Monday, February 2, 2009

A week of close calls.

*Sorry this took so long to post, written on the ferry and continued on...*

And so the journey continues though not uneventfully! Currently I'm in the "computer room" of the Alaskan Ferry with Sibod and we have spent the last few hours wandering around the deck and watching Vancouver's city lights go by just recently. I must say I am relieved to have arrived here on time! It's definitely been a week of close calls and weird twists of events. Here I was thinking today would be totally uneventful and boring and yet it leads me to being stranded in Boise for a couple hours and consequently hours late arriving in Seattle. This of course leads me to stressing about how in the hell I was going to make it to the ferry by 6pm if it takes 2 hours to drive to Bellingham.

I really need to learn how to write properly because I'm sure it's super frustrating to you, whoever reads these (Liz!) because I go all over the place. I like to think I'm setting up some kind of suspense but I'm sure I'm failing terribly! Or I end up making it sound enticing but then fail at delivering.. maybe you should tell me these things, or maybe I should keep thinking nobody reads these.

So we left off in Chicago, where I manage to survive checking in at 0345, the super long security line, the temptation of buying a tea from starbucks and a fully packed plane to Phoenix. It's not long until I'm boarding the second plane and settle into my very own row of seats, mini pillow in hand (or rather, under head). All goes well until I wake up with the feeling we have been in the air for a particularly long time. My fear is confirmed with the pilot's announcement that Seattle is covered in ice-fog and that while he, with this plane, has the technology to land in low visibility the planes before him do not. Therefore they have been hanging out circling Portland for a while but are running low on fuel and are probably going to land in Boise for the meantime. On the way to Boise I think about asking one of the hostesses for the time because at this point I am getting worried about catching the 1:15 greyhound bus with Si (it would take me about an hour to even get to the station from the airport too) but instead I ask the guy sitting behind me. He tells me it's 10:40 PST and then asks me if I'm meeting anyone because of course there's a look of concern on my face. I mention having to catch a greyhound to Bellingham for the ferry and he mentions the woman who was sitting next to him (but changed seats as there were so many to choose from) lived and worked there. I thank him and continue to imagine different scenarios in my head of what I can do.

-If we land in Boise, maybe that'll be 30 mins there, then back up and maybe another 40, I can land by 12pm and catch a cab to the station just in time...
"So it'll be about an hour until we know what's going on in Seattle"
-I'll text Si, maybe I can get my bus ticket moved to the 3:15 which will get me there at 5:15...It's about 12pm in Seattle at the moment, if we leave soon I can probably make it...
"Ok folks, so it's clearing up but now there is a 'wait in line' deal so we're going to be on the ground for another hour and a half"

So there went my 3:15 bus plan, now wtf am I supposed to do? I remember the woman the man behind me mentioned and I ask him about her "she just left, the one in the maroon jersey". "Ok." I think. So how should you go about this, what are your options here? I couldn't afford to miss this ferry. The next 20 mins are left watching the door and rehearsing what to say to this woman, maybe she wasn't going up there this afternoon? "So I know this is an odd question..." It's now hitting 1pm in Seattle and I am getting nervous.
A line of people walk in. Two in maroon jerseys, "ah shit, which one?", I hesitate a moment and let them all settle in again. One of the hostesses comes down the aisle and accounts for everyone's last names on a piece of paper, when she's done I get up and talk to the blond woman sitting a few rows behind mine.

"Hi, were you sitting in row 18?" (I can't believe I'm doing this, but this is probably my only option)
"Oh great, the man sitting behind me, he mentioned that you lived in Bellingham?"
"That's right"
"I know this is strange, but are you perhaps driving up this afternoon?"
"Did you need a ride?"
"Oh that would be fantastic! I need to catch a ferry that leaves at 6, and I've missed the last bus that will get me there."
"Oh yeah, no problem, Travis (points to a man across the aisle) and I were renting a car, I live just near the terminal, we would have to drop him off along the way, I'll keep an eye out for you when we land. I'm Sheri."
WHEW! She says later that apparently it was pretty random for me to find out that she lived in Bellingham because she hardly talks to people next to her and this was the rare occasion she did, seriously.
I return to my seat, elated, and a few moments later we're taking off from Boise and finally on our way to Seattle. We land at about 1440, find our luggage after a bit of confusion while Sheri rents a car and off we go! She asks me about what I'm doing and my plans, what I'm doing in Bellingham etc, the usual, and I answer. I find out during the drive a few things one that she has two sons, one of them 19 who she says wishes could meet me because she wants him to go travelling and not get stuck in the usual routine they have of school/work/family. Another is that her boyfriend is also a traveller and would drop everything for a year to go somewhere and hope he got work when he got back (which she envied), and now and then on road trips they would just drive anywhere and pull up wherever and camp out, like lakes and rivers and things which I think is pretty neat. At the start of the trip she gave me her card with her phone number on it in case we needed anything in Bellingham if we stopped by again or since I was in Vancouver, if I needed anything, advice or help to call her. I found out she works for Shell as an environmentalist which is pretty cool. The traffic out was terrible for the most part which delayed us quite a bit so we managed to get to the terminal with about 15 mins to spare! Thanks Sheri! I gave her my email for if she and her BF decide to visit NZ which was all I could do since she wouldn't take any cash from me (company was paying, what luck!). Good thing Si sorted most things out so all I needed to do was show my passport twice and off we were to settle in.

And so that's where we are now! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Most of the people on this boat seem friendly enough, albeit a bit strange, but friendly. Si and I went up to the Solarium to have a look as that was the other option for sleeping if one wished to camp out under the stars or sleep under the heated shelter. The place where we are (as we didn't hire a cabin) is just a lounge, most of the tables with long seats were taken and the chairs in the middle all have arms running through them. We were thinking that by comparison the solarium was a pretty cool place to sleep since you could see the stars and they had beach chairs but unfortunately we didn't have any sleeping bags. We got to talking to one of the guys up there and found he was moving to Sitka to do environmental work and consequently when they do car calls (which allow people down to the car deck for 15 mins) he could grab some blankets for us if we wanted to join the group that were already set up up there, sweet! Also, would we like some whiskey? Si was about to say yes when I remembered we hadn't eaten yet and the kitchen was probably open by now. So off we went to the expensive cafeteria and bought a meal to share, afterwards deciding that we could probably live off mashed potatoes since a large bowl was $1.75.

So uh, that's all so far. See you when we have internet? Also, we're not sure where we're staying in Juneau yet, yay!

