Monday, 7 April 2014

The End is Nigh

Today i had my last class of my year at Dalhousie, and with only one more exam to go, my time here is well and truly coming to an end. Its an odd feeling having to leave, a feeling of excitement of seeing my family and friends again (it really has been a long time), but it is also sad, because Halifax has been my home for the last year and i dont know how prepared i am to leave it, as well as all of the amazing people i have met here (its lucky really that a lot of them are British and will be returning home with me :P).

But rather than be sad i want to think about all the amazing times i had in Canada, whether it be getting stuck skiing and having a snowmobile come and pick me up, or the Christmas i spent in possibly the coldest place on earth, or having the opportunity to just pop to New York for a weekend and see all the sights.

As well as this though i also want to think of all the cool things i am yet to do. I may finish my year on Thursday but i will be away from England for just over two more months, so i can travel across Canada (2nd biggest country in the world, this will be no mean feat), then head on down to Las Vegas and hopefully not spend all my money, but if i win enough then a limo ride with N*Sync singing 'Bye Bye Bye' is in order. Then to meet a friend from the UK in LA to travel up the West Coast of America, and finally enjoy some sun ;) even though it was a positively scorching 7 degrees here today :P

It has been a great year, and i hope that it continues this way :)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Breakfast at Tiffany's

It has been a while since i posted anything, and i think that's because i have just gotten into the rhythm of life here, with studying, seeing my friends and going out. But i did go to New York the other week so i think that i worth talking about :P

So it all started with a very excited me and Finn making our way to the airport where we then got searched endlessly and finally made our way in to the very special US departure lounge, to then make our way to a TINY plane.

We landed in New York and got to Penn Station where we got our first glimpse of the big apple, and it just so happened that the glimpse was on the same road as the empire state building, all lit up for the night. We then got to our hostel, a nice little place that was close to everything and made our way to find some food and then had a walk around Madison Square Garden.

So our first full day started at 8am where i went bleary eyed and barely awake to breakfast at the hostel and then rode the subway for the first time, after much confusion, getting very lost and asking numerous people for help, we finally arrived at central park. We had a wander, not quite knowing where to start due to its sheer size, but we find some interesting things like the Alice in Wonderland statue and a serious squirrel problem, they were everywhere! After this we met the other 4 people we were travelling with and went up the Empire State building, which, if you didnt know, it is really tall! We then went to times square, which i loved! With all the bright lights and people dressed up, and all around there being amazing stores, after spending far too much time in Toys R us, we ventured outside only to see the Hersheys store and the M&M store, all of which required a visit :P.

The next day we explored more of downtown, making our way over the High Line to the go on the Staten Island ferry to see the statue of liberty, which is surprisingly small, i expected her to be ginormous, but no. After which we went to Ground Zero which was quite shocking, i was surprised at how emotional i felt just being there, there is nothing to prepare you for this massive expanse just carved out of the towering new york sky line, and from this you begin to realise completely why America is so thorough when it comes to security. Then we walked down Wall Street, a business persons wet dream! It has everything someone could want from clothes shops next to the offices to having a car dealership at the end, yano, just in case the mood takes you. We then walked half way across Brooklyn Bridge, dont think my legs would have been able to carry me all the way, and then we ventured in to Chinatown to find ourselves some dinner. After a 30 minute power nap we then went on a big night out to the university district where we found a cool bar called Bar None and had a night of drinking and dancing :)

Our final day was spent feeling a little worse for wear, with a hangover from the night before and general tiredness from walking for 2 days straight, and with an expected snow storm, me and Finn retreated to the Natural History Museum where we recounted scenes from Friends and learnt lots of sciencey stuff, as well as making the mistake of lying under the blue whale and not being able to get up again. We then passed by Grand Central Station on the way home and then boarded the wrong train and ended up taking a detour to Queens :P.

I had an amazing time, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute, even when i did feel like my legs were going to fall off!

Monday, 20 January 2014

First time skiing :)

So, I'm well on my way in to the winter term here in Canada, and although it got off to a rather unproductive start (lying in a sofa fort watching endless amounts of Angel), i am now feeling much more productive and ready to try all new things.

