139 days in Canada – The last 19 days!

Onderstaand verslag schrijf ik in het Engels, daar het voor mijn nieuwe vrienden in de rest van de wereld ook interessant kan zijn, mogen ze overwegen om zelf ook nog een keer door Canada te reizen.


CANADA IN RETROSPECT

I hardly know where to start. With my final trip through Canada after I left Ottawa, with the last week at Carleton, or with an overview of the last 5 months? And what about the thousands of photos that I have? Should I put them here? Decisions, decisions!

Canada is great, let that be the first thing to say. I loved every bit of my stay there. And I love the country. The landscape ranges from flat prairie to the Rocky Mountains, from Alaska to a genuine desert, and from rural to highly urban areas. The political component is great as well. I can’t think of any other country that actually knows to attract voters by saying that it wants to try to spend 0.7% of its GDP on development help. And they have Romeo Dallaire as a senator now, my new hero after having seen ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’ (reading the book right now). The cultural component is great too, with not only lots and lots of things to see in great cities like Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec and Vancouver, but also in things that point right back to the landscape: hiking, biking, rafting, skydiving, caving, houseboating, seeing mountains, you can do it all.

And the people are great as well. They are open, friendly, tolerant, intelligent, and they all look so incredibly happy! The first thing I noticed at the train station when I got back home in Rotterdam was the fact that all the people looked a little grumpy, which is the exact opposite of how people in Canada usually tend to behave and look. It’s a pity that most Canadians only know to define themselves by saying that the definition of a Canadian is ‘not an American’. You’re so much more than just that! The multicultural system in Canada really works, the ‘Canadian mosaic’ is something to be very proud of. All these people really respecting each other. And take for example the immigration policy, which most clear-cut manifestation I could hear about in the train to Vancouver:
– ‘We need people in Nova Scotia.’
– ‘What kind of people?’
– ‘Anybody, we just need more people!’

If I hear things like this, and I look at Holland, then my own little country in Europe seems even more smaller than it already is. Canada is great in every respect of that word. And I miss it. I miss the country, I miss its people, and I miss my new friends, most of them other exchange students.

So here you will read a report of my final 18 days. It all starts on Thursday, April 28, 2005. The day before I left Carleton University and Ottawa…

THURSDAY, APRIL 28 – THE LAST PARTY

After packing my bags all that was left was my laptop. So for the first time in months I was officially… bored! And so I ended up putting all the papers we (Anna, Frank, Joaquin, me) could find on the door of Ernesto on the 5th floor in Leeds. He had said something earlier about the fact that he thought it was pathetic that ‘someone’ had changed all the names on the doors (not knowing that was us).

After that we just had to wait for the night: a last night to celebrate with the people that were still there. After a short visit to Mike’s Place we ended up in Oliver’s, once again with about 30 people. And of course we had a lot of fun, as usual.

And then we ended up in the tunnels, where Yan and Ben started playing guitar. It was fun, and late (03.00) and I knew I had to leave the next morning, so I felt pretty emotional. I decided that we needed a tunnelpainting at last, no matter how small, so I found a pen and the few remaining people signed the wall and we left the names of all the countries all the exchange students were from on that wall.

And then it was time to say goodbye, but I couldn’t really. So I tried to sneak away, but Maher and Andres caught me. After an emotional goodbye I went to bed.

FRIDAY, 29 APRIL – THE REAL GOODBYE

The next morning I cleared my room, had breakfast with Sophie who had just returned from a vacation, and Jesus and Nelson, then I said goodbye to Karen, and wanted to say a quick goodbye to Joaquin, who I would see again a few weeks later after I returned from my big Canada trip. I was supposed to stay at his play then before I left to Holland. But he suddenly told me that he would be on a field trip and so I would not see him again. I was shocked, but had to leave. I said goodbye to Frank and walked to Residence Commons. There I met with Ben, Enrico and Rene. and that was it… When I sat down in the bus I felt empty and alone. I will miss everybody so much!

I soon arrived at the train station and sat down in the train to Toronto. Once I got there I immediately went to the cinema: the premiere of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was today. I saw at least six people with a towel. The movie was ok, but not much more. I went to bed early, but not before I had talked to Monica, who was staying in the same hostel as me, which was a complete surprise to me. We decided not to say goodbye again, but to say: see you next year. She will come to Holland, like many others will hopefully.

SATURDAY, 30 APRIL – THE CANADIAN

The next morning I got in The Canadian, the train that would take me from Toronto to Vancouver in 3 full days. It turned out that exactly this month the train celebrated its 50th anniversary, so there were quite a few people on board with a history with the railways. The train and the trip proved to be the most amazing thing ever. It was pure luxury, including all meals and drinks, even champaign! The beds were great, the 360 degrees view was great, the people were very nice, and you could easily walk around. There was an old couple from Beverwijk as well, so they got my kind of up-to-date as to what’s been going on in Holland for the past months. Every few hours I took a photo of the landscape. The first day was just lakes and forests, the second day just prairies, and the third day we finally entered the Rocky Mountains. Here you can see the change in the landscape:







