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CanadaMarch: -20 to 5 °C

On 1 April 2001 from Winnipeg, Canada | comments closed

I guess this will be the least interesting part of the story, since I mainly have to study the rest of March, since these are the last 4 weeks of the term and all the assigments are due in this period.

On Friday March 9th there was a party in 8trax, downtown, where one section of the Communications course had sold tickets for. Almost every exchange student was there, so it was a lot of fun.

On Saturday March 10th there was a basketball game between the University of Manitoba and the Brandon University team in Brandon. Brandon is the second largest city in Manitoba with about 40,000 people and is located 2 hours West of Winnipeg. That means 2 hours on a straight highway with snowy fields on both sides of the road as far as you can look, it’s almost unbelievable how flat Manitoba is. Anyway, I went there in a bus with about 40 Canadians. Don’t forget the alcohol was the most important advice for this trip, since most of us were already pissed when we got to Brandon. Unfortunately the U of M team lost the game, but it was still a very funny trip. We went to Wise Guys afterwards, but after half an hour the fire alarm went off and everybody had to get out; that really destroyed the atmosphere.

March was pretty much devoted to studying and my Internet Addiction. I did go to the St. Vital mall on Friday March 16th. It was the first time I noticed that all the malls in Canada have exactly the same stores. I saw these really cool Caterpillar sandals (too f**king expensive, $136) at exactly the same place in the store as the store in Calgary. I also noticed a drive-thru ATM for the first time.

On Wednesday March 21st we had a group presentation for our Communications class. It was in the Club Regent casino, Winnipeg’s largest casino. They had this aquarium with a tunnel through it, a 3 story waterfall and a pirate ship with a talking skeleton. Oh well, I heard it’s even more extreme in Las Vegas. But above all, there were all these slotmachines and gambling tables with old people spending their time and their kids’ inheritance. Our presentation went really good, and the whole thing was pretty well organised, we got dinner and even $5 to gamble, which I, of course, lost in 5 seconds at the Black Jack table.

On Monday March 26th we had another presentation, for Consumer Behaviour. This one went really good as well, we had made a really funny video of different exchange students explaining their culture (for example a Russian with vodka, a Mexican with tequila and a Dutch guy with a joint).

So what else happened in March? Well, on Thursday the 29th there was a BBQ with everybody from 2nd Speechly (my floor). Somehow people in northern countries still seem to like BBQ-ing at low temperatures. So far I’ve BBQ’d in temperatures under 5 degrees in Russia, Finland and Canada now. At least the food is good (hey, maybe that’s the reason…).

Janine (one of the Winnipeg exchange students in Eindhoven) had invited us a couple of times to come over to her parents’ house for dinner and something typical Canadian. So we finally took her up on that on Friday the 30th. Janine’s entire nuclear (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds, just look up the word) family was there, together with Scott’s (Janine’s brother) girlfriend, Mart and I. First we had a great dinner and then we curling, somewhere north of the city. Curling is this typical Canadian sport, somewhere in between bowling and jeu de boule, and it’s a lot harder than it looks on TV, most of my rocks either went too fast or too slow. Basically, the goal is to get as many of your teams’ rocks as close to the center of the house as possible, but I’m not going to explain all the rules here. It was a lot of fun for sure.

Less fun was the fact that my notebook died Friday morning, I don’t know what happened, but it suddenly died and I couldn’t get it back on. Still in the process of getting warranty and service over here…

Just when I thought the snow was melting and the weather was going to be better, it snowed 20 cm on Saturday the 31st. But this snow didn’t last long and melted completely within 4 days, the weather is getting better.

I’m not exactly sure how I ended March. I do know that there was a social on Saturday the 31st and that I had some vodka-orange juice and tequila before the social, and some more vodka at the social. But my memories are a bit blurry, too pissed, I guess. ‘nough said.

CanadaSkiing in the Rockies

On 8 March 2001 from Winnipeg, Canada | comments closed

The ski trip story started with Eli and Belen’s plan to go skiing in Banff the first week of March. Since I didn’t go skiing during spring break and I wanted to ski in Canada, I decided to come along, together with Reds and Sylvain.