Ferry, Day 2.
Seasickness is something we did not account for on this trip! About 3 and a half hours total on the open seas and Si and I were done, ready to be off this ferry already. The first round was the worst, the second, a few hours later, was barely noticeable. Si and I found the Aft Lounge with fairly comfortable seats lining the walls and took a nap, it seems that being ill takes it out of you! The morning was pretty uneventful before that, Si and I were out on deck keeping our eyes open for whales and dolphins and other wildlife to no avail. We had split up, I was looking to the east while Si took the west, and nothing. I did mention the friendly but strange people on here right? Well after a while an older man wearing nothing but jeans and a short sleeved shirt (outside! I was bundled up myself, the wind in itself was pretty cold) wanders out of the forward observation deck (which we were standing in front of) asks me where I'm going and where I'm from, after my answer (I make sure to mention I'm with Si) we talk a little and he turns around and goes back inside. Ok, cool. I go back over to see if Si has had any luck and after about 10 mins the short sleeved guy comes up to us again,
-"So do you have snakes in NZ?"
-"Nope, nothing dangerous really, there are snakes in Australia though"
-"Oh, ok, it's summer there right?"
-"Yeah, pretty nice weather there right now."
-"I miss summer" *wanders back inside*


After deciding to take a break inside and play a bit of cards (it had started raining) another guy who was also out spying for wildlife ran into us asking if we saw the porpoises that swam by about 10 mins ago? Of course we had retreated inside by then, so no! What luck. The rest of the day was filled with being ill, naps and reading up on Juneau (after we were told there may be booklets up near the pursers by a nice man from Ketchikan who also happened to have come from Boise, where I was stranded on the plane, to visit his grandson.). We now have some idea of what to do while we're there so that's cool. After a bit of research we settled in downstairs and played some more cards, woo! A little while in the short sleeved man walks in the room,
-"So this is where you're hiding"
-"yup, just playing some cards."
-"Ok, you kids have a good trip."

The guy from upstairs who offered us the blankets ran into us earlier saying that he had them if we were still up for sleeping up in the solarium. We decided to go up about 9.30 to check it out but he was already asleep and we didn't want to wake him, also it was raining some (wusses! hehe). Apparently he woke up to some snow so that would have been, uh, cool.. *ahem*. So anyway, we end up sleeping in the Aft Lounge after watching WALL-E which I had not seen yet.

The next morning we port in Ketchikan and I realise there is reception! Well, there is reception for others but not me, I wonder if my Rogers sim will work instead of my NZ one (it is weird about picking up on Canadian signals) and yes! Of course I have no credit on rogers, but thankfully I had bought a $10 card before leaving, good thinking Lian! So now I can get Joey to look up that hostel and send me the address/phone number so we'll have it when we hit the next town, whew. (Also I can tell him I'm still alive so he doesn't have a heart attack stressing out that I did get murdered on the way down to the ferry, his response was pretty straight forward though, I don't know if I'm being a dork and reading too much into that but I probably am.) We were offered the use of a table up in the recliner lounge by a man, Robin, who was sharing it with his son, so we decide to take him up on that offer today so we could save 50c on the use of a locker. The rest of the morning is spent entertaining 4 year old mohawked Austin with photos of places and games until he is dragged away to play down in the arcade. We meet Samantha who lives in Juneau and spend some of the afternoon with her and the crew upstairs in the solarium. The remainder of the day is spent here and there and basically filled with messages over the PA system for all the rowdy kids who boarded that morning.
"There has been a hat found, a young man's hat, if you can describe it it's yours, down at the pursers desk."
"There is no running on deck, all of you, young AND old, there is no running."
"For those of you throwing things off the back of the ferry stop it, that is against the law, it is also littering."
and so on and so forth. Man, it was so much quieter before they jumped on.
Before heading up to brave the cold night in the solarium we talked to a couple of guys who were standing their ground after the aft lounge was taken over by the bunch of high school kids who boarded in Ketchikan. One of them moving to Anchorage said to call him when we got there and he could drive us around, sweet. Not much to report after that. Si and I went upstairs to sleep/escape the teens, at about 1am he and Sam went back inside because they were getting dripped on and cold, while I stayed up top bundled up with Ben (the guy who lent us the blankets etc). I did not sleep well at all! But eventually it was morning and eventually we docked in Juneau.

Or not so much as it was pretty much pouring down when we got off the ferry. We call a taxi and manage to make it to the hostel before it closed up at 9am, the rest of the day we wander around town, make it to the visitors centre to get ideas for the rest of our trip and decide to take a random bus to Douglas Island to see where that would take us. Thankfully it ended just before an historic trail which lead us through snow to a beach! Crazy. We make it back to town, buy some groceries from Rainbow Foods (an organic store nearby), make dinner at the hostel, shower, catch up with everyone (2 days without internet leaves a lot of catching up to do!) and then crash only to wake up at 7.30am the next morning. I really would like a sleep in sometime soon. Tuesday we plan to head out to a trail near Auke Bay so after having breakfast at The Silverbow Bakery (specialising in bagels, but also have a cinema, restaurant and inn!) we hop on a bus, and then another bus and get dropped off at Alaska University horribly confused. Somehow finding our way towards the bay we ask the local gas station if there is a trail around somewhere (we don't mention it's because we want to see some wildlife but this is mainly the plan). Some guy is like "oh yeah, I know... I can see it in my head where it is, let me drive you" so off we get into some stranger's car like it's cool and he drives us off to the trail
"it doesn't look very fun, look at all that snow, are you sure this is what you want?"
"not really no, we're just trying to fill time."
"how about I drive you back, you don't want to go in there."
and so around we go back to the station. Perhaps we want to go look at the boats in the harbour so we get dropped off at the harbour, thanks random guy. So we look at some boats and we try and call this number about some kind of snow shoeing event organised for Weds/Sat because man that would be awesome. Somehow I get cheated out of 0.50c so we decide to head back into town and see if maybe the ladies at the visitors centre can help us out with that (0.50c plz.). Apparently the events are organised by the council so unfortunately we'd need our own gear, *sighs* oh well, there goes that plan. The rest of Tuesday proceeds uneventfully. It is 8am Wednesday and I wish I were still asleep. Weds was mostly roaming around downtown (randomly stopped by one of the guys from the ferry who was in a meeting for his new job, I don't know how cool it was to just run out of a work meeting but it was nice to see him again.) and the ports where the cruise ships usually stop in the summertime. The whole area is closed down for the season and it's a little creepy. Si and I play around in the snow, making snowballs and snow angels (unsuccessfully!), I read about lighthouses (I mainly just wanted to clear all the snow off the signs) and the random things/drama some of those live in keepers came across before everything was automated in 1976. Si is seen trying to juggle snowballs by the local newspaper photographer and is asked to do it again for his camera, he does and we talk a little about Juneau and what we're doing, he says to look out for us in tomorrow's paper and we go our separate ways. We somehow manage to make it through another day, that morning we were told that a group of 20 kids were staying at the hostel that night but we get back and they are nowhere to be seen. They end up arriving at about 9pm and it's a bunch of kids aged between 5 and 15? One of them decides to come up to me while on the computer in the lounge (my laptop isn't picking up the wireless) and tells me about a site called penguinclub where you can design your own penguin and make friends, I think he is about 7. I am hoping that I still have the one room by myself, which I do, thanks owner lady! I decide to go to sleep relatively early again which brings us to Thursday! Thursday we have a definite plan to see the Mendenhall Glacier since the visitor's centre will be open but first, breakfast. We stop off at a Heritage coffee shop (opened in Juneau in 1974) for tea and pastries when OH MY, the local newspaper has Si and I on the second page.
Si is quite pleased with himself and as we are leaving to find another copy a woman walks in and recognises us! "Oh, you're the two in the paper today! Have fun on your travels!" tee hee. It's glacier time! After about an hour on the bus we still have a mile and a 1/2 (2.4 kms!) to walk, oh my. Thankfully a lady drives by, turns around, and offers us a lift the rest of the way saying she remembered her first trip to Juneau, taking the bus out and walking with the same tired look we had on our faces. I think she was moving here from Skagway and had just come from the glacier herself, just beautiful today, one of the best she's seen. It wasn't that long of a drive (I think we had walked about halfway by the time we were picked up) but we find that she herself has visited NZ about 15 years ago, Rotorua was her favourite place and in no time at all we were sitting right in front of a gorgeous mass of blue and white. Thanking her we hop out and wander into the visitors centre to ask about trails we can take and about how close we can safely get. We end up taking a trail up the side of the mountain towards the waterfall, trudging through the snow for about an hour we finally make it to a clearing where we can see the glacier closer up. After a break for lunch we keep going to see about this waterfall, we come to a sign which points us to the right but where is the trail? There is a clear trail going straight ahead so we give that a go and end up winding around the mountain heading to the top. Not knowing where and when it will end we decide to turn around so as not to be stuck up there in the dark (it's now about 1330, not too late, but late enough to not risk the unknown trek) maybe we should try the fall path after all? No luck there so we turn around and head back to the visitor centre in better time than it took to head up. A bit of wandering around the centre and it was time to catch the bus back to town. We get recognised a second time from the paper by a man on the bus and he proceeds to tell us about his trip to NZ in the mid 90s with his dance group and how they were shown all around the north island by a Maori tribe, best trip of his life. We miss our stop but make it back to the hostel with dinner in hand, the woman from the hostel says she saw us in the paper too, we're famous! Not much else to report, that brings us to today, Friday. The weather outside is pretty terrible, unfortunately it's a day of staying in with nowhere to stay in. We have taken up a table at the local coffee shop for the past 1.5 hours, maybe we should jump around somewhere else? Who cares. There's today and tomorrow left here in Juneau and I think we've done all that we can do in the winter here.

