Something I drank?


Halloween is big here in Canada. Really big. Apart from all the pumpkins and skeletons around the place, lots of people have Halloween parties which involve dressing up in fancy dress costumes and having a few drinks. I always thought that the fancy dress costumes had to be scary ones - you know, witches and ghosts and goblins, that sort of thing - but you can actually get dressed up as pretty much anything you like.

Our mates Beth and Grant hold a Halloween party every year and we were really looking forward to going. We'd organised costumes and babysitting and were all excited about our first Halloween party! After we picked up Natalie, our Aussie visitor, we went home and got changed to rock up to the party. Donna dressed as a nun (ye gads! Her alternate career choice apparently!), Natalie was a "midnight siren" (look, just call it what it is, she was dressed as a wench!), and I thought I'd live up the Russell Crowe image that I seem to have acquired here in Oakville and go as Gladiator.

It was a great night, although I must have drunk something that didn't agree with me because boy-oh-boy did I wake up with a sore head in the morning! I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with all the vodka I drank. That was purely coincidental.

I was pleased to find out that the Gladiator costume was a hit, especially with the ladies! ;-)

An Inter-Nat-ional Visitor


We had our third Aussie visitor arrive yesterday. Out good friend Natalie accompanied Heidi on one of her all-too-regular trips back to Canada for a few days. Heidi, who works for Air Canada, was unable to get a whole year off work and has had to fly back every few months to do a few shifts, and fortunately she was able to bring Nat along with her this trip.

We met Heidi's mum Helga while we were waiting at Pearson Airport. Heidi and Natalie eventually arrived after their flight was slightly delayed in Vancouver. It was great to see them both. Heidi and Helga headed off to spend some time together, while we whisked Natalie back to Oakville where our neighbours were holding a Halloween party. Natalie loves a good party, and something as trivial as a 26 hour flight from Australia was not about to dampen her enthusiasm.

More on the party soon...

Shameless Self Promotion


One of the other little projects I've been working on lately is a podcast called The Virtual Staffroom. I thought it would be interesting to talk with some other teachers who are using technology well in the classroom, record our Skype conversations and post them up for others to listen to. It's been an interesting learning experience for me, and the feedback has been really good.

If that's the sort of thing that interests you, pop over to The Virtual Staffroom and take a peek at what we're doing.

I Wanna Drive the Zamboni


Hockey, as I mentioned before, is pretty big here in Canada. Most kids learn to skate at a very young age and many of them skate on a club hockey team at some point. We have about 5 or 6 rinks just in Oakville itself, and they are fairly upmarket affairs - the one we visited the other night had two rinks, good lighting, nice seating, a restaurant and bar and a skate shop, was well maintained and people actually go there to skate. By contrast, the rinks I've been to back home in Australia are a bit sleazy and dodgy and teenagers mainly go there to hangout with their mates, meet girls, or get in fights. The skating is just a front so that mum and dad think you're out on a Saturday night doing something social.

We were invited to the local rink on Tuesday night to watch one of Alex's mates, Jon, skate in a club level game. It was great to watch a hockey game up close like that, and even better that Jon's team went on to win, taking them to a five game winning streak. Good onya Jon! After the game we went up to the bar area for drinks and chicken wings. That's a very Canadian thing to do by the way, and no sporting event should be without beer and wings afterwards.

Anyway, we got to see the Zamboni doing its thing. In case you don't know, a Zamboni is a vehicle that drives around the ice between games and resurfaces the rink to get rid of all the scratches and gouges that the skates put in it during a game. It basically spreads a film of water over the ice which refreezes into a nice pristine surface for the next game.

Apparently, according to Cathy, being a Zamboni driver is a highly sought-after job. At first I thought she was just kidding, but a quick internet search turns up a series of articles and stories, each slightly more bizarre than the previous one, and they do indeed support Cathy's notion that everyone wants to be a Zamboni driver. Check out this one about the dream job of driving a Zamboni, or this one about the Zamboni driver who has groupies, or take a look at the website for a Canadian band called The Zambonis, who released a song called "I Wanna Drive the Zamboni", from their album called "100% Hockey". Seriously, I'm not making this up!

