Boereseun

My 15 Years in Canada

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Boereseun

Well, Hi everyone on the forum. After contemplating for a while, I have decided to start posting again. I looked at some of my old posts and thought the best way to get into the swing of it, was to post in the journals. I re-hashed some old stuff, added something new and added a ton of pictures. This is just the beginning of the story.

I am going to post more and more as I write it and add pictures to let everyone enjoy the journey, the frustration and the triumphs.

Enjoy...

Clive

Born in Cape Town, raised in the south of JHB and spent 4 1/2 years in the South African Police (including a stint in the Brixton Flying Squad) that left me a little rough around the edges - Very loud, very rude and no scruples. You could always tell who the Southies were in a Northern suburbs. Rof en onbeskof. I think for the most part, the Sandton crowd pointed at us and muttered under their breath. We visited Sandton often, just to rile up the locals. I somehow got the idea that I wanted to immigrate, free my Sandton bretheren from the Southie ball and chain. I don't know where it came from, but I knew I wanted a change.

Filled in all the forms and sent them off to Pretoria. I used to introduce myself ‘Hi, my name is Clive and I’m immigrating to Canada. I’ll be leaving for Canada in six months.’ Pffft what an idiot I was. It hit me the hardest when my application failed. I was devastated. How could they not want me? I’m young, enthusiastic willing to work hard. I was in an elite unit, with an excellent track record. South Africans in general seem to be under the impression that you can just pack your bags and go to any country in the world. Not so. My answer was plain and simple: I didn’t have the points. Okay so what now? Do I try to study? Maybe I should go check this place out before I just “show up”. I went on an LSD (Look see decide - for me it was discover) I have to admit, it was an amazing 6 weeks (hey, you get a lot of vacation in the cops).

One moment does stick out. I walked from Bay and Bloor to the CN tower. It took me about 1 ½ hours at a brisk pace. What a huge city. My feet ached for days. Then I saw this big sign at Nathan Philips square ‘Ice skates’ I figured there had to be an ice rink here somewhere. Well, I looked all over and couldn’t find it. I finally worked up the courage to ask someone. Hopefully the guy won’t try to mug me and steal my money. The guy just laughed and told me that the pond with the fountains freezes over in the winter and that’s the ice rink. (Picture Below). Ohhh I never thought of that.

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That trip was quite the insane experience as a whole. I went to Niagara falls in a rental, Canada’s Wonderland and a whole lot in between. Coming back to SA was going to be quite boring in fact. I will cover my experience at some of these places in later posts.

When I got back to SA I decided I’ll do what it takes to go to Canada. I had to try this immigration thing. Headlong into the process in 1997, I was granted an interview. Boy oh boy, I had never been grilled like that in my life. She was absolutely ruthless with questioning. It was so bad I was sweating like prostitute in church. I was surprised when she didn’t say ‘Ok, now we proceed to the Chinese water torture segment’ But I survived (just barely). I just had a final ‘security’ interview. My past was clean as I only became a cop in 1993 and had no part in what went on in the 80’s. Hell, I was only a teenager, and didn’t really understand anything anyways. I got the go ahead and went for my medical. I booked a flight and had to cancel and re-book as my papers were delayed by a few days (I had a good contact in the embassy) I always thought afterward: what was the rush? I really should have taken my time and enjoyed my last months there; planned a little better, but oh well here we go. All this in 9 months!! When I hear about the new 4-5 year process, it just makes me cringe. I had an application, failed, visit and reapply and finally got in - 9 months. Crazy hey?


I figured out there are two ways to get a better seat on an airplane. If you sit next to someone with a baby, just cough fitfully lean over and speak in a croaky voice ‘Not to worry, it’s just a little bug. I’m sure it will pass in a week or so - you should see the puss-filled sores on my back though’ Just sit back and watch them get up and move in a hurry. The other way is to tell the guy next to you ‘Well, if it’s your time, it’s your time’ Then put your hand on your chin look into the sky thoughtfully and say ‘But what if it’s the pilots time?’ He’ll either laugh or move. But after September 11, I wouldn't recommend any of these tactics, unless you feel like spending an afternoon in a holding cell being questioned. Flights have changed. Do you remember when people could smoke on a plane? Just a little curtain in between – Ya liked that helped. Tell me, why does everyone have a picture of a plane and clouds? They all look the same. One bloody wing and clouds. Here’s mine:

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Never ever buy anything at Heathrow. You’ll get more in return if you flush your money down the toilet. You get to see it spin round and round before being swallowed by the pit of despair. At Heathrow you may as well stand legs spread, hands on the wall and let the store owners take what they want. A coffee for 4 pounds! What the hell? I’m putting your kids through college and paying for your second house! Here’s a pic of landing in Toronto.

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Here I am in Canada Dec 1997. Man it’s cold - minus 2. I thought my face was going to fall off. This Woolworths jacket is just not doing the trick anymore. Winter jacket my arse. My brother picked me up at Pearson, and took me to Harvey’s for my first Canadian meal as a permanent resident. Now the world of choices began. I just said to the guy just tomato sauce and lettuce pls. A confused look on his face greeted me. What's tomato sauce? Oh brother, here it begins. Luckily I'd heard the word ketchup on TV somewhere, so I was able to negotiate the right word. I also wondered, are the burgers always this big? I felt like the Michelin Man after stuffing my face. There you have it folks. My first official meal as a landed immigrant was a Harvey’s hamburger. Hope yours was a little more ‘refined’.

My brother caught me with the choices thing. He sent me to a grocery store with $10 and said ‘Go buy some bread and milk’ Come to think of it; he was stifling a laugh as I walked out the door. Well, milk was a mission skim, 1%, 2%, 3.25%, 18%, 35%. Why the hell didn’t he specify? It got worse when I had to look for bread - A whole bloody aisle of the stuff. How quickly the time passed when you used to say ‘One liter and can I have half-loaf white please’. I had to walk back and ask him to specify what he wanted. As I got back they were all having a good laugh at my expense. I sometimes wonder if we really need that many choices with everything. Because of the choices available it makes you pickier – something I try not to be. My mom always used to put food in front of me as a kid. I had 2 choices. Eat it or go hungry. Oh yes there was always the part when it gets late. Eat it now or you’ll be picking up your teeth with broken arms (waving her fist at me) After that threat I just wolfed down the food no matter what it was. The good thing about that was that now I eat everything. And I still wolf it down.


To be continued....

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rockwooder

Enjoyed it. Waiting for the follow-up

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Boereseun

Since it is my first post back, here is the next block...

So, now living quarters - I was up in Brampton, with not a clue where I was and sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 6 other people. My bed was in the passage, so I heard the fridge open every now and then in the middle of the night. I was very tempted to yell out 'get me one too please!', just to scare the crap out of them. After buying a winter coat and experiencing the 'real' cold minus 18, I decided to make friends with the TV. I was dumbfounded at the choices (yet again), but became an avid channel flipper with lots of hard work and dedication. In SA we had 3 lousy channels and M-Net. My family couldn’t afford the satellite thing. But oh the cable TV here had me hooked from day one. Let me put it this way. You could have engraved my name into the remote. The couch had a permanent mold of where I sat. Three months of this drove me into the beginning stages of depression. It true what they say about depression. It crushes you, like the world is on your shoulders. You fall into a tremendous feeling of despair. The honeymoon was over. You sit on the couch and you think of all the wonderful things you had. You drove a cool car, went for delicious braai’s with friends and hung out at all your best spots. You start to question the decision that you made. And yes, it hurts.

I started to think that I could use my return ticket and just pick up my life where I left off. Perhaps the SAPS would re-hire me and I could just plod along. But the little demon inside me did not want the people over there to say “I told you so” and tell me that they knew I was going to fail. I had to get out of this depressive state and get the ball rolling. The only way to do it was to get myself a job. I faxed my 26 page CV to a few jobs available in the newspaper. One of them called me immediately, and told me they don't even have that much paper in the fax machine, and I had to get it down to 2 pages max. They also didn't need to know every arrest I made, and that I should probably omit shooting incidences. Just that I was a police officer, and did my job well. Some serious revamping of the old CV had to be done. If I was going to get a job, I'd need to drive there too. So, I loaned a car to 'practice'.

Wouldn't you know it; I made a short left into oncoming traffic in a really busy intersection (Steeles and Hurontario). I swerved into the Gas station avoiding a major collision (I knew the advanced driving in the cops would come in handy one day), but to my demise a Canadian cop saw this too and pulled up behind me with lights flashing. Thank goodness I remembered to stay in my car (normally I'd jump out ready to argue or state my case) He gave me that look of confusion again and said 'What the hell were you doing?' I thought oh no, less than 3 months in the country and I'm going to be locked up. I think this might put a damper on my Canadian job hunting process. I produced my SA license and told him that I was practicing for my driver’s license. He told me to follow him to a quieter area and practice there and take my time, really think what I have to do, before I pull the car into another intersection. He also gave me the name of a driving school. I was stumped. My face must have been a picture. I must have looked like a boiled codfish. This was the intersection and the two tall buildings in the background was where I was staying at the time.:

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10 lessons later (not to mention a ton of cash - I was still spending rands) I had my first taste of ‘ice driving’ I headed down a hill, the light was changing and I braked. The car just kept going. Luckily the car turning opposite me saw this and just waited as I quietly slid through the intersection. The driving instructor wasn’t too pleased though. I could see his little mind saying “Brace for impact”. Needless to say, I got my license on the first try. Whhoooohoooo.

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I got a call for my first interview, yay!! It was in a warehouse, but who cares it’s a job. The guy at the interview looked at me again with that confusion on his face. ‘Why on earth would you want to work here? Your qualifications are way above what we need’ After hearing this a few times, my creaking brain said ‘You should change your approach, grasshopper’ So I told the guy: ‘Look let me level with you, I need a job. I’m not stupid. I’m hard working and willing to learn anything’ After giving me another once over, he asked if I would be willing to write a psych test. Once I passed, he sent me off for a drug test and called me the next day to tell me to start on Monday. All this for a warehouse job. My pay was $10.50 an hour. Not too bad of a start.

I always thought Canadians were very reserved and wary of other people’s feelings, until I met Bert. Actually he was born in Holland, but been here all his life. He was to be my trainer. One of the guys had his eyebrow pierced, and Bert gave him one look and said ‘If I were you, I’d get my money back’ So the guy asked why? Without even flinching Bert pointed at his newly pierced eyebrow and said ‘Because they missed your whole friggin ear’ Well, I nearly wet myself. Who thought Canadians had a sense of humor like this.

Seeing kids walking home from school just jogged my memory...I was sitting in my English teachers class Mr. Gerber. This guy used to shake like he was having an epileptic attack whenever he wrote on the board, but had a nasty temper on him (come to think of it, in those days most teachers were a little bedonnerd). I sat in the front row to the far right of Mr. Gerber's desk next to Mark. I don't know what animal Mark consumed the day before, but when it came out it smelled like a dead buffalo baking in the hot African sun for a week. Fortunately the window next to Mark was open with a slight breeze blowing the stench past me. I held my breath and closed my nose, but my eyes still watered!! The guys in the middle row suffered mild heart attacks as it blew past them. Mr. Gerber was viciously marking homework when he stopped dead in his tracks. He only lifted his eyeballs, looked straight at the kid sitting in front of him and in a voice that croaked like a howler monkey with a sore throat and in pain said: Gee Jacques....are you dying!? Looked over to the next kid: Bushie, was it you? You could see the sweat off his brow as he was inhaling the toxic fumes. When the bell rang, I had wobbly legs from the laughter. Mark and I had to literally drag ourselves out of class, gasping for air and holding our stomachs from the laughter.

Back to Canada. In my first month, I learned inventory, stock, how to use the scanning system, and driving a stand-up fork-lift. Bert was an excellent trainer. One time through, he made me cock my head in a confused look and contemplate his level of sanity. The supervisor was on the phone with Bert, and told him that he was a liar, that he is not really sick, and to come into work or he will be reprimanded. Bert showed up in about 20 min, walked into the supervisors’ office, and puked all over his desk. He neatly wiped his mouth and said ‘There! I told you I was sick!’ He turned around and walked right out without another word. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Man that was by far the most entertaining day I had thus far.

