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At the top end of Australia, over a year ago.

One year ago yesterday, my plane from London touched down in Montreal. My mother was there to meet me at arrivals and it felt a bit like one of the Love, Actually airport moments where there’s hugging and jumping up and down and perhaps even a tear of two.

I was home after over a year of travelling around the world. I was home with my mum, ready to celebrate a wedding of a dear friend with old friends, ready to take on the next adventure. A chilled-out, at-home adventure.

That was a year ago.

I’ve neglected this blog because it’s supposed to be about travel and theatre and there has been very little travel and very little theatre in this past year.

Strangely, I’ve only recently started to miss those things, things that I thought defined me more than they ultimately do, I’m realising.

This past year has been amazing and I’ve felt very happy working a 9-5 job, coming home to my one-bedroom apartment, indulging in Netflix, and having long Skype conversations.

But now seems like the perfect time to get back to it all. Shake off the comfortable routine (i.e. laziness).

And it all starts with booking stuff. My credit card has had quite the workout and (if I cover the actual costs- literally, like, with my hand so that I don’t see the numbers), I love looking at the statement. My spending represents who I think I am.

  • Train tickets to Montreal. Discount business class tickets, baby!
  • Tickets to Cabaret in New York. Alan Cumming, wait for me!
  • Tickets to Paris via Reykjavik. In January. But I love Paris when it drizzles. And days with 3 hours of light. Right?
  • And tickets to a couple of SummerWorks plays.

SummerWorks is like the Fringe Festival’s sober sister. The one who has her shit together but still likes to have a good time. But a good time with focus, if you know what I mean. So my tickets are booked for two shows that I know are going to be amazing: He Left Quietly and Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales. Check them out.

I’ll also be making myself a calendar of playwriting submission deadlines. So I can watch them go by. Wheeee!

And, mostly, I hope to have many amazing adventures to post here.

 

Yesterday was boring. I barely left my apartment and the sky was grey. I felt a bit lonely, more than I did when I literally was alone on the other side of the world. Even buying myself flowers didn’t make me feel much better.

So today I went out and travelled. I shook myself up and remembered what I love to do: discover the world. Even if it’s only going a few subway stops away.

I got up early (for a Sunday), and made my way east to Corktown, the oldest neighbourhood of Toronto for a Jane’s walk. It was beautiful and sunny and very chilly.

I found out about an 1800 duel caused by some rumours about a lady and that escaped slaves from Kentuky started the taxi company that would lead to the TTC (even if just in colour scheme) and saw the stables where the horses who made cookies for Mr Christie lived.

I saw the first free school and discovered the area is called Corktown because the first wave of immigrants came from Ireland- not necessarily from Cork itself, but still. And because there was a cork factory in the are. And I realised I know nothing much at all about my own city.

Everything was so colourful, I thought I’d share some pictures of this morning:

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A laneway that used to be “muddy and sketchy” (and across the street from the first Loblaws grocers’) and is now hoity toity.

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Pink building and blue sky.

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Workers’ row houses from the 1800s. That’s very old for Canada. Notice the red and white bricks- both made here but at different brickworks.

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Bright Street.

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The Magic Building.

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A guy.

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The Dominion Hotel (attached to the brewery). Now hosts jazz and rockabilly.

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Trees and shadows of trees.

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The Berkeley Cafe, where I used to go for lunch breaks when I used to work in the neighbourhood. A great place to overhear conversations and theatre gossip (lots of theatres nearby).

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The Opera Company and the Berkeley Theatre- old gas works buildings.

I hadn’t been up the CN Tower since I was 6. But with complimentary coupons for the “Experience” in hand and a determination to be tourist in Toronto, we took the subway down to a massively-still-under-construction Union Station after work and went up the empty tower. It used to be the tallest free-standing structure in the world. Before Abu Dhabi broke all the records.

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Walking through the atmospheric sky walk from Union Station to the CN Tower.

I don’t go down to that area of Toronto too often, so I took some pictures:

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This is my city. Tall, shiny, and under construction. Because you can never have too many condos.

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A celebration of the fact that it is still bright and sunny after work. Spring is coming!

After being shot at by air when walking through security (the guard didn’t like me asking what the puffs of air were for, so I didn’t insist on the scientific explanation of what exactly the “firing jets” were actually doing), we went into the elevator that shot up 350 metres. We immediately went to the outdoor observation deck to look at stuff.

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Inside the CN Tower. It was very very windy and it was fun to run into the wind screaming. And watching planes take off from Billy Bishop airport.

