I feel like I’ve pretty much settled into living in Maple Ridge. My job has changed a little bit over the last couple of weeks. School photo days are pretty much done and Eric’s company is mostly doing photo sessions for (soon to be) high school graduates now. Since training me as a grad photographer doesn’t really make sense for only one season, Eric has me working as his customer service representative now. That means I greet the students that come for their shooting, collect their money and assist the photographers.
The days are getting colder and more rainy now. Last weekend I took the ferry to Victoria to see Heather and pick up my winter tires that she kindly moved here from Ottawa. She took me down to the military harbor and gave me a tour of the HMCS Calgary, the ship that she is working on. A very unique experience. The ride on the ferry was quite an experience as well. With fall dressing the islands in the most beautiful colors.
I’ve almost been living in BC for four weeks now and I have to say that it feels good to be back. Living with the Arksey family is a blast, the lower mainland is still as beautiful as I remember and my job as a school photographer is treating me well. After I arrived there was a week of training during which I got to know the team and was taught how to set up the equipment, posing as well as communicating with the clients. On the final day of training we had a barbecue and the week after we started. I usually work around four hours every day and during that time take around 350 photos.
But what I definitely enjoy the most is catching up with friends that I met in my exchange year over a decade ago. It’s just amazing to continue our friendship from so many years back as if nothing ever changed. 🙂
Day 7: Regina: The city that rhymes with fun! When I first got to the capital of Saskatchewan I was pretty disappointed. The drive there was not very exciting since the Canadian prairies while having a certain charm get repetitive pretty quickly. Regina sits in the middle of what Wikipedia describes as “broad, flat, treeless and largely waterless plain” and driving into the city the first thing I saw were big chemical plants. Not the most inviting vista. But, as per usual, the people make all the difference and wow did I meet a cool dude here. My host Tim was pretty much the perfect couch surfing host and just generally awesome person. After working different jobs that he was never quite satisfied with, he one day decided to fully embrace his love for food and cooking and bought a food truck. In the morning of the day of my arrival he went to the farmers market and we ended up cooking a fantastic vegetarian meal together. Note: Tim is not a vegetarian, he bought fresh produce just to fit my eating habits. What an amazing guy. While Regina might not be the prettiest city, they do know how to do a certain thing close to my heart: brew beer. Tim took me to two local breweries. I ended up drinking a little too much and had an intense roller coaster ride on the couch after we got home, but the experience was definitely worth it.
Day 8: Feeling a little queasy, I set out on my trip to Calgary. The landscape was still a little boring but some hills started to appear here and there. My host in Calgary was Lauren, a doctor working on her specialization for public health. For some reason I forgot to take any photos of her beautiful apartment, but she made a killer sushi bowl for me and I made some soup from dried ingredients that I bought in St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. We spent a very relaxed evening and got up early. At that point I did not know how long the trip would be…
Day 9: Initially I set out to drive to Kamloops. It was definitely the most beautiful part of the drive landscape wise. The photos probably speak for themselves. I took a short break in Banff and had lunch at the Wild Flour Bakery (thanks Lauren for the suggestion!). On the way through the mountains traffic got stuck twice. Once because of a tipped truck and once because of a rock slide. I used both times to ride my penny board on the shoulder of the road. 😀
When I came to Kamloops at 20:00 I had not found a host for the night. I looked at my phone and noticed that it would be around 4 more hours to get to Maple Ridge. Since I didn’t feel like sleeping in my car, I decided to get another red bull and drive all the way. I unfortunately missed all of the scenery, but it did feel good to arrive and have Eric wait for me in the kitchen with a cold beer in the fridge. 🙂
Day 4: The next stop on my trip was Thunder Bay which almost ended up being a disaster. The drive around lake superior was amazing and I had some really nice views. But the person I had contacted to couch surf with turned out not to be a very good host, so I instead stayed with Annie. We took her bikes to get Gelato (Strawberry Balsamic and Mango) and then sat at the marina talking and looking at the pretty lights of the city. 🙂
Day 5/6: Winnipeg was absolutely amazing. Mostly because of my awesome couch surfing host. Dylan greeted me with a big welcoming smile and I instantly felt at home. His ex had recently moved out and he was eager to go out and do something. So we took his long boards and a couple of beers and went out to see the city by night. I had an absolute blast. The air was still warm and it felt good to be moving after spending the whole day in the car. We came by an open mic stage and sat down to listen to some genuine Winnipeg music and poetry. I had such a good time with Dylan that I decided to stay another day. I got to hang out with his dog Lulu, an absolut beauty, young and full of energy, and his son Ryder, pro at catching and tossing beach balls. Dylan and I decided that we would meet again for surfing in Tofino in December.
I’m sitting in a camping chair with my phone in my hand and a beer next to me in lot 6 of the rabbit blanket campground.
I can hardly believe that it has only been three days. Ottawa already seems so far away (1336km to be exact).
Day 1: I went from Ottawa to Toronto. I underestimated the time it would take to pack all of my things and so I arrived in Toronto around 21:30. Luckily my couchsurfing host Jonas was still up working on a business proposal and welcomed me into his apartment with a big smile. He was an amazingly friendy person who suggested I enjoy the view from his balcony while he was finishing up. He lives in a high rise appartement very close to downtown and the view at the illuminated skyscrapers against the by then pitch black sky was simply breathtaking. A little later I got to meet Mary and Steven, a young couple from the states who celebrated their 3 month anniversary with a trip to Montreal and then Toronto where they saw one of their favorite bands. We all stayed up until two in the morning drinking wine and talking.
