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The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Friday, 4 September 2015

♪ I get by with a little help from my friends ♪

Hello, and welcome back. My last post, concerning the news from Clyde Space, was a little depressing. Indeed, I would have stayed quite depressed if it wasn't for the presence and support of friends and family. Before hearing the news, I had planned a trip to visit some friends "near" Toronto. It was originally intended to be one final time together in Canada before I became busy in Scotland, but after hearing the news, it became a well-needed distraction and solace. 

The last few weeks have been really fun, despite the bad news. So, read on and enjoy!
The first thing I must do here is laud the hospitality of my friends, Mike and Sarah. They recently returned from their honeymoon cruise in Japan and they were more than willing to accommodate me for the two weeks that I spent at their home. They never ceased to spoil me with food, snacks, trips to fun places, and even surprise gifts. I know relationships are not a zero-sum game, and I know that I am not "obligated" to ever return the favour, but I have to say that when faced with that amount of constant companionship and hospitality, it makes me very excited for the time in my life where I'm in a position to pay them back!

The first week was a very relaxing and quiet time. Mike and Sarah picked me and my sister up from home, enjoying a nice homemade meal (thanks Mom), before driving us back to the Hamilton area. While Sarah had to work most of the days through the week, Mike and I spent most of that week just hanging out, playing games, being nerdy, and it was an excellent change of pace, allowing me to enjoy the good times without reflecting on the bad news I had received.

At the end of that first week, a very special thing happened: Juliette flew in to Canada! A few days after receiving the bad news, I asked Juliette what she thought about spending some time with me here. We hadn't seen each other since January and I thought it best that we reunite and help each other through this time. We had both thought that my future was set and that I would soon be one country apart instead of an entire ocean apart, so I suggested this visit to help cheer us up. We talked it over and, while expensive, I definitely think it has been a worthwhile visit!

Interestingly enough, I have to thank my friends, yet again, here and now. Apparently, after hearing my bad news, my friends had begun conspiring as to how to get Juliette over here to surprise me. By the time they all decided to chip in and make it happen, they found out that she had already agreed to come over, and had paid for her flight. Now, I am sure there is more to this story than I know, and I don't really want or need to know more, but I am very, very fortunate and thankful to have friends who would even consider doing this for us. This thought has made me very happy these past few weeks.

So, after 7 months apart, Juliette and I finally reunited. Mike and I picked her up at the airport and it was all smiles, tears, and hugs. We have spent almost every single moment together since then and it has been wonderful!

One of the planned trips was to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The best word to describe this town is quaint. It has a long street of old buildings and novelty shoppes. There is a year-long Christmas store, a store featuring heraldry and swords, an ice cream parlour with cows and cow-related merchandise, and a shop full of Irish-themed clothing. 

Mike, Sarah, Juliette, and I walked the street, staying in the shadows to avoid the heat, and had a nice time.

Afterward, we went down by the lake for a picnic. It was still way too hot, but the food, company, and water were nice.

We then got back in the car again and drove to Niagara Falls. It was a beautifully scenic trip, featuring vineyards, orchards, and other farms.

We parked in downtown Niagara Falls and walked through the super-mini-Canadian-Las Vegas, as I call it, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to call that the Canadian Reno? Anyway, through the crowds and down to the water.

I was very happy to bring Juliette here. Niagara Falls is a very lovely place and is as legendary to Europeans, I'm told, as the Eiffel Tower is to North Americans. 


Mike to Sarah, "We're getting a puppy!"
Mike to Sarah, "We're not getting a puppy."

Stepping inside the gift shop, Juliette picked up some stamps and postcards, and saw this!
She may not look like it, but Juliette is extremely excited to see a moose, even a fake one!
"Ah!!! Moose! What do I do!? Do I do this!?"

The next day, Mike, Juliette, and I took a tour of the Welland Canal! We saw the locks, a ship coming in, a very informative but boring video, and a museum on Canadian history that was much more informative than we thought it would be. I didn't save a lot of pictures from the museum but if you're in the area, I recommend it!

How Canadian!

I never realized before just how tall Mike is!

And then one quick stop at the Devil's Punchbowl, in Stoney Creek!

Later in the week, we were invited to a dinner with my friends Marco and Meredith. Everyone was excited to meet each other, having heard about each other for over a year. We had a lovely dinner and, early the next day, we set off downtown to see some of Toronto!

Juliette was very excited to see Toronto and I loved showing her around! We had dinner at Hank's restaurant, near the St. Lawrence Market, then off to the Eaton Centre, followed by a stop at Yonge and Dundas Square.

We made a quick stop at The Silver Snail, comic-book shop and purveyor of nerdy things, where Juliette made a friend!