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A laskeshore park with parasols (empty and cold).

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Lake Ontario was still a bit frozen.

When we got too cold, we realised there was also an indoor observation deck. So we went there and looked out at the city for hours. We found friends’ buildings, landmarks, and streets. We watched the sun set.

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Toronto from up high.

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As the sun set, I played with the features on my camera.

Who would have thought the CN Tower could be romantic? But it kind of was. Probably because there were very few tourists up there on a cold Tuesday evening.

You’ll notice there are no pictures of me on the glass floor- I managed to stand on it for a minute before losing my mind. It is scary seeing the ground so far below you.

We tried to go to the restaurant. But the rule is you have to get at least an entrée each. And it was very expensive. So we ate half a bagel with peanut butter and jam in the train station’s sad food court to hold us off until dinner.

Because my frugal travel budget of pasta at the hostel extends to real life. And I like it that way.

in80plays:

My lovely friend and co-worker just posted a profile on her awesome blog that is making me blush. And yet here I am re-blogging it. Thanks, Ashley!

Originally posted on Meandering Mac:

elise It’s time for another co-worker! Within the company that I work for there’s a work abroad program that helps students and youth obtain international work visas and provides support once they’re abroad. Elise works for this arm of the company, and this is how I became lucky enough to have this quirky chick in my life.

View original 600 more words

It snowed. A lot. Schools were cancelled and planes grounded. So I firmly crossed my fingers and hoped tomorrow would be different and that I could board a little plane and fly away.

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The Dash 8-100 over snowy fields. I now know things about planes by osmosis and have become nerdy enough that I will go to museums about them (see below).

It stopped snowing, the temperature soared above zero, and I looked down at gradient grey-scale half-frozen lakes and patchworks of white fields.

The propeller was loud (I was in a Dash 8-100 Bombardier aircraft, which I know because I was flying to visit a guy who knows things about planes and makes sure I know these things too), and the bumpy ride made me a bit nauseous. But the one good thing about there not being any low-cost carriers in Canada is that you get ginger ale for free on fancy full-cost flights.

When I landed in Baltimore, it felt like Springtime. Lots of snow, but a warm sun and the sounds of dripping melting thawing everything. Beautiful old houses.

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Pretty sun setting over Baltimore.

After a Valentine’s night of pulled pork on square bread and a wonderfully random review of scenes from London’s National Theatre on TV (where we heard Ralph Fiennes do a South African accent and Judy Dench sing Sondheim), we woke up stupidly early to catch the train to Washington. We nearly missed it because we needed coffee and a muffin very desperately and the lineup for the coffee and muffins in the train station was very slow. But we made it!

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There is the Washington Monument in the background. Grey on grey on grey. With two scrappy snowmen.

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At the National Air and Space Museum, touching the moon rock. A rock from the moon. A ROCK FROM THE MOON! I’m touching a rock from the moon!

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No Jenny wading in this reflecting pool. Not in this weather.

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Lincoln.

It was my first time in Baltimore and my first time in Washington, DC. and though I don’t know what I was expecting, I was surprised. Washington is an actual place and it was surreal to see so many sites made familiar by movies and TV. Baltimore was bright and beautiful, probably because I managed to avoid the drugs and violence of The Wire, though I’m sure it actually exists.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been to a place I’d never been before in a relatively long time, but everything was reminding me of something else, even though they were totally different. In Baltimore, I found that street corner in Sydney, that coffee shop in Denmark, that street in Montreal…

And darn it, my feet are getting a little itchy again to go to all the Somewhere News. 

Top 3 things I will not forget about my quick weekend trip:
– I ate bacon from Tennessee and I will never find bacon that good again.
– I didn’t see Toby Ziegler in Washington.
– Flying out of an international airport that only has 3 flights out per evening is a quick and lonely.

I have been home for over six months, yet it still feels like I just got back. I’m still out of loop on the theatre scene, I still haven’t caught up on all the 2013 movies, I still haven’t unpacked all my boxes, and I’m still saying “well, I just got back from a trip” when people ask what I’m up to.

So I’m feeling a bit like a tourist in my own country, happy to rediscover it all armed with a few more points of reference and comparison.

With a very snowy winter, a job that involves showing off my country to young people, and two days of back-to-back Olympic hockey wins, I’m feeling hyper-aware of my Canadianism.

So here’s to living it up, Canadian-style, and enjoying the winter:

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I tried curling for the first time. It was ridiculously fun to throw a rock down a sheet of ice. The sweeping not quite as fun.

