot into collectible coin. It was really fascinating watching huge presses, rolling out coils of silver or gold before cutting them into coins. Next up, we watched as specialists individually hand-stamped the coins  and inspected them painstakingly. I had no idea that these rare coins were given so much attention!

Despite collecting the occasional cool nickel or quarter, I have to admit that I have no real interest in coins, however, seeing the extensive process of creating these beautiful, shiny objects we have come to call money was a really nice experience. I bought myself some special Canadian coins from the 2017 run. It only dawned on me later that I spent $22.54 on a set of coins that was literally worth $3.40…

* * *

The Canadian Parliament Library…

Next up, we took a tour of the centre block of Parliament Hill. Having seen the main buildings from the outside, it was nice to see the inner architecture of Canada’s pride and joy. Although Olivia thought the whole building was made of cheap stone, I found it to be a very beautiful place and… oh, the library. We saw the House of Commons and the Senate but the real star of the show was the magnificent library tucked into the back of the building. It was much smaller than I expected, however, seeing rows and rows of beautiful books spiralling around the walls while Queen Victoria watched on from the centre was an inspiring experience. What I would give to work in a room like that…

* * *

We had lunch at another pub called Darcy McGee’s, and a little later Olivia and I bought some groceries and returned to Daniel’s apartment to make dinner for him and his roommate, Katie. We figured that, since they had so kindly accommodated us during out trip, the least we could do was give them a night off from cooking – so, I put on my oven gloves and attempted to cook meatballs in red sauce with spaghetti while Olivia pretended to make salad (which came out of a bag). In all fairness, she did a fine job of cutting cherry tomatoes into halves and quarters! Thankfully, the meatballs went down fairly well, though that may have been due to the accompanying wine we supplied…

* * *

After dinner, Olivia and I set off downtown for the final feature of our trip – a Ghost Walk through the most haunted parts of Ottawa. The evening’s tour took us to the Abandoned County Jail. Despite my scepticism, I have to admit that the tour was pretty awesome! I mean, I had a hard time believing that the Ghost of Patrick Whelan was terrorising the halls of the jail – which was now a hostel. Yes, you read that correctly. People actually pay money to stay in an old haunted jail in disgustingly small cells with barred doors. I mean… whatever tickles your fancy, I suppose.

At the end of the day, I did not buy the horror stories of slamming iron doors and dark black figures appearing in the night, but the tour as a whole was a really fun experience. If you ever find yourself in Ottawa, I would highly recommend!



Unfortunately, Thursday saw the end of our trip and morning opened to zipping cases and cab doors slamming outside of Daniel’s apartment. The half-past-ten train dragged a begrudging couple away from Canada’s fantastic capital city and on its way back to Toronto. From there, we killed some time in Canadian Tyre by staring at and stealing the paint samples that looked nice before getting on the Greyhound back to St Catherines. I wish I could finish this blog post with a bang but, as always with travelling, it has to come to an end. With the heaving deadlines and remaining midterms, our time in Ottawa came to a close.

* * *

So, that was Ottawa! I had a fantastic time hanging out with Olivia and I made two new wonderful friends – all while getting that all-importance slice of Canadian culture I had been waiting for since Christmas. What a beautiful and diverse bit of culture it was, eh?

I will be back there one day…


What I Have Been Doing Instead of Writing Blog Posts…

In short, my response to the above title is, “fairly little, actually”. I have been back in Canada for precisely a month and I have been putting off writing a post for just as long in the hopes that something spectacular might happen. Following the drama in Buffalo, arriving back at Brock and continuing from where I left off was remarkably underwhelming, I am afraid.

So, what has been going on? I guess I have four weeks worth of material to flicker through so I am sure I can find something exciting to write about!

* * *

WEEK ONE: This week consisted of an intensive game of catch up given the fact that I had missed a week of lectures while I sat at home waiting for my flight back to Canada. I have to admit, while it was great following my cats around and annoying them to the extent that they hid from me outside, I really wanted to venture back across the pond – that last week in England killed me!

Thankfully, Friday 12th January crawled around and I finally kissed good bye to Europe and made my way back to North America in a journey that we really ought not to revisit. It may have been a month since that flight but I am not ready to go back there yet. I made it back to Quarry View on Saturday night, loafed around for the whole of Sunday, remembered an assignment that I was supposed to hand in on Monday, shat myself and spent the night doing that instead.