Of course Donna likes to hang with the in-crowd, so she started to wave at the Zamboni driver as he did his rounds between games. He waved back, she waved back, and next thing you know she's getting her photo taken with him. Maybe Cathy's right... maybe everyone really does want to be a Zamboni driver!

Next time though, we want a ride, eh?



Hockey season has started again. You see hockey on every TV screen you look at, Don Cherry has a whole new wardrobe of silly suits, and still the Leafs haven't managed to win two games back to back yet. But hey, this is Canada, where hockey is a religion not a sport, so none of that really matters.

Yesterday afternoon, Alex, Kate and I were pleased to take up Dave-next-door's offer to go whack the ball around for a while. Street Hockey is really popular here amongst the kids, and you can see them out playing on the quiet residential roads wherever you go. It's good fun, just grab a hockey stick and a ball and a few mates and charge about trying to knock it into the goal, all the while listening for someone to yell "Carrrr!"

Unfortunately, we still haven't managed to see an actual hockey game yet though. The Leafs' games are very expensive if you can even get a ticket, so we are planning to go see a Farm Team play. (That's what Aussies would call Reserve Grade). We'll let you know how that goes.

Alex's First Job


I got an email from Cathy, who runs a family business delivering newpapers. She commandeered Alex to help one day, and asked if she could contribute to the blog. Of course, I said yes! Wow, a guest Blogger! Thanks Cathy!

Alex was hired to help with our family business of newspaper delivery. I must say what a hilarious young man he is... filled with all kinds on nonsense information that kept us all amused, and wondering all day...
  • Why do you play at a recital and recite at a play ?
  • Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway ?
  • Why do your feet smell and your nose run ?
And other useless trivial facts like....
  • Did you know that you were prohibited from catching a whale in Oklahoma?
  • Did you know that you can't grow a mustache and go to church in Alabama?
  • Did you know that it is illegal to eat an orange in your bathtub in California?
But the best line of the entire day working with Alex - and I believe that it is his personal mantra - is... Hard work never killed anybody, but why risk it?


It's all Downhill from Here


The Toronto Marathon is an annual event, in which about 10,000 people push their bodies over a gruelling 42 km marathon or a not quite so gruelling (but still gruelling enough) 21km half marathon. (I promise not to use the word gruelling again)

Kim, Jane, Maria, Susanne and I opted to walk the 21km leaving from Mel Lastman Square in North York and finishing up in Queens Park, downtown Toronto. I have never been part of a community walk before and felt excited yet apprehensive as the gun went off. We strategically placed ourselves towards the back of the pack, but I’m not sure what our strategy was. Yes I do. Our strategy was to finish! Training had given us the experience of walking up to 12km, but for Susanne and me, who had not walked a half marathon before, beyond this point was unchartered territory.

As we zoomed along Yonge Street (the longest street in Canada), we were able to periodically window shop as well as move to the beat of the various musicians who were stationed along the way.

Once again I was so impressed by the encouraging spirit of Canadians. This is something which has struck me since arriving here, that people genuinely and often praise and encourage one another, from students in junior years through to adults we have met along the way. Sunday was no exception, as participants openly cheered on other participants and spectators lined the streets urging on the runners and the walkers with cow bells, posters and motivational words.

The microchips attached to our shoes told us we crossed the finishing line 3hours and 16 minutes later (my best time yet!) and we each received a silver medallion for our efforts. From here we headed straight for the heated tent for a much needed massage.

I am SO glad that we did it together and am very grateful to the others in our little team for their encouragement and belief.

Not just any old walk


I'm sure she will blog about it herself, but I just wanted to post a quick note about how proud we all are of Dons for doing the Half Marathon Walk as part of the Toronto Marathon. Along with Kim and a few other friends, Donna did the 21km walk today from North York down to Queens Park in Toronto.

I dropped all the girls off this morning at the start line and then went back to the city a few hours later to watch them cross the finish line. Kate and I were so excited to see Donna come running towards the line.

I won't say any more, as I'm sure Donna will tell you all about it. You go girl!

Thanksgiving Part 2


Thanksgiving has a long history in Canada, longer even than the American Thanksgiving celebrations. The two events are celebrated on completely different dates, something I didn't realise before coming to Canada. According to Wikipedia, "Thanksgiving is related to harvest festivals that had long been a traditional holiday in much of Europe. The first North American celebration of these traditional festivals by Europeans was held in Newfoundland by Martin Frobisher and the Frobisher Expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1578, and Canadians trace their Thanksgiving to that festival." Thus endeth the lesson.