My supervisors name was Harry. He drove this really sporty car. A Chevy Camaro if my memory serves me right. Harry got a new promotion, so the guys wanted to have some fun with him on him on his last day. Someone got his keys, but lo and behold, no one could drive a manual transmission. So naturally I had to volunteer. 5 cans of whipping cream, 5 toilet rolls and one orange (for the antenna) later, we stood back and admired our work. Okay okay I’ll fess up. It was my idea. We used to pull this all the time when I worked at Mike’s Kitchen in Rosettenville. Canadians just need to be prodded in the right directions sometimes. I could just imagine kids pointing out to his car as he drove down the road ‘Look dad, a car made of snow in the summer!’

As you walk into the Canadian bank for the first time a typical naïve South African, you stand on a hill with your hands on your hips and in your best superhero voice, you proclaim: I had a Nedbank account! Then someone with that confused look says: Nedbank who? What? Never heard of them. What is a Nedbank? Not to be perturbed you follow up with: Do you know who I am? Then the debilitating answer comes back: Why? Did you forget who you are? Can someone here identify you? Ouch what a blow to the ego. But it’s all part of that evolution thing. A few more like this, and it’s a very humbling experience. Nobody here cares what bank account you had, who you are and your pitiful self-importance. You are just another consumer like any other.

When I got here, I had some help from family getting a bank account etc. So, when I got my first paycheque, I marched off to the bank with a little spring in my stride and deposited my pay (I was on a weekly pay cycle). After the second time, I had to take some cash out for some groceries (by this time I had run out of my SA funds) The machine wouldn’t give my money and I got that dreaded message – insufficient funds. My heart skipped a beat, and I thought ‘They (the bad guys) scaled my cash…’ I rushed into the bank, handed over my card, and proclaimed in a really calm voice ‘I can’t take any money out. The thieves must have somehow accessed my account’ She looked over at me and said ‘Yes there is a 6 week hold on cheques in a new account’ But I had the account for 3 months!! She said yes, a new account is considered less than 6 months. Then how do I get my money? Well, you could cash your cheque at the branch it’s allocated to. Which I found out was the Royal Bank downtown Toronto, 42km away. There was no way I’d be traveling to the city every week, so I had to come up with a solution - Although, I must admit that I was grateful that my account was not emptied by the bad guys.

Here the logic wheels start spinning again, and decided to take the aggressive SA route. I walked home and returned to the bank with my bills and a list of groceries. I demanded to see the manager. I waited for over an hour before the manager would see me? Time to use my six-foot-four, 110 kg frame. The manager was a sharp looking slender guy, but you could tell there was a certain toughness there. He reminded me of my drill sergeant in the police college (remind me to tell you a story about that. It’s one of those must hear ones). I handed my bills to the manager, and told him, that these are the accounts that need to be paid, and that he could walk me down to the grocery store during his lunch break and help me with my grocery shopping. I said to him the way I understood the cycle, was I work, I get paid, I pay my bills (sarcasm at its best) He saw the point, and immediately released the money in my accounts. Sometimes that stubborn streak really pays off. In the back of my head I could just picture the manager behind the shopping cart and me loading it up. I had a good giggle on my way home. My cheques were never frozen again, and after having my account for nine months, I got offered a credit card where I was previously denied. Jeeesh, I never knew I could have such a big impact on anyone. Must have been my wonderful smile and sparkling personality (Yeah right)

To Be Continued....

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Jeanne

Boereseun I am SO glad you're back!!!!!!!!!! Welcome welcome welcome ;)

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Linda

Indeed, welcome back, missed your writing and all the laughs ..... can't keep a good man down!

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Trevor&Anelle

Welcome back!!

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Boereseun

Thank you everyone for the warm welcome. I have been asked if this was just a repost of my previous post. It is somewhat, however I have tweaked a few things and added lots in between. Also more pics will be added and the more at the end too..Just bear with me.

Lets continue...

Thinking back at how arrogant and pushy it was is almost embarassing. What was I thinking, walking into the bank managers office with that attitude? Jeesh!

There’s always the issue of comfort. No matter how well you present your façade in front of people, once you get comfortable in front of them, your true colours always shine through. You have to be careful not to let some strange South African mannerisms or slang slip out. While I was still at the warehouse I worked at, one morning I recognized one of the guys I’d been chatting to for the last 2 months. As we neared he greeted me with a wave of his hand, and in reply, I yelled out.. Howzit China!! He gave me a really serious look and said ‘I’m not Chinese’. I wanted to take my size eleven shoe off, and shove it in my mouth as far as it could go. I spent the next 15 min trying to explain to him that Howzit China, was like saying Hey Buddy, or Hey Pal. Then he asked me ‘But what if the guy was really Chinese’ Without missing a beat I replied ‘Then you hit 2 birds with one stone’ He still didn’t get it. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. After 3 months, I found a better job, and had to bid them good-bye. What an awesome first experience, even though it was really hard work, crappy shifts and really dirty work. On second thought, that job sucked but was necessary at the time. With the crazy world of immigration you have to do what you have to do.

Some old habits always creep up from time to time. One day I went to a sports store, excited with my purchase I marched out to the car with a spring in my step. I got in, and tried to grab the steering wheel (it wasn’t there) I looked over to my left, and there it was, right where it was supposed to be. I looked over to my right and saw about 3 people standing there with a confused look on their face, probably wondering what I was doing. So, I opened the glove box and started scratching around in it. Then I closed it, and got out the car proclaiming ‘got it!’ and walked around to the other side and got in. To this day, I don’t know what ‘it’ was that I was supposed to take out of the other side. It had something to do with not feeling stupid. Doing something without even thinking – Pavlov’s Dogs.

To understand why I do certain things, and have certain reactions you have to look at my past. The Police College is one such place. It has changed the way I think and the way my little naïve mind used to view the world. This is a little glimpse into that thought process…
Police College and Military for that matter: The best time of your life, you never want to have over again.

My drill sergeant was a guy named Breytenbach. He had a reputation in the college for being able to push new recruits beyond normal boundaries, and get the absolute best any man can give. In other words, my platoon were the ones always getting the short end of the stick. He reminded me of an ironing board. Very rigid, immaculately dressed with sharp features (Like that Bank Manager). One day on the drill grounds, I made a mistake during practice. The sergeant immediately called out ‘van Rensburg! You screwed up, come over here!’ So I fell out, and stood to attention in front of him. He narrowed his eyes and told me ‘You see that tree at the top of the road, upon that hill? I want the left leaf on the bottom branch!’ As I started out he called me back. ‘Did I say you can take a leisurely jog? You run, like a pack of firebreathing wolves are nipping at your heels. Now get to it!! GO GO!!’ As I ran off, I thought ‘I need to get this guy back’ But what to do? Anything I try, he’ll probably make my life ten times worse. As I got to the tree, a solution crept in my head. I turned and started heading back, with a big grin on my face. When I got close enough, I had to stifle my laugh, and swallow my grin. God help you he thinks you’re having a good time. So, I handed him the leaf and he said ‘van Rensburg! You stupid friggin idiot! Not that leaf, I wanted the leaf next to that one! So I pulled out the piece of branch I broke off and stuck in the back of my pants, and proclaimed ‘That’s okay sarge, I got the whole branch!’ Well, he turned beet red, and the platoon was howling with laughter. So he turned to his only defense ‘Go again! I don’t care, just go again! In fact the whole platoon can join you! Everybody go!!’ Every stride I took was sweet pleasure, as every guy in the whole platoon patted me on the back, as we ran up the hill.

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Wake up call from SGT: Word wakker, word wakker! Gister was k*k, maar vandag is nog k*kker!

My first summer trip into the Ontario countryside was upon me. We got into a rental minivan with map in hand and hit the open road. Another Canadianism ‘You rent a car, but hire a person’ Then why on earth would you call it Avis car hire? It’s kind of fool proof driving here, with all the roads in squares and numerically marked. Well, our intention was to go scuba diving, so the first stop we made was at a dive shop in Brampton for some rental equipment. Any diver would tell you, that rental equipment was usually not the best idea, but being rough and tough we didn’t care. I just never wanted to be called a damdyker. For those who don’t know, it’s a person that has never dived in the ocean. So, rental suits, tanks in hand we carted ourselves into the countryside and headed north to Tobermoray. Apparently it was a really good diving spot. All of this planned on the Friday, left on the Saturday - Nothing like those spur of the moment trips into the bottom pits of hell.

If you’ve ever been to the top of Table Mountain, and look over the ocean, with Robin Island and the Lions Head right there. Your heart churns a little and you think ‘Man, this is the stuff’ By stuff meaning stuff that dreams are made or stuff that takes your breath away. Well, that’s the feeling that I got when we drove into Tobermoray. Beautiful trees surrounded by crystal clear lake. This is truly... the stuff.

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The next feeling I got, was that my eyes are swimming. If I don’t find a toilet soon my bladder is going to burst, and I don’t think Canadians take too kindly if I watered a tree on the side of the road. Three and a half hours of driving non-stop will do that to you. Hobbling into the nearest restaurant I asked if I could use the jazz (funny how those SA words come out when you’re in pain) I quickly corrected to ‘washroom’, and she just pointed it out. Thanks. Aaaaahhhh relief. I must’ve lost about 2 kilos. Only afterward I realized that I didn’t even buy anything. I must’ve been a sorry sight indeed. Well that’s helpful Canadians for you.

Feeling refreshed, I traipsed off to the nearest dive shop and arranged for a guy to take us out on a boat. He said all his charters were full, but if were willing to go out in a small fishing boat, he would be glad to accommodate us. Beggars can’t be choosers, so off we went. As we were suiting up in the boat, I noticed 2 guys to our right also gearing up. But they were wearing expensive dry suits, with extra layers underneath, where we only had 7mm wetsuits. As we headed out I kept thinking about those guys. Was I missing something here? Anyways, we got to the site, and rolled backward into the water. At that moment, I realized why those guys had those suits on. The water was freezing. It made swimming at Bloubergstrand seem like a leisurely dip in a heated pool. I had to go through with it. What kind of a wuss would bail out now? Needless to say, it was also a pretty deep dive to the wreck. About 38 meters at the deepest point. I was at the bottom of the dive when my weight belt shifted. I couldn’t fix it, because my gloves were so thick. So I took one off to adjust my belt. I thought my hand was going to fall off. Never make that mistake. Just live with the belt!! We got out the water and the guy on the boat said to us ‘Wasn’t that a great dive?’ I would have leaned over and choked him, but my hand was still frozen in the open grip position. It’s like a boxing match. You take your licks and move on. Otherwise you’ll never get over anything. I think he could see how cold we were, and asked if we wanted to go back. I thought ‘No ways man, we paid for this trip, and I’ll damn well see it through to the end. Even if it kills me’ In my numb state of mind, I told him that we’d just like a shallower dive. So he took us to a great wreak nearby a lighthouse. Still cold mind you but bearable. The water was crystal clear. After we docked, I vowed ‘Only tropical diving from now on’ This freezing stuff, is for people with no brains and too much money. The only saving grace was the gorgeous sunshine. Let’s hope I don’t get sunburn.

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(The names of those involved had been changed to protect their identities)

You never think that you would get a job, by looking in a newspaper and applying. The process wasn’t quite as simple as that though. I have to get a firearms license and pass a basic comprehension, math and 5 hour psychological test. Not to mention the background and credit check. Out of all the candidates to start the process with me, only one other guy made it to the company. Passing the shooting exam was a breeze. This whole thing took around 6 weeks to complete. Fortunately I had a job and wasn’t in a desperate situation.

So, I got a new job. In the Armored Car industry – a job I wouldn’t even consider in SA. Better pay, overtime available and more in line with what I used to do. It was a better option overall. It’s funny how everything at a new job always seems so overwhelming. You don’t know anybody, you don’t know what you’re supposed to do etc etc. My first night on the road, I was told, get in that truck, and drive. Jeeesh, I’d never driven anything that big before. The funny thing is, your license here, covers anything up to 11 tons. The trucks we drove were about 8 - Still huge by any standards. I got in expecting it to be manual, but it was an auto, and really easy to drive as long as you keep the size in mind. I had to drive for Carol and Dave. Most of our older trucks have a kill switch in the back. It cuts all power to the truck. Me, being a first night out driver, my crew were going to play a joke on me. They intended to hit that kill switch and let the truck die out every opportunity they got. Well, it backfired. After the second time, the battery konked out. The truck wouldn’t budge, and we had to get towed. The two of them just got quiet on the way back to base, and I knew that something was up. Serves them right for trying to mess with a boer!