As I said, I had missed a week’s worth of lectures by the time Monday rolled around so I was adequately confused during my first week of classes – who am I kidding, I still am. That being said, aside from losing participation marks in seminars I missed, I have managed to balance the scales and my grades are slowly working their way back up! Thankfully, the first week of classes consists of preliminary information about the courses and what books I need to waste all of my money on. Speaking of, I am actually quite proud that I made enough friends before Christmas that I could borrow almost all of my textbooks! It felt good reducing last-semester’s bill of $200-ish down to $40 because of the magical art of borrowing! Thanks to everyone who has given me a textbook – I can guarantee that I have maybe opened them once or twice so far!

* * *

WEEK TWO: I have slightly confused myself in the respect that, my second week in Canada was the third week of the winter term and everything has sort of meshed into one big block of random things that happened to me at some point in the past few weeks. I will try my best to figure this out…

So, my second week back saw the classic Dip in the Sine Wave return. For those who are new (sorry to those who have been reading since day one), this is basically the time when I start to feel a bit shit – so to speak – because I forget where I am and I get caught up trying to figure out which side of the world I am on. Over the Christmas break, my sisters kept on laughing at me because I complained about jet-lag ‘far too much’. While I would love to have been milking it, moving between continents is a really disorientating thing for a while – and I am not just talking about your eating and sleeping schedule. As much as I complained about itching to return to Canada, I did enjoy soaking up the Mancunian accent I had come to miss. But then, I love Canada so much and I just wanted to bask in the maple scented bank-notes (yes, their notes actually smell like maple syrup). I ended up getting homesick for… nothing. I did not want to go home but I also started to feel out of place where I was. Of course, I am totally okay now. It happened in first semester and it is bound to happen again. As Dan the Man (international-guy) said all those months ago, every wave has a dip, but it also has a peak and I am certainly getting there!

* * *

In other news, my Canadian vocabulary has expanded beyond the means I thought it ever would. I started saying washroom to annoy my girlfriend and now it has stuck like glue and will not go away. Candy and chips have become staples of my daily repertoire and the occasion double-T comes out sounding like a D. I am trying my best to fight it but I am slowly losing. I just hope to god I avoid the Birmingham accent when I go home for third year. Nobody deserves having to hear that (sorry to those who have one… I really am).

I have also found myself in numerous debates (typically outnumbered by Canadians) about what we call things over in the UK. Apparently, a pan is a pot, a pot is a container and I say butter in a funny way. If any of you Brits want to help me in this losing battle, shoot a comment on this post – I would appreciate it.

* * *

WEEK THREE: So, things started to heat up in the academic department already. Mid-terms are visible on the edge of our agendas and essays are flowing in full force. Greek verbs are breaking up and sticking together in ways that I did not even know they could (the perfect tense, for those Greek veterans out there). Having already spent three months here, I find that the initial excitement of being in North America has become more of a yeah… I live in North America. University life is exactly as it should be, assignments bleeding into sleep and food-time until you finally get to the holidays.

In light of this, I have been spending my time doing the antithesis, spending a lot more with my friends – most of these things consisting of eating food. I went on my first date in… well, forever somewhere around my third week back! There is this really beautiful, rustic pizza restaurant in downtown called Bella Noella and Olivia had ensured me that it made the best pizza in the whole of Canada. She was not wrong in the respect that, it was the best pizza I have had since I got here (sorry PizzaPizza)! Despite the fact that I had a lot of difficulty keeping the toppings on the pizza and off my face, I would say it was a success!


Last Friday (technically week four, I know), I ended up eating out twice in one day which was… quite the experience. My capacity for shovelling food has largely diminished since I have returned to the rice-and-soured-cream diet. This meant that the burger I bought at The Works was a bit of a struggle. Knowing that I was going out with Olivia and the guys from the Student Symposium later on, I calculated the lowest-calorie burger on the menu and tried to get it down me. Despite the fact that my side consisted of the thirty-calorie steamed broccoli, it was still kind of hard to eat it all. When early evening came and I found myself in the British Tearoom, ordering fish and chips, I thought I was going to die – but there was still room for the triple-chocolate-cheesecake at the end! Bear in mind, this was twenty-seven hours ago (from the present time) and I am still wondering whether or not I am ready to eat something.

* * *

WEEK FOUR: Alright, and we are back to the present day! Last week saw the first mid-term of the semester and the first time I left an exam feeling confident but also questioning whether I really read that essay question right… what is urbanism anyway? Beats me…

The post needed a photo and this is all I have. Enjoy!