On Thursday March 1st Reds, Sylvain and I took a bus to the airport in Winnipeg and got on our Air Canada flight to Calgary. Eli and Belen took a later flight because they had an exam in the afternoon. In Calgary we got in a taxi to the hostel, checked in and walked downtown to get dinner and do some shopping. When we got back Eli and Belen had arrived to the hostel. We changed and went to The Palace, a nightclub in downtown Calgary. The Palace was really good, all of us felt like we were in a European nightclub and it was definitely better than any place in Winnipeg because of the atmosphere, music, Finlandia vodka and REV!

On Friday March 2nd the car rental company picked Sylvain and me up to get the car at the Rent-a-Wreck office. We got a blue Ford Taurus Wagon, complete with cruise control. So we picked up the others at the hostel and parked downtown. The first thing we visited was the Calgary Tower. From this 190m high tower we got a perfect view of Calgary and the Canadian Rockies in the distance. When we got down, we walked around the city for a while and got lunch in a huge mall. Since we got used to Winnipeg temperatures, Calgary felt really warm and we could walk in our sweater, even though it was only about 5 degrees. Before leaving Calgary we visited l’Eau Claire Market, a mall with a lot of small boutiques, kinda like the Forks in Winnipeg. Then we drove off to Banff.

We were afraid there wouldn’t be any mountains in Canada, because the terrain was completely flat when we were flying more than 1200km from Winnipeg to Calgary. But about 50km West of Calgary the Rocky Mountains start. It took us about 1.5 hours to drive to Banff on the Trans Canada Highway 1. When we got to Banff we visited the Banff Springs Hotel first, the most beautiful and expensive hotel in Banff. Too bad we couldn’t stay there and had to check in at the hostel. After our dinner there we drove downtown to hire a snowboard for Sylvain and skis for the rest of us. Back in the hostel we went to sleep early.

On Saturday March 3rd we drove to Lake Louise, about 50km from Banff. Lake Louise is most likely the best ski resort in the world, it’s certainly one of the largest in Canada. Since this was my third day of skiing I took a lesson in the afternoon. A pretty good idea, since I already gently crashed into a few snowboarders in the morning (weird boarders, always sitting down in the snow…). After closing time we drove to Chateau Lake Louise, which is actually located on the shore of the lake. We had a drink in the lounge bar and drove back to Banff. After dinner in the hostel we went to the Aurora club and partied with the locals and other tourists…

On Sunday March 4th we drove to Sunshine Village, a ski resort 10km from Banff. We left pretty late and therefore had to park at least a kilometer from the entrance, since almost the entire parking lot was filled up. Almost everybody in Canada drives to the ski areas by car. Luckily there was a tractor with trailer that gave us a lift to the base station of the gondola, which brought us almost all the way to the top. Sunshine is a bit smaller than Lake Louise, but still larger than for example Pra Loup in France, and there were a few really nice runs.

In the evening we brought back Sylvain’s snowboard and took a bath at the Hot Springs in Banff, where the water has a natural temperature of 37 degrees. Really relaxing after a day of skiing.

On Monday March 5th we drove to Lake Louise again for our last day of skiing. Since Sylvain was going to back to Winnipeg this day, we brought Tom along, who was staying in our room in the hostel as well. Although it had been sunny so far, it was snowing a little bit this day. The skiing was still great though, especially since I was getting more experienced and Lake Louise offered more challenges. In the evening we made dinner in the hostel and brought back our skis. After that Eli, Belen and Reds went to Aurora again and I spend the evening talking with John and Tamara who wanted to work in Banff during the summer. It seems a lot of young people have this plan for the summer and why not; the Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the world and Banff is an interesting town for sure. They almost talked me into it as well, if it weren’t for the fact that the jobs available are absolutely not study related and pay less than I get now.

On Tuesday March 6th we drove to Jasper, about 300km North of Banff. The Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper is definitely one of the most spectacular stretches of asphalt in Canada. We got amazed by the views of the Canadian Rockies after every turn. The road conditions were pretty good and the snow in the middle of the road only made the trip more scenic. We thought we could take a snocoach at the Columbia Icefield, about halfway, but everything along the Parkway is closed during the winter. Therefore we arrived in Jasper in the afternoon. We walked around town for a while and had lunch at the KFC, but there was not so much to do as in Banff, so we decided to drive back to Banff. We arrived in the evening after having driven for more than 6 hours through the Rocky Mountains that day.