In my first week, I also went out with two guys, Trevor and Paul. We were in the King City area, when Paul asked me if I would be willing to drive faster, so that we could finish early and go home. I said ‘sure, no problem’ (Keep in mind, I still had some of that South African Police mentality in me) Between King City and Orangeville, it’s about a 40min drive. I was there in 17min. Clocked about 160 all the way. When I stopped, I thought ‘man it’s quiet back there’. I looked back, and the two of them were pale as ghosts. So I said ‘What?!’ One of them finally managed to speak. He said ‘wwhhhenn I sssaid faster I meant 10 or 20 over’. That would amount to 90 or 100 on those back roads. To them, I wasn’t driving fast, I was flying low. I couldn’t help but laugh as they stumbled out the van into the Bank. You know, in retrospect I think, man that was really stupid. I could have killed us or someone else. It’s those lessons you learn, that changes you and makes you go through that evolution into a better person overall (I think so anyway)

Driving in Canada didn’t seem to be so bad. Most people were courteous, and in general obeyed the rules of the road. My opinion completely changed when I drove on the highway for the first time. I was just putting along at 100k an hour when a huge 18-wheeler truck flew by me. The whole car jerked to the one side from the wind resistance. It was like standing behind a boeing 747 on take off. What was this? Big trucks are supposed to go really slow on the highway! Once you get used to the trucks, it’s not so bad.

Other than the odd idiot, drivers are great for the most part. But, I’ve got a great solution for those odd drivers. When they come up behind you and you can’t move over (there are cars on the right). You know he’s going to give you a nasty look when he passes you. So what to do? Lay back in your seat and close your left eye (keeping the right one on the road). Open your mouth, and let your tongue hang out and drool a little. When he comes by it will look like you’re fast asleep. He’ll honk on his horn like crazy. Then you jerk your head up, grabbing the steering wheel tightly. Keep your eyes wide open at this point. Then look over to the left and give the guy a big thumbs up with a huge ‘thank you’ reverberating on your lips. Can you imagine the story when he gets home that evening? Just don’t pull that one with a cop behind you. It won’t have the same effect.

To be continued....

Edited by Boereseun
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Boereseun

As I was assimilating into my new career, a real test of fortitude presented itself. I came across a guy named George. He was one of those people that enjoyed the shock value. In fact it was his mission to shock people, stand back, and admire the resulting reaction. I saw this first hand when someone dropped some food, he picked it up and began eating it in front of everyone. Needless to say, it worked, because he got a ‘gross man’ out of half the people standing around. I was driving the van one night, and George told me to pull over. I thought ‘here it comes’ He jumped out and started digging in a nearby garbage can. He pulled out a piece of half eaten sandwich, got in the truck and started eating it in front of me. I gave him one look and said ‘So, what’s on it?’ Totally stumped, he said ‘Looks like black forest ham’ So I reply ‘MMMmmmm black forest ham’. It really took him by surprise. After about 10min of silence, he said ‘You know, I really like you. You’re alright’ I never had a problem with him since then. He never tried to shock me anymore or anything like that. Always feels good when you hit the right chord with people.

Lots of ups and downs, but that’s to be expected when moving to a new country. Working late one night (2am), we had that huge snowstorm. 60cm fell in 24 hours. As I was leaving work I saw a whole bunch of guys just sitting around. I wondered why no-one was going home. When I got to my car, I realized why. All the cars were covered in snow more than a foot deep. No-one was going anywhere. The hell with this! I took out a shovel from my trunk (note Canadian word) and started shoveling a path to the road. After about an hour of shoveling, I was half way. I got back in the car for a few minutes, just to warm up a bit, and hit the snow again. Then without thinking I started to sing “Shosholoza” It must’ve been hilarious if you stood close by. After 2 hours total, my path was clear and off I went – totally and utterly exhausted. When I got home, and saw the pile of snow in the driveway that the plow had pushed there, I wanted to cry. In fact, I probably did cry a little, but lets just keep that between us. But, I was too afraid that my tears would freeze to my face, and prolong the agony. Out I got, and dragged my shovel behind me like a kid making his way up the toboggan hill for the last time. This was hard work!! And I didn’t even get paid for it.

Five days later, another huge dump. 40 cm. I think God must be a stand up comedian. Sick of snow hey? Tired of shoveling? Here have some more! The city actually called in the military. All 5 guys were sent out in full uniform. Hey, I’m serious. I was in the city on that day, and I only saw 5 guys. They didn’t have shovels though, so I don’t know how much snow they were going to push with their hands and melt in their mouth. Only about 25% of our employees showed up. Snow is more debilitating than a COSATU march through the city. Always the optimist, summer was around the corner. Just a lousy 3 months away. I finally got my own pozzie in June, in Etobicoke. This was much better. I was closer to work, and had 24 hour transit, just three blocks away. This was important, because I had no car of my own. Ahhh the joys of public transit. It’s not bad in general, it just seems the line I was traveling on (Queen line) always seemed to attract all the weirdo’s. People who are ‘finding’ themselves. I could just picture what my mom would do to me if I came home like that. It would probably go something like this ‘So, you’re finding yourself? Well, maybe you could also find yourself a place to stay, and find a job, since you’re doing all this finding’. It also relates to my bud Ronald who wanted an earring. His dad said ‘You put a hole in your ear, I’ll put a hole in your head’. Boy times have changed. Here are some pics of my new digs in Etobicoke. I found the sofa in the basement of the previous owner in Brampton (where my brother lived). I decided a long time ago that free was the best price. Also, the rent in our apartment set me back whole $700 per month. For a 1 bedroom, it’s a stunning deal by today’s standards.

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Traveling on the streetcar was an adventure in itself. Some regulars, and some new faces every day. One day a guy hit the streetcar with his car. Not a hard bang, but the streetcar was built solid so the car had lots of damage. A cop was around the corner and got there quickly to interview the guy. The guy was adamant that the streetcar swerved in front of him. The cop said ‘Think about what you’re telling me and rephrase your story’. The guy wouldn’t budge. So the cop handed him a ticket and said, I was gonna let it go, but because you insist, I have to give you a ticket. The streetcar is on tracks, there is no way it can possibly swerve in front of you. With people like that you just shake your head and move on.

Waiting for the streetcar with a bunch of regulars, a young guy was going form person to person asking for spare change. I watched some people giving, some looking at him with that look ‘You’re young and able, you should be working’ I thought, when he gets to me, I’ll be prepared. Before he could open his mouth I said in my best Canadian accent ‘Hey bud, you got any spare change’ He took a step back, completely off guard and said sure and gave me two quarters! Man I must’ve looked pathetic at 5am. Probably big bags under my eyes, dragging myself off to work.

I have also realized that I have this huge beacon on my head. I attract the weirdest people or people in general that just want to chat. I was sitting on the streetcar yet again, and this guy (looks like Indian or Pakistani decent) taps me on the shoulder and says ‘Excuse me sir, but I’m from South Africa here on holiday. Could you please tell me where to get off at the Eaton centre’ I had to come up with some smart remark so I replied. ‘Hey me too. I’m just as lost as you are’ He just looked at me for a few seconds with his mouth gaped open. We chatted all the way, a good 20 min. Asking me all sorts of questions about how I ended up here and can I speak Afrikaans. Maar natuurlik! As we got off the car, he told me that it brings such joy to his heart that good old fashioned South Africans are able to make a living for themselves here. He shook my hand and gave me the biggest smile as we parted.

Assuming that I’m the super-adventurous type, we decided that we would like to ride on some roller coasters at Canada’s Wonderland. This would be our second trip to the theme park. My wife may not be the athletic type, but she sure is a trooper when it comes to this kind of stuff. We walked that theme park stukkend!! Went on every roller coaster at least twice, spent half the day at the waterpark and ate beaver tails at the concession stand. Now let me forewarn you. It is not a cheap endeavor. Although you pay a steep entrance fee, the rides are free. But it’s the food and souvenirs that will nail you. Also, if you have young kids, there is an entire park for kids. The best day to go is mid-week when the schools are still open. Somewhere at the end of May or early June is best. A week-end is pure suicide. You will stand 2 hours in a line for a ride that lasts 30 seconds.

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Boereseun

I get asked about SA a lot at work. You always have your standard answers like ‘The crime is really bad, not enough work etc etc.’ When I get asked how bad the crime is, I always use a snappy answer ‘If you go to a nightclub they search you for a weapon.' Really? 'Yes - If you don't have one, they give you one’. It always gets a giggle and seems to lighten the mood. I really think people here don’t need to know all the stuff I went through in the cops. You know, they probably won’t even believe me. I think that some of the “Flying Squad” stories would raise the eybrows of just about anyone.

Yes, I got married. What a year this is turning out to be. And yes she is South African too. I dated her (she said she’ll kill me if I used her name) in SA for 4 years. I left SA on my own, because I didn’t know how this Canada thing was going to turn out. Always keep a back door open, you never know. So, we were apart for 18 months but kept in contact via email and phone. Now I had a job and a place to stay. All I needed was a few things for our new place and then I was ready for her to come on over. Well, I went to the Bay, Eaton’s and Sears to buy an iron, microwave etc. Yes I can see you all cringing. In retrospect I was such a closed minded idiot and just went to the store closest to me without asking anyone at work for advice on where to get the best prices. UUgg.

I got married at North York Civic centre. From the time we decided to get married to the time the axeman chopped down, I mean the time we gave our vows in front of a minister; it was all of 2 weeks. Talk about a shotgun wedding. Wouldn’t change it for the world though. It’s the marriage that counts not the wedding. Wedding in two weeks – married for 13 years. Formally engaged for 1 day. LOL. Hey if I had to do it again, I’d go to Vegas, get married by Elvis. ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife, here’s $20 worth of chips, the casino is the second door on the left. Next!’

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Always be aware of who is sitting next to you no matter what form of public transit you’re on. A lady and her mom were sitting across from me on the streetcar one day chatting away in Afrikaans. After about 15 min, I piped up ‘Julle moet pasop wat julle se, daars miskien iemand wat luister’ (rolling my eyes from left to right in a devious manner) So we chatted for the rest of the way to the city. She asked me what I did for a living in SA. I said 3 letters SAP. She went as white as a sheet. She said she was part of the ANC and was in Canada hiding from the SAP. I couldn’t resist ‘Yes and now we’ve finally got you. You’re not getting away’ Then I quickly recovered with ‘just kidding, those days are long gone’. I think her heart skipped a few beats that day. I said to her ‘You’ve gotta keep on your toes. You get very complacent in Canada’. The rest of the ride was mostly just talking about how long we’ve been here and what you miss. The usual stuff South Africans would talk about to break the ice. She got off and I waved her goodbye and said ‘cheers mevrou – mooi bly’ With the biggest smile she said it was so nice to hear an Afrikaans farewell. Turns out the lady was Annesu de Vos. The somewhat controversial poetry writer that climbed to great heights as a teen, but faded into the woodworks as an adult. Vroeg ryp, vroeg vrot. If I knew that was who I spoke to at the time, I may have engaged in more interesting banter. I sometimes try to probe my dad’s mind for details about the mechanics of apartheid. I was only a teenager and didn’t really have a deep understanding of what was going on in the background. It would be somewhat interesting to hear perspective of someone on the other side of the fence too.

Those first few trips on the streetcar were the best. It’s that whole experience of something new. After 6 months of it, you tend to drag yourself on and off. It’s like anything that becomes repetitive. Kind of reminds me of my first day in Police College…..oh-oh – another little glimpse into my personality….