This weekend i started my first swing dance lesson and loved it! Definitely going to go again, and again, and again :P

I also went skiing for the first time this weekend, a little more eventful than the swing dancing, i have to say! After the bus being pulled over by the police we finally made it to Wentworth where a whole load of equipment was handed to me, none of which i knew how to put on. With the help of many people i was finally ready to leave the rental lodge and learn to ski. I am told i picked it up very quickly, until, after getting a little over ambitious and trying out an actual slope, rather than the bunny hill. I fell flat on my face after attempting to get out of the ski lift (people make it look so graceful) and made it part way down the hill in tiny little turns and lots of falling over, and with the end in sight... I could do no more. I took the ski's off and ambled down on foot, only for a snow mobile to approach me. My first thought was that i was going to be told off for walking and not skiing, then i thought he was going to run me over, but instead he told me to jump on the back and he would take me to the bottom of the hill. A hero really!

After that i thought it would be better, for my own safety, to retire to the lodge and dry off with a cup of hot chocolate. So i did just that!

I'm sure I'll be a pro in no time ;)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Christmas and New years in Montreal :)

I have just returned from my 3 week stint in Montreal and was greeted so lovingly back to Halifax by a blizzard and the locks being changed on my apartment building. But all is resolved now, the snow ploughs have been about and access was gained to my home by dismantling the lock on the door!

So, my time in Montreal, well, it was amazing! I have never before seen so much snow and tried or retried all new things! Ice skating for one, i thought my ability to stay standing on ice was pretty low, but it seems not, by the fact i did not fall over one and actually managed to let go of the bar at the side of the rink.

I went to my first NHL game and it was amazing, we had surprisingly good seats and it is true, it is a show! We were seeing the Canadiens and won, which always makes the atmosphere amazing!

We did lots of exploring of the city going to the most hipster place on earth, mile end, going to see aboriginal art exhibitions, going to maple syrup museums and watching fire work displays as well as baking our own bread and learning more about the history of Montreal.

Christmas day and boxing day we gorged on endless amounts of food and watched Christmas films (if you can count Angel as a Christmas film ;)), we opened up all of our gifts that had been sent from home (endless amounts of socks for me :P) and had an all round chilled out few days :)

For new years we decided to go to this little Irish pub we had seen one day on our wanders and we had dinner and then headed out to a big countdown and firework event at the old port. There were so many people and it was so exciting, if not a tad nippy. And the amount of people i saw out that night in -26 with barely anything on, i would be surprised if they didn't get hypothermia (damn do i sound like an old lady :P).

But all in all, a wonderful 3 weeks in Montreal, now to settle back in to life in Halifax and prepare for the next term :)

Friday, 13 December 2013

Over and done with.

I have finished all of my exams now and have had an amazing few days!

I finished my last exam on the 11th, early on, and i feel it went well so went to Tim Hortons for a celebratory Earl Gray and chocolate chip muffin :P and then had a well deserved nap before being woken up by my neighbour to try and encourage me to be productive and actually clean my flat and pack. After blitzing the kitchen and cleaning all of the pots i had failed to wash during exam time (any excuse ;)) I then went out for a birthday meal with my friends and to say goodbye to my friends that were leaving after this semester.

The next day i then flew to Montreal in a plane i was genuinely terrified to board. One of them ones where you can see the propellers and only hold around 70 people. Look like they need to be jump started. Yeah. One of them. But i shouldn't have been scared really, i made myself fairly at home in the hour and half we spent on the tarmac waiting for a new super strengths blend of anti freeze to be made so they could unfreeze the wings... Only in Canada. But, the perks of this then meant that all food and drink was free on the flight, took advantage of that little gem :P After landing late and finally getting in to our accommodation i conked out in a very toasty room.

Today we then explored Montreal and, not gonna lie, got very very lost. Ended up going for some brunch and then ambling in -21 weather to the metro station, where we got lost again and a kind lady, who ended up being very interesting, helped us at the station and gave us directions to where we wanted to go. That was the Olympic Park which we were told had an ice skating rink in it, but it did not seem to be open so we decided to go up to the observatory, 175metres high and got panoramic views of Montreal, which is very flat... Then on to the biodome which was so interesting, where they mimicked lots of different environments and had animals everywhere and cool plants. We played spot the sloth and waited for ages to see an alligator to move just to make sure they were real. It was extremely strange having monkeys swinging overhead and wondering if they have ever escaped because it is all so open.

