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Learning English

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

It is a bit of a new phenomenon. A product of the European Economic Union.

These days we are seeing more and more young French university grads coming over on year-long, working/holidays to improve their English skills.

Most of us know just how jealously the French guard their language. Why not? It sounds prettier and more elegant than most, It is, in fact, a language made for music and poetry.

Buut likerit or not, English is the de facto language of the 16 member EU. Hence the number of French students here at the hostel.

Gladys is a young French university graduate with a degree in Marketing. She is here to work and study to obtain gther necessary language skills to compete in the ever expanding European job manrket.

In the short time she has been with us, we have already noticed a marked improvement in her English skills.

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Doctor in the House

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Who stays in hostels these days? The answer is easy; all sorts of people pass this way .

In addition to backpackers on holiday in constant party mode, there are professionals and tradesmen on business or seeking work.

We actually get a lot of professionals: Architects; Engineers; Pharmacists; Lab Technicians; Nurses; IT specialists; we even get our share of lawyers (because no place is perfect)!

Dr. Jim Cockey, a specialist in Internal Medicine, is here from Maryland U.S.A. to attend the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

And no, he didn’t get lost on the way to the conference. The association decided – for the first time – to hold their meeting out of the United States.

Toronto is a pretty good choice for a place to hold a convention. There are plenty of purpose-built conference venues and the largest one is only three blocks from our hostel’s doors!

We get a lot of physicians who stay at our Backpackers Inn. So many, in fact, that we have lost track of the precise number.

About four of our past physician/guests have their pictures on our wall of “Notable Guests”. And that is only a tiny fraction of the medical professionals we have hosted here in the past.

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SPORT’S FANS!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Many, if not most, backpackers here in our Toronto Hostel are rabid sports fans! The males are, that is; it’s usually just a guy thing!

Since the majority of travelers at the hostel are from overseas they don’t enjoy the same sports as North America and are principally interested in Football or “Soccer” as it is called here.

Is it the world’s most popular game? You bet! It has caught on virtually everywhere and will likely take over as the number one sport in North America eventually.

I can’t see it not happening here! Especially in Canada! The changing demographics due to immigration  cannot help but alter the culture. Virtually half (49.9%) of all Toronto residents were born in another country.

Soccer (as we call it) has spread worldwide most likely because of the low-cost of equipment. All you really need is a ball. You don’t actually need shoes to participate – just think of the Great Pele!

The equipment costs for most sports are prohibitive (especially hockey) and hockey requires specialized venues with artificial ice. The low-maintenance cost of “Soccer” will be especially appealing to cash-strapped school boards. So move over sports fans, soccer is here to stay!

One good thing about Toronto’s multi-cultural roots is that virtually every sport is accommodated. You can find championship matches for almost any major sport on a sports bar satellite screen somewhere in the city.

Where? Ask around the hostel. You’ll find fellow sportsfans. No matter if your taste in sports is Cricket; Soccer; Hurling; Rugby; or even Australian Rules Football, you’ll likely find it here.

Toronto is also the home of several professional sports franchises including NHL Hockey; AHL Hockey; AL Baseball; AAA Baseball; NBA Basketball; MLC Soccer; as well as CFL Gridiron Football; and two major league Lacrosse Teams.

We also have semi-professional teams: A women’s Hockey Team; two Soccer (one Men’s and one Women’s); A “Jr. A”Lacrosse team; and a AAA Baseball franchise.

The list of amateur teams is too numerous to list but it is interesting to note that it even includes a six-team Australian Football League.  Something for everybody!

FYI here is a link to Aussie Rules Football in Toronto:

http://www.highparkdemons.com/

Here is a link to a Gaelic Football and Hurling Club in Toronto:

http://stmikesgfc.com/

For Cricket Fans:

http://www.cricketstar.net/tdca/

We haven’t yet managed to find any local clubs for Scots Haggis Hurling; Welsh Bog Snorkling; Finnish Wife Carrying; Toe Wrestling; or Afghan Buzhashi but we’ll bet they all happen somewhere around here!



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VOLCANO VICTIMS of 2010

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Now here is something you don’t hear of every day. Volcano victims!

Not a very appealing thought I’ll grant you; but, we do have them right here in our hostel right now!

The massive volcanic eruption in Iceland has produced an ash cloud over Europe that is hazardous to air travel. And as a result a lot of travelers have been stranded far from home.

