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HALLOWEEN 2011

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Oh rats! This year HALLOWEEN (Oct. 31st) falls on a Monday. Why is that a bad thing?

Glad you asked.

A hostel in Toronto like ours is a place where travelers of all ages and nationalities stay when away from home on vacation (but especially a lot of young people).

The one thing that many (or most) of them are looking for is an excuse to have a “party”. And these days, parties virtually always involves copius amounts of alcohol and outrageous behaviour.

Since this year Halloween as mentioned falls on Monday, the hostel can look forward to  three or four evenings of costumed madness. It started Friday and continued through Saturday.

The hostel is full (as usual) and the revelries began early with assorted costumed Ghosts, Goblins, Zombies, Superheros, Samurai lining up at the BBQ for a free burger - a Saturday evening hostel feature.

In past years, hostel events (like Halloween or St. Paddy’s Day) could begin to get a little overly enthusiastic and required considerable supervision.

No one has ever done a better job at “containment” than our events co-ordinator, Iman.

This year, (dressed as some kind of Samurai/Ninja) she has arranged an outing to local nightclub where costumed wildness is expected and, indeed, welcomed (or at least, tolerated).

But we are going to lose Iman’s services come November when she starts a new job as an Entertainment co-ordinator on a cruise liner out of Orlando, Florida.

We think the cruise line made an excellent choice hiring Iman who was arguably the best event co-ordinator this hostel has ever engaged.

It’s a great choice actually. Our loss is their gain. Everyone had a great time and order was maintained in the hostel.

Keep it up Iman. Just two more nights to go until Halloween 2011 is history!

Thanks again, Iman. And best of luck in your new job.

 

Marathon Man

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon was run today and competitors came from far and wide to compete.

The 26 mile annual event  began two decades ago (as a half Marathon) and it has attracted  world class competitors.

The race was won by a runner from Kenya.  Marathons have been dominated by East Africans from Kenya and Ethiopia. The record for a runner in a Toronto Marathon was set 36 years ago when a time of 2hrs, 10 minutes and 9 seconds.

Drayton’s time has been unassailable but but this year Canadian Reid Coolaset, managed 2:10:55 missing the record by a mere 46 seconds. Coolaset might have broken the old mark had he not been forced to take a washroom break at the 25K point.

A hostel guest, Ben Christmann from Paisley, Ontario (a town near Walkerton) came to compete in his first Marathon. He is an employee of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Plant and strictly a recreational runner (and he’s heard all of the Homer simpson jokes). He finished in a very respectable time of 3:55 and qualified for a Gold Medallion.

The oldest competitor to complete the race was 100 year-old Fauja Singh who received his Gold Medallion for completing the course.

The fitness/running craze began in earnest in the post-hippie late 1970′s when it seemed everyone was out jogging to keep fit. The 1977 best seller ” The Complete Book of Running” by James Fixx helped popularize the sport. His death by heart attack after a run at the age of 52 spawned an anti-running movement with people sporting T-Shirts “Jogging Can Kill You!”

Tragically, this year a 27 year-old competitor collapsed and died just before he completed the race.

Still, the vast majority of runners are pretty healthy and physically fit bunch and the over 19,000 runners in this year’s race raised over 2.5 million dollars for more than 90 local charities.

Marathon Man - Canadiana Backpackers hostels in toronto canada

Marathon Man - Canadiana Backpackers hostels in toronto ontario canada

Motoring North America

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

There are a few intrepid “backpackers” coming through our Toronto hostel who want greater freedom to explore North America.

These travelers have budgeted enough to purchase or hire a vehicle and take adavantage of the continent’s excellent road and highway infrastructure.

Yves Dewaele, from Belgium is a mechanic with more than 20 years experince riding motorcycles. He has owned them, repaired them and even raced them. In short he is not a novice rider.

To rent a car or RV is no problem (if you are over 25; licenced; and have a credit card) but a little on the expensive side just as it is anywhere else.

Here in Ontario, purchasing a Motor Bike or Car can be a bit of a nightmare.

Our laws here require a purchaser to possess a valid Canadian (Ontario) Licence which means you must swap your foreign licence. In addition, Yves was forced to retest for a motorcycle endorsement.

As mentioned, he is no stranger to two wheeled highway riding. But his “new” licence treated him as beginner and insurance premiums restricted him to a maximum of 750 c.c. engines. (Insurance for about 4 months cost him welll over $1000).

Yves toured North America all summer and in the process logged more than 29,000 kms.

He arrived back at our hostels doors last week and was going through the process of selling his 650 c.c Suzuki. He will likely have to find as local buyer unless he finds a traveler willing to repeat the complicated process he encountered.

Regulations differ from Province to Province in Canada and from State to State in the U.S. But U.S. insurance is less expensive (but far less comprehensive) than Canada’s.

If you are planning to buy a vehicle to explore North America, do your homework and search the web for alternatives.