I stood on the parade ground in Pretoria. One sergeant seemed to have more command than the rest of them. Then the guy next to me gave me a little nudge and said ‘You see that guy? That is sergeant Breytenbach. You hope and pray that you are not in his platoon. He’s the toughest son-of-a-b*** here.’ Well guess where I ended up? We were just standing near our barracks later on when one guy lit up a cigarette. The sergeant blindsided him and hit him straight through the mouth with a flat hand. The cigarette obviously went flying. Then to add insult to injury he said ‘Did I tell you to drop that cigarette? Pick it up Now!!’ The sgt walked right up almost nose to nose, and said to him ‘You probably want to lay an assault charge. Well, you go right ahead. I know the judge, and you know what will happen? He’ll dismiss it as ‘under training’ Then you have to come back here and then your arse is mine!! Do you want to lay a charge son?’ The guy replied nnnnnoo. Big mistake. The sgt said ‘No what? The first thing to come out of your mouth has to be Sir, and the last thing out of your moth has to be Sir. And I want to hear it with some conviction’ So the guy screamed at the top of his lungs ‘Sir No Sir!!’ sgt replied ‘That’s better. Now let me explain to all of you here. From this moment on, your mommy isn’t here to hold your hand. Your girlfriend isn’t here to keep you warm, and your wife won’t cook your dinner. From here on in, I’m you mom, your girlfriend and your wife and you’re not going to do anything without my permission’ I kept on thinking…What on earth did I get myself into? It may have seemed really harsh at the time, but the situation warranted it. Compared to a lot of other Police services over the world, we were one of the best trained, and mentally strong. It truly changed me from a boy into a man.

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When you live in certain apartment buildings, you often get what you pay for. For the location we got, and the size of the place, it was cheap. The first year wasn’t bad really. Our neighbor was an old man, and in general the building was okay. Then the neighbors from hell moved in. Our walls being very thin, (no drywall – it was plaster) we could hear everything. Keep in mind, we never spoke to them, I’d say I knew a lot about them. She was 20, had a kid at 16 and never worked or finished high school. He was also early 20’s, worked and paid for everything. It was like cat and dog all the time. The worst part wasn’t the fighting, it was the making up. This was all I needed to hear after a long day’s work. Not to put a picture in your head, but it sounded like someone doing some serious weightlifting. Hey, maybe he was a heavy guy or had asthma. Then they didn’t hear their alarm go off. Bee-beep for almost an hour before any action was taken. How on earth did he make it on time for work? I resorted to banging on the wall, just to wake them so they can turn their alarm off. They complained about my banging on the wall to the super. I told the super, they should be thanking me. I make sure that they get up on time for work every day! The fighting also got so bad at times, the cops showed up. If I needed any motivation to save money, and get a place of our own, this was it. We saved enough in 2 years for a good down-payment on our own place, and the sooner we got out the better.

For some reason I felt the need to give back to Canada. It’s something I never experienced before. I started looking up places I could volunteer and settled on the Distress Centre. After filling in the application and undergoing a background check I got trained and I was off to the races. What people don’t understand about a Distress Centre is that it is more like a listening service rather than an emergency helpline. It certainly opened up your mind to the types of people that are out there. I often took the 6-9am Sunday morning shift and seemed to get the same crazies. My first really scary call went like this “I’m going to kill myself” in a really croaky voice. I immediately called my backup and mentioned the name of the caller. They told me that she does this all the time and that she is not serious. Serious people tell you what they are going to do and when and where. It’s their way to reach for help. The next time I got that call, I just said “No you’re not, because you are going to talk to me” If you really want to appreciate what you have and what state of mind you’re in, then you need to volunteer at a distress center.

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Groceries were another thing you never think about until you have to buy them. You got so used to your SA brands that you have to chop and change things up until you figure out what you like and what is a reasonable price to pay for stuff. It’s a lot of trial and error, but experimentation is the key. A day at the grocery store: Get on bicycle (had no car) Cycle to the bus stop. Get on the bus to the grocery store. Buy LOTS of groceries. Get back on bus. Then with a backpack full, and bags around each handlebar, cycle home without falling or hitting anything. Honestly, I felt like a Himalayan Yak, packed for a journey through the mountains. All I needed was a little guy behind me with a stick, making sure I keep up the pace. It gets even more fun in the winter. This makes buying your first car in Canada all the sweeter.

My advice on buy a car: Never ever sign ANYTHING unless you are 100% sure you want to buy. They almost caught us with that trick. In fact those buggers did catch me with this thing. They said, no problem, you can bail out if you don’t want the car. That’s like saying: here use this cheese grater on my back, if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you – no problem. What a load of crock. Once you sign those papers, they have you. And they’ll turn around and say ‘We never said you could bail out’. It was a used car, and we decided to bail, but lucky for us, they were part of a new car dealership. I walked over to the new car side, and chose the car we originally wanted. My wife was furious about the way the used car guys treated us and demanded a better price. The guy went up to the manager and gave us a good deal. So, always bring an angry woman with you to a car deal. It’s like giving a loaded machine gun to a gorilla. Everyone pays attention. It works wonders. After countless nights on the streetcar and bumming rides home...what a luxury it was to drive. It was a Toyota Echo. Now if you saw me (6'4' - 220 lbs or 192cm - 100 kg) you may either laugh or cry depending on your state of mind. Most guys at work just laughed at me. I couldn't care less, and a car is better than public transit or walking. When the petrol price reached $1 a liter they were the ones crying and I was laughing. Seriously though, it was a magic little car that would serve us well for the next 10 years. Hell, there are some marriages that don’t last that long.

To be continued....

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Georgie

So glad to welcome you back Boereseun, love reading your journal!

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Boereseun

There are a number of things on your so-called bucket list. One thing that most people won’t have is to be involved in a strike (labor dispute). I was part of a strike. It lasted 3 weeks and yes, I know that sounds bad. In SA we associate a strike with lazy people wanting more money, displaying endless energy in their toi-toi celebration. (If they only used that energy at work) Things are different here. We don’t strike for the same reasons. The company wanted control of the pension plan and we wanted control of our own pension plan. You see, the company had been taking a contribution holiday for the last few years, because the fund was doing so well. We, on the other hand wanted to maximize our pension. To this day, I still think it was a valid reason. I guess in retrospect we all see easier solutions and nobody wins in a strike. It was very tense with management doing the work and employees walking the picket line shouting at managers. One of the guys even had a bull horn which just added to the tension. I decided to break the tension with my unique SA humor. One of the managers had a reputation of requesting a polygraph test whenever there was a discrepancy. I decided to make him my target… and yelled through the megaphone: ‘Hey Bob (not his real name) can I take you for a polygraph? I’d like to ask you one question. Do you like being scr*wed over by the company? What’s you answer Bob? No? You’re lying!!’ I had the whole picket line in stitches. Being in a strike is one of those things you add to your experiences list. It’s like skydiving or white water rafting. It changes you just a tad. The first week was fun, like a big party. However, the second week when you’re supposed to be paid is no longer fun. It becomes quite stressful.


At this point I was changing (on a personal level). I found I came here with a chip on the shoulder, pretty aggressive and plenty arrogance. I fell hard quite a few times, and have cultivated immense tolerance, patience and understanding. I think I’m a much better person than I was. Canada did something to me I didn’t expect, but I welcome change and embrace it. Taking my citizenship oath was one of my proudest moments here. Citizenship means something to you. I think because you chose to be a citizen of this country rather than by birth is why it’s so special. Just singing the Canadian National Anthem puts a lump in my throat and makes me teary eyed. It’s something I never felt singing the SA anthem. The Canadian anthem is one of the most powerful moments you will have.

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Before I left SA, friends always told me – What on earth do you want to do in Canada? It’s so cold there and people live underground. I thought that too, until one of the most brutal summers hit me full on. It was 35C for 4 days in a row, with the humidity 42C. Don’t you find the same old phrase every year? (In a whiny voice) ‘It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. It’s not the cold, it’s the wind chill’ Well, this summer it was donners warm. I couldn’t sleep as our apartment didn’t have air conditioning and all the fan did was blow the hot air around. I had to get an aircon, and quick. Off we trekked to Canadian Tire. They were all sold out. The third Canadian Tire we found had just got some in. I bought the biggest, badest one they had 12500 btu’s. It weighed 50 kg. The store called for someone to help me carry this monster to the car. Who shows up? A midget. No joking, an actual midget (I guess the politically correct term would be little person). Leon Schuster must be hiding in the aisles somewhere with his camera. Picture this: I’m 6’4” and 110kg. This guy must have been 4’2”. The two of us hauling a huge aircon to the car. To this day, I still can’t imagine how we made it all the way without dropping the thing. This thing was so big that the wife had to sit in the back seat and aircon was up front with me in the passenger seat.

Now for the installation. Try lifting a 50kg aircon into a window. Once I got it up there I realized that it doesn’t fit in the window. Arrrrggghhh. Frustration beyond compare. I was ready to cry. After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes and tossing the pliers across the room - I pulled myself toward myself (pulled myself together) I took a some measurements and figured only about 10mm of outside window frame was holding me back. I then took the pair of pliers and started bending the outside frame. I was going to make this thing fit if it’s the last thing I do. About ¼ way up the frame, the adjacent window cracked. When it rains, it pours. My wide-eyed wife was just standing further and further away. I don’t think she had ever seen me this angry. Bottom line, I made it fit. I just dreaded the time I had to take the thing out again. Needless to say, I now have central air. All the sweeter.


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We decided to head off to Vancouver on our first real Canadian vacation! Not a bad flight – a lot shorter than the dreaded SA trip. We stayed with friends in Horseshoe Bay for the duration. Horseshoe bay is a beautiful little place right where you could hop onto the ferry to Nanaimo. Being in Toronto, it was so nice to see some hills and mountains. I was staring out the window like a school kid on his first field trip. We were only going to be here for one week, so we had lots of ground to cover. Our first stop would be the hop-on-hop-off tour bus, which gets a big thumbs up from me. We went everywhere – Aquarium, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Robson St and Gas Town. Yes, I got the obligatory photo of me standing by the big clock.

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We took a trip up Grouse Mountain. If you can stomach the cable car ride it’s totally worth it. However, I would not eat at the restaurant up there again. It was very expensive and not really good at all. Just pack yourself some sandwiches. We even took the little ski-lift alll the way to the top and admired the unbelievable wood carvings.

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Since we seemed to enjoy the heights we headed out to the Lynn Valley suspension bridge. Most people would advise you to try the Capilano suspension bridge, however we were on a tight budget and free was the best price I could think of. We also did a daytime drive to Whistler resort where we ate yet another overpriced sandwich – the only difference being that this sandwich actually tasted quite good.

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The ferry to Nanaimo and drive Victoria was next on our list. I had never driven a car onto a ferry before, but this sure was going to be an experience. It really is a modern marvel to do this. There were some unwritten rules about the ferry trip. For one, it was tradition to eat a breakfast on the ferry. Everyone seemed to line up for the bacon and eggs. Who was I to renege on tradition? I would just have to force the bacon and eggs down. I know, it will take some courage and some perseverance but I know I can do it. Since we were on our way to Nanaimo, I would also have to sample a Nanaimo bar. If you’ve never had one and you like sweet things, this could be one of your best experiences. Ohhh so decadent.

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After departing the ferry we drove through the countryside to Victoria. After parking the car, we decided that our tour would be on foot. The whale watching tours guarantee you will see whales, but we were there at the wrong time of year so no whales. After walking around for a while we found a lovely Sandwich shop called Sam’s Deli & Bistro on Government street / Humboldt close to the waterfront. It was an amazing sandwich with freshly baked bread. Totally worth it if you are out there. The drive back to the ferry was uneventful, but still a pretty drive nonetheless. What a trip! Looking back it seemed quite rushed. The fact that I had a urinary tract infection made it seem even more so. I could probably tell you where to find a toilet in every one of those places we visited. It still was a great holiday, and I’d go back anytime. Next time however, I’ll stay longer and take more time looking around.

To Be Continued....

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Edited by Boereseun
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Boereseun

Just an FYI - Ignore the date stamp on the pictures. The camera was messed up and kept resetting the date...