Next stop, Anchorage!

And so a new journey begins.

So at the moment I'm sitting at Chicago airport, I arrived at 10:30pm, it is now 1:20am, I still have about 3.5 hours to wait until my next flight. It's really kind of eerie, there's been this one old man polishing the same strip of floor with his machine for the past 20 mins, people sleeping on seats, no doubt also waiting for their early flights. So what adventures did I face to get here and what adventures are to follow?

So as you may know from my last report I had sent off my passport application to London and was waiting on it's return with anticipation. What you don't know is the following Monday the 26th your heroine recieved an email from the London Embassy which very vaguely (and unprofessionally, I mean, who uses '...' in official emails?? That made me think he was trying to hide something.) stated that "We recieved your application everything is fine with that" but could we charge you 15 Pounds for courier because we don't use Fedex (which is the return envelope I sent along). Ok, I think to myself, but I wonder if they mean everything's fine as in it's finished and they are sending it the following day or what? And why didn't they send an email stating that they recieved it on Weds or did they just open it today? All these questions but nobody to answer until the following morning because the timestamp on the email was 12:06pm which, over in London, is 5pm home time, thanks guy (this is another reason I thought something was up). So of course most of Monday is spent stressing out because I have no idea what's going on. What better way to handle stress than to bake, so bake I did. Mango and coconut muffins which didn't have that much flavour in them, probably because my mango wasn't that ripe, and spinach and feta pastries, which also went wrong because I bought the wrong kind of pastry =( Oh well. I also cooked myself a proper meal too, which I hadn't done for a while - herbed turkey breast, kumara mash with onions and steamed brocolli, mm. (I'm getting hungry sitting here in the terminal)

So anyway, it's 1am Tuesday 27th and K's overnight show on CKLN is coming up and since it was always an idea that I go up or call in and talk to them about the NZ music scene I decide to join her and PAH on the radio since it would be my last chance to. My first time in a studio and it's kind of crazy. K thought I was just going to call in and not physically go up with her so she didn't tell PAH that I was coming and they still had their theme of the night which was "If you could only have one mix tape what 6 songs do you have to have on there?". The lists kept them both pretty busy as they tried to find one or two to play from each person who submitted. The songs ranged from Maddonna, Alt 80s pop, classical instrumentals, indie and obscure 18 min long synth. I'm just watching them for a couple hours, I even have a couple songs that were requested, and then it's my turn for an interview and a few NZ songs here and there. So I get set up in the next room by myself, looking at the two through the window, headphones on and a big red mic in front of my nose and everything goes totally fine (probably because I know not that less people are listening then what there could be?) except my laptop kept asking for a pw whenever it woke from sleep so K couldn't play my songs straight away, and something was wrong with the equalizer when they did play so they sounded terrible! But alas, such is equipment sometimes, these are the things you learn while working on radio.
So it's still Tuesday morning, we get home about 8am and I have not slept yet. It's just about time to call London and ask them what the deal is before passing out so I call them via Skype and some woman answers. I wanted to talk to the guy who emailed me but she said he was away (spineless in my opinion) so how could she help me?

Me: Yeah so Mark sent me an email regarding my passport and I want to know what the status of it is.
Woman: *laughs* uh, no, he sent you one about the courier.
Me: Well, yeah, but essentially about my passport, what's the status of it, is it ready, are you sending it today?
W: Well no, not today, we only got it on Weds, it'll be the end of the week at least, you didn't mark Urgent on it.
M: Well the payment I made for the ETD said it included the passport processing fee so I didn't mark any of the payment details..
W: No, that payment is only for the 10 day regular service, you would have to pay extra for urgent.
M: Well shit, is there anyway we can speed this up or is there no point in asking that?
W: *laughs* (grr) well we would have to charge you 80 GBP and then we can send it out today.
M: *sigh* fine.

So basically I had to bribe them to send my passport that day otherwise they would have held onto it for another week, how fucked up is that? Note for anyone who goes through this, just go straight for the urgent passport it will be faster and cheaper because this new passport cost me about $600NZD to get and took 3 weeks from when I declared my other one lost. *sigh* So lame. It's ok though because I got to pass out for a couple hours before waking up feeling extremely ill from some kind of food poisoning and feeling nauseous for the rest of the day (and day following) as I tried to sleep it off. Wednesday was basically housekeeping things, constantly checking my passport tracking number, packing, booking the rest of my trip with Si and exchanging music with K which brings us to Thursday, the longest day ever.