Whatever the beginnings of Thanksgiving in Canada, it's the time when families get together to share a meal together. Because it's such a big time for families to gather, we felt really humbled to have been invited into the Zister household to share their Thanksgiving with them. Sharon and Lou opened their home to us, and along with Jack, Kay, Sharilou, Mark, Rebecca, Trevor, Shelley, Taylor, Caitlyn, Brett, Shannon, Adam, Sean, Amy, Sadee, Jim and Annamay, we were welcomed in as members of the family and we were really glad to have been able to share the weekend together with them.

As the time gets closer to the end of this exchange, it's things like this that make us realise just how much we will miss all our new Canadian friends.

Everyone loves a Parade


Parades are big in Canada, and the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is no exception. We had an early start from Mark and Sharilou's place just outside Kitchener and headed downtown to get a good spot to watch the parade go by. (I think Mark must have known that I would have doubly enjoyed this spot since it was right outside the local Apple Store)

The parade featured a lot of the local dignitaries and luminaries going past on floats and on the back of decorated utes, as well as local businesses, schoolkids and just regular folk taking part. There were several very good marching bands, some from the local area and some even coming up from the USA to take part in the parade. The theme was of course very German, since the area has a large German population and it is also Oktoberfest at the moment.

The whole parade lasted a good couple of hours, and was a lot of fun to watch. I think Donna particularly liked the march-by of the Giant Tiger float.

Willkommen zu Oktoberfest


You may know that Oktoberfest is a world famous Bavarian cultural festival held in Munich, Germany each year with plenty of beer, music and dancing. But did you know that Kitchener Ontario is actually the host of the second largest Oktoberfest in the world outside of Munich? Ja meine Freunde, es ist zutreffend.

Sharilou's family has a German heritage and they have always been big fans of the Kitchener Oktoberfest, so they were very excited about getting us down there to join in the celebrations. The local German clubs, such as the Concordia Club, host a huge party where they erect an enormous tent and fill it with lots of tables for drinking, a big dancefloor for dancing, and a genuine oom-pa-pa band for music. We had a great time there, having a few beers, dancing to a few polkas, and taking in the whole Gemutlichkeit.

The whole Zister clan joined us for the day and it was good to see them all again after the weekend we spent together at their cottage a few weeks ago. They are such a nice family, and we are very thankful for them including us in their Oktoberfest.

Picking Pumpkins


Halloween is pretty much a non-event in Australia. Although most Australians would probably be well aware of Halloween in as much as they know it involves dressing up as a spooky ghost, goblin or witch, carving a pumpkin head, and wandering from house to house saying "trick or treat", that's about all they'd know. Most Aussies couldn't tell you what Halloween represents, what it celebrates, or even when it is. And they have almost certainly not ever wandered the streets knocking on doors, saying "trick or treat" or carved a pumpkin face.

So it's been quite an experience for us this year to be a part of the Halloween buildup. Halloween is not until the end of this month, but already we have been invited to a Halloween party, and started to think about our Halloween costumes. And on the weekend, Mark and Sharilou took us too a farm where we got to wander the fields picking our pumpkins to make Jack o'Lanterns.

Its worth noting that the pumpkins here in Canada are very different to the sorts of pumpkins we get back home in Australia. They are much more orange and much less solid, with much less usable eating stuff inside them. The centre of a pumpkin is all mushy and fibrous, and the solid bit that we would eat is relatively thin around the outside. In fact, about the only thing Pumpkins get used for here in Canada is to make Jack o'Lanterns at Halloween time - they are not something that generally get eaten. To us that seems quite odd. Pumpkin is something that we have grown up with as a staple part of our diets, either by baking it with a roast dinner or mashing it to have with peas and a pie. Our Canadian friends look at us blankly when we talk about eating pumpkin. It's just not done here, unless you include pumpkin pie which seems to be a bit of a Halloween favourite.

Anyway, picking them was fun, and we'll carve them into faces in the next few weeks. We'll post the photos when we get them.

Skype: betchaboy

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