Archive for November, 2009

A Familiar Face

Monday, November 30th, 2009

It happens quite often here at the hostel. You look up and see the familiar face of an old friend and previous guest.

Yesterday, Analise, a young lady from the U.K. dropped by for a one-night stay on her way home from Panama and Costa Rica!

Analise was first here a little over a year ago on a working/holiday to Canada. She stayed with us until she took a job in a resort on Georgian Bay in the Muskoka Cottage Country. And when that job finished, it was back to out hostel in Toronto.

She left us again to explore prospects in Western Canada and worked in Alberta and B. C. But when she had enough of the west, she returned to her “home” with us in Toronto.

It turns out that her return to the U.K. froma trip to  Central America was a less expensive if she traveled via Toronto. So instead of connecting with an immediate flight from Canada to the U.K.. she opted to overnight and see her friends at out hostel.

We’re glad she did. Even though we only got to see her again for one day, it was wonderful seeing her.

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Little Analise {in blue) sandwiched between Peter and Vera!

“Speedy” Vera!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Hola Vera!

“Ija! Ija! Arriba! Andele!” That, as most of us know, is what the little Mexican Mouse, Speedy Gonzales says! It reminds us of Vera, our resident handywoman.

You can describe Vera as a very hard worker, a sartorial indiscretion, a person almost incapable of doing anything quietly who sometimes speaks with a lisp.

Vera is a Canadian who spent a lot of her childhood in Spain. (Her fluent Castilian Spanish accounts for the lisp). And she often speaks much louder and zips around faster than Speedy himself!

Vera has a warm heart, kind nature, raucous sense of humour and can be a bit noisy (to put it mildly). The bottom line is that you can hear her from great distances so she’s easy to locate.

In some ways Vera is the youngest person at the hostel. She loves Rock Concerts, nightclubs, the odd drink or three and you can never know what colour her hair will be from one day to another.

You might say, she’s a really good kid!

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Another Irish Migration

Friday, November 27th, 2009

There really is a migration crisis in Ireland right now. Unlike the mass emmigration of the past, this one is, fortunately, only temporary.

In the history of our hostel in Toronto, we have never had so many Irish backpackers on work/travel visas. There are so many right now, we can’t seem to be able to get an accurate count.

As close as we can figure, there are presently 21 Irish Nationals in residence at the present time. That’s is fully ten percent of our capacity!

Ireland has been hit particularly hard by this worldwide economic downturn and any young people have obtained working visas, particularly recent University graduates.

Ireland has just experienced the worst year in history and the ranks of the unemployed are expected to rise to an unprecedented figure of about 400,000.

Two years ago, Ireland had the second lowest unemployment rate among the 15 EU countries. Today, they have the second highest rate, hovering close to 12% unemployment!

Many of our Irish guests have graduated recently with professional degrees such as architecture. And what is especially surprising are the number of tradesmen who have come seeking work.

We have qualified and licenced carpenters, plumbers and electricians who have arrived seeking employment.

These tradesmen are willing to work in the mines and oilfields of Northern Alberta and the territories of the Northwest and Nunavut!

We put out an impromptu call for any Irish visitors who were in our common area two nights ago. The pic below gives you an idea of how many are in residence right now!

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Teen Invasion

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Yesterday involved a lot of planning and room juggling on the part of Sandra, the hostel manager.

We had a booking of 51 students and four teachers for one night. The group was arriving from Locherby Composite School in Sudbury, Ontario. It’s a small mining community about four hours north of Toronto.

The students were here on a cultural excursion and visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (that recently underwent a massive addition and redesign by the world famous architect, Frank Gehry) the CN Tower and the Royal Ontario Museum.

When the students arrived, the staff was bracing for a possible rough ride with fifty one teenagers on an overnight excursion.

Rough ride? It never happened! The group was amazingly well-behaved which is a tribute to both the students and the teachers/chaperones. I even spoke to their bus driver who said they were no problem at all.

Our night man James avers that the night passed quietly and uneventfully. According to him, the Locherbie students were one of the best behaved school groups we have ever hosted.

It seems as if we had known a little about Lokerby School we might not have been surprised. By all reports, it is a pretty forward thinking institution and had instituted some far sighted educational programs.

It was the first school in Onrario to implement the use of laptops by students in the classroom. And introduced the Science and Technology Education Program (STEP) that is open to students from anywhere in the Sudbury District (utilizing an ambitious busing program).

We all hope that Locherbie High sends us more groups of their excellent young ambassadors. And to all of our Locherbie student guests, we hope you had a pleasant stay.

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A group of Lockerby students enjoying our free pancake breakfast,

Tony

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Tony the Tiger is coming to the hostel for Christmas! He’s a pretty popular guy here at our Toronto hostel. Tony is what you might say is a true adventurer!

He has faced a lot of adversity in his life and he never gives up, He always wins too!

Tony has been just about everywhere. Literally! He is has been to every continent (except Antartica) and he is the only traveler we have met who has visited every state in the union of the U.S.A.

All this, in spite of being blind and about 80% deaf!

I won’t go into his solo hiking in Canadian National Parks or other wild adventures. To read about them, you have to see previous entries in our hostel blog. (There are, at least, four!)

(SEE: Living Large! (April 2007); Tony the Tiger is Back! (Mar. 2008); Old Friend – New Challenge (April 2008); and Living in the Moment (May 2008) – written by Tony himself!)