The famous Canadian snow that everybody in England warned me about has arrived in full force. It turns out it is not as magical and as wonderful and as gorgeous as I initially thought. No, snow is just inconvenient and stupid. The sight of pure, white snow is one of the most beautiful things on this planet. The sight of browning mush on the roads as oily cars plough along… a bit less attractive – and there is a lot of mush! I own three pairs of shoes – some converse (nope), some flat soled boots (nope) and a pair of actual winter boots that are great for the snow but they make my feet soooo warm (yep)!

And so, the Canadian winter has, thus far, made my feet unnecessarily sweaty, given both of my hands have frost bite because I am an actual idiot and did not wear a coat when it was minus seventeen degrees outside. Do not feel sorry for me, I deserve this. As Olivia keeps telling me, I had to learn eventually and I am not living it down right now. My crusty wrists and knuckles serve as a constant reminder of my folly and my Mancunian ineptitude to survive outside the safety of positive temperatures.

* * *

PRESENT DAY: So, that is everything – my spectacularly average but still fantastically awesome month back in Canada. There have been ups and downs – I will not deny that – but I am ridiculously happy to be back and I am already dreading the day when my living dream comes to an unfortunate end. Three months does not feel like such a long time anymore…

As for the blog posts, given the monotonous nature of my life now, I might as well give up attempting to squeeze out a post every time Sunday comes around. That being said, Olivia and I are heading to Ottawa over reading-week so stand by for some Canadian fanboying with a ridiculous amount of goofy selfies in front of some fun monumental architecture – which are buildings that exceed their practical function within… OH MY GOD GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!

I am not going insane, I swear… I just need to learn to switch off and forget about Classics sometimes.

I will see you guys in a couple of weeks!


What Happened in Buffalo, New York…

So, this is Chris, reporting live from Buffalo, NY in the United States of America.

Yeah… that happened.

My flight back to Canada was a little bit problematic in the respect that it missed Canada itself and went down into New York State instead. I was oblivious, of course. I had spent the whole flight pretending to read Thucydides while actually messing about on the Air Transat app and flicking through films or music while deciding whether or not I should have that second cheese melt. In the end, I decided to be good and I turned it down. Big mistake on my part…

It turns out that, at some point during our flight, Toronto was hit by heavy snow and ice rain which made it rather difficult for planes to leave or take-off. So, eight hours into our flight, we did three little sky-doughnuts and decided we had run out of fuel and made a diversion via Buffalo Airport for a refill. Little de we know, a fuel refill also consisted of aircraft maintenance to make it safe to actually enter Toronto and then an hour long de-ice. Top notch!

So, an eight-hour flight became a nine-hour flight – became a ten-hour flight – became… you get the idea. At 18:00 Canadian time, we got on the runway for a speedy flight back to Toronto. The jets flared up. The jets stopped. We left the runway. Toronto airport just closed due to unavoidable weather conditions. We were staying in Buffalo overnight.

Yeah. Buffalo.

I had originally planned to spend the opening of this blog with lovely poetic phrases about the desert of cotton-candy clouds beneath us as we soared like eagles through the sky… yeah, no. Not this time.

Flying can really, really suck balls.

* * *

So, at 20:00 local time, thirteen hours after boarding, we were finally escorted by US customs into a country that most of us were not legally allowed to enter. American also happens to be one of the most uptight places regarding illegal immigration – perfect! It took about three hours of waiting in the customs office, but I was finally given a visa and allowed to legally enter the United States. But, what next?

Buffalo International Airport (23:30).

Yeah. What next? It turns out that none of us, including all members of the flight crew had any idea what we were going to do with the time between now and whenever the hell we would be flying to Toronto. Mr Captain Man made himself awfully scarce once he realised he would not be the pilot of the replacement flight and we were left in the arrivals lounge with no idea how the following twelve hours would play out.

Freaking Buffalo…

* * *

So, we were eventually transported from the airport in shuttle buses although the staff failed to tell us where we were being taken. The flight crew was nowhere to be seen and I had no real choice but to go with the crowd. I know I was only a couple of miles from the Canadian border but, I was scared. The snow was falling thick and fast and the outside world was not visible from inside the bus. I had no idea where I was, I had no money, no means of contacting people and I was just afraid. I always have a game plan and I always overthink that game plan to the extent that I have separate game plans incase the first one fails. There was no plan here.

The bus eventually rolled up to Embassy Suites, a fancy looking hotel with a line that was going almost out of the door with the sad and sorry members of my flight. Never before have I seen such a movement of utterly bummed out individuals. We had all been awake for nearly twenty-three hours and we just wanted somewhere to sleep.

At least we were in it together.

