Pre-Japan Preparations

I celebrated my 33rd birthday in the lead up to our trip to Japan. My birthday fell on a Thursday so that meant I was at work which was actually a good thing. I’d spent a couple of hours the night before making a white chocolate cheesecake with mango and lime coulis to take in for afternoon tea. I got made a fuss over and Glen had a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to reception. I got through a bunch of work and felt I’d achieved enough to be able to go on holiday.

In the evening we had dinner with the family at 7 Spices in Ardross. I’d failed to find out if the restaurant was upstairs, and if it was, whether there was a lift, as my grandmother came along and isn’t as mobile as she used to be. To our surprise though, she managed to get up – and down – the two flights of stairs so it all worked out well.

We ordered too much, though it didn’t feel like it at the time, and then we had cake, another one that I’d made, which was pistachio and chocolate. It wasn’t as nice as the cheesecake but it was still tasty and moist so it might make another appearance one day.

On Friday we went to the gym and then I went into work (contractors were coming in and I thought it best that I be there to oversee the work rather than leave it for some other busy person to handle).

A couple of hours later I went to the chiropractor to have some work done on my back because I was a little worried about skiing with some of the twinges I’d been having (it’s since gotten worse with all the walking). After that I took the car to be serviced, went to the bank to pick up the yen I’d ordered, and then it was home to pack.

We’ve become used to travelling light, taking only a carry-on bag with a week’s worth of clothes in it. While we’re only in Japan for a little over a week, we’ve brought a lot more gear. Ski boots, ski helmet, ski clothes, gloves, scarves, and then hiking boots all went in, as well as other clothes, electronics and toiletries. Our flight between Tokyo and Sapporo only allows 20 kg so we were a bit on edge about how much weight we’d be taking. (We later found out we’re just under 20kg so we’re travelling fine.)

In the evening a few of the boys came around to continue my birthday celebrations. We played a new card game called F**k which was a bit hard on the brain. We had pizza, some drinks, talked, laughed and then Dion and Ben took us to the airport for our midnight flight.

Back in Perth with a vengeance

It’s been a busy week, and not just because I returned to work on Monday. My first week back at work was pretty good. I eased back into the routine, and the workload wasn’t horrific either. I’m only working Monday to Thursday so by Wednesday afternoon, I realised I only had a day and half left before I was off again. It was wonderful. The work is fun too and there are lots of projects coming up so it’ll give me the chance to flex my creative muscles and do some interesting things. Trying to fit the gym and writing around work will take a little bit of time.

On Tuesday evening Glen and I joined a couple of friends for rock-climbing. Jason and Chris go every Tuesday and we decided we’d give it a shot. Glen happily exclaimed when we’d discussed it at yum cha on Sunday that he used to go, though then had to think about that and qualify it by saying it was actually more than ten years ago. Nevertheless, we went on Tuesday. I think I’ve only ever been once before and that was in high school.

We hired our guy, went through the demonstration then climbed for a bit. We did about four or five climbs each and then, having satisfied that curiosity, decided it wasn’t really for us and left after about an hour – much to Jason and Chris’s sadness. I’m just glad we went and we were sociable.

I joined the nearby council gym on Wednesday after a few days of deciding which would be the best gym to join based on cost and convenience. One gym was going to give me an excellent price but as it was in the city, it wasn’t all that easy to get to on the days that I don’t cycle to work. In the end I settled for the one that’s literally a street away. I missed out on getting the 2014-15 price by a day! But in the end paid less than I was expecting to at this gym. I worked out on Wednesday and Thursday and felt good for having gone.

We collected our new bikes on Wednesday afternoon and cycled them home. I’ve yet to cycle to work on mine (tomorrow) but Glen did a practise run to his work on Friday. He says it definitely feels like he’s going faster but it still took the same amount of time. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to work in a solid 25 minutes, as opposed to the 30/35 it used to take me. Cycling in the cold crisp morning is not something I’m looking forward to but I’ve got my cloves and ear muffs handy (thank you, Canada!).

Our new mattress arrived on Thursday. I wasn’t home but Glen was. As it’s a king size mattress and we’ve never had one of them in this house before, it was all a bit touch and go whether it would get up the stairs. It only just made it up there after a lot of effort. It was totally worth it though (especially after sleeping on old single mattresses all week). It’s comfortable, cosy and so wonderful to sleep on. Plus, when Glen moves on his side of the bed, I don’t even notice. Heaven!