The disruption of virtually all European air traffic has cost the airlines hundreds of millions of dollars is lost revenues. The disruption is also classified as “an act of God” which limits claims available to most travelers.

You would think that this would severely damage our hostels’ occupancy as many travelers from overseas have not been able to come as planned.

Not exactly. You see, a lot of people due to return to European destinations are stranded right here.

Rick and Anthony are two young lads from Burnley, UK. They have extended their stay three days already and spent them mostly in Toronto’s nightclubs.

Andy is here from Southampton after taking his wife and son to San Francisco. Their flight change in Toronto coincided with the eruption in Iceland and they have been stuck here ever since.

That’s just of few of our reluctant guests. Being stuck so far from home can’t be much fun. We are glad that we have been able to accomodate them.

They should all be on flights home over the next few days, “God willing and the ash don’t rise!”

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THE (continuing) IRISH INVASION

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

OK. I’ll grant that this entry is NOT news. But it is an ongoing hostel saga (for want of a better word).

I’ve just searched the words “Irish Invasion” on our blog and came up with great number references to the virtual flood of Irish Nationals visiting our Toronto hostel!

(I initially typed just the word “Irish” by itself but had to be more specific to keep the results manageable!)

Anyhow, the results of the more specific search, references an entry dating from September 2007. That’s when we first really noticed the increasing trickle of Irish coming to the hostel.

That trickle has become a flood! Never before has there ever been a single demographic comprising such a majotity of visitors! (Up to 1/3 of our hostel’s capacity are Irish on almost any given day!).

A unique feature of these job-seeking migrants is how qualified most of them are! Architects, engineers, business grads, lab technicians and even qualified tradesmen – a group that rarely needs to migrate to find work!

Aisling Riordan, a former radio/television journalist with RTE (Eire’s counterpart to our CBC) was an early member of the Irish flood. She works for an organization that assists this latest Irish diaspora and keeps her journalistic skills honed with free-lance reports for both RTE back home and the CBC right here.

She recently completed an excelent short feature for CBC’s World Report on the “Irish Invasion” which has led to a segment on CBC’s popular Metro Morning radio show.

Mark Donnelly from Northern Ireland, a law student, hostel resident and job seeker was the program’s guest.

We have attached a copy of Aisling Riordan’s brief “World Report” news item  as well as a link to the Mark Donnelly interview in the Metro Morning archives.

(In addition, we are reposting Aisling Riordan’s excellent “Showreel” – soley for your enjoyment! It’s pretty neat.

CBC Toronto – Irish Invasion

(Aisling’s report begins at 6:4o of CBC World Report.)

Aisling Riordan’s brief “World Report” – Last 2 minutes

..

THE DEAD FOX

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Well, maybe not dead…yet. But definitely on its’ last legs.

The venerable Fox and Fiddle Pub (a.k.a. The Pox and Piddle) is closing down! The Fox is a fixture in the virtual epicentre of Toronto’s Entertaiment District. Located exactly one block from our hostel’s door, it has always been regarded as the hostel’s “local” watering hole.

The Fox is a two story bar with the decor and musty, stale-beer ambiance of a British Public House. I doubt there has ever been a backpacker in our hostel who has not enjoyed the odd pint in the legendary Fox. (teatotallers excepted.)

Our “local” has always been famous for its low-price beer (before 4PM) and daily food “specials”, including half-price Chicken Wings and $10 pitchers of domestic beer on Sundays and Mondays. (The wings are the best in the area…the beer is not!)

The Fox also hosts Monday night Karaoke that has proven to be one of our most successful hostel “events”. There is always a huge contingent of hostelers in attendance on Monday nights!

But even in this time of global economic crisis, Toronto is booming. The Fox, Alice Fazooli’s and The Corned Beef House (all hostel favorites) are all giving way to the development of 40+ storied buildings as part of the Film Festival Towers development.

The Fox plans on closing down by June of this summer – less than two months to go. This is the end of an era in the district! If you’ve not experienced it, this might be your last chance!

(To all past – and present – Canadiana residents: please feel free to share your reminiscences of the FOX in our comments section.)

ANNE CAN?

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

There was an attractive couple from Germany here at our Toronto hostel. (Alright, there have been quite a few attractive German couples passing through our hostel!)

But there was one couple in particular who were here for quite a while and we had decided to interview them for possible inclusion on our wall of “Notable Guests”.

But before we could corner them for a brief interview and a photo, they found an apartment and checked out. A sadly missed opportunity.