* * *

Not the most picturesque place I could be stuck…

Despite flurrying concerns about hotel space, I managed to get myself a room, courtesy of Air Transat, and I hurried upstairs to melt. The clothes I had flown in were stuck to my back, I smelt absolutely awful and I was just so physically and emotionally exhausted that I wanted to cry and hug something. Due to a lack of huggable objects in my room, I skipped the crying and hugging but managed to finally get into contact with my loved ones and let them know what was happening. I then had a shower and washed my clothes in the sink. The initial plan had been to offload our luggage from the plane so we could sleep a little more comfortably – this did not happen though. Air Transat really did not think things through on this occasion. It is okay though, the hotel soap was sufficient enough. The hair-dryer provided, however, was not. The next morning consisted of wet, wrinkled shirt sleeves and sock-less feet. I guess no socks is better than damp and smelly ones, anyway.

I managed to sleep for about five hours while my phone charged through the USB slot on the TV. No luggage – no charging plug. Given that I was still fairly far away from Toronto, I needed to save my portable charger for when my crappy iPhone battery decided to die the next day. The TV was the best option – unfortunately, it meant having the TV on mute all night. I really did not care at this point, though. I put my wet hair down on the pillow and closed my eyes to conclude what I can only describe as the most frustrating, disorientating and utterly stupid day in a long while.

I had always wanted to visit Buffalo at some point, though!

* * *

I awoke at seven o’clock after five hours of sleep, wondering where the hell I was and why the TV was on. Then, as my memory slowly came back to me, so did the realisation that I was in America and not at all where I wanted to be. URGH!

I wandered downstairs after a second attempt to dry my clothes with the hair-dryer and found out that my flight was at 13:00 that day – so six hours away. URGH! Thankfully there was a free breakfast supplied. I gorged myself on the fruit, yoghurt and scrambled eggs. American breakfast is exactly what you would expect, though. Fried bacon, fried sausage, fried bread and this weird American French toast that was not at all French toast… Honestly, I was totally okay with that, though. I had only eaten one meal the day before after refusing that goddamn cheese melt – food was a good shout.

* * *

There was this weird moment during my third coffee off the day when the past twenty-four hours just got to me. I should have been waking up in my Quoarry View bedroom with all of my belongings – not in some hotel room with soggy and semi-clean clothes sticking to me. I just felt totally alone. I have never felt like I had absolutely nobody, but that morning I did. Niagara Falls was painstakingly close but still out of reach from where I was.

I was home sick – not for Manchester, though. I was home sick for Canada where I could see all of my friends and the people I really cared about. I had been counting down the days before I could return and there was nothing I wanted more than to be there. The extra day had not been a part of any premeditated game plan. URGH!

* * *

Airport staff told us to get to Buffalo International before 11:00 in order to make a 13:00 take-off as smooth and as fast as possible. Aside from the twenty or so people who just never returned for their flight, passengers generally did this part of the excursion well. Come 12:30, all of us were waiting at the gate, ready to board and to get the hell out of Buffalo. You can imagine our frustration, then, when we were told that we would have to wait longer because Air Transat failed to find a pilot for the flight. You would have thought that an unexpected and definitely not legal touchdown in the wrong country would receive a bit more precedence – apparently not.

Naturally, the best thing to do at this point was to find some alcohol. My emotions were absolutely wrecked and I have never wanted to be somewhere more than I wanted to be in Canada right then.

I was not alone anymore, though. I had met a bunch of people on the plane or in US customs or on the shuttle bus or in the hotel or right there, stuck in Buffalo. A bunch of us traipsed over the airport bar and I proceeded to have my first drink in America (thank god, I was twenty-one). I think I would have died, were it not for those beers.

* * *

Toronto, ten minutes into our flight.

About two-and-a-half hours after our scheduled take-off, we finally boarded the plane. Now, you might think I am exaggerating, but I am fairly sure that every Brit who was not elderly or with a child were somewhat drunk by the time this happened. I myself have never felt jollier about getting back on a plane I had already spent thirteen hours on. Thanks America for showing me that alcohol can make even the sh*ttiest situations seem okay.

The thing that got the me the most about this whole ordeal, was the fact that the plane journey from Buffalo to Toronto lasted for seventeen minutes.

Seventeen. Freaking. Minutes.

Forget the fact that we diverted to another country unexpectedly – that was not something that could be helped. But, as of leaving the plane to spend the night in Buffalo, it took nineteen hours to reschedule, find an actual pilot and make the treacherous journey to Toronto.

I appreciate that the weather was bad but… come on.