I am all packed up and ready to go. I am super tired from not having enough sleep the past few days and tonight is not looking any better. I wake up and call DHL to check what time my package was arriving and he says between 9 and 1 which is a fairly large window, so I ask if maybe he could call if he gets nearby or here since we are downstairs and he says to call back about 11 and he'll page the driver. I decide to stake out the front window in case he comes before then, so I have my laptop out and am copying a few more of K's cds and admiring the snowy rooftop across the road which has blended in with the sky, the phone rings, it's the driver! He totally slipped by me, I am a terrible spy. I scramble up the steps (as they are covered in snow and very awkward) to sign for it and rejoice, 11am, not bad, there's still time to change money, eat, finish stealing music and say goodbye to the cats. I swear Demetrius knew I was leaving because he was spralled out all over me and generally he's a wild tryrant so that was a nice change. It finally reaches about 5pm and it's time to head to the airport. I should have been sad to leave but I was more relieved to move on from the whole passport mess than anything. My flight is not scheduled until 8:20pm but I decide to get there earlier in case I have a problem with customs (which I have a feeling I might) and yup, I do. I was trying to get away with a visa waiver (since I haven't got my b1/b2 visa reissued yet) on a one way ticket "And you know it's against the law to do that?" says the big black man in a loud voice. Oh boy. A few questions later a "WHAT?" here and there from him (I think he was semi deaf? But it was kind of intimidating, maybe that was the point?) and a weird look when I explained the concept of a 'working holiday' like wtf would want to do that? He says "Ok, I'll let you off this time but NEXT TIME YOU KNOW NOT TO DO THIS AGAIN" and I am all "yes sir, thank you, sorry, won't happen again. (hopefully I can get my visa reissued without any problems...)" Good thing I was still on time for my flight to board! A few delays later, a gate change here and there and much confusion we finally get ready to board the flight to Chicago while in the meantime I make friends with a 2 year old. That brings us to Chicago, now almost 3am. When I got here there were announcements about closing down the terminals from midnight - 5am except for staff and ticket holders which had me worried for a while because I had nowhere to go if they were kicking me out for 4 hours. But everything turned out ok, I asked a staff member and she says I'm fine in the public area of the terminal and maybe I want to go to Terminal 5 because they have food (which I think she forgot was inside so I am starving.) and it's much nicer over there, which it is! For starters they have nicer seats and power points so I don't have to make the terrible decision to use my battery power here or on the ferry (since there are no power points until we get to Juneau). I said for starters but I think that's about all. So that brings us to the question, what's coming up?

In about 40 mins I am going back to terminal 2 to see about checking in and finding something to eat. My flight leaves at 5am to Phoenix and then from there to Seattle, landing at 10:37am. From there I have to take a bus downtown to the greyhound station where I meet Sibod and we travel 2 hours north to Bellingham ferry terminal. From there it's 2 days on a ferry up to Juneau, I'm hoping the scenery is stunning on the way up, I'm hoping I don't miss too much when I pass out upon boarding, although I'm not sure how much luck I'll have since we didn't hire out a cabin and we'll both have to sleep in public areas... I'll probably be able to find a quiet spot somewhere. We're in Juneau until the 8th in which we fly over to Anchorage and stay until the 13th and then it's back to Seattle for a day or so, we'll do the underground tour, Si will go up to catch his flight home from Vancouver and I, I am thinking of putting my Portland/San Fran trip on hold because I'm not sure I can afford it straight after this trip because of all the money I lost with this mess. I'm sure they'll both be nicer in the summer anyway. So I'm probably going to spend some time with Joey before landing in Vancouver myself to settle in for another few months.

And that's that! The next update will be about how terribly cold but awesomely awesome AK is probably. Thanks for keeping me entertained for about 2 hours, you're the best!


Ogod I'm hungry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So now what?

Now we wait.

Everything was sent off on Monday to London, hopefully there aren't any problems or delays as well, I'm cutting it close enough as it is! In my optimism I'm guessing it gets back to me on Monday and then I can get onto booking a flight out to meet Sibod in Seattle. That also means I have to pack and clean up my room which is nothing to look forward to, can't really imagine living out of my backpack again but alas! The time has come, even if it isn't as planned. So the rough plan is that I meet Si in Seattle at the end of next week and then the both of us hop on a 2 day ferry up to Juneau! And then I have no idea. Then we wander around AK until it's Sibod's home time on the 15th. After that, I'm not entirely sure! I'll probably visit Portland OR and then stay with Joey until March and hopefully by then I'll decide where I should stay for the rest of my trip.

Here's an update of what's happened since I got back to TO.
So I got back last Tuesday. I was a bit worried getting to the border and sorting out my working holiday permit replacement but it was totally NP except of course it cost $30 to replace, $30 I didn't have... whoops. Thankfully the bus driver popped in to check up on me and lent me some money so that we could get moving again, on the condition that K (who fortunately said she would pick me up since she would be up after her radio show anyway) would have the cash ready and waiting at the terminal. Of course I'd call her! Of course I realise that the NZ sim I was using that had money on it... doesn't pick up the Canadian signal and of course my rogers sim had no money but lots of signal! So we get back to TO and embarrassingly I tell him I couldn't call but she would be here asap which leaves me standing out in a flurry of snow searching for her car while he waits in the office with my ETD. About 15 mins later and I spot her, whew. So I run up and I'm thinking I'll get the $15 I gave him in CAD and USD back in exchange but no, they decide they want to get some profit and keep my $11 USD which did include a $1 COIN which I was going to treasure forever...oh well.
So the first thing on the agenda after getting back was to get a new debit card because access to money is always a bonus. I go to the bank and the teller says "oh you lost it in NY?" "uh.. yeah... (did I mention that?)" "oh, here's a number for you apparently someone found your wallet and wants to arrange to pick it up" WTF. So some dude had everything all along? A bit fucking late now Missy. So here she asks if I still want a card or if I want to call this dude and I'm like, uh, I need money now, I've been stranded and I need money to get everything sorted out, so hooray for a new debit card, except that they make it a savings account which is fine until they want to charge me $5 for an email transfer instead of the $1.50 so now I have to go back tomorrow and change it. Karen also seems to think I should go to the main office and complain about the message not being relayed to me and get an apology or compensation which I guess I could do but I can't be bothered. I get home and call this number the teller gave me and it turns out that I hadn't left my purse in the cab but it had fallen off my arm just outside the party and this guy had picked it up and tried to find me by comparing the picture etc and decided to leave a message with the bank in the hopes they would contact me. I was half relieved but mostly irritated that they didn't hand it into the embassy or the police because I was calling the police all weekend to see if it had been handed in. At least I suppose it wasn't in dodgy hands and at least I suppose I don't have to apply for a new driver's license and also I was sad about losing my Real Groovy card but it's ok now. BUT IT'S SOOOOOOOOOO DUMB that someone had everything THE WHOLE TIME and my bank had a name and number THE WHOLE TIME I was stressed out and stranded in NY. So the guy who found it was from out of town with his sister, so she has it with her in Connecticut, my passport is in Connecticut. She is sending it to my address here asap, which was about a week ago so hopefully that arrives here soon.
I was able to meet up with Elysse before she left for Egypt which was good. We went to the Madison bar which apparently is a pretty popular student dive and is huge. We got there pretty late so only the lower basement bar was serving which had a million tvs going. We left pretty late so I got home and crashed afterwards. I tried to organise seeing Helen so she could witness my passport stuff but she wasn't free until Thursday so I basically slept all of Weds.
Thursday I went out and stopped by Niche to see Andrea and Frank, unfortunately Vanessa was there too. I said hey to her but basically ignored her the whole time because well, why waste my time? Clearly she was mad about that because WHO DARES (wins) to ignore her, because she decided to tell Andrea to tell me to get out of the kitchen (I was talking to Frank in there) because I no longer work there in which Andrea is like "it's Lian you loser." probably not those words exactly but basically. I mean, the nerve! She is such a lameoid. I mentioned it and the events of last month to Gail via email, not that it matters anymore, but nobody likes her. I've invited most people to my dinner this Friday, hopefully it gets back to her and the point that she's not invited. I was hoping to run into a couple of regulars and ask them along too but oh well, imagine if one of them mentioned it! Oh, I finally managed to finish the gymnast outfit for Andrew so I called him to come over and grab it, I also caught up with one of the older regulars, a really nice older woman, she's so adorable.
Afterwards I wandered down to get my passport photo taken and down to Helen's school for her to witness things but she didn't have her passport number on her, d'oh! So I would have to wait until the next day for that. I should have just written the number in and sent it on Friday but didn't, I waited for Pete's birthday dinner at The Red Room on Spadina/College which was fun but in hindsight I wasted a day/weekend to hand everything in, not that I wouldn't have gone to the dinner anyway.