 

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Whenever the temperature goes above -8°, it’s a good time to go for a walk in the secret neighbourhood of Wychwood Park in Toronto.

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Barrelling down snowy hills in an inflatable tube! A cheap and cheerful alternative to skiing.

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The local wildlife. Back to posting pictures of birds!

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The local food: poutine! Not exactly your traditional, hole-in-the-wall-greasy-spoon version (where you layer fries, cheese curds, gravy, fries, cheese curds, and gravy), but this one still did the trick with its squeaky cheese and heart-attack potential.

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If you pass a half-frozen creek, you must go break the ice with your boots for that pleasing sound and to watch the bits of freed ice float down stream.

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After the ice storm, the trees were glittering in the low winter sun.

I haven’t had a real winter in a couple of years, and as my tan fades, I am thankful to be back in Canada, despite the sore throat and frozen toes. And power cuts when it’s -20°C.

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Snow makes everything seem old-timey.

The power in my apartment cut out over 60 hours ago because of the ice storm that hit Toronto on Saturday. Luckily I have family in town and have been going from one place to another as power cuts in and out.

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People go nuts with the lights. And it’s tacky and beautiful.

I remember a few things I don’t like about winter at home:

When your scarf gets wet from snow or your breath’s condensation and then rubs up against your chin

Dry skin, wet feet, the inevitable runny nose

Getting slushed by passing cars

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Snow in the city mutes everything. Everything becomes quiet and cozy and nostalgic.

But when the air is crisp and the sky is blue and the setting sun makes all the ice-covered branches glisten like a Christmas card overloaded with glitter, winter in Canada is exactly perfect.

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The ice storm hits.

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Frozen smoke-tree flower.

Or when the snow is falling in big fat cottonball flakes and you sit by the window with a cup of tea and a book and you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

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Christmas snow, typical Toronto house.

This time last year, I was alone in the middle of New South Wales, watching the rain wash away the road.  Turns out that Christmas only really feels like Christmas when it’s winter and you’re with your family putting together a jigsaw puzzle. With chocolate and clementines.

Happy holidays, everyone!

You wouldn’t know it from what I’m about to show you, so there are a few things you should know before scrolling through the following pictures:

1- I don’t eat burgers that often. I just happen to take pictures when I do.

2- I love to try new things and I tasted a bunch of awesome non-burger dishes in my trip around the world. The most memorable will probably be the subject of my next post (looking through my photos looking for my burger ones, I noticed I take a lot of pictures of food).

3- I know you will judge me for eating so many burgers and I will be able to defend myself with the following arguments: burgers are relatively cheap and very filling, they are easy to eat, when you’re overwhelmed by a menu they are a simple choice, burgers are delicious.

So, just because, here are some shots of me eating burgers around the world:

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Burger in fresh sourdough bread on the piers in San Francisco. With Anne-Marie.

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Still in California, trying the infamous In-N-Out Burger (that I’d never heard of until then). In Santa-Barbara with Courtney and Karel.

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Speaking of infamous- here’s the Fergburger. I mean. Just look at it. In Queenstown (New Zealand) with Yvonne.

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Made our own kangaroo burgers at the hostel in Fort Macquarie, Australia. It was pretty good. With that nice French guy from the hostel.

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Believe it or not, this is a burger from a French restaurant in Pondicherry, India. It wasn’t awesome. But look how tanned I was. With Uk and Anu.

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This chicken burger was as big as my head, was delicious, and was the only affordable non-supermarket lunch we could find in Hvar, Croatia. With David-Marc and those two cousins from BC.

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After-pub burger at Wannaburger in Edinburgh. This may or may not have been a 2-burger day. I’ll never tell. With Gerry.

You may also have noticed I only own black or blue t-shirts. But rest assured I live a varied and interesting life, whatever else these burger photos may imply.

I have been back in my hometown of Toronto for 3 months now, after over a year living out of my backpack. Thinking back, my record is 3 years in one place since the year 2000. And those three years were during undergrad when I’d go home for the summer. So maybe it’s normal that my feet are itchy for my own space rather than for another hostel dorm on another continent. We’ll see how long this lasts. (I’m already getting vague yearnings to see Chile. Or go back to Ireland. Maybe take a road trip down to Louisiana.)

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Sitting here, settling into my new one-bedroom apartment that still smells of paint, I wonder: am I, you know, a grown up? I have a lease signed, a couch purchased (off Craigslist, but still) and lugged down the street with the help of a couple strangers and a good friend. There are butter dishes and sugar bowls and a brand new toaster sitting patiently in the kitchen and very serious thoughts of buying a Christmas tree a’brewing.