We arrived in Jasper -two hours into the Rockies- around 17.00 on the 3rd day. Daylight would soon be gone, and the next morning at 08.00 we would already
arrive in Vancouver, so we would not get to see too much of the Rockies. But then we were told that the train could not continue, because there was a derailment somewhere in front of us. We had to stay the night in Jasper and we would be transferred by bus the next day. At first this seemed like a bad thing, but it turned out to be great. I went to the cinema in Jasper (The Interpreter, don’t bother going there!) and the next morning we got in the bus, so we got to see the mountains during daylight! And when we finally arrived in Vancouver, the people from VIA Rail were already waiting for us, with a refund of 320 dollar! The Dutch Railways suddenly seemed even worse than they already are…

This trip, called ‘The Canadian’, might be expensive (719 CAD one-way, student fare), but it is so incredibly great, that everybody should do it without even thinking about it. There is no better way to see Canada in this extremely comfortable way!

TUESDAY, 3 MAY – Vancouver

When I arrived in Vancouver I was very nervous. I was supposed to try to get a ticket for the sold out Moby concert, who was performing in the Commodore Ballroom that night. My original arrival time was 08.00 in the morning, but now I arrived at 17.30. And I didn’t even know where the venue was. But I was lucky: the venue turned out to be in the same street as the hostel. I got a ticket for the normal price within minutes, and got even more lucky after I sighed that I had to wait two hours now before the whos started, because right across the street there was a cinema. So I went there to see ‘Schultze Gets the Blues’, which was a very nice movie. After that I went to the Commodore, which was the most beautiful venue I’ve ever seen, and Buck 65 (pre-show) and Moby were both completely amazing. I went to bed that night with a Very Big Smile on my face. This was The Perfect Day!

THURSDAY, 5 MAY – To Whistler

The next morning was the start of my Moose trip. Moose Network is a travel company that picks you up with a small bus at your hostel and then drives you to the next hostel. They have trips of two days, but also of almost a month. The great thing is, you can ‘jump off’ the bus anytime you want, so you can stay in a certain city for a day or a few days longer, and then you can jump on the next bus whenever you like. So this morning the first trip was from Vancouver to Whistler. On the way there we saw Shannon Falls and took a nice hike in the woods. After a long and very scenic drive we arrived in Whistler, where we stayed in the Altavista Chalet. For 28.50 CAD a night we stayed in a very nice room. In the winter the same rooms costs 225 CAD! When I walked into the village I couldn’t stop watching. Every single house there was a villa, and they all looked incredibly beautiful. Like a Disney village. In the village it was about 30 degrees, but you could also see people walking around with skis and snowboards, who just came from the mountain where skiing was still possible. It was all so weird, and so beautiful. I can imagine why Bill Gates often visits Whistler!

FRIDAY, 6 MAY – Back to Vancouver

On Sunday we went mountainbiking, which was incredible. The tracks are truly amazing in Whistler, and the views are spectacular. I had a great time. After a final stop at the hostel we started driving back to Vancouver. But before we would get there, there was this one tiny little other thing on the agenda: bungee jumping! There was of course no way I would let this opportunity pass bye, so I found myself a few hours later with a Canadian flag in my hands, jumping of a scary bridge whilst screaming: ‘I LOVE CANADA!’ I mean… I really do!! On our way back we saw more waterfalls of course. Under this text you will see a photo of me before the jump, but… there is also a movie! You can download it here.

That night we stayed in the HI Jericho hostel in Vancouver. My new friends Nadia and Natalie joined me for a sunset dinner at the beach. Yes, everything was still perfect!


MONDAY, 9 MAY – Banff to Jasper

Banff was busy, which is no suprise: it’s THE place to go skiing for the youth who can not afford Whistler. It was therefore also very loud. I preferred Whistler, which is by far the most beautiful place I’ve seen in Canada, except from the valley near Vernon which we would see later on the trip. On Monday we entered the bus again, to Jasper. I had already been in Jasper with my train trip, so I knew my way around town. Before we got there we visited Lake Louise, which is apparently very famous, but there really wasn’t much to see or do, and the Columbia Icefields, which is basically a giant gletsjer. I was sad to learn that the gletsjer is ‘moving back’ (read: melting). And it’s melting fast. The photo you see here, that was all gletsjer 10 years ago!


When we arrived in Jasper, our hostel was a lodge in the forest, where they had seen a bear earlier that day! We got specific instructions not to leave any food outside, since that might atttract the bear. I now regret that I didn’t, since during my whole stay I (and Natalie with me) didn’t see any bear at all! Which was the more frustrating if you realize that all (!) the other people I met did see bears. As a matter of fact, when we arrived in Jasper, I met some people from the train I met earlier, which by now was returning to Toronto, and even they told me they had seen two bears! So where earlier in the year I used to say ‘There are no Canadians’, I now added ‘There are no bears in Canada’ to that saying. 🙂

TUESDAY, 10 MAY – Jasper to Banff

On tuesday we drove back to Banff. I was supposed to stay there the day after to go caving, but I was the only one who wanted to go, and they needed at least two persons. So that fell through. The first disappointment in months! Instead I went to ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ with Natalie and Nadia. Was fun too. Before that Natalie and me took a gondola up the mountain though. Sightseeing is a must of course!