Day 2: Initially I wanted to get back on the road the next morning but after the beautiful scenery, I changed my mind and decided to stay in Toronto for half a day until I eventually moved on to Sudbury. I could not find a couch surfing host there unfortunately and when I came up to the camp ground where I wanted to spend the night it was pouring. The grounds keeper actually advised me not to set up tent since they expected a thunderstorm at night and instead suggested that I should get a motel room which I ended up doing.
Day 3: One of the couch surfers I contacted to host me in Sudbury gave me the number of one of her friends. She wouldn’t be able to host me but she would show me around the city the next day. So at 11:00 I got to meet Pritha. She took me on a walk around Ramsey Lake and showed me some of her favorite spots and even a little rock she found that had a very simple yet beautiful message. When it started to rain, we went to a beautifully quirky restaurant with the name The Laughing Buddha. After that I went on to Lake Superior Provincial Park and the camp grounds I am now staying at. Oh, I did have a little stop at the Canadian Carver where I received my first full service gas fill up and took some snaps of some of the funny signs they sold there.
My time in Ottawa is coming to a close. Since my photography job in Vancouver starts training on August 28th, I will have to get going.
Fortunately, I still got to take part in Room Escape Ottawa’s staff outing on August 15th. The management had invited all employees to a match of lawn bowling where we would face off in teams of two. Even with an overcast sky, the sun was pretty intense and I managed to get a sunburn within a few hours. Oh yeah, and we did team costumes. 😀
After that I spent my last night with dem boyz at carta magica and at my place for magic and drinking after that. They had all put their money together and one of them pulled a few strings so they could give me my own custom dem boyz playmat. Everyone signed it. I was so happy. 🙂
I am really grateful that my first month’s in Ottawa were so enjoyable for me. I met so many amazing people and made so many awesome memories. Thank you Ottawa for welcoming me with such open arms.
Ottawa has an outdoor music festival every summer. Heather suggested I should volunteer there because it’s fun and you get to see the shows for free, so that’s what I did. Most volunteers return every year so a lot of them already knew each other. I did five shifts in total for about three hours each night. The last night was a special treat because it was a very slow night for me and I got to enjoy the Muse concert. 🙂
July 21-23 was GP weekend in Toronto. I had already planned to go there even before I arrived in Canada. Sinan, a friend from Switzerland asked me if I wanted to go there since his wife was going to visit relatives in the summer anyway. I drove there with my dem boyz friends and met up with Sinan at the event. I unfortunately didn’t have a lot of time to explore Toronto since I spent most of the time at the event center playing magic. But Sinan, Samar and I went out for dinner on Saturday night and had an epic battle after the meal. I think the photo makes it pretty clear who won. Sinan and Samar would end up staying a little longer while dem boyz and I drove back to Ottawa on Sunday night. I got home at 4:30 am. I was lucky to have a late shift that day. 😀
I have been taking antidepressants since the beginning of 2017. While it was definitely not as bad as my first episode in 2012 I still struggled quite a bit. On some days I had to call in sick at work because I couldn’t even bring myself to get up out of bed. Two weeks ago I have taken my last pill. I took the opportunity to commemorate this day with my first tattoo: a semicolon. Over the last couple of years, the semicolon had established itself as a symbol for mental health. It has a simple but powerful message: A semicolon is used when the author could have ended the sentence but decided to keep going. The sentence is our life. And the author is us.
Getting a car was one of my top priorities from the moment I came to Ottawa. Not only does OC Transpo not hold up to German public transport standards but I also need a ride for when I will move to BC later in August. Fortunately Brandon wanted to get rid of his 2007 Hyundai Accent and I picked up a pretty good deal. Added bonus: deterrence to car thieves because of manual transmission. 😀
Since Heather is getting deployed to Victoria by the Navy I had to find a new place to stay for the remaining weeks. Again, I got lucky. My friend Léna is traveling to Europe to the summer and let me stay in her room. She has two roommates living with her: Ravi and Conall two guys in their early twenties.
Before Heather left, we decided to end our time together with a canoeing trip on the Rideau Canal, a waterway connecting Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. We had planned for a 4 day trip but got cut one day short because of a severe thunderstorm with lightning beating us out of the water. We had to trespass into someones backyard and to hide under their gazebo from rain and hail. Fortunately Heather’s Roommate picked us up with the car.
Wow, the days have just been flying by. A lot has happened since the last time I posted and I’ll try to give you some insights. The most important thing first: I am now a Game Master at Room Escape Ottawa. For those who don’t know: Wikipedia defines escape rooms as a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms. My job is to greet the players, explain the rules, give clues while they are in the rooms and reset them after the players leave. It’s a fun job and I get to spy on people through security cameras while laughing maniacally and petting my imaginary cat. 😀
The first weekend of June, Heather and I did a Mud Hero obstacle run on a paintball field close to Ottawa. I ended up with a pretty respectable time in the 6km race while Heather did the ultra 10km race.
Jan, who is one of my magic friends and incidentally also part of the game development team that made Starwhal, invited me to Krakowiak night hosted by the Young Polish Canadian Professionals Association (he is a Polish Canadian Professional). Krakowiak is a traditional Polish dance that can get pretty fast and intense and we worked up quite a sweat. So we went to a bar afterwards for some beers and probably gave the worst ever interpretation of Pretty Fly by The Offspring on the karaoke stage. Good times. 🙂
I also finally found the time to check out the Parliament of Canada. Nice place with a beautiful library and a magnificent view from the peace tower but a little to clerical looking for my taste.