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Halloween, once a Pagan Festival is now little more than an annual tradition where children can dress up and get free candy on October 31st!
We will have a Halloween party at the hostel where the bigger kids can have a good time by substituting alcoholic beverages in lieu of candy. It’s not surprising in that the old Celtic Festival was spread to the new world by (mostly) Irish immigrants.
It is also a party where “fancy dress” is the order of the day. Watch this space for photos of the costumes many of the bigger “kids” will have been wearing.
In the run up to Halloween, the hostel has an “event” that is also a pre-Halloween tradition.? PUMPKIN CARVING!
Known as Jack-’o-Lanterns they consist of hollowed out pumpkins with faces or designs carved out of them. This was inspired by the phenomenon of the strange, flickering, ghostly lights that are often seen floating eerily over peat bogs.
However, this is largely a North American tradition due to the plentiful supply of pumpkins harvested in the fall of the year around Halloween.
We supply the pumpkins and hold a carving contest at the hostel. The efforts and results are pictured below.
Her name is Elvan. To anyone who as read “The Lord of the Rings” (probably most of us) “Elvan” is the demonym that describes the residents of “Rivendale” who are Elves. (Actually, it’s spelled “Elven”; but, at least it’s a homonym.)
Writer Tolkein describes them as “fair of form and face”; and yes, that about describes the young lady who hails (originally) from Turkey.
She is a Canadian citizen who has, for the past seven years, resided in the “Sunshine State” of Florida.
She drove up to our hostel in her snazzy little, black, late-model VW Beetle to “leave” the U.S. until she can renew her residency permit.
In the paranoia that pervades the post 911 world, understandably, a lot more checks and balances are needed to reside or emigrate in the United States.
As soon as her status is resolved she will be heading for the sunny south just before we enter our winter! Gee. We wonder why she would want to do that?
His name is Johan, but everybody calls him Rick. Until the beginning of last summer, he worked the overnight shift on our front desk. He left to work at a summer camp near Orillia. north of the city.
He arrived back at the hostel last week to arrange his flight back to Perth, Australia where he plans to resume his old job (temporarily) as a bartender at an upscale casino.
By his calculations, he had accumulated enough “air miles” to fly from Singapore to Perth for free. So he set his money saving “plan” in motion.
He had a bus ticket someone had given him for a one-way trip to New York City. It’s a grueling 12 hour plus, overnight run to the Big Apple. He had discovered that airfares to Perth from New York were slightly cheaper than a flight from Toronto.
He left the hostel around 4 PM on Tuesday afternoon. I told him he was crazy! He is! What follows is an mind numbing, exhausting travel horror story that has still not ended even as I write this at 6AM on Saturday morning.
He has been on the go non-stop for four-an-a-half days and he has only made it as far as Hong Kong! He has been unable to confirm space on the Singapore to Perth leg so he’s stuck at Hong Kong Airport! I don’t know how much money he has saved but that’s what I call “false economy”!
I spoke with Rick when I saw him on Skype last night intending to ask him how the weather was in Perth. That’s when I discovered he was stuck in Hong Kong. He sounded exhausted and I can’t imagine how he look or smells! (Or don’t want to!)
Here’s his (money saving) trip thus far:
Leave the hostel @ 4PM Tuesday to walk to Bus Terminal.
Leave Toronto Bus Terminal at 8:30 P.M for 12 hour trip to NYC (with brief stop at border to be harassed by U.S. Customs).
Arrive NYC early Wednesday morning around 7AM. His “Cheaper” flight? NYC – London does not depart until 9PM!
Arrive London in the morning and has 12 hour lay-over until flight to Hong Kong. Spends about $50 sightseeing!
Arrives Hong Kong to discover that no space available for a redeemed air miles ticket avalable Singapore to Perth – standby only! Forced to wait in Hong Kong.
Spends 42 hours at airport minus a few hours for a trip to town carrying all of his baggage! (He’s accumulated quite a bit after a year in Canada!)
He finally arranges his flight and will arrive home in Perth about 3PM Toronto time on Saturday!
How much money did he save? A lot I hope! Madness!
Her name is Sian and it is pronounced the same as Sean Connery; but this young lady has more in common with the beautiful actress, Sean Young. (That is to say she’s beautiful; but not unbalanced.)
Her name is Welsh and given to her by her adoptive parents who are from Swansea where she was raised. We can’t spell her name properly because our computer does not have a circumflex to put over the “A” in her name.
She’s been in Canada since last winter. She spent he ski season in the Rockies before heading east and coming to Toronto.
Sian is employed at Canada’s oldest firm, the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company which once owned most of the country!
She’s a “merchandiser” at “The Bay”. You can tell she’s likely pretty good at her job too. She has a great fashion sense and is usually seen “dressed to the nines” when going to work.
On her off hours, her dress code can be described as “coordinated casual”.? In short, a beautiful lady with lots of style.
(Check out her website: www.sianseabrook.com)
In earlier posts regarding our “front desk” staff, we mentioned how important of French language skills were in Canada, in general, and in a service industry (such as ours) in particular.
Myriam, a brand new grad of the prestigious Queen’s University, worked our front desk in the summer of 2007 before disappearing into the wilds of the Northwest Territories.