All in all a good first day in Montreal and tomorrow should be just as good. Just got to make sure i put some more layers on :P

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Growing Up

The realisation hit me today that in about 2 and a half weeks time i will be turning 21, even though this means i can now drink alcohol in America, it also means that i am getting older and growing up. Which got me thinking if i have grown up any since being in Canada. I like to think that i have, and i like to think its because i have been partaking in more events that are seemingly more cultural, rather than going out drinking all the time (that's mainly because drinking in Canada is fairly expensive :P)

Since i last wrote about my time in Canada i have done many things, as i wrote so long ago, both culturally and not. I went to on a bus tour to Peggy's cove (the most photographed place in Nova Scotia) and on to Ludenburg and Mahone Bay, where the tour guide, told us all about the history of the places we passes from islands where treasure is supposedly hidden to the church in which he got married. That evening i then went to an event called Nocturne that i had to go to for one of my courses and it is a city wide art event with people have art exhibitions in derelict buildings, on the street, down by the sea front and over the water in Dartmouth. It was lovely to see the streets so full of people and the unique exhibitions that were going on. My favourite were some fire breathers who not only breathed fire but also set themselves on fire!

I then went on a ghost walk at the Citidel, after hours and in the dark! This was probably not the best idea for someone who is freaked out by even the smallest thing :P But it was very interesting, and the scary was boosted up by a girl fainting half way through a ghost story, honestly thought she had seen something supernatural/been possessed. We got to go in to part of the citidel that people don't usually get to access, as well as walking inside the walls that surround the area.

I then spent an entire weekend at a leadership conference that was being held at my university, and it was an amazing weekend. I met loads of new people from all over the East Coast as well as learning about things that really interest me, and also was provided to endless amounts of food and Davids Tea :) I went to some really interesting talks on the sexualisation of campus', cross cultural differences that can hinder leadership as well as talks on being an exchange student (something i feel i know a lot about ;)). There were also some amazing key note speakers, one, called Jen Mcmillen nearly broke my heart! It was all about how privileged we are, or how little things can alter our privilege such as being able to buy an appropriate birthday or anniversary card for a partner. We then all rounded off the weekend with a lovely meal at the Boat house and our final key note speaker. All in all it was a lovely weekend and i got to meet some amazing people there too :)

Whilst i am here, i really wanted to pick up a new skill or hobby and last night i decided what that new skill would be, swing dancing :) I attended a swing dance event called 'swing with the fishes' and i loved it. Lessons were given, which was a god send because the extent of my dance experience is me thinking i can dance in a night club! It was all women in full skirts and men in bow ties and waistcoats, as well as a swing band playing and people would come up to you and ask you for a dance. I felt sorry for the people who asked me, with my two left feet and the fact they had to teach me how to dance :P. Needless to say, people will see me at swing dance lessons next semester ;) you have been warned!

And, even though i am scared about turning 21 in 2.5 weeks, in the same amount of time i am also flying to Montreal to spend 3 weeks there for Christmas and New Year :).

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Halifax: What we have learnt

Me (Vicky Clarke) and Harriet Lees are exchange students from the UK. The Halifax and the World course appealed to both me and Harriet because it gave us an opportunity to learn more and explore the city.

We soon found out that our perception of Halifax only reflected the British Colonial version of history. This shows how powerful dominant historical memory can be over others. However, we soon found out that there were many historical narratives, in particular the Mi'kmaq. All that we had learnt about the Mi'kmaq was not only completely new for us, but also for other students from Canadian heritage. The disparity between the dominant historical narrative and that of the Mi'kmaq became very clear when doing the map project as it was far more difficult to find examples of Aboriginal heritage in the city. However, we did learn about allyship and ways in which the two communities can come to a mutual understanding, but this is not an easy process as historical injustice has to be factored in, but also we need to move forward as a community.

Today, there is an ongoing redress of the balance between the historical narratives of both the Mi'kmaq and British Colonial. For example, the previously named 'Cornwallis High School' changed its name after campaigning by the aboriginal community that bought to light the genocide that Cornwallis ordered.

Since our time in Halifax, we have witnessed celebratory examples of Mi'kmaq culture, such as the Ma'wiomi, and Mi'kmaq performers at the arts event, Nocturne. These are examples of ways in which the aboriginal community can educate others and share their traditions.

We hope that reading this has helped you reconsider aboriginal culture and how you can't take the dominant historical narrative as face value.