So that's basically it so far. I totally slept through the Inauguration because I've been staying up until about 4am for the past few nights and uh, I couldn't really force myself to get up and dressed to go out, so I pretty much slept through history. Grats to me.

The only things coming up soon will be my hello/goodbye/birthday dinner this Friday which should be good. Hopefully Andrea and I will still go taboozing, maybe I'll make a snowman WHO KNOWS.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy birthday to me.

So I turned 22 yesterday, go me!

This is going to be short, in a couple of hours I'll be on a bus back to Toronto. THAT'S RIGHT! You heard me. I'm outta here bitches!

So my birthday was kind of uneventful. Besides the bombardment of facebook messages from friends and family (thanks guys <3) it could have been any other day. I will have something to show for it this year though, it may be a bit late BUT I WILL HAVE DRUNK PICTURES!
Anyway, so I woke up late and decided it was about time to buy a phone charger so I could maybe catch up with Sibod for the night as he had landed in NY the night before. So I wandered off to Chinatown and found myself a charger for $8, sweet. Spent a while wandering around some more wondering what to have for lunch and passing a couple Yum Cha places which has put me in the mood for it. I found myself somewhere else completely at some small mexican place which was pretty cute. Grilled corn and a cuban sandwich?! Yes please. Also a terrible espresso, I should probably know better by now.
Now what to do for the rest of my day? Lets check out the Met! Or not. I make my way over there, probably a bit too late. And oh, I have to check my bag and there's a huge line to do that? Hmm. I decided against that since I would only have just under 2 hours to see the place and I doubt that would have been long enough... maybe next time. So off I go to wander around central park again, this time in the snow! It had snowed most of Saturday so the Sunday afternoon I was strolling through there were families out with their sleds sliding down hills, it was cute and just like the movies. Little kids all bundled up and waddling around like penguins aww!
Afterwards I hung out at a cafe with a tea charging my phone and organising (kind of) something with Sibod. After a lot of phone related problems (credit, battery power) we meet up and head down to Little Italy for dinner. I ordered a mussel and linguini dish which wound up being a huuuuuge plate of about 30 black shelled mussels over linguini... 30?! I had flashbacks from my 19th birthday and the Occidental on Vulcan Lane with that giant pot of mussels... oh boy. I was soooo full. Couldn't even look at the cupcake Sibod bought me until about 4 hours later and then discovered it was too sweet to eat =(
When I got back to the apt a little while afterwards Jon and his friend Richard came back from their night out (fairly drunk) and hung out watching episodes of Chelsea Lately and discussing things like breast feeding and when the "right" time to ween them off it is, and hairdressing career moves. It was more entertaining then it sounds =p
Somehow it became 4am and I sat around not feeling tired and watching Eddie Izzard until 5am when I drifted off to sleep only to wake up to a Fedex guy buzzing the door.

Aaaaand that was my day-ish.
So I should be getting ready to head to the bus stop! I am kind of excited, but I still have about 10 hours on a bus to get through... whew.

Lets see what the next adventure is.
(probably my belated birthday celebration and me breaking some limbs from taboozing)


Friday, January 2, 2009

It's funny how tiny things all roll up into one big mess.

Just like katamari.

So I have no idea where to start with this one. Probably with blaming Jim the bartender for telling us about that 1929 party, damn it Jim. Something that starts out so innocently.. this whole ordeal kind of makes me think about how one small decision can change THE WHOLE FUTURE.

Ok, so I should stop doing that and carry on with the story.

So, Tasha and I spend new years eve scouring thrift stores and costume stores for our outfits for the evening (LITTLE DID WE KNOW...ok I'll stop that). We start off in Bedford again at the Salvation Army where I find the majority of my outfit, a purple flapper dress, long green bead necklace and a black sequined purse. Tasha manages to find a pretty awesome brown hat and couple dresses that she would like to try, but with no sight of a dressing room so I ask one of the workers there and it's fine "there are plenty of spaces at the back there, just hide behind something", great. We then head over to the East Village and wander around there, find something to eat and another thrift store with not much luck. We walk down 3rd ave 
(I think) and come across a weird little store with vintage clothes and toys/figurines run by this asian woman with really long fingernails (as in curled around long) dressed in some rainbow coloured baggy shirt and pink stripes running across her face. Yes strange. They only had the one rack of clothes, and again no changing room but we are successful at finding Tasha a brown dress to go with her brown hat, hurrah! Then of course we need feather masks as required on the invite so off we trot to Union Square to one of NY's biggest costume stores. Inside is everything one needs for... anything! Pirates, cowboys, aliens OH MY. We also buy Tasha a car phone charger because her cell is dead only to find out it doesn't work =/

So I'm going to fast forward and say that after that we headed back to where the car was and decided to drive around to Target on Flatbush Ave, picked up some shoes (yes, all out for this thing) and then tried to find our way to Williamsburg where we were staying... A metro map and a mini map in a guide book are not very sufficient for driving directions I'll tell you what. It also doesn't help that most streets in Brooklyn are one way and have street cleaning on certain days so one side you can't park Mon/Thurs and the other Tues/Fri. By the time we find a spot a couple blocks away I am just about ready for a nap. Of course we get back to the apt with all our loot and find out our key doesn't want to work in the front door so there we are jiggling around with this key for I don't know how long until someone hears us from upstairs (I guess) and comes down to let us in, "it jams sometimes because of the cold" which makes sense because the cold did the same to the back gate at work. So by now it's about 7.30 and I decide to take a nap and then get ready to go. In the purse I throw our masks, some lip balm, my whole wallet and wonder about my passport but then decide to throw that in there too. I offer some space in there for Tasha's money and keys but she declines. It hits around 9 and we decide maybe we should head out so up the stairs we go and out the first door TO FIND! To find that the radiator in front of the apt is spewing water everywhere like a fountain, wtf. Maybe we should tell the people upstairs? "yeah, we know it's going, can you leave a note for Charlie to call us when he gets in?" So... they know it's spouting water everywhere but choose to leave it like it is? Ok... So we go back inside and write a note, I'm feeling pretty helpless, I mean, wtf is that water going? Note written we're about to head out again when Tasha rushes downstairs for something ONLY TO FIND! Only to find that there are two leaks in the ceiling, one on the desk where her laptop was sitting for most of the night before she moved it 20 mins earlier to the bed (whew) and another on top of all the old roomie's stuff. Oh dear. So I find a bucket, thankfully a large one, nearby and put it underneath while Tasha takes care of the smaller leak in the room we were occupying. What more can we do? So off we go to edit the note to mention the leaks, lock the first door behind us, then wonder about how we'll get back in through the first door if it's going to be as hard to get in as earlier. So Tasha runs upstairs to talk to one of the guys who lives there (bound to love us by now) and ask when they'll be back etc so that if we can't get in at least someone will be around to let us in again. He agrees to not lock the door and runs back upstairs, but Tasha is not satisfied. Even if the door is unlocked the door handle doesn't turn so we wouldn't be able to get back in anyway... so a couple plasters and a bit of cardboard over the inside of the door (I don't even know what to call that part) later the door is easily pushed open (which leaves me worrying) and we head off to the subway, by this point it's already about 10:30.