Not having a lot of time, we then made our way quickly down to Toronto's Centre Islands. We took a ride on a city ferry, taking in the lovely weather and beautiful Toronto skyline.

On the island, we attended an Ubisoft company picnic and then had a walk around the park. 

The Toronto Island Marina
Juliette found the geese interesting; I found it interesting that the French call them "une oie" which is almost exactly what these birds sound like! Oie Oie Oie!

We walked out to the peer and saw sailboats in the distance.

And then we rented bikes! We wanted to rent the 2 or 4 person "carriage" so we could take a leisurely tour around the island, but it was a busy day, and we didn't want to wait an hour for it. So, we decided to be adventurous! We rented two bikes, and a tandem bike!

Juliette captured this perspective perfectly!
And she risked her life while biking to take this and the next photo!

Riding a tandem bike is quite an experience. I highly recommend it, although it is not for those lacking in dexterity. Marco and Meredith had a try and, while challenging, they did very well. Juliette and I rode on it for some time and all went well until we almost hit a carriage. The trouble was that we couldn't slow down; to do so meant we would fall over, and there were many people in the park that day, all over the road, and the bell on our bike didn't work. We tried to cut between two carriages, got too close, hit one, and scurried off the road. Thankfully, no one panicked, and no one was hurt.

Afterward, Marco and I gave it a shot. We did very well, actually. Since our bell didn't work, and for comedic effect, I kept talking really loud, narrating our experience for us and all those we passed by. 

"Okay, here we go! Yep, still moving! Nope, can't slow down" Whoa whoa! Okay, alright, moving well, on your left!"

We had many people smiling and laughing as they saw us, thinking we were both cute and hilarious as most near-accidents are. At one point, there were too many people on the road, so I decided to take the bike off-road. Trouble was, I was in the front, and Marco couldn't see past my schoolbag. So, I called out what we were doing, and we swerved onto the grass. Not so bad, I thought. Okay, now time to go back, should be...oh, I forgot about the sand, the sand that is between the grass and the road. When we hit that, the bike tilted on a very dangerous angle, then back the other way just as much, but despite all of that, we didn't fall!

The tandem bike was quite an experience and added some excitement to an already beautiful day!

When it was time to go, we took a ride on the Toronto Island Marina ferry. A smaller boat than the one we had taken earlier, it has the added benefit of often being captained by my friend Jenn, who let us ride up front! Juliette was pretty ecstatic, being so close to the water!

That night, Juliette and I joined Mike and Sarah in attending an engagement party for our friends James and Fiona. They are extremely fun, exciting, nerdy people, and the decor was set to match. I am sure that, just like Mike and Sarah's wedding, James and Fiona's big day will be very fun!

Early the next day, Mike, Sarah, Juliette, our friend Stephanie, and I went on a quest! Mike came up with the rules, and wrote them on paper that looked like ancient scrolls. We were going to garage sales, and our quest was to buy, or convince others to buy, items in specific themes. For example, my theme was wood. After scouring the neighbourhood, we all bought some things, and came back to tally the score. I didn't find many wood items, although my Mom argues that the comics I bought should have counted, but others found some interesting items, including some art books, books on Scottish clans, and the weirdest thing of all: a French book featuring French women smoking!

Mike thought he won with that book, but, when we tallied up the scores, it turns out that all the wacky art books, including the French one, counted toward Juliette's theme and she ended up winning! It was great fun and a game I look forward to playing in the future!

Later, we went to dinner at my sister's place in St. Catharines. Sarah had to work sadly, but we saved her some food. It was a lovely meal, great company, and we ended up playing all kinds of board games including Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, and Hear Me Out. Despite English being her second language, Juliette did very well, and we all had a fantastic time.

The last few days were filled with relaxation. Watching TV, movies, playing video games, starting a new campaign of Dungeons and Dragons (details to come soon), Juliette and I enjoyed our last few days at the McKenna's. Mike and Sarah were even nice enough to drive us back to my home, which was very nice, and Juliette and I have been settling here for the past few days.

She is only here until mid-October and we are doing our best to make each and every day very special. It is also time for me to get back to the job hunt, and I have the extra challenge of needing to find both local, short-term work, while I live at home and try to cover my debts, and something long-term/more in line with my career.

In one email, after months of waiting, my life was pulled out from under me. I went from fully excited and confident, to feeling aggravated and without any prospects. However, I have received exceptional love, support, and encouragement from family, friends, and colleagues I haven't seen in years. I will use this support to regain my confidence and work harder than ever before to make something of myself and my career.

I will never give up, never surrender, and as silly as that sounds, I owe it to myself, to those who've helped me, and to all those who struggle, to succeed, prove that anyone can follow their dreams, and when I'm able to, give back and pay it forward.

Thank you, very much, for reading!

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