When he last left here in the spring of last year, he was in dire need of a kidney transplant. If he didn’t get one, we feared his rambling days might be over! He might have to stay close to home for treatment.

But thanks to his stepfather, Tony got his kidney!

We just heard from Tony and he was in Greece (chasing a lady, I think!) and he will be joining us for Christmas this year!

We will ALL be glad to see him again!

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A.J.

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

A.J. is a backpacker from Ireland. We have a LOT of travelers from Ireland here at the hostel at this moment.

I don’t think it’s unfair to state that they are not usually the most stylish dressers. (I’m refering only to the MALE backpackers from Erie!)

A. J. takes sartorial indiscretion to a whole new level!

We’ve posted a photo of A.J. cavorting  at Algonquin Park about three hours north of Toronto. We conduct three day tours to the park in the summer.

Luckily for A.J., Algonquin is a “Wilderness Park” known for canoe tripping on and between its’ pristine lakes. Since it is far from civilization, you gan get away with antics that would get you arrested (and possibly certified) in Toronto.

So check out the photo of A.J. “skinny dipping” at Algonquin Park last summer, covered only by a Maple Leaf! (And a very small leaf, at that!)

A lot of Canadian canoe trippers cool off with an au natural plunge into the lake on hot days. But we usually require much larger leaves!

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Three Irish Architects

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

I just had a debate here at the hostel with three Irish architects as to the merits (or lack of merit) of our Royal Ontario Museum’s “fusion”  design that combines an old art deco era building with modern crystal construction.

I think it’s great! To me, it of defines the Toronto experience of old and new co-exising side-by-side; the way so many varied cultures do!

The three Irish architects (recent Grads, I might add) can’t stand the ROM Building!

Alice, Sean and Paul all completed their architecture studies in June in Dublin. They “chose” a pretty bad time to graduate. We are in the middle of a Global economic meltdown. With double digit unemployment in Erie, they thought they’d try their luck in Canada.

I’m actually a little miffed that they slag Toronto’s architecture! I mean, they’re from Dublin where the tallest building is a whopping 13 stories and sticks up on the local skyline like an erect….well, you get the picture!

The bottom line is that only Alice has found employment in their chosen field of architecture!  Good for her!

Meanwhile, Sean and Paul, go have another look at the ROM. Perhaps even go inside to get a feel of the design!

In their defence, I will concede that the three of them have a social conscience. Their work experiece – post graduation – involved charity work in Nicaragua, where they helped create community infrastructure in rural regions.

(But PLEASE, guys! I say again! Take another look at the ROM!)

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Marilu

Friday, November 20th, 2009

It is a very common question at the hostel. So, we asked Marilu from where she hailed. She told us to guess.

Her English is very go0d and didn’t have any strong accent to identify her background.

But she is “tall, tan, young and lovely…” (as the song says) and it continues…“the girl from Ipanema…”

O.K we’ll guess Brazil!

But we were wrong. Not by a lot because she’s from a bit further north – from Mexico! Guadalahara to be exact. And she’s not really a backpacker!

She plans to be in Canada for (at least) year. She has a student visa and has enrolled in a chef’s program at Niagara College in St. Catherine’s Ontari0 – close to Niagara Falls!

She is committed to a year-long intensive program and then might opt to complete a degree which would require a further two years of study.

We hope she likes it here and we hope this hot young lady from a very hot climate can stand our winter!

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“Manky” Matt

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Alright! He’s a Manc not Manky! Matthew is one of newest staff members and he hails from Manchester. In U.K. slang, they are known as Mancunians, or simply. Mancs!

He has arrived here on a workng/holiday visa but it doesn’t appear that he will need one much longer.

His father, a Vinter in the England, was born in Toronto and spent the first seven years of his life in Toronto before his parents opted to return to the U.K.

So his father has a Canadian Birth Certificate and is therefore a Canadian citizen. He has applied to have his citizenship status confirmed.

As soon as that has been done, Matt will automatically be entitled to full Canadian citizenship as well! He is really looking forward to clarifying his status as the employment prospects here are a bit better than back in the U.K. in the current economic climate.

We have found Matt to be a hard worker and a true gentleman. We think he is a fine addition to ourt citizenry!

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Elise

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

It is a real plus if you want to work in hostels for international backpackers to have good communications skills.

A facility with a second language (other than English) is invaluable. Elise, who is here on a working/holiday visa speraks excellent French.

She was born, raised and educated in France.  Go figure? I suppose that would explain her French language skills! Doh!

She had actually applied as a landed immigrant and her status is currently pending. She thinks Toronto is a good place to find work in her field.

Elise trained as a Cinematographer and Toronto is known as Hollywood North. Before the recent economic downturn that has affected the film industry everywhere, there were as many as fifty major film productions in the city on any given summer day.

Even the hit musical “CHICAGO” starring Catherine Zeta Jones was filmed in Toronto! In addition, there were lots of commercial advertising productions in the city. And the cult favorite “Boondock Saints” set in Boston was also filmed here!

Every aspiring Director of Photography has to put their time in loading film magazines, changing lenses, pulling focus etc.

So Elise feels that there are more opportunities to gain experience here. She has already been employed on a few feature film sets as a camera assistant.

Oh yes, did I mention that the film industry also pays very well?

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