Onto the train we go and not without some entertainment. Actually I'm not sure this happened on this night or the night before but I don't think I mentioned it in the last post. It's strange what happens on the subway sometimes, lots of people shouting something or another asking for change. This one occasion about 4 old black guys were all like "happy new year everyone, happy new year" and then started singing jingle bells while holding out a gift bag, they were actually pretty good, but a little scary. Oh and there was this one time, I think Tasha and I were heading back to the car in Brooklyn and there were these 3 kids, two of them "popular" and one of them like one of those kids that wants to fit in etc, it was kinda sad and funny at the same time. The loser kid reminded me of a Ben Lee character in The Rage in Placid Lake. One of the guys was talking on his cellphone (these kids couldn't have been more then 14) while the other loser kid was pretending to talk on his "oh yeah, you can't hang out today, oh ok, ha ha ha, see I have friends too but he can't hang out today" and then the other two were all like, go to the other side of the train "oh yeah, I get it, ha ha ha" and I'm pretty sure he was crying some or at least "pretended". Tasha and I were like wtf and trying not to smirk, I felt so sorry for the dude.

I think I drifted off topic there. Anyway, so we reach the end of line E which dropped us off at the world trade centre and we wander out trying to find this street, now as I said earlier, metro maps are terrible things to use for directions. We wander around and by this point it's waaaaay too cold to be anywhere outside so Tasha decides to wave down a cab. We hop in and tell him where to go, get driven around the block and told to walk down one street and we'll hit the road we want, Tasha pays the $5 it costs and we get out and walk down to where this party is. By now it's about 11pm and the line to get into this thing is huge. We wander down the end of the line and ask how fast it's moving but apparently they only just got there as well. I'm thinking it's probably best if we go somewhere else then look down TO DISCOVER! To discover that my purse is no longer swinging on my arm AWW SHIT.
So of course we panic. We start heading back the way we walked, but I'm pretty sure I left it in the back of that cab, Tasha waves down another and asks what we can do, maybe they can radio around or something but all we get is "call 311" so it's off to a payphone. So I call them and they file a report "blah blah blah call this number in the morning see if anything's been picked up, that's about all you can do blah blah blah." Terrific. Also I couldn't feel my hands after that call so we run into the McDonalds across the road to warm up. She buys me a latte and some chicken nuggets (neither of us had eaten since lunch) and we're talking about what I can do when I look at the time and it's 0009, well happy new year. So not only do I lose my passport and my wallet, I also get to be in McDonalds when the clock hits and finish my 10 year streak of boycotting anything by McDs. Greatest start to the year ever. Thank goodness for Chinese new year.
So we decide to head back to the apt and on the train are some drunk kids trying to open a bottle of something without a corkscrew. With some kind of lighter they end up pushing it down into the bottle but not far enough, maybe if they had a pen? So this one chick starts stumbling around asking if any of us had a pen they could use. Hmm. We get off the train and start running back to the apt because it's freeezing, race up the stairs, try the front door AND someone removed our device and now we're locked out. The night just keeps getting better. Luckily though we had moved Tasha's car just around the block so off we run to get out of the cold and she drives it just down the street from the apt so that we can keep an eye on the door in case someone comes back. Annoyingly we can see that the guy in the upstairs apt is home but of course their buzzer is broken so we sit and wait. Thankfully not long afterwards Charlie, Matt's roomie comes home and opens the front door with ease and Tasha runs after him. So there we are with some other guy we don't know and the radiator still spouting water in the hallway and he is freaking out about it. Wait til we tell him about the leaks in the ceiling. Turns out that the basement where the boiler is has flooded as well, yay! So here come the firemen to turn off the boiler and hot water much to our pleasure because of course that means that the house is stone cold and Tasha and I get to sleep in near freezing conditions. I love 2009 already!

Morning comes and Tasha is due to head home, thank goodness she didn't leave her keys and money with me. She lends me $100 and drops me off at the hostel I'm staying at next. From there I have access to phone and internet so I try and figure out my next steps and I call the numbers I've been given for the lost and found precincts the first who was none too helpful. So I basically figure out that I can't do anything until Monday because the 1st and 2nd are considered holidays and the consulate has weekends off, zzz. So I decide not to stress so much about it and get whatever I can ready for Monday. Fast forward and I'm told that I can get an ETD ( emergency travel document) that will get me to TO in no time and from there I can apply for a new passport. If I get everything sent off today then possibly I could get it by Weds. Of course I need to go file a report at the police station etc. So I go to the first precinct and file a report with some angry police woman. I'm not sure if what I was given counts as a copy of the police report so I ask Amy who is my case worker at the consulate and she's not sure either so is waiting for a reply from Jason who is in charge of processing it. A couple delays later I get a reply and am running to find a post office before 5, I get everything sent out to DC but then there's delay in finding a confirmation that Mum paid for the processing fee and I'm still here in NY waiting for it, thinking perhaps it would have taken the same amount of time to just get the passport.

So it's now Friday the 9th. I've been staying at Joey's mum's friends apt in the west village for a week and I'm hoping that my ETD turns up today. I haven't done too much besides sorting all this mess out but I have been wandering around a bit. The other day I went to Chinatown and Little Italy and visited the buddhist temple there with a giant gold statued buddha which was pretty neat. I've also walked around Greenwich village and along Bleecker Street scouring record stores for K again to no avail, although one guy recognised the name which was a good sign, I was beginning to think she'd made them up! Wandering up Bleecker St I came across this little bakery that had a huge line up waiting outside to get in, Magnolia's? I take a peek inside and nothing looks at all worth the wait but I find out later that it's a huge tourist attraction because it was featured in Sex and the City, hooray? I've also watched way too much TV lately. It's strange how NY is everywhere in TV and films, well, perhaps not strange really, but Jon, the friend I'm staying with, was saying that it's always Manhattan that gets destroyed in disaster films, and it's true. I don't remember where else I've been. I went to Coney Island yesterday, mostly because I remember it being mentioned in a DCFC song. It took forever to get there, mostly because it was at the end of the line in Brooklyn. It's basically a carnival area with freakshows and rides etc and in summer they have things on the beach. When I arrived though it was all closed down for the winter and the whole place was desolate. The beach was a proper beach though! I walked around a bit and took some creepy photos and then left because, well, it was kind of scary. I still have yet to go to the Met. Apparently I should try and make it so perhaps today.