* * *

We touched down in Toronto just before 16:00 and proceeded to wait on the tarmac for an hour before we could access an available gate. At this point, those who were adequately tipsy grew more hysterical about the fact that literally nothing else could go wrong during the flight. Those who had failed to find alcohol were left to the mercy of the abominably rude crew members who, to the rest of us, were just a laughing stock at this point.

After disembarking, I bade farewell to my newfound friends and sped off through the terminal towards customs. Thankfully, the end of my misfortunes appears to have been there. After half an hour, I was stamped and free to legally enter Canada, as originally intended. My baggage was all ready for me and I was ready to hit downtown Toronto for the home stretch. By 19:30, I was on a Megabus and heading down to St Catharines where my disgusting journey would finally come to an end. I have never felt more relieved to see buildings and roads that I recognised. It was all, it seems, finally over.

Total Journey Time (Manchester to St. Catharines, ON): approx. 38.5 hours.

* * *

So, there it is. Oh, my freaking god.

Despite all of the atrocities that were thrown at us during those two days, I am actually completely okay with everything that happened. The diversion to Buffalo was totally unavoidable due to bad weather and the events that followed were just bad luck (and bad planning on the part of Air Transat). Despite the fact that almost four-hundred British and Canadian strangers were placed in the most dreadful circumstances, I have never, in my life, appreciated human agreeability more. There were people on that plane who missed connections, had family emergencies or places far more important to be than me. Despite all of this, not a single person did not feel like a friend. It might have been a smile and an eye roll across the US customs room or a joke about Air Transat, but this huge bulk of disgruntled and disorientated humans really came through to show me that, in the most ridiculous and abhorrent of situations, there will always be a space for kindness and friendship. I will honestly miss some of the people from flight TS565.

* * *

I am glad that it is over, do not get me wrong – holy crap, I am glad that it is over. But, I cannot help but feel like the extra twenty-six hours of travelling really gave me a better perspective of the human race and how our cooperation with one another can really change the way we look at the world.

Sorry to get all philosophical – I have slept nine hours in almost three days. I do not really know what I am saying anymore.

And, my final piece of advice for you all – the message you all need to take from this: if you ever find yourself flying to Manchester or Toronto, please go with WestJet!

A Canadian’s Guide to British Christmas.

So, I have been in England for just over a week and, while I suppose there is no real need for a blog post, I figured that some of my Canadian readers might want to know what life is like over here in the United Kingdom! I might be wrong about that assumption, though…

But hey, Great Britain! It is cold, it is soggy and it has rained pretty much every day since I got back! I guess some things will never change!

Weather aside, though, it was Christmas time and I had already strategised the run up to the big day before I even left Canada. I would stay awake for the whole of December 22nd, have the longest sleep of my life on the night before the 23rd and completely alleviate my jet lag before Christmas Eve.

It did not quite work out that way…

* * *

Despite the fact that I woke up between 3am and 4am for the first couple of days, home was not as bad as I thought it would be. I do really miss being in Canada but if I was still there I would be living alone in my flat with the heating stuck on 16 degrees while -20 snowstorms raged outside. I guess England was the best option after all!

This is Colin the Caterpillar!

Besides, I finally got to celebrate my birthday despite the fact that it was twenty days after my actual birthday. Once my twin got home on Christmas Eve my mum whipped out the champagne and made a toast to our birthdays. I think she just wanted a reason to drink alcohol, if I am honest, but I was not going to complain! Besides, after dinner my mum pulled out a Colin the Caterpillar (it is a cake, not a euphemism) which is always a necessary component for a successful birthday! All in all, I would say it was worth the wait!


* * *

And then there was Christmas day! This was the first year in six that we had Christmas in Manchester and, boy was it good? It was great! Well, being woken up at 8am after two hours of sleep was not the best. After that, though, it was awesome!

IMG_8504I think it is fair to say that British Christmas is a fairly simple affair – eat as much as you can, wait about half an hour and then eat as much as you can again. Start at approximately 2pm and keep going until you are ready for bed. And that is pretty much it! Throw in some festive bevvies and you are good to go!

* * *

I may have started saying words like chips and candy but I will never forget the beauty of real pigs in blankets. I found out recently that, for Canadian people, pigs in blankets are just mini sausage rolls – a hot dog wrapped in a bit of pastry. That is not correct. A pig in a blanket is a sausage of adequate size and quality, wrapped in bacon and then cooked until crispy. If any of you want to argue with me about that, you know where to find me.