You might being with online forums such as this one:

http://travel.indie.my/2011/08/12/visiting-usa-eu-tourist-buying-a-motorcycle-in-the-us/

Then drive/ride safely and Happy Motoring!

Motoring North America - Canadiana Hostels in toronto ontario canada for backpackers
Yves running 3d in a race on the European Circuit

Motoring North America - Canadiana Hostels for backpackers in toronto canada budget accommodation
Yves with a fallen Giant Redwood

Sherri’s INUKSHUK

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Vitually every nation has a uniquely  National Symbol. Here in Canada, we have several.

The Maple Leaves, Mounties and Beavers are symbols that form an immediate association with Canada.

So does the Inukshuk.

What is an Inukshuk? Glad you asked.

The mysterious stone figures known as inuksuit can be found throughout the circumpolar world. Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language.

These monuments made of unworked stones are used by the Inuit People for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of an Inukshuk is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.”

One of our guests Sherri Winsor, an artist from St. John’s, Newfoundland also made an Inukshuk. But hers is seen by a lot more people than most of the one’s that dot the barren landscape of an otherwise featureless tundra.

The  Nunatsiavut people of Labrador, have recently (2005) gained a measure of political and economic soverignty and were in the process of constructing a buiding in Hopedale to house their legislative assembly.

It is quite an impressive structure for such a small, remote town. The top of the building was to be topped with an Inukshuk as a symbol of the region.

There was really no shortage of skilled native craftsmen to fashion a suitable sculpture. However, the only medium they were able to use was stone, the weight of which would send the sculpture crashing through the roof. Quite a problem.

Enter artist Sherri Winsor.

Sherri was able to construct an Inukshuk within the parameters established by the architects and engineers of the building. She built an impressive Inukshuk using materials other than stone and within the 500 lb. limitation.

October 2011  update: The scheduled opening of the building  (Sept. 12)  has been delayed by some engineering problems with the building’s Dome. It’s fortunate that Sherri’s Inukshuk wasn’t made of stone.

Inukshuk - Canadiana Backpackers Hostels in Toronto Canada

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THE AIR WE BREATHE…

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Alright. It’s time for a little blowing of our own horn.

Here in Canada, we’ve been getting a lot of flak over the issue of air pollution. We signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocols (although we have not exactly honoured that commitment); we continue to pollute the environment by producing oil from the Athabaska Tar Sands.

To that, we must plead guilty

Nonetheless, the destruction of our environment is a Global problem  and we are not the only country that destroys the countryside and the air we breathe in pursuit of profit (it is just that here in Canada, we should know better).

Apparently, we do know better.

A recent report of the World Health Organization (WHO) rated the top ten least polluted cities in the world. Eight of them are right here in Canada!

The U.N. group analyzed seven years of data collected in over 1100 cities in 91 nations. The city at the top of the list was Whitehorse, Yukon Territory which scored a miniscule 2.9 micrograms of pollutants per cubic metre. Briish Columbia cities of Kitimat and Burns Lake, were rated #2 and #3 respectively.

Air pollution levels begin to pose health risks once they exceed 20 micrograms per cubic metre. The overall score for Canada was 12.7.

The highest pollution figure in Canada belongs to Sarnia, Ontario (with a score of 21.2) - a city with the misfortune of being a neighbour of Detroit. Sarnia’s figure is still relatively low when compared to an international average of 71.

Strangely, Mongolia (the most sparsely inhabited country on earth) was rated “worst” for air quality scoring an astounding 279!

WHO said the reasons for high pollution levels varied, but that often rapid industrialization and the use of poor quality fuels for transportation and electricity generation are to blame.

We’ve done pretty well here in Canada. Now all that is left to do is to STOP  the Tar Sands Development.

Meanwhile, visitors can still breathe and enjoy our clean air.

Whitehorse - Canadiana Backpackers- Hostels in Toronto Canada

Big sky and clear, clean air over Whitehorse, Yukon.

FECUNDO

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

“FECUNDO” is not a name you might hear  everyday. But Fecundo Tello from Argentina, actually does (for obvious reasons).

It isn’t the most common Spanish/Latino name like Juan or Pedro; but, it is a name that most native English speakers will recognize. It means, “fruitful”; “bountiful”; or  actually, “fecund”).

Fecundo is a young (aged 22) Argentinian whose parents moved to Spain to afford him greater educational opportunities.

Unlike a lot of foreign language students, Fecundo has really made the most out of his most out of his months in Canada.

When he arrived, his communications skills (using English) were almost non-existant. He did not retreat into the cultural similarity of other Spanish speaking students. Instead, he did his best to associate with English speaking backpackers.

As a result, his English has improved dramatically in the space of a very short time. his comprehension ability is now nothing short of remarkable. He is now concentrating on his grammer.

For all language students at the hostel (present and future) he is an excellent role model.

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Fecundo - Canadiana Backpackers Toronto Backpacker youth hostels in toronto canada

Fecundo - Canadiana Backpackers Toronto Backpacker youth hostels in toronto canada


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