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Garreth

I'm assuming the picture of the SAP trainees on the range is CS gas training? Not fun. :)

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Boereseun

Speaking of bodily functions, it reminds me of an old police story….
Every platoon has one of them. A guy that will push the boundaries of patience and the urge to choke him. Ours was an Argentinean named Mazola. I was sitting on my bed polishing my boots one Saturday when he comes running full throttle into the barracks, stopping next to me to catch his breath. He was also holding his stomach laughing. I wasn’t sure I should ask, but I did anyway… ‘What did you do now?’ He said (in an Argentinean accent) ‘I go to that Sgt barracks. Then I go to his room. There I see him sleeping like a baby, oh so beautiful. Then I look at his boots, and I’m thinking, man, I need to d*mp. So I d*mp in his boots. And what a good d*mp it was.’ Then shortly after I hear a window break (he threw the boots through the window) followed by a bloodcurling scream MAZOLA!!!! Then Mazola looks over at me, and says ‘I better go now start running’ As he jogged out the Sgt came running into the barracks with the most enraged look I had ever seen. He looked like a hungry lion that just lost his meal to a scumbag hyena. As he ran past me, I could hardly contain myself. I must’ve laughed for at least half an hour before I even moved.

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Before setting off on our sunny vacation, my better half suggested I spend some time on a sunbed. Obviously this is to get my skin acclimatized to the hot, tropical sun. I spent 15 min on the bed, and I have to admit, that it was really relaxing. Nobody told me to turn over (you fry like a steak). My back was so burnt and then became itchy. Not just a little itchy, but REALLY itchy. It was so bad, that if you scratched my back I was in ecstasy. On top of that I was really hot to the touch, so sleeping was difficult. Almost like sleeping in a sauna. It took almost a week to pass. I don't think I'll ever lie on a sunbed again. Bronze body se gat!

The next holiday we took was Cuba. I was determined to go on a tropical holiday this time around. I really like Cuba – a little backwater, but all the better not have streams people over-populating over-commercialized destinations. Beautiful beach, and you could rent a scooter to zip around on. No license, no helmet – and two can go on one. The Canadians would have a heart attack if that happened there. Then again looking back at my childhood the Canadians of today would probably choke on whatever they were eating if they saw what we did as kids. Riding bicycles at top speed no helmets. Our parks were death traps. Swings mounted in concrete (and you always had to try to go right around) See-saw mounted in concrete (your butt was never the same when your friend jumped off while you were at the top) Merry-go-round mounted in concrete (you’d lose a few chunks of flesh if you fell off) and lets not forget the metal slide that baked in the hot African sun all day (took a few layers of skin off your legs on the way down) We just never noticed as kids and spent hours in those parks by ourselves with no supervision. Ooops I’m getting off topic…where was I… oh ya Cuba. It was very hot, but how can you go wrong with eat as much as you like and lie in the sun. And a short flight to boot. I guess that’s why I find it so hard to justify a trip back to SA. For a third of the cost I could be somewhere tropical, doing nothing and eating like a pig. AAahhh but a cricket game at The Wanderers might just be enough to entice me.


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So when I'm in the sun, I always apply a healthy volume of sunsceen. Being fair skinned, I surely need it, to prevent the lobster syndrome. For some reason I always seem to miss a patch right in the middle of my chest in the solar plexus. Perhaps I have man-boobs and they're in the way, but I get a nice red target after spending some time in the sun. Man I gotta ask someone to out the screen on for me, and not just for my back, dammit! Thank goodness there are no photo's of me with this spot on my chest.

Thinking about beaches and boobs makes me think of man-boobs, namely my own. The one thing you’ve got to watch out for is becoming overweight. I blew up to 247lbs from 220. It happens so quickly. I realized it was 2 things here you’ve got to watch out for. The portions are huge, and everything is loaded with sugar. Yeah I know, the fact you’re cooped up in the winter doesn’t help either. But to get motivated, you need a trigger. Mine was a photo of myself (see below). It made me lekker naar to see myself in that state. I lost 42 lbs, and am looking more like myself again. I get people at work asking me all the time how did you do it. So I reply ‘I have a system that works for everyone’ This piques their attention. Then I follow up with ‘Eat less, exercise more’ Just sit back and watch them roll their eyes. Hey, it’s true, that’s the method I used.

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After 3 years of scraping every cent and enduring the horrible neighbors we finally bought a place of our own. Now for the moving. Don’t you just hate moving? There are only 2 favors you never ask of your friends. One is to paint and the other is to help you move. Before the movers even showed up, I had already taken down half the furniture, and as soon as they got there I was go go go. I moved from Etobicoke to Oakville in 3 hours. It’s really a tremendous feeling moving into your own place for the first time. Our building is small by condo standards – only 6 storeys high. Only 2 weeks in we had our first Annual General Meeting. As we sat down I figured something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me – We were the only people that didn’t have grey hair. It really showed when one of the gentlemen walked in on a cane, looked over at the table with all the goodies. He poked his wife in the ribs and said ‘Look, Tim Hortons! Let me go get my teeth’ To be honest, I like living with the old people – No noise, no fighting, no breaking things. We’ve got a few more younger people in now, but those first months I thought we were in a geriatric care facility.

You know, working nightshift has it's perils. Your body doesn't know what hit it. You're always tired or hungry or both.(Hey, maybe that's why I got so dik). Coming off my shift at 3am was pretty much a bummer, but whoha boy was I ever hungry that time of the morning. And every single fast food place I passed was a stalking ground. I was like a crocodile waiting for the buffalo to cross the serengeti. I'd slowly creep up to my prey (letting the car coast into the drive-thru). Ready myself for the pounce. ('scuse me - one burger no fries to go) Take my victim by the throat (here's the cash now give me the bag) And enjoy the spoils (yummy burger, going down the hatch). Well, my wife had about enough of this late night snacking. She said that I was going to pick up an enormous amount of weight if I kept doing this. I relented and said I wouldn't. But damn those fast food places with their delicious 24hr drive thru. I couldn't resist. As it was winter, I didn't want to get out and eat in the cold, so I thought I was quite clever by leaning out the window when I ate and disposing of any evidence in the nearby garbage can. Then my wife walked to the car and said Clive, what is this? I pretended to be stupid. She said, It looks like a piece of onion stuck to the door. Then it hit her - I've been leaning out the window eating. Busted!! No more late night snacking after that. The embarrassment of getting caught was enough.

The Beauty of Language

It’s funny how we tend to fall back on Afrikaans. The wife and I were shopping for a certain object for the last 2 days. Every time we found what we were looking for the price was wrong – enter negotiation. When we negotiate and I don’t like the salesman, I’ll pipe up ‘Hierdie ou will ons om die bos lei. Hy praat sommer k*k’ After 2 days of this I was back at work and it slipped out. I was working with a guy and I saw someone walking toward us with awful clothing, and I said ‘Kyk hoe lyk hierdie p@#pol’ Then my partner looked at me with that confused look and said ‘what?’ I had to recant quickly. Ooops, he doesn’t understand the lingo. Some things you really can’t say in any other language but Afrikaans. It’s so descriptive. Try saying Ja Nee in English. Not the same effect. What? Still sceptical? Try giving me an english word for “gril” – used in a sentence “Ek gril my sommer dood” I’m sorry, but even shudder doesn’t come close because it really doesn’t add the descriptive nature of the word.

One of my other favorites ‘Daars ‘n d*#l in die drinkwater’ It just rhymes so well. Also when you describe something to the tiniest detail in just a few words ‘Hy het uitpeel oe en sy hande lyk soos uitgedroogte druiwekorrels’ One sentence, big picture. One day at work a guy had locked the keys in an Armored truck. You can’t roll down a window and the spare key wouldn’t work. So I went to my locker, took a wire hanger and got on the roof of the truck. I fished the keys out through the ventilation holes. One of the guys said ‘Thanks bud, how did you think of that?’ I was soooo tempted to say ‘Boer maak ‘n plan’ but I knew there was no way he’d understand what I meant. All those words you have to adjust as well: Boot (trunk) bonnet (hood) lift (elevator) spanner (wrench) robot (traffic light) okay okay I could go on forever. We should just pick one and use it everywhere in the world.

I then got a daytime position as a Turret Operator. My job was to let the people and vehicles into the building, field phone calls etc. Not a difficult job, just lots of responsibility. I got the week-end shift but I was finally working days. The first week or so you feel like a friggin vampire. The sun hurts your eyes, your skin and you generally start yawning at 11am. Hang on...there are people at work like that all the time. Anyways, I was in the Turret. You know, there's something to be said for being in charge. At home (and most men can attest to this) you think you're in charge, but you're not. It's a false sense of empowerment. Just wait until you lie on the couch and there are chores to be done, you'll see what I mean. All men are trained without even knowing it. Next time you hang your pants up after work ask yourself this – Did I really want to hang my pants up? You’ll be surprised at the answer. But here, at work, I was really in charge. Everyone had to listen to me, or Beeeeep Access Denied!! Hahaha I felt like I was King of the World!

One day, on my way to work I made a right on red (Perfectly Legal). As I made the turn, this guy on a bicycle came out of nowhere and I hit him. I jumped out to see if he was okay, and decided that my best course was to take him to the nearest hospital. On the way I casually asked the guy where he was from, and he said Tibet! I hit a friggin monk! I'm going straight to hell for this one!! While we ere in emergency, I decided to call the cops. An officer arrived and after getting the story from both sides, said that he was on the wrong side of the road and that this is deemed a no fault accident. I had his bike fixed and offered to pay for physiotherapy should he need it. I got a call one day later and this 'monk' wanted 2 months salary. I later found out that he had no injuries, just some bruising. No breaks, No torn muscles....nothing!!! This peed me right off. A very kind South African lawyer helped me out by writing a letter and said we'll pursue legal action if needed. I never heard from this guy again. That's what you get for being helpful. In retrospect, all I should have done is call 911 and stand back. Oh, are you bleeding? Too bad, can’t help. Arm broken? So sorry, can’t help. It is something I really struggle to do. I just can't do that. It's in my nature, in my fibre to help people in need. Oiy...lesson learned.

To be continued...

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Boereseun

Giving to charity is one of the things I have a pet peeve about. There are so many out there and a lot of them have very poor performance rates. One year I decided to do the ride for the heart. Not because I believe in the Charity but more because I fancied riding my bicycle on the Gardiner Express way. C’mon now! How often do you get the opportunity to ride a bicycle on the highway? I got to the event, the wife supported me all the way. I opted to do the 25km ride. It was quite cool at first. Looking at all the people around me, pedaling away. About 30 min in, realized something might be wrong…no something was definitely wrong. I missed the bloody 25km turnoff!! I guess I was now doing the 50 km route. When I got to the end my wife had to rub a little salt in the wound “What took you so long?” I was going to tell het where to go, but I was suffering from a case of jello legs and butthurt. Why things like this always end up torturous to me, I have no idea. I have to admit one thing though. These Canadian folk are well organized and know their stuff. My name was on the registry and everything was good to go. At the end I got a little gift package plus lunch and an energy drink. What a wonderful atmosphere.

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After making a few managers walk back to their car to get their ID pass, it kind of got stale. I had to make it more exciting. So when the crews came back I did my "Amazing Race" impression. Doug, you are the last team to arrive. I'm sorry to tell you that you have been eliminated from the race. You can try again tomorrow. After some initial laughs it got stale too. I moved on to...What is the password? After a stumped look, I said: Okay, I'll tell you the password, but you are not to forget it. The password is... I love working for this company! The guys replied: I can't say that. Exactly!! It's a good password. No-one will ever think of saying that!! It's quite a mission to keep coming up with good comments day after day. Then the fateful day came that a supervisor was rude to me on the phone. So I hung up in his ear. He called back and had the same attitude, so I just hung up again. The 4th time he was a more polite, and I said: If you'd like some lessons on courtesy and phone etiquette I can surely help you . I hope this is not the way you talk to our customers. One good thing I learned from Canadians, always be polite. No matter what, and you'll come out on top every time. You really don't have to take crap from anyone.