There is usually a period in the early evening reserved for Christmas pudding which, as I recently discovered, does not exist in Canada – yeah, I was disappointed too. So, Christmas pudding is this delightfully dense, spongy cake full of raisins and nuts which, once coated in brandy and lit on fire, is a festive must for any Christmas household! Unfortunately I was so clogged up with cauliflower cheese and stuffing that I ended up skipping the Christmas pudding! I would say that I missed out but I could feel my arteries cementing up with roast potatoes so it was probably for the best.

Cheese and crackers is also a huge part of British Christmas. I am not the biggest cheese fan there is but crack open some Wensleydale and I will not be able to stop. To avoid any confusion, crackers are these thin little wafer biscuits (a bit like graham crackers – but better), which are covered in butter, then cheese and then stuffed into one’s mouth in a few bites as possible. It sounds grotesque and it is certainly not flattering to see, but it is delicious. Pop in a couple of grapes and its a flavoursome sensation that you are not likely to forget!

And then, of course, the night closes with turkey sandwiches. Even after entering total fat-ass mode throughout the day, there was still a third of our turkey left and it was hard to hold back once my grandad started cutting slices for a nice little sarnie (that means sandwich).

All in all, I think I may have consumed somewhere between 4000 and 6000 on Christmas Day – just an approximate guess. I do not know what it is, but I see food and I cannot not eat it. It is almost like there is a magic switch on human beings which turns off the feeling of fullness for one day every year and somebody just decided to call it Christmas. I still do not know how I managed to eat all that I did.

* * *

IMG_3852Secondary to food, Christmas time is family time and, while I was worried about potential arguments regarding my sudden reappearance at home, it was a really beautiful time to be back! I only fell out with my sister once and that is a true achievement! Seriously though, despite our embarrassing quirks, I really love my family and I am glad I chose to fly home for Christmas. I could have travelled during the three weeks of the holidays but, after three months away from the British mainland, it was nice to hear another Mancunian voice and to curl up into bed next to a purring cat. I have no doubts at all that, come January, I will want nothing more than to jet back to Canada. Right now, though, I am just enjoying doing nothing at all in the warmth of British winter – I do not think it has dipped below zero yet and I am loving it! I just wish my mum would turn the heating up a little bit!


* * *

And now, I feel as though I should apologise for making you all jealous by talking about how inferior Christmas is in Canada! I mean, hot dogs wrapped in pastry? What the actual fu- -in other news, I fly back to Canada in exactly a fortnight and I cannot wait! I will pack a load of sweaters and woolly socks in preparation for the real winter – yeah, apparently the cold I was feeling before was some kind of pre-winter. The worst is yet to come…

Then, I hope you all had really great Christmases though, even if you did not get around to the pigs in blankets! Remember to continue eating lots (you can lose the winter-bod later, do not worry about it), and to welcome the new year with plenty of beverages and false promises that might last until the 5th!

See you in 2018!

Goodbye Canada :(

I will not lie, sitting a three-hour exam in the morning, packing for my return to England, moving out of my flat and catching the bus to Toronto in six hours was only a little bit stressful. The worst part, by far, was trying to force my housemate to clean his dishes before we left but we eventually managed to squeeze that in there too!

So, now that Women in the Ancient World is over and I never have to talk about Regilla and Herodes again, my first semester in Canada is officially over! Man, that is… not a great feeling! CAN TIME GO SLOWER PLEASE?!

* * *

While the sun fell beneath the silhouette of Toronto in the distance, we watched the highway go by as it took us from St. Catharines and away from Brock University for the last time in 2017…

IMG_3647But I still had two whole days left in Canada! I might have wrapped up things in St. Kitts but I was not quite finished with Toronto. My housemate, CP and I, had a big finale planned before my grande departure! We checked into our hotel once the sweaty bud ride was complete and… what an awesome view we got from our room! My housemate’s dad did us a huge solid by covering our room and he did not hold back! We were staying right in the heart of downtown with CN Tower peeking over our hotel room just around the corner! It was awesome!

The main priority once we had checked in was food – all I had eaten that day was a little Christmas hedgehog cookie after my exam at 12pm. We found a Subway pretty close to our hotel and I gorged myself on Cheetos and cookies and that was the substance of our first evening in Toronto! We goofed around in the hotel room for a little bit and, after a power-cut for ‘maintenance’, I had a little too much fun playing with the glow-sticks the hotel staff provided. I suppose sleep must have caught up with me in the end, though. Come 1am, I was lay like a little wooden log.

