Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The "You're Welcomers"..

Let me start by saying that I don't often dine in those high class restaurants, where prices are ridiculously high and serving portions are disappointingly small. So on top of being amused by the 3 glasses and 6 pieces of cutlery, I am also distracted by the differences in how the waiters/waitresses behave.

The type that my family and I find most interesting are the "You're Welcomers", who seem to have strict scripts to follow when dealing with their high-class customers (plus us :P). Almost all waiters (consider it to cover males/females) are very, very polite. Some are able to laugh at a joke. But it becomes so boring and unmeaning (can't think of the word) when you thank them for refilling a glass of water unasked, then mum and/or dad will thank them for taking the plates, and all we ever get in response is 'You're Welcome'. It doesn't matter how we word it, its all we get.

Compare this to the waiter we got at the restaurant we attended tonight: He was an extremely genuine and friendly chap who managed to always be around when needed (but not too much), yet was able to understand and properly react to jokes without being bound with a need to act all 'high class'. It is of no concern to me if he doesn't properly put his hand behind his back when pouring a drink, just that he makes our dining more enjoyable. He did this with ease, and it therefore made tipping something we wanted to do, instead of a compulsory nuisance.

So, thats a more topical blog which will hopefully be much more interesting to read than a "i did this then this then this" type. But I will conclude by saying that we're leaving for the Fairmont at Lake Louise tomorrow to spend New Years, which should be absolutely fantastic! We'll likely be sking there too :D Check it out: - it looks so magical!!

Anyway, if I don't update this beforehand, I hope you have a great New Years wherever you may be!!!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas! Here's an update...

Merry Christmas to everybody!!! Let me just start by saying that I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas day with your friends and/or family, whether you are a Bishop's friend on holiday (or back home!), or friends and family back in Australia. I know for certain I did, but I'll get to that in a bit.

Now, I know I have not updated my blog for a while. There is good news and bad news: As Marci has left Bishop's with a number of other exchange students (its gonna be so different and sad when I return!), the competition we had will no longer be running. And as we both missed many days (about the same), you'll be disappointed to know we took the easy route and decided we both didn't have to do the pants/shorts in the snow thing. The good news however is that I would like to continue updating my blog, as I am now, without as much time pressure that has forced me to stay up to 3am on occasions… I will aim for once every one or two weeks :)

Since my last post, things have been very very exciting. The rest of my time in New York was fantastic, and I look forward to going back there some time again next semester to see things I missed, such as the museums and Central Park. Not sure if I wrote about it in my last post about NYC, but my favorite thing about the city is not any of the attractions, but rather how it works. It is literally the definition of 'organized chaos'; There are so many shops, ticket sellers, tour companies, taxis, hot dog stalls, subway stations, people cramming the streets and so on, yet everything somehow runs smoothly. For instance, businesses throw rubbish onto massive piles on the street side, all over NYC, yet the next morning, they are gone. Then there were the taxis, who view lane markings as an option, and will cut across anyone to get the next fare or make the next turn. In short, it was a truly fascinating city.

After the train ride back to Montreal, I ran into some of my own chaos, with imminent exams that I had not really managed to find time to study for. I must have done alright though, because for my overall subjects, my worst mark was a 71% for french, and a 93% for level 3 marketing. And in the midst of all that, on the day of my final exam, I went skiing with Jezza, Quentin, Josselin and Marie. It was my first time to Jay Peak, and I was so excited to finally be skiing in Canada! Well, technically it was in Vermont USA, but you get the idea… Anyhow, on my second or third run of the day, the guys took me down a black run, and I coped with it surprisingly well! I'm looking forward to going back when more snow has fallen and the rest of the lifts have opened.

That night I did my final exam and then packed/cleaned my room for the imminent arrival of my parents at 10:30am the next morning. I'll tell you what: It was pretty amazing to see them again, and then to show them around my new home, as well as meet many of my Bishop's friends. Later in the afternoon we bused it back to Montreal, and that evening we met up with even more Bishop's students for one final dinner. It was so great for my family to meet so many of my friends… and for those of you that read this, they thought you were all lovely :)

So since I've been with my family, we've covered a lot of ground. We took a train to Quebec city the next day and stayed at the Manoir Victoria in Old Quebec for three nights. It has been not only our favorite destination so far, but also our favorite destination to stay, as the staff were absolutely lovely, the rooms were great, the breakfast buffet was excellent and there was free wireless internet! The reason I mention that last point is because since then we've stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver and the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler, both of which charge about $15 per day for internet. Its plain ridiculous, and one of the reasons I pretty much haven't been on the internet yet.

