Archive for June, 2011

The colourful dresses swished down the sidewalk and sleek black hair was well coiffed into elaborate styles. There were blazes of turquoise, peacock blue, emerald green and vivid oranges as the graceful Bollywood followers made their way to the entrances of the Rogers Centre. We were leaning over the balcony of our condo with our binoculars taking in the parade which had the appearance of a pilgrimage. Even Josh picked up on the excitement and jumped up to see whether a stray dog had not perhaps slipped in with the crowd. This was the annual Bollywood awards which took place right here on our doorstep! The usual Bollywood celebrities were there, like Shahrukh Khan, and even a Hollywood star namely Hilary Swank cracked the nod.The merriment continued well into the night with the party slipping out onto the sidewalk outside our apartment block.

Need I say that we did not get much sleep that night and were suffering from the indulgence into a bit of our SA culture. We had been partaking in the sunny skies, rugby, and biltong at the Oakville rugby club. David has since become a member and we shall be standing on the sidelines for many Saturdays to come and I will be braving the rush hour traffic to get him to his practices twice a week.Driving the car is proving to be quite a challenge as my brain is still trying to get around being on the wrong side of the road. I drove home after the rugby and made both my men promise to just let me be and not to offer any comments.It was bad enough just having to contend with the volume of the cars and the speed at which they travel here. I think I will have to don a hat so that my fellow motorists will surmise that I am just a dear old lady making my way out to my weekly bridge club meeting!

One is constantly reminded of the tolerance of different cultures in Toronto and we look forward to embracing and learning more about the different people that surround us here in the city.

Josh watching the world go by

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The wonder of technology

Techno Dog

Techno dog

The computer beeped it`s long sharp call and I heard  John and Bryan`s voice. Then Philip came in on it and David and lastly Kristen. We all greeted each other and there was the usual chit chat about the weather in Toronto. The Morkel family were all on line and were having a conference call on skype.I could not believe it! I had my whole family in one room even though some of them were on the other side of the world. We were on line for about an hour and swopped photographs, discussed what we had all been up to and made plans together.At one stage Josh came rushing into the room in response to hearing John and Kristen`s voice and our furry child had to become part of the discussion for for a while..
It was wonderful and I marvelled at the technology that I have been reluctant to use in the distant past.

We were reminded of technology this morning  as we enjoyed our  early breakfast on our balcony. A crane driver was negotiating his heavy load right next to us. They are putting up an apartment block and we craned our necks to observe the intricacies of the structure in it`s early development. You can see that I have lived with engineers for a long time! It was fascinating to watch the concentration on the crane driver`s face and the way this apparatus swayed back and forth with the weight of the load. I suppose growing up and living in suburbia one does not often have the chance to make this observation. The things that us city dwellers do for fun! Philip had to get off to work so I took the last sip of my coffee and  tossed the crane driver a quick wave as I carried the last of the plates into the kitchen.I could not help myself! I had to personalise the incident in some way!

There have been the usual technical things, that one takes for granted, that I have been forced to get used to: I have learnt to recognise and use the local currency and operate the ATM machines. This is particularly useful as I am the one who is frequenting outlet shops and the local markets. I also made my first trip on the subway and had to hold on for dear life as there was not an open seat to be seen in the whole carriage. Trams have always fascinated me with their crackle as they slip effortlessly along the lines.They conjure up memories of years gone by and Toronto even has a grand old lady  operating from the year 1952. That was before I was born! She is brightly painted and has worn her years well.

I do remember the times years ago that I spent under both my brother and my Dad`s cars handing them spanners. I was forced to gaze upwards into the depths of engines and maybe that is why I can appreciate some of this technology and it makes the transition into city life so much easier.

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Purple Iris


I awoke in the early hours of the morning with a start! I needed to get up and make that call to SA if I was to wish my dear friend a happy birthday before she started her day. This whole time difference thing requires some orchestration if you have to catch up with people on the other side of the world!
.Once I had made the call I crawled back into bed. Memories of South Africa flooded back as i lay listening to the sounds of the city. A dump truck trundled past and screeched to a halt as the bags were hurled up to the pile on  top. The train wailed in the distance as it clicked along the tracks and the air conditioners surged as people cooled themselves in their apartments. A taxi hooted and a supply van stopped at the local supermarket across the road and the men shouted their cheery greetings to each other.Although I could not see any of this I could envisage all of it going on in the street down below.The city life and the people that keep the city ticking over just carry on, while we sleep peacefully high up in our apartments.

