Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Once we returned from our backpacking trip, we had about 36 hours to scrub, eat, and organize ourselves before our departure to Toronto, Ontario. The main purpose of the trip was to attend my cousin's wedding, but during our 8 day stay we had some entertaining adventures.

1. Getting picked up. Perhaps the most stressful moment of the trip, was our arrival at the Buffalo International Airport. My family had volunteered to retrieve us, a solid 2 hour drive from their home in Cambridge, ON. There would be a total of 6 people returning from the airport and for space reasons, they decided to commandeer their Winnebago RV for the journey.

There were no cell phones involved in our communication capabilities, so they knew approximately when we were to arrive and decided to come early to park and greet us at the baggage claim carousel. This plan was soon abandoned when they realized the RV was too tall to fit into the parking lot without ripping off the newly installed air conditioning unit. At this point a U-turn was the only option, so the security guard stepped up to the plate and stopped all incoming traffic flow to the Arrivals Terminal so my Uncle Joel could continue.

On the first circle around, they spotted us and Brenton was shoved into the RV while my aunts and other uncle came to greet me while simultaneously trying to locate my bag (which had to be checked). Brenton and my Uncle Joel (they had never met) then went around the airport thrice before we were able to reconnect, at which point we all hurriedly piled into the vehicle and sped away!

2. Lake Erie. Once again, we piled into the RV and jetted-off to the nearest lake for a swim and relaxing day at the water's edge. I have never swam in a great lake, and it is bizarre being in such a large body of water without the salt of the ocean. The water was refreshing and we were able to walk out a significant ways before being able to swim. After a dip, we sauntered back to our towels and folding chairs to tackle a crossword with the help of my seasoned aunts and uncles.

3. Old Order Mennonites. One day we ventured to St. Jacob's community where we toured the local farmers market, a cattle auction and barn, and a small broom production facility. This rural country is appealing because it is a glimpse into the lives of tight knit Mennonite families. We learned there are varying schools of Mennonite people. Old-order groups typically use a horse and black buggy for transport, refrain from electricity in their homes and on their farms, employ 18th century farming methods, and dress in a traditional style where the men wear hats and have beards, and the women wear bonnets and full length farm dresses. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the more "risque" Mennonites, who drive black cars (all chrome has been painted), and use electricity in their homes and farms.

Old Order Farm, notice there are no power lines

We visited the cattle auction in the market and when you are there, you can smell it (and nearly retch). It is very surreal, you can walk out above the animals who are moo-ing, baa-ing, and talking to each other in every way. The bulls are gigantic, separated from their compatriots and not very happy about it. The light-brown Jersey cows are sold to farmers to make butter because of the high fat content in their milk. There are sheep, calves, black and white cows, and sometimes horses all packed into these stables that are in constant flux. The farmers walk about eying the days selection, out in the cattle pit you can hear the auctioneer spitting numbers.

4. Toronto. From rural Ontario we made our way into one of Canada's greatest cities. The transit line is very easy to navigate and dropped us about a 15 minute walk from our hotel at Dupont and Spadina. We walked all over the city and spent time in Chinatown, the Annex (where the University of Toronto is located), the Distillery District, Yorkville, Greek District, and took the ferry to Toronto Island. We visited the Royal Ontario Museum, and entered through the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal 2007 addition designed by the American architect Daniel Libeskind. Interestingly enough, in 2003 he won the competition to be the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.

Tomorrow I start my Architecture program at the University of Washington. I can guarantee there will be more architectural tid-bits to come. Until then... 

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