Two days left…

* * *

IMG_3653Aside from the fact that it is disgustingly busy and claustrophobic, Christmas time in Toronto is pretty cute. We visited the Eaton Centre which, as I have been assured numerous times, is the biggest shopping centre in the whole of Canada (even though it is not). It is pretty big, though! The best part was undoubtedly the huge red Christmas tree which stretched over three floors! It was huge! Of course, I do miss the talking tree at the Trafford Centre back in Manchester, but even he could do with a bit of an update! I feel like the North Americans really know how to do their holiday seasons!

Naturally, being a guy who hates shopping that lasts for longer than thirty minutes, it was not too long before I got bored so we ended up getting a burrito which proceeded to ruin my life by falling apart in my hands and dripping everywhere. If anybody was there at the time and saw the sad and sorry state that I was, I am sorry for your eyeballs…

After the Eaton Centre, we wandered around the streets before I was forced to spend about forty minutes in a video-game store while CP examined every single item on every shelf. Once I realised that the discounted Wii U games would not work in the UK, I resigned myself to memorising the order of the Pop figures on the shelves. Dig Dug, Space Marine, Harley Quinn, Sonic (Pre-Order), Flash, Dancing Groot… the list could go on.

One more day…

* * *

My final day in Canada for a little while was sad – not because it was a bad day. I just did not want to leave, if I am honest.

The agenda was fairly blank for the day so we started off with something simple – food. I pulled out all the stops and went in hard with the most delicious poutine I have ever eaten. Granted, it was only my second time eating poutine but I hoovered it up disgustingly fast and suffered the consequences afterwards – it was totally worth it, though!

The rest of the day was dedicated to the Ripley’s Aquarium which, as the name suggests, is a place where you get to look at fishies! And, oh boy, there were definitely fishies! I could spam the rest of this post with cool photos of lobsters or goofy-looking crabs but I will hold back! Here are some highlights for your viewing pleasure! I might as well try to squeeze in as many photos as I can. After all, the admission was $40. A small part of me died when the price came up on the cashier screen. Only one thing became certain – I was not going to leave the establishment until I had shot a photo of every single fish, crustacean or other crawly-thing in the place!

* * *

So, that was Toronto and my final day in Canada. After the aquarium we had about an hour to kill before CP took the train home so we ended up in a Pizza Pizza cramming one final meal into our mouths. Once the clock struck 5pm, we got up, grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed to Union Station for one last trip! Goodbye Toronto, goodbye CN Tower and goodbye Canada…

* * *

Some unexpected snow while I was loafing around in the airport meant that our flight departed an hour later than originally planned. I used to think snow was cool – now, I am not sure how I feel about it. The seven hour flight became a seven hour flight with a bonus hour of sitting on the runway, waiting while the pilot told us we would take off soon. He might have underestimated that one…

IMG_8406We did eventually take off, though, and I shed a single tear as we lifted from Canadian soil and ascended into the sky for our next destination – home. You may think I am being poetic but I actually did just end up crying to myself while the plane sliced through the icing sugar clouds and into the inky bowl of the night. It was an emotional time, okay? So much has happened to me since I got to Canada and I would go as far as to say I am a different person to that British kid who thought, Sack it, I’ll do a year abroad! I have absorbed Canadian culture like a sponge and I have met people who I am going to cherish for the rest of my life (you know who you are). It actually really broke my heart to say goodbye to it all even if it is only for a few weeks.

21 days remaining, after all…

* * *

And that just about wraps up the first stages of this wonderful adventure – and what an adventure it has been! I have been living my own dream and having the best time doing so. While, yes, I am only 21 and (hopefully) have a lot more of my life to live, this whole year abroad has been the best thing I have ever done for myself. I cannot remember a time when I have felt happier than I do right now and I am already pining to get started with Part 2, Coming Soon

It Finally Snowed!

So, it is currently 1:28am on Tuesday, 12th December. I am sat in a Tim Hortons drinking a double-bagged Peppermint Tea and furiously trying to cram words into an essay that has gone well past its expiry date. Who actually cares whether Euripides or Sophocles adapt Homeric qualities into a democratic, Athenian context? I thought that I did – I was wrong. I do not care. It is snowing outside and all I want to do is run around and enjoy myself in the first of the season’s tumbling snowflakes.

Wait… so, it snowed?

Yeah! It finally snowed here! For some reason England beat us to it and got a hefty couple of inches a few days before us but it has finally arrived – Canadian snow! And, holy toast it is cold! The current low has been -16 degrees with a -23 degree wind chill and yes, that is as cold as it sounds! I made the mistake of going across the road to Timmy’s in nothing but a hoodie and rolled up jeans and, next thing you know, I am absolutely freezing down to my core and my feet are wet and I later find out that it was -11 outside… oops!