On Wednesday March 7th we checked out of the hostel in the morning and drove back to Calgary. We walked around a few shops and a mall before returning the car and getting a ride to the airport. Air Canada brought us back safely to Winnipeg and we got back to the U of M by taxi.

Altogether it was a great week of skiing and sightseeing in the Canadian Rockies.

CanadaFebruary: -35 to -3 °C

On 28 February 2001 from Winnipeg, Canada | comments closed

This week we had 2 birthday’s to celebrate, on Monday (January 29) it was Rodrigo’s birthday and on Wednesday (February 1) it was Gil’s birthday. So we went to Wise Guys on Monday and on Tuesday we held a surprise party for both Rodrigo and Gil on the 5th floor of Speechly.

I had my first real midterm this week as well. The first 8 chapters of Consumer Behaviour. I’ve really aced the test because most questions the teacher used where derived from the internet site of the book. Cable internet is already starting to pay off…

Furthermore, I spent a lot of time studying this week. But on Saturday I went cross-country skiing with my host family in Bird’s Hill Park. It was really great, Canadian nature and everything, but I can still feel the 9 kilometers I skied in my muscles. 🙁

On the evening of Saturday February 3 we (Mart, Reds, Hena, Silvain, Xavier, Eli, Belen and I) went to 8trax, a bar downtown. We didn’t want to spend every Saturday night in Wise Guys, although it’s really good there on Saturdays. 8trax had better music though and even some familiar faces: we met Monica and her friend, two girls we met in line at Monty’s the first week in Canada. It’s a small world after all…

This week was the last week before spring break. For school I only had a quiz on Wednesday, but the week after spring break I’ve got two midterms, a presentation and a few assignments.

Since there were no more tests after Wednesday, I went to Wise Guys on Wednesday and on Thursday as well, but we went to Monty’s first, for the ladies’ and gentlemen’ night out in Monty’s. After classes on Friday we (Mart, Reds, Xavier and I) went to Polo Park to get a haircut and do some shopping and in the evening we went to a bar called ‘The Connection’ on Pembina. It was a local bar for sure, however it was too cold inside and there were not that many people, so that’s going to be a one time visit.

On Saturday February 10th the food services in Pembina Hall were closed for the first time since my arrival. They’re assuming everybody leaves residence in spring break, so we’ll have to figure out what and where to eat for a week. That’s a little bit harder around here than at home, since there are almost no kitchen facilities in residence and the nearest supermarket is a half hour walk. Nevertheless, Lindsey and I decided to go to Safeway to get some microwave and other instant food for this week. We got dinner at the KFC on Pembina, so at least we didn’t have to make dinner for this evening. The way back was another challenge because the temperature had dropped to -30 by then and we had to walk back for over half an hour. But we figured that as long as we kept talking and smiling our cheeks wouldn’t freeze. As you might have figured out by now, we survived.

On Monday February 12th we’re going to Shingwak Resort on Lake of the Woods in Ontario, about 3 hours from here. We’ve rented two cars and a cabin on the lake, which is frozen, so we can go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing etc. We’re going with 8 friends (Mart, Reds, Hena, Gil, Rodrigo, Xavier, Charles and I) for 4 days, it should be a lot of fun for sure.

As you might have guessed already, I didn’t go to Canada just to study, I want to see something of the country as well and have a lot of fun. So we (Eli, Belen, Reds and I for a week, Sylvain for five days) are going to ski in Banff for a few days. We’re flying to Calgary on March 1st and driving to Banff on the 2nd, I’ve heard it’s a spectacular drive through the Canadian Rockies. Banff is the number one ski resort in the world, so skiing shouldn’t be a problem either.

CanadaSpring Break at a Frozen Lake

On 25 February 2001 from Winnipeg, Canada | comments closed

On Monday February 12th we first went to pick up our cars at Discount; we got a Chevrolet Cavalier and a Chrysler Cirrus, not bad at all for compact cars. The first place we (Mart, Reds, Hena, Rodrigo, Gil, Xavier, Charles and I) went was the Superstore and the liquor store for the necessary grocery and liquor shopping. After lunch at the Burger King we left Winnipeg on the Trans Canada Highway 1. It was a 3 hour drive to Sioux Narrows; in my opinion it’s the best way to see Canada. Manitoba for example is almost completely flat, but there are some hills and rock formations in Ontario. The last hour from Kenora to Sioux Narrows we drove along the Lake of the Woods, giving magnificent views over the snowy lake. We arrived at our cabin in the early evening and spent the evening playing games and drinking.

