A few weeks ago I wrote a blog that I wasn’t sure about posting. I emailed my buddy Ryan, and he said “post it!” I emailed my mother, and she said “absolutely not!” Rosie’s vote of “yes” was the tiebreaker. Hope you enjoy:
My friend Ryan Adams says I have failed at blogging. He’s right. Here’s my attempt at a make-up.
Let me begin by saying that Canadian border guards are excruciatingly humourless (I’m going to begin writing in Canadian English. I’ve got to get used to it.). On Saturday I crossed the Port Huron, MI / Sarnia, ON border. I, along with the folks at my host organization, assumed that the proper documentation for someone coming to volunteer in Canada, sans pay, for less than 90 days was a passport and a friendly smile. We were wrong. When I crossed the border and told them I was going to be in Whitby, ON, and volunteering some in Toronto, they began asking for proof – which was non-existent, save for a few emails.
So I got stuck in customs, trying to answer questions about the work I’m doing. Finally, I used the officer’s computer to sign into my email, and tried to show her my emails as proof of my volunteer work. She wasn’t satisfied. I tried calling my contact at my host organization. No answer. I called again with the same result. Finally, I called a third time and she picked up on the street car, far from her work computer or a fax machine to provide proof of my assignment. I asked the border guard if she’d like to speak to my contact person, and after a few minutes of chatting she told me to sit in the waiting area for a bit, and they’d come get me soon. Almost two hours (and another phone call with my boss) later, I received my passport back, along with a special permit that allows me to work until August 5, and says I must be out of Canada by August 6. Quite a warm welcome, eh? The officer told me, “Next time you cross the border, make sure you have the proper paperwork.” Thanks for the excellent advice, ma’am.
My troubles were almost immediately alleviated on the drive in, though. See, I’d been worried about culture shock. But, on my drive from Sarnia to Whitby, I passed three Wal-Mart Supercentres, four Best Buys, four Home Depots, and two Chuck E. Cheeses (aka America’s greatest export). If not for the annoying signs in English, French, and the metric system, I could have sworn I was in Ohio or some other Midwestern state.
I don’t know how else to describe suburban Toronto living other than “roughing it.” I’m living in Ryan Adams’s boyhood home, and every night before bed Mrs. Adams brings me hot tea and hot-crossed buns. My first morning she made me a peameal bacon (what we would call Canadian bacon, but, you know, the real deal) sandwich, which was life-changing. I’m able to catch most sporting events and/or the TV shows I like, and every day I get leftovers (from the previous night’s homemade dinner, of course) for lunch. The basement has a pool table, and the back yard has a heated pool. Every morning Mrs. Adams drives me to the train station, and she picks me up in the evening. This may seem like a cushy set-up, but, I do have to occasionally walk the dog, and I helped Mrs. Adams take the trash out this morning.
I’m not going to bore you with work details right now. If you want to check out the organization for which I’m working, here’s the website: www.stchristopherhouse.org. They do really great work, and I’m going to be working on more substantive projects than I originally thought. We’ll get into that stuff later.
For now, I have one thing on my agenda: taking Rosie and Caroline (visiting this weekend!) to try some poutine. If you don’t know what poutine is, look that stuff up. If you don’t know how to spell “center” in Canada, it’s centre. And if you don’t know what Tim Horton’s is, you’ve got a fair amount of learning to do.
The fam and I left Little Rock on Friday afternoon (May 13th). If I said it was bittersweet, I’d be lying (and totally cliché). You all know I love good food, so we stopped at one of my favorite restaurants just outside Memphis. It’s a little place with great burgers and a cute window on the side for people to drive up and take out. I think it’s even named after a girl with red hair, just like Caroline. Man, I love Wendy’s. By the time we got to Nashville I felt like I had old oil sludge running through my bowels.
This was Caroline’s first big car trip, and she handled it beautifully. She slept through Tennessee, which I was particularly proud of, and woke up in Kentucky with a smile. She must’ve been exhausted from the packing and driving (which is weird, since her lazy butt didn’t pack a single box), because she slept off and on consistently for about 24 hours from the time we left. It’s taken her about 36 hours to get back to normal and figure everything out—but I can tell that homegirl loves her dad’s old Kentucky home. Rosie and I are excited to walk around campus with her, and show her where our love blossomed like acne on a 13-year-old.
I have already made two trips to Wal-Mart, as I am somehow contractually obligated to do in my first 18 hours back in the Bluegrass state. The whole town of Berea appeared to be there Saturday night. I guess when there are no good movies out, and the Huddle House is out of business, what else are you supposed to do?
So, I’m now one step closer to Canada, my personal Shangri-La. The home of Joey Votto and ice-road trucking and the metric system. One week in the heart of horse country, and another in the flat farmlands of southern Michigan. Then, across the border for socialized medicine, higher taxes, and hockey.
You’re here because you’re interested in what I have to say. Therein lies your first mistake. Over the next few weeks I’m going to blog about my new life in Toronto, and my subsequent return to the US and A.
Topics to be covered:
1. Language Barrier. Should be difficult at first, eh?
2. Culture Shock. Have you ever tried to understand Canadian Football? Longer fields, three downs instead of four, the differences are stark.
3. Serious Stuff. Probably depending on my mood. I’ll likely miss the wife and kiddo while I’m gone.
4. Foodie-ism. Poutine. Maple Syrup. Tim Horton’s. Toronto is a veritable Mecca of culinary options.
5. Public Transportation. I’m taking the train to work. Does this make me a communist?
Hope you enjoy.