Vancouver was an alright city… we didn't see too much of it, but I think the worst part about it was not it's fault: the weather sucked. While it didn't rain, it was just overcast the entire time, which isn't the way you want to see a city. It was also in Vancouver that our APT tour began, starting with a limo transfer from the airport to the Fairmont (a nice surprise!). We met the rest of our 23 person group (Andrew and I are the youngest by a number of years), and after sleeping one more night in our own rooms (Andrew and I had our own room with an oversized double bed each!), we made the 140km coach ride to Whistler.

Here are only a tiny portion of the photos so far... these are ones taken by mum and dad, as I have not yet had a chance to upload my own (of which there are heaps!)

Ice Skating in Old Quebec City

Ice sledding, also in Old Quebec City

Fairmont's Le Chateau Frontenac, in Old Quebec

At night...

Being immature...

One of Quebec's many cannons

A steam-powered clock in Gastown, Vancouver - It played Westminister chimes every 15 minutes

The Olympic countdown clock in Vancouver

The worst part about Whistler was the lack of time we spent there! We arrived in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and spent it just looking around and relaxing a little bit. And here is what I did for Christmas: Skied ALL DAY on Whistler!!! The mountain is absolutely massive. I think you could ski for 3-5 full days and not have to do the same run twice. Just incredible. Everything about the mountain was great. The lifts were fast and not very busy, the trails were so much fun with a huge variety and great snow conditions (although admittedly not too much powder, but I enjoyed them groomed nonetheless), and you could not have asked for better weather - it was full sun and barely a cloud to be seen, with temperature inversion meaning it was 3 degrees up top and -10 down at the base.

We started the day with mum, who braved the Whistler gondola for the 20 minute ride to the top of the mountain, where she did a special thing called the Sno-Limo where she sat in a toboggan-like seat mounted onto skis, which a guide would ride down the mountain. It meant that she could experience the sensation of going down the mountain, while Dad, Andrew and myself skied beside her. She truly enjoyed it and was excited for the rest of the day, in which she also did tube sliding, somehow loving it even when she went backwards!!! Mum has truly conquered some fears and I'm so proud of her for it!

Us boys skied for the rest of the day without any stops for food, drinks or the bathroom, trying to make the most of our only day on the slopes; we had to leave the next day. My favorite run was one called the Peak-to-Creek, a 5.5km intermediate trail that seemed to go on forever, had some great powder sections and lots of dips. I must give a special mention to dad, who not having skied for like 20 years, managed to keep up with Andrew and I extremely well! I was thoroughly impressed, and it meant a lot that I could ski with him all day.

So that just about brings me to here, as I sit on our APT coach once again, winding up the final road to Sun Peaks for two nights. Hopefully I will be able to access the internet somehow and post this for all of you to read. I just want you to know that my family and I are having a wonderful time and enjoying every minute of it, with much more to look forward to before we split ways on the 4th of January.

To the Bishop's students, I hope you are all well and have arrived home safely if you aren't returning, or if you are currently traveling with friends/family until you return, that you are having a wonderful time wherever you may be, and I can't wait to see you again!

To friends and family back home, I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas holidays, and that you're managing to cope with the heat!! Its now only 6 months before I return (4 months down!), so I'll be back before you know it ;)

Anyway, sorry for the length of this, its kind of a consequence for a lack of updates.

Till next time!!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day Nineteen - Guest Bloggers!

Introduction by Jono: Below is what my guest bloggers for tonight have to say. A proper recount has been done by me at the bottom :P

Beav SUPERTRAMP: I write this in fear, Ale, King of Vagabonds has just threatened to unleash Diesel Dike Dominance power on my vulnerable body.

Ale, King of Vagabonds: I write this in anger, ANGRY WHOPPER! anger. Beav SUPERTRAMP has made apparent her doubts in my recall ability and thus has knowingly brought down my dike-like anger upon herself.