The condo we bought was quite large. It was in need of a bit of TLC. If there is one sure way to test your marriage then you need to renovate something. Dealing with contractors, deadlines and condo by-laws will test your patience, fortitude and suppressing the urge to choke somebody. I think the worst was renovating the bathroom. Although we had 1.5 bathrooms, we only had one shower. Plus looking at a gaping hole covered in plastic where the toilet used to be can be a little gross. More so to the wife than to me. I think the best way to approach a renovation is small bits and time. Take your time. Expect delays, overages and nothing going to plan. Then you can’t be disappointed!! The laundry list was long at this place. We had the bathroom re-glazed, and put a pedestal sink in. The kitchen was refaced. Oh man, the re-facing guy wore us down. He showed up at 8pm. We went through all the options and he talked like nobody’s business. By 11pm we just wanted him out and were ready to sign over our life’s savings. I think he could have sold you your own clothes and made you happy to buy it. We also did the flooring. Here is the before and after (remember, this was over 7 years)

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When Christmas rolled around, I wore a Santa Claus Hat. I was tempted to do the reindeer antlers....maybe next year. After the person seeking access had a good giggle, I put on my serious face and said. Where is your hat? No hat, no access. Then I added: Okay, if you have no hat then you have to sing a Christmas carol. I don't care if you're Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist etc. you can still sing Rudolph the red nose reindeer without prejudice. It was a fun Christmas.

We decided that we needed a trip to Montreal. We wanted to experience that French side of Canada and enjoy that culture. Instead of using a car or flying, we decided to take in a train ride. The train ride is highly recommended by me. You don’t have to go through all those crazy security checks and standing in long line-ups. To book, you can walk around on the train and use free Wi-Fi. The train also drops you right in the middle of Montreal. Shady cab drivers will be the death of me one day, I swear. I tell him to take us to the Holiday Inn. He doesn’t turn on the meter, and when we got to the Holiday Inn he asked for $20. That trip should have cost us no more than $10 including the tip. You’ll only catch me once with that trick. The hotel itself wasn’t bad, but not great either. A better no-frills hotel would be the Novotel. The hotel was also centrally located.

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The amazing thing about Montreal is the style of the buildings. They have a restored exterior that makes the city look very historical, but on the inside the buildings have been modernized. It was a little cold as we headed out there in May, so we opted out of the hop-on-hop off experience and did a 2 hour tour instead. The tour itself was quite interesting, touching on all the important landmarks such as the cathedral, Olympic stadium and the university. I would highly recommend a guided tour. Montreal also has somewhat of a unique subway system. The subway runs on rubber wheels and is a lot quieter than the steel grinding you’re used to in Toronto. What would a trip to Montreal be without watching Cirque de Soleil? The production was dubbed Varekai. But before we attended the performance, we decided on a fine dining experience. The restaurant was called: Le Papillion. I’m not a big pasta person, but honestly it was the most amazing bowl of pasta I had ever eaten.

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The performance was unbelievable and I would highly recommend Cirque de Soleil to anyone. Of course I didn’t understand a single word because it was all in French, but a feat of physical beauty needs no language. I guess I was just a little lost with the story they were trying to tell. The streets with all the Bistro’s and restaurants are a wonder to behold in Montreal. The thing that also struck me was the fact that everyone who is a smoker did so…anywhere and anytime. At the time we were there, they hadn’t passed any of the stringent smoking laws we have in Ontario. Okay, I’ll confess, it’s more than an annoyance. When someone blows their smoke and I happen to take a big breath-full, I feel like I should return the favor by spitting in their mouth. You have me a mouthful of smoke and since I don’t smoke I thought you might enjoy some of my sputum. Have a nice day you freak!!

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Working every week-end had its ups and downs. I learned quickly that because there was only one supervisor on duty, I would have minimal contact with them. So I ditched the uniform on week-ends. Then one fateful day, the branch manager showed up for a surprise inspection. Arrghh that sucks. You ever see those movies where the security guard is lying back on his seat with his feet up, eyes closed and the drool seeping out the corner of his mouth. That was me most week-ends. Luckily I was wearing a uniform shirt, but underneath it was jeans. I scrambled to a standing position hoping my hair was in place and my eyes weren't too bloodshot (a dead giveaway). I kept saying to myself: Please don't come in here. Please don't come in here. Thankfully he didn't, and with a big whew I wiped the sweat off my brow. Close call. I had to make a plan for an early warning system. You know, it's quite surprising what a cup of coffee will buy you. I enlisted the help of the EDC (equipment distribution centre). I bribed the guy with a coffee every week-end and asked him to give me a call if anyone arrives. It work like a charm. No more catching me napping (literally).

To be Continued...

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ENGinCT

BS, I really enjoy your stories!

Keep it up!

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Boereseun

A visit to our Capital was on the list of places to see. My out-laws had some RCI timeshare that wasn’t being used, thus we gladly accepted a two week stay at Calabogie Lodge. This time we would travel by car as we needed to explore the area a little better. I would advise you to take the back roads when travelling in that direction. The 401 is soooooo boring and the back roads are in good condition, generally speaking. You also get to enjoy beautiful scenery and make stops in small towns and eat at the local greasy spoon. Upon arriving at Calabogie lodge you realize how beautiful this place is. Calabogie is a classical one horse town. If you swerve out for a chicken you might just bypass the whole thing.

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In the foyer they have a stuffed, full size polar bear. After seeing this thing, I believe all the macho men out there that think they can take it on are smoking something. I’m a big guy and I my arms made it about 2/3 around the neck! You see a polar bear? You run until you can’t anymore. After getting settled in we thought we would explore the immediate area. The closest town with amenities is Renfrew. Halfway between Renfrew and Calabogie is a place called the Blackbird Café. This is the hidden gem of this area. The food is incredible and reasonable. In my book, it’s a must stop.

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The drive to Ottawa itself was uneventful. There was a fair amount of construction on the road, but nothing to write home about. We found an underground parking lot (still a South African thing) and took to the city by foot. The first stop was the parliamentary buildings. This is a good place to start while your energy is still high. The tour and ride up the tower was free. That is the best price for me. You can’t beat free. I also had to stand on the steps where the media usually tries to corner the PM.

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Once you have impersonated the Prime minister, you should make your way down to the market area. The shops are amazing!! There is a whole store just dedicated to hot sauce. Another dedicated to cheese. What can be better than that? I’ll tell you what. The open air bakery. You had me at bread.

I started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You know what they say, Idle hands make devils work. And since I had so much time to myself, I thought it best to do something constructive or painful - whichever came first. I must have lost some marbles along the way. I could go on and on about the days of a whitebelt, and how I got schooled but I will repeat the story of my first few classes. If you don't know anything about this art, I'll give a quick explanation. It's a grappling art, like wrestling or judo. But in those two sports, the objective is to maintain a dominant position or control of your opponent. With Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the actual objective is to put your opponent in a position where they want to give up or submit. At that point it's called a submission. The Universal sign for giving up is 3 quick taps on the floor or on your opponent. You could also submit by tapping your feet or via verbal submission. Things that would commonly make you tap is a choke (not with the hands - that's not allowed but the arms are fine) or hyperextension of the arm at the elbow joint (armbar). But there are over 1000 submissions and variations out there. So it's a complicated chess game in the end.

Now back to my class...We had this 13 year old kid there. In 5 minutes he submitted me at least 3 times. Weighing almost 100 lbs less than me and dominating me like that is quite humbling. But as an adult, I am learning very quickly. Of course, the first thing you learn is defense. Haha. After I was into this thing about 3 months in, one of the guys at work asked me to choke him, because he wanted to see how it felt. He couldn't swallow food for 3 days. That's like saying to a carpenter: Hey buddy! Hit me on the head with your hammer, I want to see how it feels. What a chop! I entered my first tournament about 6 months in. I was fighting 2 divisions Gi and No-Gi. In the Gi division I won 2 rounds for the gold, both bouts submitting my opponent with a cross choke. In the No-Gi I got tossed on my head like a bag of potatoes. The guy I fought was 280 lbs and looked like a gorilla on steroids. After tossing me he grabbed my arm and I tapped when he sunk in a Kimura (Shoulder Lock). I was still dazed when they told me I have to fight him again because there was no-one else in the division. Oh brother, here we go again. The ref looked at me (knowing I landed on my head) and asked if I'm okay. I nodded and said sure, lets go. So he leaned over to me and whispered : You got some balls man. Which translates to: You've got no brains man. Oh well, you know what they say...No pain No Brain. This time he took me down by grabbing both my legs. I lasted about 3 minutes before he subbed me. I'm definitely dropping some weight to get into a lower category!! I'm not too keen on getting tossed on my head again. Getting your arse handed to you is one thing, but voluntarily doing it repeatedly is quite something else.

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A little good ‘ol South African social structure.

I got a ring from someone in the foyer of our apartment building. The lady said ‘Haai, are you South African’ (I guess the surname van Rensburg gives it away) So I replied YES! Absolutely, c’mon up. And I buzzed them in. That’s how I met Jenny and Nikola. Two of the most down-to-earth ex-pats. We chatted for almost 2 hours (they were visiting other friends in the same building) When my wife came home from work she saw this strange handbag on the table. And immediately said ‘What’s this? Who does this belong to?’ Now I had to please and explain that I DON’T have a mistress and that I let these strangers into our apartment. A likely story. At midnight they knocked on the door, and I returned the handbag. Needless to say were still great friends, and I still don’t have a mistress.

As a ex-cop in SA, I’m always wary of the law, especially here. The GO train system in Ontario uses an honor system. You pay or punch your ticket, no-one checks it as you get on the train. But if they do have an inspection and you get caught, you pay a hefty fine. Well, one day I got on, and as we left the station, I realized that I hadn’t paid. I felt so guilty! I had this nervous look on my face until we got to the next stop, where I jumped off the train, ran to the ticket punch machine, and ran back, hopped on the train again before it pulled out. This huge relief washed over me. Jeesh, I never thought I’d feel so guilty about a stupid train ticket. Hey I guess that evolution thing happening again.

Have you ever been asked about the lions roaming the streets in Africa and does everyone live in a hut? Always have this one ready: ‘No, we live in cities and have houses and paved roads, actually fantastic architecture. By the way, where are the igloos and where are your dogsleds?’ Canadians always seem stumped when you return their question with one like that. They get the point though.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was becoming a strange monster to deal with. Although I was getting a great workout, I realized that my instructor was a borderline sociopath. I noticed that he’s always looking for praise or to tell us how great he is. But most people enjoy a little praise, but he had to go one level better. During class he would often take his shirt off and flex his pecs in the mirror. Dear lord man, don’t you do that at home? If you’re that in love with yourself, you should get a room! One night we were all invited to watch some mixed martial arts on Pay Per View at his house. We all showed up for a night of fun. However, Anthony (the instructor) was a little weird and said to me that he designed the whole house when it was built. I thought…you’ve got to be kidding me! You didn’t design anything you moron. You chose the options from a builder! But, in order to keep the peace, we all just nodded and continued the night. As time went on the semi-psychotic episodes got worse.

We had a guy walk in to try a few classes. Around the third class, the guy asked Anthony the name of a certain choke. Anthony told him it was called the Anthony choke. I just rolled my eyes. The guy kept pestering him about the name of the move and Anthony eventually lost his cool and kicked the guy out. I questioned Anthony’s decision and 2 weeks later he told me not to come back. I saw it as a blessing in disguise. Two of the other members called me right away and told me that they were leaving too and would follow me to the club that I will be migrating too. After joining a new school, I realized how dysfunctional Anthony really was. About 6 months after joining the new club, I entered a competition. This would be the one. It was called Joslin’s Canadian Open the largest competition in Canada. I felt good going in and saw my nemesis, Anthony at the tournament. I was determined to do really well. I got a Bronze in the Gi division and a Silver in the No-Gi. I was the smallest in my division and for that I felt really good. Anthony saw me, looked at my medals and walked by without looking me in the eye. The following week my new instructor promoted me to Blue belt.

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After training 6.5 years , 3 -4 days a week consistently I was promoted to brown belt (surpassing my former instructor).

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Nelline

Boerseun we love your writing - please don't stop!

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Boereseun

After quite a bit of planning, we were set to go on yet another holiday. It started with a flight from Toronto to Calgary. Being a domestic flight, we arrived one hour before our flight leaves. Keep in mind, I haven’t been on a plane in 4 years. At the airport, I was greeted by Air Canada staff, and told that I have to check myself in. Not to be perturbed I go through the motions and I guess that’s how they can cut thousands of jobs, by making passengers do half the PT (Physical Torture). Stood in another line and popped our bags on, only to find were not sitting together. They told us you could pre-book your seat and everyone else has done that already. Jeesh they changed all the rules! By the time we got through we walked straight onto the plane. There was a moment in my mind where I thought we might actually miss our flight. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that.

