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Published: January 27th 2015
One thing I value pretty highly is friendship, and just seeing a video from home from the Crate family for Australia Day just makes you feel awesome that you have great mates. One aspect of Travel I do love is meeting people and the opportunity to meet two Contiki friends who live in Calgary over the last few weeks has been awesome. One I caught up with in Calgary and got to see just a little more of this city I am starting to call home the other I helped him celebrate his bucks in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. I have also meet some new people in my journey as well, and have just met the rest of the exchange crew in Alberta and sharing their stories and experiences makes you realise this is a great opportunity, one I am enjoying at this point. WORK
I have settled into the working groove now and really enjoying teaching Badminton and Combatives, which is a mixture of basic holds and basic wrestling techniques. It is something I have never taught before and while challenging and something different to what I am used to, the kids have had a great time
Most of the PE Faculty
Fairview Junior High Information Night
and seem to love it. I have also been embracing the fitness unit. I actually head out tomorrow to run with the students. Believe it all not, the warm weather has nearly melted all the snow so pathways and even the oval are good enough to run on. Even walked around in less clothes than the Australian winter. Although doing over hour of Shaun T's T25 fitness classes has made me sore in places and muscles I didn't realise I had. Did struggle walking around Edmonton last Friday after a Thursday session of that!!! I also got the chance to go to the school's information night and have a drink with the work colleagues which has made me feel a little more apart of the staff group at work. VOLLEYBALL, MCMAHON STADIUM AND THE CALGARY TOWER
Laura at work had been nice enough to invite me to a Volleyball tournament her daughter was playing in. Being a major part of my life for 10 years I thought it would be interesting to see how it was run in Canada. I didn't realise I was going to watch it in a circus tent! It looked like someone had
killed the tyre blimp man, blown him into a dome and covered 6 full sized Volleyball courts with him. The Volleydome was indeed a strange place to watch or even play volleyball but I was amazed at the talent the U15 and U16 girls displayed. Apparently, junior girls at school level must serve under arm which was interesting. I was also amazed at the height of the net which looked alot higher than the one our girls play on back at school. The tactics put in place where more advanced than the average school team but the same you would expect from club teams back home and the coaching tactics brought a smile to my face as I explained to Laura their set ups, the reasoning behind the moves. I also went to McMahon stadium, home of the Calgary Stampeaders who is the CFL team that plays American Football through Summer and Spring and was excited to go to one of those games a little later in my travels.
I also ventured up the Calgary Tower where I was able to see some of the great views of the surround area. It was a very nice view up there
and I was going to have lunch in their revolving restaurant but it was booked out. The one nerve-wrecking part of it was the glass floor area where you could look down and see the bottom of the city streets. Although I knew I was safe, my fear of heights had me grabbing on anything I could while stepping on it for a photo. I was even more nervous when a kid who was right next to me started jumping on it to test out is durability. Will definitely check out the restaurant at some point in time. I also visited the Century Gardens just off 7th Ave and 8th street which was also a nice little secret in the heart of Downtown Calgary. CATCHING UP WITH SCOTTY AND JOE
Was great to catch up with Scotty for the first time since our 2012 Croatian Islands Contiki. Hadn't seen him for 2 and a half years and felt like nothing had changed. He drove me around parts of Downtown which I hadn't seen yet and was good to share stories of how life has shaped us in the last few years and find out more about little things
I need to know for living in Calgary. He dropped me off at place called Kensington which has a number of awesome restaurants and is basically on the edge of the Bow River which I got to walk along and admire the beautiful views of the city, river banks and the 25 million dollar Peace Bridge which all Calgary residents quietly despise!
It was the same with Joe as well. Was October 2011 when rocked Europe together and felt like it was only yesterday since I saw him. Was great to meet him and his friends and was really honoured he invited me on his bucks day which was a great way to see parts of the Edmonton night life and other interesting sights that the town had to offer. He looked the same, except alot happier and excited about his up and coming wedding in March. EDMONTON
Where do I start on this place? The best way to describe it is a night out where in the dark atmosphere of a nightclub you meet a girl who looks pretty good then waking up the next morning, seeing them in daylight and saying "What the hell is
that?" I had the long 4 hour bus drive after a full day of school which I hoped I would see some of the great country side of Canada, but the dark abyss, covered mostly uninspiring country side as I found on the way back. I remember driving through the city and seeing it lit up and looking amazing. The major bridge was illuminated with bright blue lights and the buildings too looked beautiful the bus drove over the main river and through the town. Not that I knew it at the time, but I drove passed Whyte Avenue, one of the major party districts in town and I believe in Alberta and mesmerized like a bug to light by the glistening tree line lit up like Christmas trees. One aspect of Edmonton I didn't expect was how long and spread out it was. You could be 10 minutes out of the city and still feel like you were half an hour away. This I found out from some of the many taxi rides I had in my 2 and a bit days staying there. One recommendation, if you do go to Edmonton, hire a car or have your own
My first snowman
Yep I know exactly what it looks like!!! Not what I had intended!!!
as I spent $150-200 in taxi's just trying to get around. It was lucky that I got a couple of lifts with people otherwise I hate to think how much it would have cost me. Unlike Calgary, the public train system didn't feel easily accessible and you can't just walk down the road to things as it takes forever to get there.