Something that’s making me feel more connected (other than working 9-5) is getting back into the loop theatre-wise. I haven’t written about any of the plays I’ve seen so far because I was either so affected I didn’t know what to write or so bored that I forgot I should maybe be blogging about things.

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Pig: rainbows and lollipops!

Pig (by Tim Luscombe at Buddies in Bad Times). Although this play made me feel every single emotion under the sun in a very intense way, from compassion to physical barfiness, I don’t know how to talk about it. This in-your-face show’s first professional staging about the gritty underbellies of certain gay cultures (including SM and sero-conversion parties) wasn’t my ‘cup of tea’ content-wise, but it was very well written and produced and acted. And it was nice to see a change from all the sanitized relationships we see on TV and on stage. And yes, it was provocative in the best sense of the word. I’m still reeling.

I mean- look at those shoes!

I mean- look at those shoes!

Venus in Fur (by David Ives at Canadian Stage) felt like a feel-good kid’s play after Pig. It was amusing and a bit brash but had beautiful moments. It was a crowd-pleasing look at S&M and there definitely was a perfectly sexy moment involving a boot being unzipped. But I spent most of the time wondering if the actress was really going to spend the duration of the play in those insane heels (she did and didn’t show any sign of distress).

A moment of action in The Valley. I'm glad they didn't shy away from staging this part.

A moment of action in The Valley. I’m glad they didn’t shy away from staging this part.

The Valley (by Joan McLeod at Tarragon Theatre). Um, I was never bored, but it was more a plateau than a valley (no peaks, if you get what I’m saying). Maybe I just don’t connect with Joan McLeod’s writing. Blasphemy!

But then I went to see The Gay Heritage Project (by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir at Buddies in Bad Times) and I realised I have to get back to writing. Because although you’ll read this an it will have already closed, I wanted to mark the play that motivated me to write again. To not give up on seeing shows and not to give up on the notion of creating them.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot.

I refuse to give standing ovations just because every single Toronto audience gives standing ovations for every single play. But for this, I stood up.

It was both an intimate and globally important investigation. It was theatrical. It was funny. It made me sob. With only three actors, it managed to swing from big, rich song-and-dance numbers to the most quietly heartbreaking questioning. The physical preciseness of the performers was mind-blowing. It was aware of the difficulty of asking the question “is there such a thing as a gay heritage?” and it attacked the question from various angles, speeds, times, ages.

So I’ve set myself some deadlines and I will also attack. Hopefully something of what Paul Dunn, Andrew Kushnir, and Damien Atkins did in The Heritage Project will magically rub off on me.

So I’m home. I have a physical space I am solely responsible for keeping tidy. I have objects like couches and desks. And now I have a writing deadline. But these are all good weights.

Home for the holidays. You can't really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

Home for the holidays. The Eaton Centre. You can’t really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

I appreciate that I have friends to call for impromptu dinners and family to call on for help moving all my photo albums and chairs into my new apartment. I am also holding tightly onto that openness that travelling forces you to develop: I’ve become that girl who talks to people while waiting for the bus and who crashes a neighbour’s housewarming party.

I am holding tightly onto that feeling where you don’t quite know where the day will take you (the day meaning weekends and after 5pm on weekdays) and going with the flow of the buffalo.

 

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Doesn’t this look like something that would be on a feel-good-self-help-type post? I’m thankful for my brother and that he can jump high; thankful for the sunset, Croatia, and my camera.

This weekend was Thanksgiving for us Canadians.

I didn’t have a turkey or cranberries or even mashed yams. But I did use the 12 hours on the bus home from a weekend in New York City to think about all the things that I’m thankful for. Cheap fares on the Megabus being one of them. The experience of getting on the Megabus in midtown New York as fifty other Megabuses were also loading and then sitting in a Megabus for 12 hours not being one of them.

But I am thankful for the trip of a lifetime. For the friends that I got to visit around the world. Thankful for the friends I made along the way, thankful to the people who gave me directions, suggested I try amok, put me up, put up with me, took me to plays, ate cake with me on rainy days, taught me ridiculous sentences in their languages, and understood when I freaked out about ticks and monkeys.

I am thankful for being home now, thankful that I have a home where I bump into friends and old teachers on the street. I am thankful for the friends I get to see now that I’m back. For my family. For sunny days and crisp leaves. I am thankful for the fact that after living out of a backpack for a year, settling down for a while seems like an exciting adventure.

I am thankful that I can write all this cheesy goop and that you won’t mind too much.

 

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