On Friday on my day off I took my grandmother to the doctors and then Glen and I had lunch with her like old times. Afterwards, Glen and I went to pick up our cat Smudge from her foster mum’s. We loaded up the car with her three-storey cat condo and all the toys, kitty litter and biscuits she’d accumulated. She was already in the cat carrier which made things easier. Once we got home and unloaded everything, we let her out. She immediately ran to the downstairs toilet and hid underneath the cabinet and that’s where she stayed for about 12 hours. She was not happy to be home.

She allowed us – and my mother-in-law – to pat her and give her scratches, which was unusual. And then on Saturday evening she eventually emerged and decided to sit on the coffee table and then on me and then next to Glen and then in her igloo and then repeated the whole cycle. She was slowly coming out of her, rather rotund, shell. (She has to go on a diet.)

She’s gotten bolder since then, jumping up on the bed in the middle of the night (only to be whisked away to her bedroom by Glen – who’s allergic). She’s also decided that our bedroom wardrobe is her spot now and I have to remember not to close the door and lock her in there. I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to come sit in front of the heater with us.

As well as all this, we’ve been very sociable – though we’ve found that by the time it gets to 8 o’clock we’re pretty much done for the night and wondering when it’s bedtime. I think it has something to do with the shorter days here and our body clocks aren’t quite used to it yet.

On Thursday we had dinner with Sophie and Ian (which did go late so good on us), filled with good food and a lot of laughs. Soph didn’t think we’d come back from Toronto so she was shocked – and pleased – that we’d returned. On Friday we went out with Bree and Rohan to go Paul’s birthday at the Brisbane. We ate food. We caught up. It felt like old times.

We had brunch with Marco on Saturday morning at Sayers, an old haunt of ours, and then Glen’s mum came for lunch (bearing herbs and vegetables for the garden). On Saturday evening we went for dinner with my sister and cousins at Kitsch Bar, trying another place that had popped up since we’d been away.

We caught up with Dad and Donna for brunch on Sunday at a vegetarian/vegan place over the train tracks from us. In the afternoon Glen and I took things to work – clothes, lunches – so we didn’t have to cart them on our bikes, and then we went to Bunnings and bought a worm farm (I’m so glad we’ve got one again). And then in the evening we caught with Dion and went to Lucky Chan’s Noodle Bar in Northbridge before getting some dessert then coming home to watch Masterchef.

It’s been a weekend of eating, and a full on week. Looking ahead we’ve got a lot coming up. I don’t know how this happened, but definitely not going to knock it.

Our first week home

We’ve been back just over a week and we’ve been busy. On the Friday we returned, despite being tired from the flight, I was keen to knock a few things off our ‘return home’ list. First up, a fridge, then a bed, and then phones and internet. With the fridge and the bed, it seems that stores are desperate for your business nowadays and offer discounts on discounted prices without being asked.

For example, the woman at the first place automatically knocked a couple of hundred off the fridge (but we didn’t end up getting it). We almost bought a new curved TV with OLEDs for $4000 but luckily, we left the store before we handed over any money, and then laughed in the car that we’d almost bought the damn thing. Shopping tired is a dangerous thing.

We eventually bought a fridge from the place down the road which was even cheaper again. The beds was a hard one though (no pun intended). We tried one shop. I slept on nearly every mattress and finally narrowed it down to one that I liked. But Glen had gone into the store next door to use their washroom (yes, I wrote washroom. Canada still has its teeth in me.) and they also sold beds and mattresses, so after getting one price from the store I was in, we then went next door and got the hard sell from them and eventually got a good deal on a bed frame, side tables and a king mattress. They said they’d deliver by the end of the week (meaning Friday just gone) but it’s Sunday and we still don’t have it, which is rather annoying.

We then went into Subiaco, had some lunch, bumped into Kerrin, then went to iiNet to set up internet and get phones. The salesman was uninspiring and not very good at his job. We nevertheless walked out with a bundle including SIMs for our phone which were meant to work in the next couple of hours. They didn’t and it took me going into the store the next day to get mine to work. Glen’s required another two phone calls after that to get them to work.

We’ve seen a whole lot of family since returning to Australia. Friday night we went out for dinner with members of both families. This was also the first time we’d gotten to meet Glen’s nephew, who is one year old now. He’s adorable, though not yet enamoured with his two uncles. We saw more family on Saturday afternoon, and my grandmother on Saturday night, then went up to Chidlow on Sunday afternoon to see yet more family on Glen’s side. Chidlow was nice as it was the first time I’ve been ‘out in the bush’ for a couple of years. We didn’t see any kangaroos but I did see some 28s (parrots) and some white-tailed black cockatoos. It was a beautiful day too.