After being in the air for about an hour they push a cart with food you can purchase down the aisle. The guy next to me ordered a huge chicken sandwich. So I sit back and think ‘boy are you gonna feel like a twit when they bring you your rubbery eggs and stale croissant’. When we started our decent into Calgary four hours later I was starving. We didn’t get anything to eat. Not even a friggin cracker! They really did change everything on flights. I felt like a new contestant on Survivor as I crawled out the plane crying ‘food! food!’ Got our rental car and cruised into Calgary to find a place to eat. No bloody overpriced airport is going to get my money!

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We found this place called Mauvo, which make these Italian style sandwiches in the heart of the city. You know, food really tastes better when you’re starving. I just about licked my fingers. After eating and feeling rejuvenated, we decided to walk along Stephenson Ave and take in the city of Calgary. Down at the river we saw that after the floods, cycle trails were closed and the bow river was running really high. I guess a dip was out of the question. We then headed out to the ranch. It was about 45 min outside Calgary. Before staying overnight, we drove out to Canmore for dinner. We found this fabulous restaurant named Zonas. It gets a double thumbs up from me. I had wild Halibut wrapped in a banana leaf, with curried pineapple, rice and steamed veggies. Note the half bowl of salad. It was really half a bowl.

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Back at the Ranch…The room wasn’t really worth the price. It was a little tacky and could really do with a good scrubbing down. But man oh man breakfast may have won me over. Bacon, Eggs, Pancakes (Flaps Jacks), French Toast, Cereal, Fruit, Coffee. These cowboys sure know how to eat. You had to push me out the dining room in a wheelchair after that meal.

We had to drive to an access point with the horses in tow because the rain had washed out some of the trails. After saddling up, we hit the road. It didn’t start off too badly, with some minor hills. As we rounded one turn after about a half an hour of riding, I saw a sheer drop to the left. The first thing that goes through your head was ‘If this horse slips, I won’t survive the fall’ I had this mental image in my head of a 1000 pound animal on top of me. Then I thought ‘If I survive the horse on top of me, I sure as hell won’t survive the fall to the rocks at the bottom. Now wasn’t that a cheerful thought? As we went along I started feeling better. The horses were really sure footed - More so than I thought. An hour and forty five minutes later, we stopped for our first break. Man, I don’t remember horse riding being this painful. After samies and juice, we headed out on the trail again. Another hour and a half, we reached our camp called Meadows Creek. Just in time too. My arse was starting to die on me.

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What a beautiful place. There was a huge open area for the horses to roam, and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains. There was also a kitchen in the main cabin with a ‘dishwasher’. Well, technically it wasn’t a dishwasher, just a small furnace. We ate with plastic knives and forks and paper plates. Every night the cowboy proclaimed ‘I’ll do the dishes!’ Then took everyone’s plates, put them in the furnace and set them on fire. It doubles as a heater at night. Modern technology. It boggles the mind. The first night we had poached boneless skinless chicken breast with rice and salad. The stove of course was gas, and water from a well or creek. There were obviously no showers, so you had to make do with a bucket of water and a cup of water for teeth brushing. The morning motto ‘Brush and Spit’. Then there was my first trip to the long drop or out house if you prefer. It was painted white on the inside, I guess to make it look a little better. You can’t help yourself but look down in it to make sure there isn’t an animal in there. Must be the African in me. Then again I don’t think any animal would want to be in there! It will be a slow painful death.

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The next morning I woke up with some aches and pains. Strangely enough my butt didn’t hurt. Must be all those long hours at the office I spent training for this trip. I spent hours on my butt. Hard work indeed. My back was hurting though. Oh well, you just grit your teeth and live with it. We started on a northern trail. About 5 minutes out, we encountered some marshlands. Navigating a horse through knee deep mud is not the easiest thing. You really have to hang on! One guys’ horse was up to his shoulders and couldn’t move. You’d think the horse would panic, but no. he just calmly started eating the grass around him. The cowboy told the guy just to get off and walk to the side, the horse will follow. Which is exactly what he did. Boy these animals are amazing! Back onto dry ground we, meandered our way on the side of a hill. I had quite a gap between the guy in font of me as my horse decided to chew some grass every now and then. The guys hat blew off his head. My horse spooked and took off. I just hung on. Luckily he could only go as far as the next horse because we were on a trail. It was like sitting on a roller coaster and just taking off. One very valuable lesson: Always keep one hand on the pommel and one hand holding the reigns. The cowboy said this to us “A horse is only afraid of two things. Everything that moves and everything that doesn’t” Well jeez, that narrows it down.

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Later on we started cutting our own trail up a steep hill. Then my horse decided this walking thing was too tedious and cantered up the hill. You can’t reign him in, because he may lift then the both of you will do a back flip down the hill. Since I didn’t quite feel like doing a back flip that day I just hung on once again. Well, that set off a chain reaction and everybody’s horses decided it looked like a good idea. As everyone’s horses got to the top they all just gave me this look like ‘Why did you have to go and do that?’. Honestly, it wasn’t me! It was the horse. They wouldn’t have believed me anyways, so I just smiled and shrugged. We walked a little on the top of the ridge when the trail ended. We were truly bundu bashing. The cowboy said, okay, were turning around and going back down the ridge. As if going up didn’t scare the crap out of me already. We zigzagged down the hill, doing sort of a sideways shuffle with the horse. It was sink or swim. The horses knew what they were doing so, it made things a hell of a lot easier. After a brief lunch of roast beef sandwiches and juice, we headed out on a less muddy trail. It was pretty uneventful this time, although I now know why cowboys wear long sleeve shirts. My arms were full of scratches and scrapes. Boy oh boy did my back ache on the second night though, but the consolation was that my arse was fine. That night we had pork chops with scalloped potatoes. MMmm pork chop night.

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Breakfast on day three was bacon, eggs and pancakes again. I don’t think I’d ever get bored of these cowboy breakfasts. And no more pain. Bonus! The horses were a little jittery in the morning, because the wind was howling. Something about the wind seems to make them nervous. We packed up and headed out to the next stopover which was called Hussies. When we hit the open field, the horses were dancing all over the place. The wind really got them on edge. My wife’s horse decided to take off and headed for the tree line. She decided that she wasn’t going to be taken out by a branch and did a tuck-and-roll off the horse. For a moment there, my heart shipped a beat. I thought she was going to be seriously hurt. When we got to her, she was alright. Just bumped her knee a bit but other than that she was good to go. I’ll tell you one thing, she may not look it but my wife si one tough cookie. Kudo’s to her!

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As soon as we hit the trees, everyone instantly calmed down. Funny thing, you could probably walk the horse right next to a bear, and they’ll just plod along, but a silly thing like the wind gets them all uptight. On top of that, the guy in front of me must have fed his horse beans the previous night. I was gasping for breath every ten minutes or so. You know what they say. Vat groot happe, dan is dit gou verby. I was considering naming his horse ‘flatulence’ Sounds quite profound, doesn’t it? We stopped for an early lunch and hit the trail again. Over a few more hills, and then crossed the Ghost river. It was absolutely amazing. These horses did a river crossing like it was an every day occurrence. Every day they just amaze me more. The river was flowing more than usual, because of all the rain they had over the week-end. This is the stuff. You know the stuff man! The stuff dreams are made of. The stuff that takes your breath away, no matter how many times you see it. After the river crossing we had to do a detour around an old wagon trail into the mountains. The trail was badly washed out. There was no way the horses were going to make it up there. We climbed the ridge next to the wagon trail, and rounded back along the Ghost river right into the camp. So this was Hussies. It was really nestled into the crook of the mountains. Fresh water here was a bubbling creek.

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Dinner tonight was steak. Nothing like a good steak to get my attention. One of the horses rubbed to hard on a dead tree, and it just came crashing down. So I volunteered to help drag the tree over and chop it up for firewood. The cowboy enlightened me on the finer points of wood chopping and just let me at it. You know, there’s something about simple hard work that just relaxes you. No office politics, no thinking, just chopping away.

The next morning we had our usual bacon, eggs and pancakes, saddled up and hit the trails for our fourth and final day. This was going to be the toughest day by far with at least 6 hours of riding ahead of us. We were doing a lot more climbing with the horses. It was evident by the way they were sweating after the first hour and a half. We just passed one of the highest points on our journey when the cowboy noticed fresh bear tracks. We hung back while he scouted up ahead. Came back and told us he was sure the bear was in a nearby thicket. We were going to do some more bushwhacking and circle around the bear. After that we headed down a loooong crevasse and adjoining hill to our lunch break. It was 40 minutes of non-stop heading downhill. When we got to the bottom and stopped for lunch, my legs were like jello. After lunch and back on the trail. One of the horses got his back leg caught on some barbed wire (a concern on these trails) The horse started to kick and looked like he was going to bolt, which you don’t want to be on when you are in the trees. The guy jumped off. Luckily the barbed wire came loose, and only caused a minor scrape on the horses leg. Of course the excitement made the other horses skittish, so we had to rein them in and make sure we had control. No more incidents after that. We headed over the last hill and had to stop and admire the wide open spaces with the mountains in the background (of course). You could also see the main ranch. We were on the home strait. If you’re afraid of heights, this trip may not be for you.

Back at the ranch, we knew the end of our ride was here. It’s funny how you have an instant bond with people you never knew when you do a trip like this. I got a little attached to my horse as well. After tearful goodbyes, we headed out on the road toward Banff.

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We drove for about 25 min before we reached Banff. We pulled into a lovely B&B right in the city center. I got out our luggage and we were greeted by the hostess and shown our room. Of course, every time somebody hears the SA accent there’s a thousand questions. Now normally I wouldn’t mind, but as the lady was babbling away I kept looking at her mouth. Now, why would I do that you may ask? It’s because I honestly couldn’t wait for her to shut up, because I’m dying to have a shower! It’s been 4 days dammit! Luckily my wife saw that I was about to be rude, and gracefully said ‘Clive, why don’t you go hop in the shower while I unpack.’ That was my cue! I smiled and said ‘Thank you, my wife has called! I have to go’ Ahh, when you wonder why you’re married, it just takes a moment like this to remind you. That must have been the best shower I had ever had.

What an amazing place (Banff). It’s like a city built into a little village. After walking around a bit and a restful night, we decided to head up to the Banff springs the next morning after breakfast. When we got to the springs, and saw they had massage therapists available, I was sold. We stepped in for a half an hour massage each. You really didn’t have to twist my arm on this one. Kepp your thumbs on my lower back!! After the massage, we got in the car, and headed out to Emerald Lake and the famous Lake Louise.

We headed out to Emerald Lake on the Trans Canada highway. It was a pleasant drive, on a well-kept road. The only thing that was a bit of a downer - it was starting to rain. I think Emerald Lake would have been more impressive if the rain didn’t come down quite as hard and the toilets were working, but oh well. We came, we saw, we left. On to Lake Louise. It was really nestled in the mountains. After finding a really good parking spot, we walked along the lakefront. The pictures I took seem so serene, so peaceful, but right behind me there must have been about 150 tourists walking along the walkway. We decided to have lunch at the Chateau Lake Louise. At $800 a night, I don’t think we’re going to stay the night. They have a nice little café. Not the cheapest but not ridiculous either. After stuffing our faces with sandwiches and enjoying a latte, we headed back to Calgary.

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We stayed at the Quality Inn on Banff trail. Not the best accommodation I’ve ever had, but not the worst either. That night we and dinner with some friends at the famous “Jabulani”. Constance asked me not to post the pic I took, but you know me. The ever rebellious, stubborn boereseun. I live on the edge, so here’s the pic. I had the Cape Malay Lamb curry. Note to anyone who is in the Calgary area: Cry a little tear, because the restaurant is closed now. The next day we woke up, had some breakfast (cereals and croissants) and headed out for a drive to explore the Calgary area.