We nicknamed her “Muffin” (because she’s so sweet) and we suspect she was sent to the Northwest Territories to keep an eye on Sara Palin and other shifty Alaskans!
Muffin is what is known as a Franco-Ontarian. A small minority (mostly from northern Ontario) who’s mother tongue is French.
However, being from a predominantly English speaking province Franco-Ontarians have equal facility with both official languages. You would never guess that Muffin was a native French speaker when she is speaking English.
She left us to spend a year in the far and wild northwest to teach school children about “French Culture”. (We think she was introducing them them to the Quebec delicacies of Poutine, Pea Soup and Pepsi Cola.)
Anyhow, we are a bit short staffed right now and Muffin has agreed to help us out for a few months before she leaves for further adventures in southeast Asia.
And, if I’m not mistaken, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos once comprised “French Indochina”. Coincidence? I think not!
Sarah is another new addition to our hostel staff. In keeping with our hiring practices, Sarah (like our other new staff member, Robyn, is a fluent French speaker.
Unlike Robyn who developed her language skills from her Quebec roots and her mother’s French Canadian Heritage, Sarah’s French is largely a product of or educational system.
Sarah is one of the hard-to-find native born Torontonians (the demonym for a Toronto resident). She studied French from grade four to graduation in grade twelve.
She was not content with her “academic only” association with the French language and culture. She left for a year in France where she was hired as an Au Pair (child care worker) for the children of an Anglo-French couple living near Paris.
Her approach to honing her skills with a language was “total immersion”. When you are stuck in a small town on the outskirts of Paris, you have little choice other than speaking French if you want to communicate with the locals.
In some ways it is shameful that in a country that if officially bilingual, so few people outside of Quebec speak French. However, if our front desk is any indication, things are improving.
Robyn is one of the two newest additions to the Canadiana Staff. She’s working her way through University studying English Literature. You’ll often see her reading one of the classics.
She’s really efficient at the front desk being a fluent speaker of both of Canada’s official languages. We get a lot of travelers from France and the usually lack the proficiency in English of other Europeans. (Especially he Dutch and Germans virtually all of whom are fluent English speakers.)
Robyn comes by her language skills quite naturally. She was born in Montreal to a French Canadian mother and an anglo Canadian father. She started speaking both languages from childhood.
In a nation with two official languages it is remarkable how few English speaking Canadians have a facility with the French language. Especially given the fact that French is a mandatory subject in all Canadian schools.
Quite a few languages are spoken by the Canadiana’s staff. We can help clients in French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Cantonese, Portuguese and even Afrikaans!
Tim is a young English bloke who stayed here for several months a little over a year-and-a-half ago. We were quite surprised to see him checking in the other day!
It was one of those, “what the heck are you doing here?” greetings we reserve for old friends and familiar faces!
Tim has come back with a couple of friends this time. Rosie and Mark both hail from his hometown in Cornwall, in England’s southwest.
He’s familiar with Toronto and he’s acting as a tour guide showing them all the sights of the city he grew to know so well.
When you think about it, it is one of the better ways to visit a strange city. Visiting with a friend from “home” who has lived here long enough to qualify virtually as a “local”.
Tim has taken his friends to see the usual sights (CN Tower, Harbourfront, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Zoo etc.) and then in the evenings, they explore out-of-the-way clubs and cafes that Tim discovered when he lived here.
Tim is just one of many returnees to the hostel. Our motto here is “It Feels Like Home”. And for people like Tim, it really is!
Toronto hosted the World Karate Championships last week. An open invitational “kumite” tournament was held in the city for (Shotokan style) Karate.
Shotokan is the largest school/style practiced in Japan and worldwide. We had the Israeli Team staying with us during the tournament.
The young Israeli Team (I believe the oldest participant was only thirty) did very well indeed. The rest are relatively young for such a large international tournament and rank only from First to Third degree Black Belts.
But for such a young team, they did remarkably well! One of their members Avi, is a Third Degree Black Belt and current Three Time World Champion for Deaf Competitors! In Toronto, he captured the World’s Bronze Medal for all competitors!
They took fourth place in the team competition and sixth overall in the “kata” (forms) championships. Pretty impressive for such a young team!
I guess if you are learning a Martial Art, it pays to be from a country where they quite often must “practice the real thing” on a day-to-day basis!
The happy Israeli Team. That’s Avi (second from left) proudly sporting his World’s Bronze Medal!
Thanksgiving is a purely North American tradition. It came from the Pilgrims who came to America and the first Thanksgiving took place in 1565 in what is now St. Augustine Florida. (Not Plymouth as generally accepted).
Here in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. In the U.S., the hold it on the fourth Thursday of November.
It is tradition to roast a turkey on Thanksgiving given that’s what the original Pilgrims shot for their dinner. It is our good luck that they didn’t shoot as skunk as that would have put a damper on the celebration (not to mention the meal)!
We checked around and most bars and clubs are closed on the holiday; however, one local Pub, The Friar and Firkin had a special Thanksgiving Dinner for only $10.95.
We put up a sign a few days in advance to see if any of our guests wanted to go. We had mre than 40 sign up for the brunch at 2PM on Monday!
It was a roaring success! The turkey dinner was superb with butter tarts or sweet potato pie for dessert!