Last weekend Julie, Fabian, and their friend Hector came into Winnipeg for the day and I met up with them! We had a great day out, starting with shopping in Polo Park, then we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron at the cinema and went out for Thai food for dinner, and we finished off with some bowling and ice cream! It was so nice to hang out with them again!
Sunday May 17
Finally came the day out at Niagara Falls, which is the day I’d been most anticipating! It began with the impressive feat of getting 40 teenagers out of bed before 8am on a Sunday, followed by a very quiet bus ride as everyone fell back to sleep! We first stopped at a butterfly conservatory and walked around while the butterflies landed on our shoulders and arms.
As soon as we stepped off the bus in Niagara the sound of the Falls was apparent, and there they were ahead of us, so spectacular and unbelievably huge. It was amazing to see them up close, and be able to feel the spray from the rushing water.
I went on the Maid in the Mist boat ride with Simon, Fabian, Alex, Jo, Cathy, Rebecca, Deborah, Esther, and Alejandro (see below) and this was my favourite part, as we went right up to the falls and there was spray everywhere. We headed to the Journey Behind the Falls entrance for our final activity of the day. We were able to walk through tunnels that go under the falls and stand behind them and right next to them, which was very cool (and very wet).
After this we hopped on our bus back to Toronto and had a short stop in at the hotel before going to our final dinner as a group at the Brownstone restaurant. It was a lovely way to end the trip (and my butternut squash ravioli was exquisite), with everyone coming together to talk and I realised what good friends I had made in such a short time. It was our last night and I don’t think anyone wanted it to end, so we talked and played games in one of the hotel rooms until the early hours of the morning.
This was the day we saw Toronto! We started off with a walking tour near Chinatown, where the guide showed us some of the amazing legal graffiti in the area, and taught us a whole bunch of stuff about Toronto’s culture.
Then he led us to Kensington Markets which has a huge variety of cultures, vintage shops, and a great cafe called Rasta Pasta which was a combination of Italian and Jamaican cuisine and very delicious!
It was awfully hot while we walked to the CN Tower, but with aching feet I managed to make it there on time, without getting lost in Chinatown. The views from the tower are incredible, and I also sat on the glass floor which looks directly down onto the street below!
^ Jo, Rebecca and I on the glass floor.
That evening we went on a smooth boat tour around Toronto Island, where we also ate pizza, and danced on the deck while the sun set. When we returned to the city at dusk, a large group of us walked to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect 2, which was very entertaining, after which we dashed to catch the train back to the hotel.
On the second day of the Toronto trip, we took a bus to Canada’s Wonderland amusement park and spent the whole day there. This was my favourite day of the whole trip, because I had never been to theme park so big, I got to know some of my new friends a lot better, and I faced some fears too! We also had perfect weather and the lines weren’t very long.
I was a bit apprehensive, however after the first ride I was excited and ready to see what the rest of the park had to offer. The Leviathan is the tallest roller-coaster in Canada (according to Alejandro) and has a ridiculously high, almost vertical drop. I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable ride of the day, I can say that much. Still, I’m glad I did it.
Whilst I did skip a couple of rides, I think I did pretty well for my first theme park, I even went on the Behemoth twice, which was almost as thrilling as Leviathan. Here’s a photo of a bunch of us, with Behemoth in the background.
It’s been exactly a month since this trip, which is crazy! Time flies, I guess. I went with my exchange agency to Toronto and met up with 40 other exchange students who are staying all over Canada, from Prince George to Quebec City to Ottawa.
This was the most incredible part of my exchange, to meet all these other exchange students and immediately become close friends, and see amazing parts of Canada with them, it’s hard to describe. We were together for four days and it felt like we’d known each other for years.
I decided to split this into a few posts because there’s so much to say!
Thursday May 14
In the dark, I arrived at the airport with the three exchange students from Miami, Manitoba, and we made our way to Toronto!
Since we couldn’t check into the hotel until 3pm, we left our bags behind the desk and went out to explore for a couple of hours. The four of us ended up in the World Pride district, which is a prominent gay community and had a very vibrant feel, with a lot more colour and life than other parts of the city we’d walked through. We also found a botanical garden centre and park and playground (which we played on).
I later met my roommates, Josefine from Germany, and Rebecca from Sweden! It was unbelievably easy to fall into friendship with them, and also the others, Cathalijne from the Netherlands, Deborah from Switzerland, Simon from Switzerland, Alejandro from Spain, Alex from Austria… so many. I was fun to hear all the different languages and accents, and exciting to be around so many people with the same interests as me – everyone had so much to share about their exchanges and their home countries.
I turned 18! It’s very strange to be away from family and friends for such a momentous day in my life, definitely one of my hardest times here, but my host family and friends here made me feel happy and loved.
The cool thing about being in a vastly different timezone for your birthday than all your family and friends is that your birthday actually lasts longer than a day, as I started receiving birthday wishes the day before my birthday here. Also Canadians have a lovely habit of if they didn’t see you on your birthday then they wish you a happy belated birthday so my birthday felt like it went on all week!
On the day of my birthday it was the day after I got back from Chicago so I slept in and had a relaxing morning and met some friends to hang out in the afternoon. Quinn bought me ice cream and it was the most amazing strawberry flavour!
On Saturday I went out for sushi with Laura and Kyleen, which was cute, and then went to Dairy Queen. When we got home there was the most amazing moment – I opened the door and all my friends were there yelling ‘SURPRISE!’ and I almost cried it was so lovely.
The party was a lot of fun and I was truly surprised so that made it even better! I’ve never had a surprise party before and it was a wonderful feeling when I came home and everyone was there hugging me.
Here’s a pic from the party:
Another trip I went on in the last month was when I traveled to the USA with my host family and went to Minneapolis and Chicago! I’m so amazingly happy to have been able to see some of America while I am over here!
We went to the Mall of America, which was overwhelmingly huge, and Nickelodeon Universe, which was my first real theme park experience.
In Chicago we went up the Sears Tower, and walked along Navy Pier, and ate at a 50’s themed restaurant/diner, where the waitstaff were actors and would occasionally sing, and be rude to the customers – it was very funny. We also had Chicago style deep dish pizza, saw the Chicago Bean, and took an architectural tour of the city by boat, which was my favourite part.
I was really happy to be invited to play on a team in the Seniors vs. Teachers softball game last week! I had never played softball before, so that’s another part of my Canadian experience! I even got a run and hit the ball on the first pitch, so I’m proud of myself for that.
Yesterday I went to the Ecuador vs. Japan FIFA game in Winnipeg! I was very glad to be able to go to a game, even if I did not support the teams! I went with my exchange student friends from Miami. Manitoba – Julie, Fabian, and Charlotte – and a few others from their school.
It was a very sunny, cheery day! There were loads of enthusiastic fans for both teams and it was a close game, ending 1-0 to Japan.
Last week I took part in the dragon boat tournament and my team did surprisingly well! We made the finals and although the event was almost washed away in the rain, hail, and thunderstorm that occurred part-way through the day, we came 15th out of 35 teams I think. It was a new experience for me and I enjoyed the day! I only wish I hadn’t had to leave so early.