Beav SUPERTRAMP: Well justified Ale, King of Vagabonds but it does not lessen the fear i feel, however deserved it may be...A SUPERTRAMP who lives in fear is a SUPERTRAMP who feels limits, this is contradictory to my carefree SUPERTRAMP title and so now i believe this blog entry has CONFLICT. This theme will be the dominant discourse of your reading.

Ale, King of Vagabonds: Well, as a King, in fact a King of Vagabonds (in testament to Sailor Moon) THAT MEANS YOU, I should be able to govern with whatever level of Diesel Dike Dominance I see fit as it serves the good of the greater community.

Beav SUPERTRAMP: Vote 1 Ale, King of Vagabonds...Diesel Diking For the Greater Good. Obama likes the greater good, and may even be pro-diesel diking to achieve said greater good. Obama is American. American cities that are of notable mention include New York and Cincinnati. Speaking of new york, we had a day of frolicky funness there....See for yourself.... :)


Jono-Team-Bootcamp-Guy: Well, I wanted to upload some of the best photos I have, but unfortunately the internet connection is so shit here that it is virtually impossible to do so. So, for a quick summary, today we visited Times Square, and spent ages wondering around gazing at and inside the stores in amazement at how big they are. We visited a dedicated M&Ms store, Macy's (the largest store in the world), and many many others that I can't be bothered mentioning. We also walked up and down Broadway.

We then went up the Empire State Building to the observation deck on the 86th floor, and with not a cloud in the sky, left us with a stunning view of the mammoth city of New York. From there we had a look at the ice rink (will go there later), and eventually went back to the hostel.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this *different* kind of blog post - I still have no idea what Beata and Thea were on about :P

Having fun though!


Day Eighteen - In New York!!

Hey there guys!

So there is a massive queue of people checking in and out of this hostel. May as well give you guys a quick update:

Before I left for NY yesterday, I managed to get a measley 2hrs sleep, as I had to spend all night booking the train, working out how I was getting to the train, working out where I was going in Montreal and New York, and booking accommodation, then packing. Unfortunately, a blog update was sacrificed.

The first interesting part of the trip was walking outside the residence - it had snowed, roughly 5cm! In the cab on the way to the Sherbrooke bus station, I managed to have an almost-all French conversation with the driver, which while basic, made me feel quite proud. Having then caught the 2hr Limocar to Montreal, I caught the metro the the train station, where I would catch the Adirondale for 11hrs to NY.

The train was so comfortable! It was like first class seats on an aeroplane - they were super wide, the back reclined and there was a knee/leg rest thing too (just like a lounge chair), there was a powerpoint, and best of all, I got two seats to myself! It was also very smooth and comfortable. The 11hrs felt like nothing (could have easily gone for longer), and the only thing worth mentioning was the trouble at the US/Canada border corssing: For some reason, a 5yr travel visa for the US wasn't enough for the officials, and I still had to pay $6 for a visa waiver permit or something. I would have argued, but you know, its the US customs, and I was just grateful to get through. But this brought up another problem - I forgot to bring my US currency! Fortunately I could exchange it at the dining cart (CA$20 for US$16 - did I get ripped off?).

Surprisingly, there was snow all the way until about 3hrs before New York, sometimes looking like it had snowed more there than it had back in Bishops. Speaking of snow, its meant to be snowing heaps on Wednesday. Looking forward to getting back and seeing a permanent layer on the ground, especially when my family are due to visit so soon!!!

In New York, navigating the subway system from the train station to my accommodation was quite difficult, if not just because it took me ages to work out where I was, where I was going, and what to catch to get there. But there was no problems, the subway was busy even at 8.30pm so I never once felt unsafe or anything, and I arrived at the Tone on Lex where I had planned to stay.

Unfortunately, I hadn't booked for last night, and they were all full. I did however meet Beata and her friend there, and after a bit of quick research, I found an alternate place and stayed here for the night at Jazz on the Park. Absolutely massive in comparison! The bed was very uncomfortable and there was a super loud snorer, but the people here were great, and I spent the night beforehand socialising with some Brits and Aussies..

Anyway, I've booked the next three nights at Tone on Lex, so I'm just about to check out now and make my way over there to drop off the luggage. Don't know what we've got planned for today, but its a nice day out, and it should be great!

Hope all is well wherever you may reside!