IMG_8348But the snow is absolutely gorgeous! I have no idea how many inches have fallen but it has gone as far as my shins so far and I love it! It is, however, ridiculously cold and wet and I have become recently aware how terribly unsuitable my clothes are. H&M jeans are simply not warm and Converse do not keep the snow off your feet. The coat I bought a few weeks back is the only thing keeping me alive at this stage – and thank god I have it! Roots is sort of like the Canadian version of Superdry, except the stuff that they make actually fulfils its purpose. The Superdry coat that was too cold a month ago is still too cold and I am glad my new coat actually traps some heat in my upper half.

The snow is freaking gorgeous though, eh?


* * *

So, exams have officially started and I have finally had my first taste of Canadian finals. They are okay. This semester has awarded me with three exams and an unnecessarily long essay to wrap up my first term in Canada. And, they have gone quite well so far! Granted, I have only got my mark for one of them so far and the essay was one of the worst things I have submitted under the label ‘academic paper’ and I am not entirely sure what to expect.

It is a few days after I wrote the start of the post now and I have just returned from my Greek exam. Bear in mind that this took place on Saturday night between 19:00 and 21:00 which is the most disgusting period of time to be doing an exam. Seriously? Saturday night? I ended up wasting my whole day fretting about how many Greek words I knew and how many different ways I could splice up a verb. Come 18:30, my mind was completely dead and all I wanted was my bed!

That being said, some of you might remember me talking about my Greek professor in an earlier post – she is awesome! I will continue to argue this by describing the delicious chocolate and cherry fritters she bought for the class so could wake up a little before the exam! And the exam went fine, though, I am convinced it was because of the pronut (that means ‘pre-exam-donut’ – I just made it up) that I managed to cram into my mouth.

* * *

So, what else has been happening, eh?

As always with the end of semester, I have been doing sweet fa except eating disgustingly large amounts of food for motivation and pretending to study while secretly watching The Office into the early hours of the morning. I did, however, manage to finally watch the Star Wars films – well, it is a work in progress. I have now seen four of the eight… and then that new one came out this week… so I suppose I am less than half way there. I am trying my best, okay?

* * *

I also ended up going to Niagara-on-the-Lake last week which was a really awesome day! My friends and I went up to Queenstown Heights where Isaac Brock died and was later buried. It was a cool experience visiting some of the historical sites which led to Brock University being made – or maybe just named. Brock would probably exist either way – maybe it would have a different name.

So, Niagara-on-the-Lake was a really awesome place! The town is right on the edge of Lake Ontario and, while I could not take a picture of it (my hands were too cold), I could see Toronto peeking through the sky on the horizon. It was beautiful! Then, Queen Street runs right through downtown and there were so many cool shops – including more British stores! One thing I have noticed about Canadians is that they really like the British for some reason – I personally cannot see the attraction.

We ended up having dinner at a British style pub and I had the closest thing to home since I got here – Shepherd’s Pie. Despite the fact that I cannot eat peas in public without dropping them down my face, it was the most beautiful thing! I forgot how heavenly real mashed-potatoes can be! I must admit, it was not a patch on my dad’s Shepherd’s Pie, but it came pretty close!

After that, we went wine tasting and I managed to have my first experience with Canada’s famous ice-wine! If – like me last week – you have no idea what this is, ice-wine is made from grapes that are harvested while frozen and turned into this really sweet, syrupy tasting wine. I am not sure if it would be my beverage of choice, however, it was pretty awesome to finally try some! I know absolutely nothing about wine, though. The woman kept trying to explain how woody and aromatic one of their wines was but it meant nothing to me. Wine is wine, right? I am the kind of guy who will go into a store with the intention of finding the cheapest wine with an alcoholic volume higher than 13%. You could put some of Aldi’s finest £4 white into a nice glass and I would drink it. Although, I suppose it was nice to pretend I had class for half an hour or so!

* * *

So, now I get to wrap up the penultimate post for a while! I really could not tell you how I feel about going home. I have fallen in love with this place in more ways than one and a small part of me wishes I could stay forever. But, alas, next Tuesday I will leave Brock and then, come Thursday, I will heading to the airport! By 4:30am (Canadian time) on Friday, I will be landing in Manchester and, well, we will see what happens from there. I’ll be sure to keep you guys updated with how my travels go!

At least I get to see Ron, eh?