I opened up the curtains and that's when it hit me. This place may not be what I thought!!! I was lucky enough to meet a few of the exchange teachers working at Alberta as the main reason to this large and uninspiring city was to have an orientation day. It was great to chat over breakfast and meet some great new people, some of which were on their second exchange and had some great tips of traveling driving, (particularly insurance), and health care. The meeting was as uninspiring as the town, mainly because all the loved one of the other exchange teachers were off at the West Edmonton Mall, the biggest shopping mall in North America! More on that later. We were catered for with a health kick lunch and entertained by an interesting Somalian man
who mixed interesting story telling with a wrap or attempted story poem of exactly the same story he had just told us. His mix of humour and his life story and journey did keep us entertained and he was better than the reviews we had all been given. The part we were all looking forward to was the drinks on the river bank Kinsman Boat House. Firstly, I went and had a few pregame drinks with a couple of fellow Adelaide exchange people, as Danielle lived in Edmonton. The drive there confirmed more of a depressing place Edmonton really was. I remember getting out the car at this place and hearing a painful scream and thinking to myself "this can't be good". Not even two steps later I nearly walked on a condom that had been politely left on the pathway for all to see. Maybe they thought it would lay hidden under snow for 6 months or trying to try a new means of freezing sperm but either way, I felt a little sorry for Danielle. Her house however was quite pleasant and nice.
Although getting lost and asking a couple of police officers where this place was,
then realising the taxi man had dropped us off no where near the spot and walking in the rain, we managed to meet up with exchange teachers young and old and instantly mingled with them in some interesting conversation. One lady I spoke to (Cheryl) told me how she met her husband in Townsville on her exchange, at a softball level 1 coaching course. They now live in a big house with 6 bedrooms in Edmonton and she was very keen to offer to go traveling with them at any time. She and her husband (Grahame) were nice enough to give me a lift home and even gave me his card in case of catching up.
The next day was bucks day, and I was determined to see if there was anything interesting to see in Edmonton. My plan was to see just how big the West Edmonton Mall was and also had heard about 'Ice on Whyte' which was an Ice sculpture competition going on in the city. Feeling not quite at my peek, and another $20-$30 cab ride from my very nice hotel through the long, uninspiring views of the town, I make it to this humungous
complex. This mall had everything! Apart from the number of normal shops you would see in any mall, I was amazed to see within 100 metres of exploring a huge Ice Rink with a junior ice hockey game going on. I travel further to find a Huge water complex with a Pirate Ship and a Seal performing area where the seal lapped up the attention he was getting and enjoyed the fish he was being fed after each trick. I further explore and find a shooting range, 3 radio stations and then a huge water park with some creatively designed water slides, a zip line flying fox and a wave pool!! But wait, there's more! I found a mini golf complex, a lane full of awesome looking pubs, restaurants and comedy clubs and a children's theme park called Galaxyland. Just when I though you couldn't get any more wonderful complexes, I discover a Casino! I couldn't help but walk in and have a $10 flutter on Roulette which lasted a good 20 minutes at 50 cent machine. Another $20-30 dollar taxi ride took me to Old Strathcona where I got to walk and explore a little of Whyte avenue where
I would venture to later that night and the 'Ice on Whyte' which had some interesting and well designed ice sculptures. There were people chainsawing or chipping away at their cleverly crafted design and a television crew interview randomly picked people about how wonderful it appeared. They even had an ice slide for the kids which did look like good fun.
I decided I would try and walk to the first destination of Joe's bucks as I was not to keen on paying for another taxi ride. Fifty minutes in and looking like I was going no where, I stopped for a bite to eat and ordered another taxi. Now, I started to wonder whether or not the Tilt and Kilt existed as the taxi man drove me through a place that was full of construction work, icy ponds and very little existence of suburbia! I actually though the guy was going to do away with me and dump me where no one would discover my body for years until after another $30 taxi ride we find our destination. Well finally I had found something that made my eyes believe in beautiful sights again. I walk into this beautifully,
merchandise decorated Scottish pub to see hot waitresses, walking around in kilts and not much covering their top half serving drinks. I wasn't drunk enough to ask about what was under their kilt or even dared to look but was great meeting Joe's mates and having us regularly serve us drinks.
Our next adventure took us to Bonnie Doon, yes that was the name of the place. I luckily got a lift to this place which again made another dent in the impression of this capital of Alberta. It felt like I had been transported to another dodgy area of very interesting characters when we managed to stumble across a bowling centre. Now I had never heard of 5 pin bowling until this moment. A ball that is shaped like a shot put but weights not much gets rolled down as normal with 3 attempts to knock down 5 pins. The front pin is worth 5 points, the middle 2 pins where 3 and the outside pins 2. Even the scoring system had strange letter codes as well but you got extra points for knocking them down for a strike and a spare (2nd shot). It was good fun
actually and it was all about the score until we discovered the speedometer!! One guy, 6 foot 8 and arm leverage a rower would dream to have sent it down at 49km per hour!
After a nice dinner, we were taken to one of those smoking pipe places I had seen on Hindley St back at home. We all puffed away on some big bong like contraption as a belly dancer entertained us and the full house of people in this little establishment, clicking her symbols, wiggling her hips and seductively wrapping her red scarf around unsuspecting volunteers to join her in a belly dance. Joe failed to disappoint the crowd as he made the most of his moment in the spotlight.
Edmonton may not be on everyone's to visit list, and it was easy to see why. I have been told since that it has a few good festivals and a couple of hidden secrets in the heart of the city as well as the river bank being a picture in summer, but really, it has one impressive mall and that is it. I sat at the bus stop, feeling like was a criminal waiting to be
shown to my sell and having all the inmates walk past me as if to see who was going to have first crack once I was in. The bus ride was made even more enjoyable by the constant talking of a socially inept 4 year old begging his mum for a drink and to watch a movie for 3 hours. Getting off that bus and back into Calgary felt as if I had returned home, that sweet feeling of common ground. I was so happy to be living in Calgary for this experience and it is now starting to feel very comfortable.
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