Through most of the week, we slept at Dad’s though Glen spent a few nights at our home alone because there was one single mattress that we’d kept. I eventually borrowed another single mattress and moved it home. Driving up and down the freeway between the two houses was starting to get to me. Not that it’s a long drive but it’s not a great drive and I was sick of it after only a few days. I don’t know how people do it every day.

We unpacked everything pretty quickly, I’d say. Considering how many boxes there were. We moved all the boxes to their relevant rooms and then started unpacking from there. Glen couldn’t believe how many boxes were going into his study. It was kind of like Christmas. “And who’s this one for? Glen!” I still had plenty to go through.

I managed to get rid of about six boxes of books, a box of CDs and a whole lot of papers. I’ve still got one bookshelf full of stuff but there isn’t a lot of other things dotted around the place now. My study is pretty much setup, though I’m waiting to move the couch back in there and looking forward to buying a new desktop computer. Glen also threw out a lot (though he’s squirrelled a lot of stuff away into the cupboard). Unfortunately my external hard drive that I brought back from Canada has stopped working and I’m concerned I won’t be able to retrieve what’s on it: namely every photo I took during the past two years. I get a sick feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. Trying to remain hopeful.

We’ve been shopping for more things like clothes horses and rubbish bins (Bunnings), glasses, towels and chopping boards (IKEA) and a vacuum cleaner (Harvey Norman – again, another bargain as they price matched with Myer and we got it for about a third off the original price). We also bought new bikes from the store down the road on Saturday. They’re amazing. So light. It might actually make riding a pleasure now.

Glen’s been working in the garden a lot. The planter boxes that Glen made still have some things growing in them, other than weeds. We have a lot of mint, thyme, parsley and oregano. We even have some rhubarb. The vines along the lattice (which is broken thanks to the builders putting up the new fence which is shorter than the one before) are mostly dead. The rest of the garden is covered with weeds. Glen has attacked it all with gusto and made great progress. He even chopped down an invasive tree that had grown so tall while we were away (it had been planted by the tenant).

Other than that, we haven’t been doing much socialising as yet. We’re a bit stranded at the moment without a car and my headspace has been all about settling back into the house. We’ll be getting the cat back soon, which will be nice.

I’m missing Toronto a lot, probably more than Glen, who’s happy to have his garden back and not to be constantly asked where his accent comes from. It’s particularly hard at the moment as it’s summer in Canada and friends are going hiking, or enjoying the sunshine, or going travelling. I also miss our apartment and the view. And I miss our friends. I return to work tomorrow which will be an adjustment, having not had to work a full day in quite a while. Trying to fit in the rest of my life around that is going to be difficult as well, and I still haven’t been to the gym. Or been writing.

Still, life isn’t bad. I’ll adapt before long and then will have something to compare to. Perhaps Toronto will be home again. Perhaps not. Time will tell. And it has only been a week.

As for this blog? I’d like to keep it going but calling it Two Aussies in Canada and writing about non-Canadian things seems a bit odd to me. I’ll have a think about it and see whether it’s worth setting up a new one or just continue with this. We’ve got some travel coming up (though not in Canada) so it’d be good to put those adventures somewhere.

All the feelings

Sunday was an emotional day. We woke up too early, after having the farewell party the night before. Yet we got up and got on with the cleaning. Glen went and bought chocolate croissants and coffee and we sat on the green rugs on our balcony eating them, talking about last night and the past two years and our lives ahead. I’m going to miss that view from the 40th floor.

We got on with the cleaning and it was a good team effort. The luggage was all sorted, the bathroom cleaned, the cupboards wipes as well. It all went a lot quicker than expected and didn’t involve any major arguments (surprisingly!). I wasn’t coping very well with the fact that we were leaving, not only the apartment, our new friends and Toronto, but also the life we’d built for ourselves. The emotional floodgates had opened and they weren’t looking to close any time soon.

To help remedy this, we went out for brunch with Pete, Royden and Julian to House-Maison on Church St. This restaurant had been open for nearly a year (if not longer) and I’d always wanted to try it so today I made the effort. We walked down the street, got a table, and ordered our food. It was pretty tasty. I had a duck confit hash which was incredibly rich. We talked a bit about the move but we also talked about normal things—the hot guys over the road, antiquing and motorbiking.