On Tuesday we rented a snowmobile for the day. It’s really cool to ride over a snowy frozen lake with a 110 km per hour! It’s also pretty cold; I was glad I brought my skipants and snowboots. While snowmobiling over the lake we noticed how isolated the area is; there are mainly other vacation resorts on the lake shore and a lot of small unhabited islands. During the day Mart and Gil filled up the snowmobile at the gas station from the guy we rented it (and the cabin) from, assuming we would pay for the snowmobile and gas afterwards. When we got the snowmobile back in the evening it didn’t start anymore; the guy said it ran out of oil and the damage might be $2400. Apparently snowmobiles have to be filled up with oil every time they’re filled up with gas, something he didn’t mention when we rented it. We spent the evening watching movies, drinking and going to the sauna. It’s a really cool experience to heat up in the sauna and roll over in the snow to cool down, I think the Finnish call it ‘snowangels’.

On Wednesday we drove into town to call some people about the snowmobile damage. Legal advisors at the U of M said we shouldn’t pay, since we weren’t informed of the fact that the oil needed to be refilled with the gas. The town consists of a few houses along the road, I don’t think more than 500 people live in Sioux Narrows and it’s the only town within 50 km. I’d never seen a more isolated town, but it’s pretty normal in Canada. When we got back to the cabin the guy had a damage estimate of $540 from the snowmobile shop in Kenora. In the afternoon Hena went cross-country skiing, a few guys ice fished on the lake (no catch) and I went for a walk, hoping to spot some deer (didn’t happen). In the evening we went to the local bar. There were about twenty people, a pooltable and a DJ, pretty much the typical North-American local bar. Enough fun to stay for a while, but not too long, since we still had drinks in the cabin.

On Thursday we packed all our stuff first and went to pay for the cabin, but not the damage. When we told the guy we wouldn’t pay for the damage he called the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) accusing us of stealing gas. Since we didn’t steal it (we were going to pay for it) we waited for the OPP officer to arrive from Kenora. It was a very friendly officer who figured out pretty quick the guy didn’t have a case, but he said it would be nice to pay a part of the damage. So that’s what we did, although we noticed afterwards the guy had screwed us with the bill.

We made a stop for lunch at McDonalds in Kenora, one of the largest towns within 200 km, population 16,500. On the way back to Winnipeg it snowed a bit, but it was still pretty safe to drive on the wide roads. Since we still had the cars we went to the Tijuana Yacht Club in the evening. It’s one of the hottest clubs in Winnipeg, so we had to wait for about 45 minutes to get in. But the music and atmosphere was good. Most curious thing: they were playing Coyote Ugly and American Pie on a large screen in the club.

Friday morning Hena and I brought the cars back to Discount and I got some sleep afterwards to be able to catch up with studying all weekend.

When you have read most stories here, you must have gotten the opinion that all I do here is party (at least that’s what some people have been telling me…). This is not the reality however, I’m studying more here than I ever have in the Netherlands. Besides a lot of assignments for Communications, I had a presentation on the 19th of February for Communications. One midterm on the 20th for International Marketing, and on the 26th I had one midterm for Consumer Behaviour and one for Systems Analysis and Design, plus I had an assignment due for Seminar in Administration. Lots of work, but besides Systems Analysis I did my midterms pretty well.

But besides studying I also take time to relax. Sylvain held an apartment warming party on Friday the 23rd, which was a lot of fun. On Saturday it was Colour Night. Everybody got completely dressed up (suits, long dresses etc.) for a dinner in Pembina Hall, I almost couldn’t recognize the place, but although the food was better than usually, I had expected more of it. Afterwards most people continued drinking (the Canadians were really happy with the wine at dinner…), so most people at the social afterwards were already drunk when they arrived. Since almost everybody dressed down for the social, it was a pretty normal social, but fun nevertheless.