Ok so that's all of NY that I can recall... Hopefully I have some better news coming later.


New York, before it all went horribly wrong.

So this is an account of my first few days in NYC written before the happenings of a fairly ridiculous and unfortunate new years eve, written that same morning. Notice how I mention the snow not boding well for the rest of the night? SIGNS LIAN, SIGNS.

And on the 4th day, it snowed.
So I've been in NYC since Sunday the 28th, since arriving the weather has been pretty warm (by comparison to Toronto standards) highs between 8 and 13 and lows between maybe 0 to 2 or 3 and sunny! The day before the turn of the year though and I wake up to snow. WTF. This does not bode well on nye celebrations, at least though, it's not raining, although some others prefer rain to snow, I'd rather get slightly colder than slightly wet. Although a low of -10 is dumb.
So what's happened so far? And why am I writing about it while I'm still there? The former coming in a min, the latter, well, I guess I have a free moment to update, and what better than while it's still fresh in my mind? (I know, preposterous)
So after leaving Toronto late on a Megabus (a double decker!) and being delayed at customs in Buffalo (close to 2 hours!) I finally make it to NYC 11 hours later. Thankfully I had a row of seats to myself and could kind of get some sleep on the way there. Anywho, the first day there I spent wandering around 42nd st which was near my hostel, so basically:
Times Square, which was less of a square that I thought it was going to be. It wasn't all that exciting to be completely honest. I went into the info centre which had up on display the new years ball from 2007/2008 and every half hour would do a count down with the lights going etc, apparently this year is a WHOLE NEW EXCITING BALL that will be revealed tonight =O What was also neat was they had a wishing wall where people would write their resolutions or wishes etc on bits of paper that would be collected up and used as confetti on the night, sweet. Other than that the so called square was less exciting and more flashy than expected.
Grand Central Station, which was a pretty neat structure, loved the archways and stairwells, they also had every half hour some kaleidoscope show where they would do pretty lights etc on the inside walls for 8 mins, some really nice patterns, yay lights?
Rockerfeller Centre, which spanned like 4 blocks I think, there were some pretty neat designs/carvings scattered around on various buildings. I went and saw the tree there with the trumpeting angels, tried to get some good photos but there were "pictures with the tree" staff wandering around trying to sell the space to tourists for $40 a photo or something rediculous, so I may have some random strangers in there. It was way crowded that Sunday, mainly because they were opening the skating rink just below the tree, I'm pretty sure it's the only one in the city besides the one in Central Park.
Then I wandered around to Union Square, and on recommendation went to Wholefoods for lunch. It was basically a supermarket, but all organic etc and has this amazing salad bar. They were so busy that they had like 30 checkouts or something silly, and they had a weird/smart system for it where there were 2 groups of 5 lines, each line had a colour. Basically you would chose the shortest line and each line of colour on the screen would light up whichever cashier was free and so on. Weird. It's also funny that I told Tasha (the girl I'm spending new years with here from Chicago) that I was told to go to Wholefoods as a must do while I was here as she has it also in Chicago and never really thought of it as a destination, although it is pretty good. So I ate lunch in the park, wandered around the stalls there then made my way up to Strand Bookstore to browse a million used/new books. They basically had every book on everything you ever want, which was troublesome because I really had no idea what I was looking for. But it was fun nonetheless.
Afterwards I just headed back to the hostel and magically it turned into the next day.
Day 2!
Day two finds me making my way to Hostelling International to see what time check in is, and if I can leave my bag there while I go out exploring. Turns out that check in is not until 4pm, and sure I can leave my bag there, "just remember to put your bag inside BEFORE you put in your $5"... wait, what? $5 for a locker? Wow. Nevermind then, I'll be back later.
So I spend most of Monday with both my bags on looking homeless (a pretty kind of homeless carying an expensive camera under my coat) wandering around Central Park before making my way to Brooklyn. Central Park during the winter is not so pretty, though I did get some nice photos over the resevoir. I navigate my way over to Bedford ave in Brooklyn, both bags in tow, in aims of browsing record stores and finding some mysterious band from the 80s for Karen called The Normil Hawaiians. With 3 in the vicinity, all with a pretty good reccommendation, no luck! Although I did buy a compilation cd with all sorts of good people on there. Bedford is a pretty cool ave, apparently pretty hip, didn't get much of a chance to browse around, but little did I know I would be back later... dun dun dun.
So anywho, the rest of the plan was to make my way over to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk over it, so 3 different trains and transfers later I was there! It was pretty busy and windy, but neat. After that I decide to skip Wall St as planned because it was getting late and headed straight for the Staten Island Ferry instead to catch the Statue of Liberty in the beautiful orange of dusk. Aww.
So it's about 6:30 by the time I reach the mainland again and I decide that that was a good time to go ahead and check in to HI. Basically hung out there waiting for Tasha to show up, although poor her, left late because her friend got called into court that morning (he's a lawyer) and they didn't leave til about 11:30am, which meant she got in at about 3am, which also included them getting lost trying to find some other place and finding parking in Brooklyn and then finding her way up to the Upper West Side... whew.
Tuesday Tasha and I make our way back to Brooklyn to put our stuff in her car and most of the day was spent panicing about this guy we were staying with not calling us back about it, and also wandering around Brooklyn and the downtown area, and trying to find Williamsburg thinking it was walkable when really it wasn't. Nothing really mentionable happened most of the day, we went to lunch/breakfast at Perch on 5th Ave, walked around, took the subway random places, until we ended up again on 5th Ave at Bar Ries which we decided to stop at and wait until we heard from Matt, our host for the next couple of days. The bartender there was pretty cool, Tasha and I were sitting there with our drinks at the bar and our map out trying to decide on plans for the following day and what ever were we going to do for new years? When suddenly! Or perhaps more with ease our bartender asked where we were going, so we explained about our perdicament and ta-da! He was going to a 1929 new years party, with a passcode and masks and everything and if we wanted to go he would fwd an email on to us (sweet!) so afterwards we preceded to talk about random things like how we met if we were from Chicago and Toronto/NZ and about NZ and Montreal and Chicago and Music and also if we wanted to share any of his Chinese food that he ordered just after we arrived. After a couple of drinks and a phone call from Matt later (whew) we find out that he's not back until 10:30 so Bedford is a good place to hang out while we waited. By then it was about 8:30/9 and we hadn't eaten yet so it was goodbye and thanks to the bartender (after we fixed his fridge door that had fallen in from being sat on by him) and off to Bedford for dinner. A whole meal and a half later, and also a coffee we get a call with directions to Matt's house, hooray!
Did I mention how terrible those directions were? I think we spent about an hour traversing the area of Williamsburg, unable to get a hold of Matt for proper directions, and trying to decipher what information we had been given. After a really long while I get a reply as to the address of the place and by that time we had found a dairy not even close to where we were meant to be and borrowed a phone which of course left us no point in trying to call him. Luckily though we were just in time to exit the dairy before 3 police cars show up outside and walk in after us... whew.
So finally we make it, Matt with a look of confusement as to what took us so long to get there and us with a shrug of shoulders as we had previously discussed not to bring up his giant amount of fail... since of course he was doing us a favour, and of course neither of us knew him that well, Tasha only through working with his mother. So all settled in and ready for a fun day tomorrow.