After brunch (which was really lunch, no matter what the Canadians say) we went home for a little while, chilled out at Julian’s, and then the three of us walked down to Yonge-Dundas Square to watch the new Pixar film, Inside Out, at the movies with Bec and Al. It was a slightly humid day and very bright so the walk down was warm but I enjoyed the normality of being in the city and soaking up the last of the smoggy atmosphere.

We met Bec and Al at the movies, took our seats, and then Bec asked where her glasses were. She’d asked me to bring them, and I’d gotten them out of their apartment…and left them at Julian’s. I raced off to get them and got back only a few minutes into the film, which was fine as Glen caught me up in about ten seconds.

This was not a good film to see on a day when I was already feeling pretty raw. The movie is about emotions, for god’s sake. It’s pretty emotional anyway, without the thoughts of our impending departure going through our heads. Despite this though, or perhaps because of the catharsis, I loved this movie and highly recommend going to see it.

After the film we caught the subway back up to home. It was to be our last subway ride. I recorded the announcement that is made when you get into the Bloor-Yonge station (which goes “Bloor-Yonge, Bloor-Yonge Station. This station connects with the Bloor-Danforth subway”). For some reason I just love the way the announcement sounds. I might use it as my ringtone.

We packed up a few more things at home (surprisingly there was some stuff still left) before heading out to dinner with Julian, Bec, Al, Pete and Royden for all-you-can-eat at Spring Rolls. We ate a tonne of food. We talked about normal things. We also talked about the horrors being committed by our government back home and about general politics.

Once we’d eaten way too much, we walked home and everyone came up to our apartment to go through the final few giveaways (there were a lot of toiletries that we’d forgotten to take down to the party, and Pete and Royden took our two green outdoor rugs from IKEA). We hung out on the balcony while the sun set. We jumped up and down on the balcony, freaking Glen out and tempting death. We then said more goodbyes and yet more again as we all tumbled into the elevator.

That is going to be one of the hardest things about leaving Canada, the fact that so many of our friends all live within one building. It’s totally unlike our living experience at home. It’s so wonderful and makes things easier but also makes bonding so much easier (and so much harder when we leave). Julian, Glen and I went to swap his brother’s car with his car and see the family’s new mansion. I was very quiet on the drive. Saying goodbyes, even when we’ll see them again, is so hard because it’s goodbye to this construction of life that we will never get again, even if we do move home.

I know life is full of goodbyes and that’s the nature of life, but it doesn’t make it all that easier. Especially when we’ve been having such a good time.

Once home, we went to Bec and Al’s and climbed into bed. They had already gone to sleep. I struggled to fall asleep, finally nodding off at 2pm, dreading Monday.

A farewell party is a terrible idea

Despite our hopes, we did not sleep in on Saturday morning. We were up at an unfriendly 7:30am and decided to get on with our day. This started with packing the last of our stuff and clearing out a few cupboards. We didn’t start the cleaning though. We also had to get things ready for the evening’s farewell party happening downstairs in our condo.

Glen was feeling tired and a little unwell after packing so Julian and I went to the bank, No Frills and the LCBO, depositing money, buying chips and chocolate, and alcohol, in that order. Glen attempted to sleep. In the afternoon I tried to as well but it wasn’t happening so just struggled through.

I also spent about an hour on the phone changing our return flight. We booked award flights to get home but, at the time, we had to book a return so we had a flight booked to get back into Toronto in October. We had to change this before we started our flights to Australia so it took an hour on the phone trying to find a suitable flight back. We’re now booked for May next year to come back for a visit. Unfortunately it’s made up of three connections as opposed to one.

At about 6:30pm I started to move things downstairs. This involved not only the food and drink (every bit of alcohol we had left in the house was going to this party) but also all the bits and pieces we either weren’t taking with us or weren’t willing to throw away without seeing if anyone wanted it. I’d also given Julian and Alastair a bunch of leftover food, spices, herbs, protein powder, soap etc, earlier in the day so we were finally getting down to the bare bones of it all.

(I can’t believe how much stuff we’d managed to accumulate, not just objects but also food.)

Pauline and Isabella arrived first and then more people came as the night wore on. We served drinks. Pizza arrived. People ate chips and chose a few things from the giveaway table. Some people even gave us presents (though any alcohol was either drunk or sadly returned to the gifters).

I didn’t get to speak to everyone nearly as much as I would have liked but I managed to circulate and say hello and goodbye to most people. Unfortunately, as the night wore on, I became tired and my original hope of going out to a club afterwards evaporated.