P.S. My family are leaving for Canada tomorrow!!! So excited for them! And mum, if you happen to read this, know that you'll be absolutely fine on your plane trip, and that I can't wait to see you on the 17th!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day Sixteen - I listen to my followers...

Hey Guys

Now, last post I asked for some ideas of what I could talk about. Only one person replied - who happens to be my blog challenger Marci - and she asked that I talked about a really, well, self-centered subject. Herself.

Marci is a very good South African friend of mine, one of three S'africans studying at Bishops. I think we get along because we're very similar. Namely, we both do as little study as possible. She's one of only a few other exchange students (*cough* Ben) who struggle to find the motivation to study hard, and so its always something we laugh at each other about when all of a sudden we start stressing in the day leading up to an exam. But no, we do get along well for more than this reason, and it'll be a shame when she and all the other great friends I have made here leave, to be replaced by 45 new exchange students.

*Now we warp from this to the real blog post for today - don't forget, if you have content to suggest, or want me to talk about you (not really), just tell me!*

Well today, I did something very exciting, and have much more planned for after I finish this blog (note that I've typed this at 5.45pm, like 7hours before usual :P). I went for a run with Anton this morning, and covered 13km going halfway to North Hatley and back. Anton, being super fit for an old bloke, did an extra 2km, and still caught up in like 15minutes... But yeah, while I didn't manage to run (make that slow jog) the whole way, I was proud of myself.

I went straight to the indoor pool at the gym afterwards, which was a nice way of calming down, before going into full detox mode with a shower and sauna treatment :D While I've been relatively lazy since then, tonight there is a party in my residence, where we'll play some pool and foosball (table soccer), then head to Sherbrooke for some proper clubbing :) And thats why I'm typing this now.

Oh, and before that, the Olympic flame for the 2010 Canadian Winter Olympics is passing through our tiny town of Lennoxville!!! It comes at around 6.30pm, so it'll be very exciting to see :D Photos tomorrow hopefully!

I'm glad that this is a more decent blog post than yesterday. Hope you are all well.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day Fifteen - Need some inspiration!

OK I'm running out of quick things to talk about. What do you guys want to hear about? What I've been up to on a day-to-day basis? Surely not... is there anything about Bishops or Canada that you want to know about which I've missed? Please let me know, it gets more and more difficult by the day.

I got into the Christmas spirit today and put up some lights. Unfortunately, the box of 200 only actually contained 80. So I really struggled to work out where to put them. Pictures tomorrow hopefully.

I failed at doing French today. What a waste of life. Will do much better tomorrow. You just wait and see what i got up to.

See ya


Friday, December 4, 2009

Day Fourteen - Rain, rain, go away...

Another quick post. I'm very sorry, but I've had a couple of late nights out, trying to make the most of the last few days I have with all these friends I have made, many of whom are leaving after final exams. In turn I'm sacrificing sleep, and a little bit of length of the blog, but at least you are hearing from me regularly.

Nothing much happened today. I did indeed sleep in, not waking up until 1pm (expecting the same tomorrow). After breakfast I actually studied French, as I have a goal of doing at least one hour per day up until the 12th when the exam is. Then it was literally as dark as night by 4.15pm, I hung out with Jezza for a while, then had a great night out with an American friend - steak, chips, and a few drinks :)

But, as the post title describes, the day was let down by persistent damp conditions. And warmth. Will there ever be continuous snow and below zero temperatures? Its beginning to feel like it would be a rarity, rather than a given. And because there is next to no drainage on campus, the roads and footpaths are quite flooded. Much prefer it to be covered in snow. Still waiting patiently, but apparently Jay Peak will be opening this Saturday! Albeit with only an estimated two chairlifts running, and 2-4 slopes... but its a start.

At least it'll be a white Christmas for my family and I when we're in Whistler. They still have about a two metre base :D Speaking of my family, they are leaving for LA and San Francisco in just five nights time!!! I'm so excited for them - I know mum will do just fine on the plane flight - and I cant wait to see them when they come to Bishops campus on the 17th :D Will definitely be hugs all around...

Alright, time for bed. I promise I'll do some more interesting posts very soon, possibly including video. I want to make a video montage of all the trips I've done away, which I'm sure you would enjoy. I just have to find the effort to do it :P

Bonne nuit!