I was so tempted to edit some of that and add in things like LITTLE DID WE KNOW THAT WOULD BE OUR DOWNFALL... and things like BUT OF COURSE THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN...
But I'll leave that as is.

Chapter two next!

Friday, December 26, 2008

So it's the end of the year.

Ok so here's a long awaited update? It seems like I passed over November entirely, and now it's approaching the end of December, the end of 2008! I guess this is my year in review and a summary of what I've been up to since October, if I can remember any of it.

Aaaaaand it's looking doubtful.
Ok so this year was basically a year about me. Me deciding to be all cliche and discovering something outside of NZ, new sights, new sounds, new people, a rediscovery of myself even, if we want to go that far. The end of 2007 found me (finally) rid of my first boyfriend and saving for a trip halfway across the world. Aside from turning 21 in January (adulthood!) and having a great party up at good old Sky Lounge thanks to Clayton, nothing really stood out for the few following months up until June when I left home. My first destination was Memphis where, upon my arrival, I met Joey, an online friend of 2 years. I spent around 3 pretty awesome weeks hanging out with him, cooking fun things, learning a new perspective on pool playing and watching movies among other things. I also used my time there to organise the next steps of my trip. Following that was New Orleans, Seattle and then my first Canadian stop, Edmonton. I spent about 10 days with another friend of mine, trying to organise myself before venturing off on my own to Montreal and staying about 2 weeks there in an interesting hostel. I met quite a few interesting people there, and although the owner was a bit strange, and I didn't quite get the nerve to settle down in Montreal I do feel it was a good thing that I stayed. Not knowing what to do next I head back to Memphis and Joey where I wait things out until Simon arrived in Toronto in the 3rd week of August. Helen and Pete kindly offer the two of us a place to stay for a few nights on the Island as most hostels are booked out, and I stress about what my plan is for the rest of the trip. I did get a late reply to a job in Montreal and was uncertain if I wanted to head back for an interview. I decide to stay in Toronto, found myself a flat with an interesting musical flatmate and a cat with an attitude, and also got offered a job on Queen West at Niche Coffee & Tea straight off the bat, not bad. The months following see my work go through a tonne of new staff (current count is 12 either left or fired) and after 3 months I am no longer the new girl. Aside from work I've been to a number of shows including Okkervil River, Iron & Wine, Karyn Ellis, Brooke Fraser, The Notwist and The Dandy Warhols and attended the ImagineNATIVE film fest. I think in my last post I mentioned Halifax, that was my first trip out of town upon arriving. I think that brings us up to whatever happened to November?!

I'm pretty sure I was working for most of November due to all the staff changes that month. Everyone was cleared out besides Brent and I and a whole bunch of new girls started. One of those girls fired within days for being useless. Another one just recently due to one Ms Loudmouth Annoying Whining Loser practically sabotaging her to get some guy in to work there. I can't stand Ms Loudmouth, and not many others can either. But whatever, I'm gone in 3 weeks.

On to better news! I spent my first xmas holiday away from home which wasn't bad because it didn't seem like it was xmas at all although there were trees and decorations everywhere and people madly shopping. The last few weeks it has been snowing and I have now experienced walking in a blizzard, in a flurry, and in dirty slush, and also a white xmas! It only snowed in the morning but whatever, it still counts. I have yet to cross off my list, tabogganing, snow angels, snowmen and skating. But I will get to it! Hopefully most of those I'll get done for my birthday.

I decided last minute to get into the xmas spirit so the 19th and 20th I spent roasting veges, baking pavlovas (two of them! Both turned out pretty tasty) and making fudge deluxe for 2 parties and more fudge for wrapping up and giving to regulars and workmates, also wrapping up presents for Helen's dice game. Whew. Thank goodness for the dollarstore. I found some capsules of foam animals/insects/vehicles/farm animals/sea animals/dinosaurs that expand into random ones of those when you put them in hot water. So for everyone at work I decided to mix them all up and cut out whatever pitures they could turn into and bundle boxes of those with (indiviudally wrapped) fudge and a note to say that if they match any pictures with their foam friends then I'll buy them a drink as well. So far 2 people have won and thought the idea was pretty neat, hooray.
Helen's party was pretty fun, although I got there later than planned as I didn't get out of work until late. Catching the streetcar that morning with my two bags of loot, my backpack and a pav in hand was no easy task, but I made it! The ferry ride over was pretty neat, the whole of Lake Ontario was frozen over the top so the ferry had to battle with broken chunks of ice in the water, just like Titanic? OGOD.
It was a kiwi themed night with Si's NZ music playlist accompaning my pav which Helen made everyone try to no objection, although everyone had to work off dinner first which we did playing the dice game. I'm pretty sure the majority of us were dice game virgins but we all caught on pretty quickly. Basically, everyone brought with them 5 random small presents each and put them in a pile in the middle. Going clockwise everyone rolls dice and upon rolling a double or a 7 gets to take a present. Then at the end it's the same deal except it's timed and when one gets a double or 7 they can steal other people's presents! I wound up with a mug of chocolates, a mini bottle of champagne, a chocolate bar, a ship in a bottle, a baby bottle candle and a tiny thing of body massage oil! Talk about random. All and all a fun night out, didn't even feel like it was cold and snow outside, like Helen said, we could mistake it for a night back home!
Xmas eve I spent at work from 10-3:30, then went for a drive with K to the mall and around for photos of neighbourhood xmas lights. Afterwards I made my way to Chris and Perla's and stayed over so I could help them the next day with preparing food for the poor downtown. Perla organises the whole thing! This year apparently was not as hectic as they found a chef who offered to do the turkey for them instead of 4 people baking 4 turkeys each, but in the morning there were about 4 people in the house making a lot of salad. Just before 2pm about 3 cars load up and head downtown to a church basement to set up where we meet a whole bunch of other volunteers there to help out. So tables are set with tablecloths and a tree and cutlery, the walls are decorated with tinsel, and the food, peas, corn, potatoes, turkey and salad along with gravy and cranberry sauce is set up for all the volunteers to serve up and bring to the guests. There was singing and plenty of food and dessert (apple pie and icecream and plenty of cookies) and little take away goodies of chocolates and not that much preaching which was a relief. There were cold drinks and hot chocolate too and lots of food left over to be packaged up and given some guy who would give them out to others on the street. Apparently this was the 10th year she's organised it! It ran pretty smoothly. There was a bunch of older Chinese people who got up and started singing a few songs which was fun, there was also this weird guy in a suit who looked like he was out to make some kind of deal with people. I heard some people say they recognised some faces there which is kind of cool.

And that was my xmas.
What's next? Well, I leave for NYC tomorrow night on a BUS and coming back after new years so I guess there's that. Then after that of course is my birthday =O

Let's see what the new year brings in.
See you then!