We wrapped everything up at midnight, loaded our friends up with leftover alcohol as they were going to another party, and then said our “until next times”. We tried not to let our sadness get our evening down too much but both of us said that a farewell party was a terrible idea because of the goodbyes. And it went on all night.

The only thing that made it bearable—though not in all instances—was saying we’d see people either in Australia (for those who plan to come) or else in Toronto in May. It still doesn’t make all the sadness go away. Though the party was bittersweet, we felt very loved for having such friends to say goodbye to.

Dealing with Stupid People

Tuesday was a big moving day. Because we’d squished in a three-day trip to New Brunswick and the people who’d bought all our furniture were taking everything on Friday (while we’re away), everything had to be dismantled and sorted into going/not going.

The mattress disposal guys came at about 10:30, one of the guys an Australian from Newcastle who’d been here for five years. He loves it here. Lucky guy. When they arrived I got a call from the guy who was picking up the freight stuff.

He was going to go to the Rogers Centre, which is a big baseball pitch way downtown. Our street, though sharing a common word, is not anywhere near it, yet for some reason it was now my problem that this moron, who delivers things for a living, didn’t know where my street was.

It took an age to get him to understand that I did not live at the baseball pitch and that he would have to come uptown further to get to me. My tone was not pleasant by this stage yet he seemed to take it all in his stride.

Meanwhile, the mattress was disposed of without issue. I paid my money. They went away.

I then got another phone call from the delivery guy saying that one of the streets near me had been blocked off by police. I wanted to ask him why this was my problem. Instead I said he’d have to find another way to get there, to which he asked if the part of my street was open. I said it was, as it had been when I was there a few minutes before. He then waffled on about something else before finally asking if he needed to bring in a trolley. I said I’d bring all the boxes down to the lobby (because I could trust him to not get lost inside our condo).

He eventually arrived, blocked the driveway for the condo parking. I helped load the boxes into his van while he tried to make chit chat but I just wanted this man out of my life by that stage. He said the weather (it was raining) must make me feel like home and I said I wasn’t English but Australian. He then wanted to chat about the gym but I’d had enough. With the last box loaded onto his trolley, I asked if I had to sign anything. He said no. I said goodbye.

I have no idea whether we will see any of those boxes again.

By then it was time for lunch so I walked to the Nespresso store to recycle the used pods and then had Japanese for lunch. The rest of the afternoons I spent dismantling the bed and the day bed, doing loads of washing, and making sure that everything that was going was all stored in one area for ease of taking. 

In the evening Glen and I went to Bec and Al’s for dinner. They’re very kindly letting us stay in their spare room for our last nights in Toronto. Al had made a really nice pasta. We then rounded that off with some ice wine that had been chilling in our fridge for months, and some chocolates that Glen had received for his birthday. We chatted for a bit and then Glen and I watched a couple of episodes of Sense8 before going to bed.

It’s a bit sad looking at the apartment in its state of disarray, especially as we’re not really moving this stuff but we are moving home. When we come back on Friday to an even emptier apartment, I’m going to feel even more conflicted about this move home (I’ve been able to keep most of those feelings at bay by keeping busy). I did get sad going to bed in a bed that was not my own king size one. 

But life is full of changes. We adapt. We’ll be fine. The trick will be to make sure we’re happy as well. 🙂


Sculpture in Yorkville

Soaking up the sun at Woodbine Beach

I tried to stay in bed as long as I could on Monday but that wasn’t working. There was too much to do. The freight stuff was being collected on Tuesday so I needed to make sure it was all ready to go. I went out to buy masking tape and luggage locks and finished that all off with time to spare. I could have done other things but, amazingly, the day turned out to be really nice so I went to the beach.

I went to Woodbine Beach. Toronto is on a lake so it’s not a beach as I’d consider it but there was sand and sun. There was also water but when I got there the red flags were out which means no swimming because of the pollution. By the time I left the green flags were out but I’m not game enough to go swimming in that.

The sun felt good. I lay down and relaxed for a bit but couldn’t sleep. I read my book for a bit and then after an hour or so, couldn’t take the inactivity much longer and so headed home.

In the evening, after Glen got home from work, we went with Julian for dinner at Lee’s with Bec and Al as well. Glen didn’t like it here the first time we came about eight months ago, but I enjoyed it then, and this time we both did. The winner was the Singaporean salad slaw with ’19 ingredients’. We also had Peking duck, lobster ravioli, rack of lamb, tofu and green chicken curry. Oh and drinks as well. And dessert.

We got home about ten and fell into bed. With all this trying to fit in as much as possible before we go, we’re easily going to be able to sleep on the flight home.