Last Friday, we were joining some friends and staff members on our patio for a drink celebrating the arrival of spring and mild weather. Across the crowded patio the German couple was sitting with old friends having beer and wine!

We were not going to miss them again so we arranged for a photo to be taken and told them we were planning to put their pic and bios on our wall!

They wrote their names and details down; ANNE and CAN? Both hail from Hamburg and CAN is of Turkish ethnicity. CAN? (He pronounced it for me as “John”.)

Just how does he figure that? But sometimes the squirrel wakes up in the wheel! Eureka! I think I’ve figured it out!

Turkish must be a completely phonetic language of short vowel sounds!

Like:

[a] as in father
[e] as in bet
[i]  as in machine
[o] as in boat
[u] as in tutu

The consonants must be pronounced in a similar manner as ours! So I looked it up and found out I was right (with a few exceptions).

Consonants were:

[ç] is pronounced ch as in China
[?] is sh as in shell
[j] is soft as in the French Jacques
[c] is a hard j as in jazz

So you can work it out yourself. C-A-N = JOHN! (The “H” in the English spelling is silent and therefore unescessary.)

I realize that I have strayed far off subject of Annie and Can. I’ll tell you all about this nice couple in a future entry. I promise!

Anne & Can - Canadiana Backpackers Youth Hostel Downtown Toronto Ontario Canada

Anne & Can - Canadiana Backpackers Youth Hostel Downtown Toronto Ontario Canada

Dancing Lady

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Rebecca Charleston. Now, remember that name. She’s quite likely to be famous one day.

She’s a young ballerina from Western Austraia – a place our blind prejudices equate more with beer-swilling surfers.

And just when we’ve settled on our stereotypes along comes Rebecca to show how wrong we are! Western Oz is not a cultural wasteland!

This young dancer (very early 20′s) has already compiled a pretty impressive reume, havng danced with world class companies all over the world.

She has danced in Carolina and Chicago in the U.S.A. as well as Milan,Italy and Brazil. She passsed through our hostel to attend an audition for the National Ballet of Canada; here she auditioned in front the National Ballet’s Artistic Director, the legendary, Karen Kain.

She plans to audition for several more world-class ballet companies over the coming summer months. She has alrady completed an audition for the famous New York City Ballet and is on her way to Germany to audition there.

We are betting this talented young lady will be successful with any organization and find a home in the Corps de Ballet of her choosing.

We hope she chooses Toronto.

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Toronto to Tahiti

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Regi is an Belgian sailor who came by our Toronto hostel on his way to Tahiti.

And no, he’s not a bad navigator, he absolutely planned it that way. He’s a qualified ship’s engineer on a private luxury yacht based in Tahiti. For the six month hiatus, he has found a unique (and profitable) way to spend this down time.

During his last period of “down time” he traveled to Venezuela where he negotiated a pretty nice deal on a very nice, sea-worthy sail boat.

From there it was  a short hop across the southern Carribean to the Panama Canal then on to the Pacific and the crossing toTahiti.

And what did this adventure cost him? Not very much.

Before returning to his job as ship’s engineer, he sold the sailing craft in Tahiti for a neat little profit.

This trip, Regi has arranged the purchase of another vessel in Halifax. He’s planning to spend the next two months on a solo trip half way around the Globe where he will have no problem finding an eager buyer for a sturdy craft already tested on the high seas.

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Karolina

Monday, April 5th, 2010

No. It isn’t a typographical error.  K-A-R-O-L-I-N-A.  It’s the Polish spelling of a very popular and quite common name.

Karolina is visiting us from Poland. She is here in Toronto for a five-week intensive English study course. She was convinced that we have had very few Polish people visiting our hostel.

She’s quite wrong about that. In fact it is merely co-incidence that we have no Polish Nationals (besides herself) in residence at the present time. It is actually quite odd.

Recently we have had backpackers named Miroslav, Angelika, Marcin, Jolanta and  Witek. Want to hazzard a guess where they are all from?

Karolina is here on her last week of her English course. The arrival of the warm spring weather found her on our patio playing table tennis with some of our staff members.

Like a lot of our Polish guests, Karolina is quite gifted athletically. She has excellent eye-hand co-ordination. That’s to say she was winning.

She is also a qualified chemist working in the food producing industry where she is responsible for product quality assurance.

Like a lot of professionals from countries of the new European Union, she is anxious to improve her English skills as it has become the lingua franca of the alliance.

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