Big Question Marks

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Homestead

It was a grueling 6 or so days, but we've finally come out with a great apartment in Little Portugal - Toronto. The weird thing is how we actually got the place.

We were both running around all over the city, Yonge/Eglinton (North), Cabbagetown (East), and Ossington/College (West). The problem for us was that we'd lived in central Toronto before, and though we loved it, we were looking for a new adventure -- as a way of extending our old adventure. Unfortunately the area that was supplying us with the most leads was the downtown core.

Before coming back, we'd heard about all the new trendy and up-and-coming places out in the west end. The problem was that anywhere in Toronto can turn from 'trendy' to 'sketchy' in a matter of a block -- plus we forgot all the major intersections of Toronto, so it was a geography/neighbourhood location lesson all together.

Anyways, back to the story:
"The place" was the first viewing we had on Thursday, and when we saw it we knew it was "The Place"; big rooms, new wood floors, big park down the street, quiet block, central to all trendy hotspots. Unfortunately, the landlord Louis told us that we were the second people to see it, and that the first viewer had put in a bid and was currently off to the ATM to withdraw money as a deposit.
We mentioned that we'd call back later, just in case the deal fell through.
Well the deal did fall through, and the jerk landlord for our second viewing of the day (around Davisville) never showed up! So we quickly slapped down a deposit and now the place is ours!
Oct 1st is the big day! More to come -- like a Google map or something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Viva la Kevolution!

Today we were reminded of just how entertaining Australia is-- check out this news story about the prime minister:

"Rudd not sorry for F-bomb tirade". Viva la Kevolution!

And then there was yesterday's dust storm, which blacked out the town of Broken Hill for 40 seconds. Amazing! We have fond memories of Broken Hill and its searing-hot Outback sun (no crazy dust storms for us though). And then we found a contest celebrating the worst art around. The longer we're away from Oz, it seems the more we miss it. Though there are a few things better on this side of the pond: the spiders here are nowhere close to as terrifying Aussie breeds, and when it hasn't rained in weeks, there's no panic-- hooray for the Great Lakes! Too bad Canadian politicians are so dull.

Since plunging into the Toronto apartment search full-on last week, it's sort of started to sink in: the trip is truly over. We probably won't make it back to Oz, or Asia for that matter, for a really long time. The honeymoon period of meeting friends and family for dinner is winding down too-- it's reality check time. We've looked at a lot of apartments and have found everything from slumlord basements to overpriced bachelors being passed off as one-bedrooms, to a few places with old-world charm and some squeaky-clean high-rise apartments. We know that when we find "the one", it'll jump out at us. We've decided however, that to fully appreciate the Toronto experience, we're going to try living in a totally new area from where we usually lived-- ie. west of Yonge!! While hunting in Little Portugal (Dundas/Ossington area) on Sunday, we stumbled upon Dalat Cafe, little nondescript cafe with Vietnamese singers playing on TV and heavenly cafe sua da (iced coffee with milk) and were brought right back to our fun days in Vietnam. Today we hunted around the LCBO for a little nostalgia and came across some Coopers beer (from South Australia). Awesome! So it's these little discoveries that should keep things new and exciting as we settle back into our old stomping ground.

But so far, the most entertaining part of apartment hunting off Craigslist (a very popular free classifieds listing site) is when we stumble upon the ever-popular Nigerian money scams. Today we encountered our third scam listing in our week of searching! Our first before that was while apartment hunting in Melbourne and we come across an ad for a remarkably reasonably-priced condo apartment in a gorgeous high-rise in the CBD of Melbourne. Of course, we inquired. The response we received? Same old one we always receive, something along the lines of: "Thank you for your email. I am Rev. Tom Bowman and I would like to rent my apartment to a responsible person. Unfortunately I had to leave the country for work/missionary/family reasons and I am currently in Africa/West Africa/Nigeria. My wife has the keys and she is in New Jersey. Send $200/$500/$700 as a deposit and we will mail you the keys to see the place. Please note I am a very kind and honest man..."

Adrian's made a sport of emailing them a nasty email and flagging the listing on Craigslist to be removed. Turns out he's one of a whole community of 'scambaiters' who have a little fun with the scammers, having them take pictures posing with bread on their heads or silly signs... all in the name of seeing how far they'll go to get someone's cash.

Check out 419 Eater for some of the funniest email exchanges and photos; or try Scamorama or 419 Baiter for more laughs. And wish us luck on the apartment hunt while you're at it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to Weirdness

So it's been nearly a week since our English jet popped us back into what is now our bizarro world: Canada. And holy crap, is it ever hard to describe the feeling. It's been great to catch up with our families after so long-- my parents were surprised that I "haven't changed a bit" and I have to say I was a bit surprised to find everyone the same as how I left them (aside from my mother's nose stud!). But why should we be surprised at this? August was a month of reunions and they were all great-- it was just like picking up where we'd left off, like we'd seen Andrew, Krissy, Juan, and Laura a week or two ago, not years ago! Definitely a great feeling.

Aside from the people being pretty much same same (that's quasi-Thai, folks), I have to say many other things are the same as how we left them. Radio stations are still playing the same crappy songs they were repeating to death 3 years ago (have we not had enough Verve or Coldplay or Tragically Hip yet??); there's still nothing on TV at noon, or any other time of day really; lineups at the OHIP office still as long as ever... the usual. I was surprised to learn yesterday that yes indeed, I do still remember how to drive, and after years of living on the left-hand side of the road, trying to learn manual transmission, switching to an automatic car on the right lane feels natural all over again. I'm still reaching for the turn signal on the wrong side of the steering column though!

Maybe all this sameness is making our trip memories feel like it was just a movie we watched last week. It's amazing how quickly memories flit away. I always love the first few days in a new country, when everyone's accent sounds a bit funny (try going into a Timmy's after speaking 'Australian' for a couple of years) and the architecture is still new to me. I wasn't planning to readjust so quickly-- in fact, I was planning to be weepy and culture shocked for ages-- but I think it just kind of happened. Perhaps Britain was an excellent buffer to help transition between Asia and North America. Or maybe in the back of my head, I'm telling myself it's just another leg of the trip: my brain's way of dealing with the return.

It's also weird for us to be apart after more than two and a half years of hanging out every day-- now with all the catching up with families, there's some distance between Adrian and I. But we're in agreement that while things here might be the same, we're a little different inside. Like when I arrived to my old bedroom, and was astounded at how many clothes I have. (Who needs this much stuff?? Good god!) The average food portions in restaurants are way too much for us-- six months of eating teeny portions of rice for each meal has changed our stomachs, it seems. Neither of us has any desire to watch television: perhaps after having so much real-life entertainment for so long, a moving picture on a screen is hardly fulfilling. Some of these changes aren't a bad thing to hold onto, really-- but I guess after a long trip like ours we're bound to come back a wee bit altered.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and we'll keep you posted on what's happening. That travel bug doesn't just cure itself after all! To look at things on the bright side, at least now we have time for some much-needed reflection on our many experiences-- something we never really had time for while constantly on the go. We'll be sure to share often! Keep in touch.
xoxox, D.