WEDNESDAY, 11 MAY – Banff to Revelstoke

Instead of caving, we left Banff and continued our way to Revelstoke. We visited a wolves center and after arriving in Revelstoke me and Natalie ate at Bad Paul’s restaurant, which was pretty good. Revelstoke is really in the middle of nowhere, and during the time we were sitting in front of the restaurant we saw many cars and motors continuously cruising through the street, looking for something (entertainment?) that clearly wasn’t there. Back in the hostel I sat down to watch Wall Street (the movie) and then fell asleep.

THURSDAY, 12 MAY – Revelstoke to Kelowna

After quite a boring day on wednesday, this day was great again. On our way to Kelowna we visited a winery, which was fun even though I don’t drink wine, and had a chance to see probably the greatest view in Canada. Next to the city of Vernon there was a lookout which gave a view over a small village, stuck between beautiful hills on the left and right, with a nice lake in front of it, and with the Rocky Mountains in the background on the other side. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite catch it on the photo… 🙁

When we arrived in Kelowna we went on a houseboat. Which was absolutely phenomenal. There was music all the time (U2 rules!!), we had a BBQ and the weather and the view were both great. One of the best nights of the trip! (Don’t ask about the helmet!)



FRIDAY, 13 MAY – Kelowna to Vancouver

Today was the last day of the Moose trip. With one more thing on the menu: skydiving! This was my second and final chance to do so and today the weather was perfect, but I wasn’t very comfortable with the idea of skydiving on Friday the 13th… I decided to jump anyway, but not after I finished reading ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. If I would die today, I would have at least finished that book!

So, skydiving, what it is like? Well, the most remarkable thing to me was that it doesn’t feel like falling at all! As soon as you get out of the plane, all you feel and hear is wind. So it feels like you’re standing in this big wind storm, nothing else. You really don’t notice that you are falling. After 20 seconds the parachute was opened already, and then a slow 6 minute descent started. A great way to end the trip! (Oh, and the last photo is of the water in some lake, the trees you see there are under the water, it’s just to show you how incredibly clear the water is in the mountains!)




After we returned in Vancouver I went to the cinema once again. I had already seen everything that played, except Crash. Without a clue as to what kind of movie this was, I decided to go anyway. And once again it turned out to be my lucky trip, because Crash is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen! It’s about racism basically, and Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Sandra Bullock are only a few of the people who play in the movie, together with about 10 other main characters who all perform way beyond what you would normally expect in a movie. There are at least 3 scenes which are 101% heartbreaking, the story is phenomenal and every single sentence in the movie has a function. And there are so many details that make it even more perfect… I will not tell you anything about the content, just go see it. In theatres in Holland somewhere in September!

WEDNESDAY, 17 MAY – Flying home…

My last day in Canada… Joaquin had to work, and Javiera went to the airport to drop Gonzalo off, so I started reading in ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’, the book written by Romeo Dallaire about the genocide in Rwanda. I had already seen ‘Hotel Rwanda’, which is a VERY impressing movie, but the book is even better. Dallaire is the coolest man alive. He represents what Canada is all about.

Anyhow, after a last lunch with Javiera, Anna and Joaquin I had to go to the airport. They brought me to the busstop, and the bus was just arriving, so there was hardly any time to say goodbye. Which perhaps was a good thing. My flight back was long and I didn’t sleep at all. I arrived in Rotterdam the next day (18th) around 13.00. No time to sleep however, since Josta called me and told me I had to go to a PvdA meeting. Which I did. I am crazy!! At 01.00 I finally went to bed. 139 days in Canada had ended.

THE DAY AFTER

And then it was the 19th, and now when I write this even the 20th. Coming home I was confronted with about 8000 e-mails and lots and lots of post. It took me two full days to get through it all. Almost done now. I also anxiously watched the news, to see if there was anything about the confidence vote in the Canadian government, which could have fallen yesterday. But here in Holland there was no news about that at all. I had to read on www.globeandmail.ca that Paul Martin survived (luckily). The fact that it wasn’t in the news here once again proved that Canada is never in the news, never on the frontline. Like some people say: ‘Canada is the loft on the top of the pudding’ (and the pudding is then of course the USA).

There is another saying about Canada:
Q: ‘Why does a Canadian cross the road?’
A: ‘To get to the middle.’

Well, Canadians, wake up! You do not belong in the middle, you should cross the street! Actually, you’re already there… I love Canada and I will miss it dearly… So long and thanks for all the fish!

More photos and movies!

There were a lot of photos in this story, but it was just a small selection really. There are a lot more photos and movies of the last weeks in Canada. Remco helped me putting them online:

– Click here for photos of my train trip through Canada
– Click here for photos of thesecond part of the train trip, and for photos of the Moose tour
– Click here for photos of Carleton, the last night in Mike’s and Oliver’s, the tunnel jams, the goodbye dinner, a food party in Joaquin’s room, the goodbye of Carolina, Julie and Noemie and of Juan Carlos
– Click here for movies of my trip and of the tunnel jam
– Click here to download a 30 minute movie of the final dinner in Ottawa with all the exchange students!

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