I got up again as sleep would not come and Josh sneaked up to greet me hoping that I would soften and provide a midnight snack. I reflected on my wonderful visit to the Botanical Gardens that day and the kindness shown by fellow South Africans also making their way in their new life here in Toronto.The gardens were a peaceful refuge from the heat and the bussel of the city.There were cool waterways that meandered through  this green oasis and children that played games on the wide stretches of lawn.They had set up 17 different themed gardens and my eyes feasted on the different plant types. Oh, if I could just recognise one plant species!  Then I spotted a bunch of Azalea peeping out from behind the undergrowth, such a welcome sight! I began to draw the comparison of my new life here in Toronto, it was like walking through this garden and the azaleas were the people that had shown us kindness along this new adventure.

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Standing guard

Standing guard

It was Saturday morning and I jumped up early to respond to Josh`s need for his jaunt down to the park. He has become quite good at doing the necessary in the correct place, namely Clarence Square, and has only embarrassed himself once in the apartment. I needed to replenish my stocks in the kitchen. As the supermarket is 2 blocks away and I can only manage to carry a few packets at a time. Therefore this duty seems to come around more frequently than it used to back in SA..

We decided that Kensington Market was going to be our first port of call that morning. The market was established at the turn of the century by East European Immigrants and is an eclectic mix of Lebanese,Jewish, Polish, Jamaican, Vietnamese (to name a few) shopkeepers. It is more like a bazaar with its narrow streets and art deco style 1930 shops.
They are all  painted in cheerful colours and the shopkeepers shout and banter with you in the hope that you will sample their wares..Some of them have those old glass counters which display their specialities and it brought back a flood of warm thoughts  that I thought had long gone fallen into the depths of my memory bank. As a child we used to holiday in Langebaan and I can remember the high glass counter tops in the general dealer owned by a Portuguese family by the name of Mara.I can remember peering into the display case with my 10 cents pocket money, clutched firmly in my hand, determined to get the best deal possible. Well, here I was again, only this was on the other side of the world and I was now looking for food instead of sweets!

We sat down for a much needed cappuccino in a delightful corner shop. The owner looked like she had just jumped out of an Enid Blyton book in her Woolie hat and her pointed shoes.It was like being in a time warp! We settled down to savour the creamy coffee and to rest our wary feet. By the way , you seldom see an overweight Canadian, these city dwellers know how to walk and it keeps them trim. My feet are still working on becoming city fit!
The serene background of classical music was suddenly disturbed with a roar from down the narrow street. It was a Harley Davidson motor bike with a rather cool looking Rastafarian donned in his leathers and he definitely did not seem to follow the whole Rastafarian philosophy other than the hairdo! He confidently parked his bike right in front of the shop for all to see and made his grand exit with his expensive leather bag slung across his shoulder. He was obviously a regular and I could not help wondering: What was in the bag?

I found some authentic hummus, a block of Swiss cheese and fresh bread. We had the makings of a picnic! We also chatted to an Iranian carpet dealer who was happy to share his knowledge of the exquisite carpets that lined his shop.I was so tempted but It was time to get back to the apartment and see the damage that Josh had done. He loves the garbage bin as it provides endless fun for him when we are out and about.

We never had that picnic, but were asked to a ‘High Rise Braai’ which took place on the balcony of a 5th floor apartment block! We sat in the howling wind and  enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of our new South Africans friends and the delicious boerewors! It was a wonderful Torontonian experience!

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Josh travels light

Josh travels light

On our visit to the Niagara Falls we drove back via Niagara -on -the- Lake. This is a small town much like Pilgrims Rest in SA. Someone was obviously given the task of finding out the relevance of this little town and this is what he came up with:
It was the first capital of Canada and boasts the first library in Canada, the first anti -slavery laws were drawn up there, the first newspaper in the Ontario province was produced here and it boasts the oldest golf course in North America. The bit that I never told you about is that this quaint little area produces 80% of Canada`s wine! I had also heard that this area produces very dry wine because the growing season is short, the sugars do not have time to develop. Well, this Cape girl needed no invitation, lets go and taste some!

We drove up a palatial driveway of the Peller Estate with the Chateau nestling majestically in the trees. This one was chosen from our brochure for no particular reason other than the fact that I liked the architecture of the winery and we had been given a wine tasting voucher at the St Lawrence Market on the previous day..
Josh and David decided to stay in the car as this was definitely not their thing and David wanted to catch up on some much needed sleep as we had had him up at the crack of dawn that morning.