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Had a lovely drive through the neighborhoods and ended up at an outlet mall near the airport. They had the best western tack shop! And reasonable prices too. When you shop outside the city, you don’t get sucked in by the tourist traps. The prices really do differ a lot. After a peaceful, somewhat delayed (one hour) flight back to Toronto (this time we had bought food before leaving), we got into a cab to Oakville. Don’t you know it, we get stuck in traffic. At 23:30 they shut the entire highway down for 30 min. Nowhere to go. Arrrgghh. All you want to do is get home. Oh well, what can you do. We walked into our front door at 1am. (Luckily didn’t have to work the next day.) I really wished we had a little more time in Calgary to explore the city more and to hook up with some other ex-pats. I really would have liked to meet some South Africans and get their view on Calgary and what it’s like to live there. Hey maybe next time. Thank you Calgary for a fantastic holiday!!!

To be continued....

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Boereseun

Working in the corporate world has completely changed my outlook on how things operate. Of course we are feeding the big machine, but it’s that big machine that offers us better than average wages. My first few days was just finding my feet and settling in. Then you come to the realization that your boss can’t be pleased. To survive in this corporate jungle, the one thing is that your boss has to like you. I don’t care how skilled you are, if your boss doesn’t like you then you are toast. She asked me to type an email, making a request and then she wants to see it before I send it. I give it to her and she makes all kinds of corrections. The next time I had to do the same thing, I used her previous email as a template and tweaked the names. She makes all kinds of corrections again. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to point out that she’s just correcting herself. I don’t even want to know what it’s like at home for her. The house must be in constant self-inflicted chaos.

One thing I learnt at a Union job was that you need to follow the rules. Same goes for the corporate world. Never become comfortable, and for heaven’s sake never be yourself. When you become comfortable and act like your natural self, people may not like that person. You need a solid façade in the business world and you need to maintain that façade no matter how long you’ve been working there. My mom got diagnosed with cancer and I was giving her a call, usually once a day to see how she is. My boss didn’t ask who I called, she just said “No personal calls during work time. Wait for your break” Yet the lady sitting next to me was on the phone for half the day with her husband and kids. But, not to be perturbed I complied. I didn’t complain. Every time I took my break (and I took every single one I was entitled to) I would leave a note on my desk with the time written on it. Even when I didn’t have to take a break, I still took mine. I realized that I could not please my boss, but I could try my best. I wasn’t the only one though. Two of my colleagues were experiencing the same difficulties. Unfortunately, you just have to suck it up. In that firm, I have seen people trying to stand up to their boss and end up being terminated. I just kept my head down and do my job. She seemed to chill out a little after the first year. However, I got offered another job and another firm with a 40% salary increase. I left on good terms, which is something everyone should do. You never know when your paths may cross again.

The day started with my eyes opening a sliver. I felt whiskers in my face. My ginger cat (Ruby) decided to wake me up with the oh so subtle whiskers in the face trick. I do prefer it rather to the lick the face when there’s no response effort. It was time to be fed, so I dragged myself out of bed to obey the queen of the house. My wife was awake but pretended to be asleep. She giggled softly under her breath as I left the room. I got back in bed after the feeding, but couldn’t sleep. I softly whispered “Happy Birthday Sweetheart” Yes, it was my wife’s birthday and I had planned to take her away for the day.

I turned on the T.V. to see the weather report. The news always exaggerates any breaking story, but they labeled this one “Snow-mageddon” The worst storm of the season. It’s just my luck that I had to go up north for our activity. My wife talked about canceling, but I had planned this event for a while so there was no hope in hell I was going to cancel. We packed and set off in the storm.

The snow was coming down and my little Toyota Echo managed fine as we made our way north. It was 10:30am and I hadn’t eaten yet, so I was getting a little grumpy. My wife didn’t understand because she had some cereal before we left. Blast these women and their practical thinking! Orangeville was coming up and we stopped for a good wholesome breakfast at Angels’ diner. There’s nothing like bacon ‘n eggs to perk me up. By now the snow was really coming down. You clear the snow on your car but by the time you make it all the way around you have to start over again.

 

As we got closer to our destination we experienced whiteout conditions. We were driving behind this huge transport truck and lost sight of it when a gust of snow would blow in front of the car. Scary stuff – my wife just giving a nervous laugh whenever that happened.

The plan was to go dog sledding, but that was ruled out due to the snow. We headed for the Inn. I had the address programmed into the GPS and dutifully turned in every direction the lady’s voice commanded. Until it said “Arrived at your destination” - We were lost. I had programmed the wrong directions into the thing (Technology is only as good as the user). My wife gave me the “look” - You know the one with the pursed lips and narrow eyes. On top of being lost, we were also stuck. She started giving orders like a US Marine to incompetent civilians. I followed suit. I got out the car, shoveled around the wheels and pushed while she drove. We were on our way, backtracking. She gave the order for me to call the Inn. I did so and got directions to our destination.

We arrived at the Inn - Lo and behold. My little car couldn’t make it up the driveway hill. I got out and walked up to seek some help. The maintenance guy came down and plowed the driveway. My car still couldn’t do it. He looked at me and said”Do you have snow tires” I replied “No, just all-seasons” He said “Don’t come up north without snow tires” I just smiled and walked to the car thinking: It’s too late for that. We’re already north!! He scraped a parking space at the bottom near the gate and drove us up the hill in his 4x4.

We settled in and decided that we would like to tour the grounds. They had some reindeer and Icelandic horses - also a couple of chickens and guinea fowl. Back at the Inn we decided not to venture out for dinner. We ordered from Pepi’s pizza. The guy delivers in any conditions. With a tip, the bill came to $45. That was the most expensive pizza I had ever eaten, but what choice did we have? It reminded me of Heathrow airport where they have you by the short and curlys (and your wallet). We spent the rest of the evening watching movies, sitting in the hot tub and warming our hands and toes by the fireplace in our room.

 

The next morning we were greeted by glorious sunshine and no whiskers in my face. I don't know why, but I miss my cats when I’m away. We had French toast and bacon for breakfast accompanied by a selection of fresh fruit and pastries. In short, we were carbo-loading. We picked up a pair of snowshoes and headed out to the dogsled farm again.

As we got out the car, were greeted by dogs barking in the background. They were getting the teams ready to go out on a run. We got our instructions from a small Japanese lady (who was married to the owner) and walked to the track on our snowshoes. I’ve always wondered how snowshoes actually feel when you walk in them. Now that I have experienced it I can tell you that it’s still hard work, but not nearly as hard as trudging knee deep in the white stuff. You still sink in the snow, but only about 3-4 inches. It makes you feel that you truly are in the great white north.

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As I listened to the final instructions before getting on my sled, I hoped that the dogs knew where they were going. If I can get lost in a car with GPS, I can get lost with dogs on a sled. The owner slid his foot off the brake, and I slid mine on. My other foot was on the sled. When I let the brake go, the dogs knew it instinctively and started to move. I gave a kick on the ground (kinda like riding on a skateboard) and yelled “Hike Up!” We were off. We rounded the first turn and on the back straight gained some speed. It was exhilarating. My scarf kept flapping all over the place – I’m not used to wearing a scarf. After the second lap around the track, I could see my guys were battling. I guess if you were pulling 220lbs worth of meat and blubber, you would also suffer. I felt sorry for my team on the last lap and I was pushing more than they were pulling. My wife rounded her last lap with a big grin. She was loving every minute of this.


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After the sledding, we crawled into an igloo and said hi to the donkeys followed by a cup of hot chocolate. We said our goodbyes and got in the car. The roads were plowed and our trip home was much more enjoyable. What an awesome experience and kudos’ to my wife for choosing dog sledding for her birthday gift.

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Edited by Boereseun

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Wolverine

Amazing posts. I tke my hat off for the time you took to write them all.

You have really enjoyed your time in canada.

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OutOfSa

Thanks Boereseun

Great story and fun read !

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Boereseun

Thanks for the compliments guys. I'm not done yet...

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Boereseun


Festivals in Canada is a whole other ballgame. It came at us quite unexpectedly when the wife noticed a sign that said Burlington Ribfest. Myself and ribs are extremely good friends. In fact if I were on death row, my last meal would include a half a rack of ribs, smothered in sauce. Now going to a ribfest can depend on your taste. Don’t bring your vegetarian friends with. They will most likely have a mild heart attack when they see all that meat. If you like crowds, then you want to head to the fest in the evening. If you don’t, then around 11am is fine. To get into the fest is free (yes that stumped me too) but you’ll have to buy everything else from there. There is usually a flea market set up and also activities for the kids. Things like rock climbing, jumping castles etc. The idea is to go with a group or large family, each buy a full rack at a different stall and then swap around to taste each other’s to see who has the best ribs. But it’s not only a one stop rib shop. There are other delicious treats to consume – Lemonade (with real lemons), blooming onion, loaded potato skins, elephant ears (big lumps of deep fried pastry) I’d better stop or I’ll get hungry already. The thing that astounded me the first time we went was that everything was well organized and that people waited in lineups in a clam and orderly manner. No shoving and no jumping the line. Also, if you enjoy live music then the evening would be best as they have live bands – yes, all for free. It’s surreal when you experience it for the first time. I also forgot to bring a wheelbarrow, so that my wife could wheel me to the car when I became too stuffed to walk.

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The next festival we went to is called Oakville Midnight Madness. Just like the Ribfest, there is no entrance fee required. This is the synopsis: in the downtown part of Oakville, they close all the streets down on Lakeshore Boulevard. All the stores and restaurants stay open until midnight and put their wares and food out on the sidewalk. At each major intersection, a stage is set up and a different band plays a different music type until midnight. SO, if you like pop, rock, oldies, jazz, country etc. there will be something for you to enjoy. The best way to do this is to park your car at the Oakville GO station and take the FREE bus down to the festival. Again, the food is amazing as you sample the very best that restaurants have to offer. The music is incredible and if you have kids, there are of course a lot of things to do. The fire department has their display. There are also free samples of some items. Last year the bank handed out free popcorn and juice. Free is the best word in my vocabulary.

It can get very crowded, especially after 9pm, but is still worth the trip. The photo’s I took were still of the early session, around 7pm. The ribfest and Midnight madness are not the only shows in town. In the summer there are literally festivals on the go just about every week-end. The taste of the Danforth is quite popular, but was way too crowded for my taste. You literally had to squeeze your way through the throngs of people. We may have cold winters, but we have amazing summers and take full advantage of every minute

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To be continued…

Edited by Boereseun

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Boereseun

It’s been while since I have blurted my drivel to all the SaCanada folk as I have been incredibly busy with studying and work for the last couple of years. I do, however have some free time on my hands thus am able to continue. Have you ever thought that you want to be a knight or a lady in the medieval era? Here is your opportunity, well a couple of opportunities at least. The first one that comes to mind is Medieval Times – a dinner and tournament show. I made a reservation and showed up with my trusted team of followers to ride horses and swing my sword. Yeah okay, that’s a little far-fetched. Basically, you sit your but down and watch others ride horses and swing swords.

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Lots of fanfare, bright costumes and swordfighting – yes! Actually, the swordfighting was a little lame, but the horsemanship was outstanding. Having spent 4 days in the Rockies on horseback I can truly appreciate anyone who can control those beasts. Charging a 1000lb piece of meat at top speed and sticking a lance through a tiny hole takes some doing. Although, I’m not sure if that is a transferrable skill… “Yes sir, I can see on your resume that you can ride a horse like nobody’s business. But can you do a vlookup in excel?”

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The other option is to a go to an outdoor renaissance or medieval festival. The last time I went to one of these things they had these huge turkey legs and a great flea market thingy. One of the events was a blowgun competition. Now when I was a kid, my mom bought me a 3 piece blowgun that shot darts that would likely take an eye out. I practiced like crazy and could hit anything up until at least 25 meters away. So there I was, in all 6’4” glory, right between a bunch of kids half my size. We were all lined up trying to his targets with limited ammo. I couldn’t let these little buggers beat me, so I did the right thing. I nailed all my targets. Then, I felt sorry for the little boy wearing glasses standing next to me. So against my better judgement, I nailed all his too. Thus we shared the prize. I should never have helped him. Well, at least he felt awesome for a day.

Edited by Boereseun

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