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!
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?
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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…
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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…
WHO THE HECK PUTS THE MILK IN FIRST?!
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Dear Tim Horton’s,
The correct manner in which one might consider making tea is as follows:
- Pour freshly boiled water over your chosen teabag and leave to steep for 2-3 minutes.
- 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.
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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 crazy–bad! 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!
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…
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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?