The Peller estate has been around for 50 years and was established by a Hungarian family. It  has received many accolades for their Chardonnay, Riesling and Ice Wine.We stepped through the maginificent wooden door into the winery and I decided there and then to clear my memory bank all the wonderful memories of wine farms in my beloved Stellenbosch. Philip and I were greeted with such grace and were taken through to the wine tasting area. It did look different from what we were used to, I could not help it! I missed the earthy aroma that always wafts through our cellars in the Cape and being at the coal face, these cellars are often right next to the actual vats.The aroma of wine permeates your whole being when you taste wines and you might even spot a spider webb en route.

Everything on the Peller estate tasting room was very clean and precise. I tell myself that this is going to be a different experience, so just go with it! .We tasted 3 of their wines a  Reserve Riesling, Reserve Meritage and an oak aged Vidal Icewine. I have never liked Riesling much but I was pleasantly surprised and the red wine was very dry  and smooth but that has never frightened me. As for the icewine, this was much like our late harvest but with the added romance  that it is picked when the grapes are frozen. At least the Canadian winters will be bearable if I can soften the harshness with some Icewine

.As we walked out to the car, I felt a sense of relief, this Bolander will be able to survive in this foreign place. Yes, it is very different but there are common threads that weave through the life here in Canada and it is up to me to find the threads and savour them.

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We awoke to the loud clap of thunder this morning and I had to orientate myself as I thought that I was back in Joeys experiencing one of our Highveld electrical storms. Josh got the fright of his life and decided that 5am was a good time to start his morning rituals. Philip stumbled down to the park and Josh duly performed. I lay in bed waiting to hear the clunk of the chain against the front door and the sound of Josh`s sharp nails scraping over the floors.It pays to not be much good in the mornings!
Once I had made breakfast and cleaned up I took Josh down to the park for a longer visit.Clarence Park was veiled in a soft layer of water and the ground smelt moist. The ground echoed with the mulch of leaves from all the  previous Falls and the grass was a brilliant green in the early morning light. The branches dip majestically down onto the pathways which gives Josh immense pleasure as squirrels jump from bough to bough.He has decided that squirrels are definitely fair game even though they seem to outsmart him each time. As a matter of interest, the teacher in me always surfaces, the park is known as Clarence Square and it has a plaque honouring a certain Alexander Dunn who was born near this park. His claim to fame was that he was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in Canada in 1854 for saving the lives of two fellow soldiers in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.According to my research, Balaclava was a town in Crimea (on the northern coast of the Black Sea) where the British troops fought. The women would knit these warm hats for the soldiers back in Britain and send them over to their men.Hence the word for the unflattering but warm hats, balaclavas! I am sure that I will be wearing one of these in my first winter in Canada!
One can feel the British presence here in Toronto, it is evident in many areas but I see it in the architecture and the formal layouts of the gardens. It is strange to have a rerun of spring and summer yet again and the spring bulbs are just about done with their colourful splendour. I eagerly absorb the different plants that are thriving in the city so that I will know what to plant once we move into our home in Oakville.

The roar of the city rushes in as David opens a window and I am reminded that I need to replenish stocks in the kitchen. It takes me far longer as I don`t recognise any of the name brands. Who says life is not exciting!

Nature versus the city

Nature versus the city

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We woke up to a beautiful blue sky today! Hoorah! We are going to do some exploring for sure. Then the question arose: What do we do with Josh? The last time we left him for a few hours to replenish the food stocks he got stuck into the garbage bin and made an awful mess everywhere. So it was decided, he would make the trip down to Niagara Falls with us. We packed him a survival pack of water and his bowl and a towel to sit on in the new car. There was some kind of major bicycle race so the highway was closed in sections, we spoke to the Garmin and manged to navigate around all the confusion.David buckled Josh into his seat by tying the strap through his harness and he settled down for the hour long trip.

We eventually found parking as all the Canadians and tourists had decided that the Falls would be a good option on such a fine day.We strolled along the front of the 2 sets of the Falls and decided, like all good Canadians, that the Canadian part of the Falls was definitely the most spectacular. Josh created quite a stir as he jumped up on the stone wall overlooking the Falls. His ears blew back in the wind and he snapped at the clouds of spray that hit him in the face.There might have been a reason why we saw no other dogs around, it could have been because they were not allowed into a Parks area or maybe Canadians don`t take their canine friends in their cars on long trips. Anyway our furry child certainly had a ball and has been lying in a collapsed heap ever since we arrived home this afternoon.

Josh at Niagara

Life is good!

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