Sunday, 30 July 2006

Crime "problem" in Toronto

Shootings... big headlines here is that there were seven shootings in seven days. The worst ever in years.

"By the middle of last week, 41 people had been slain on the streets of Toronto so far this year - 20 as the result of gun violence.", Sunday July 23, 2006

There was a newspaper article this past weekend regarding the increase in carjacking in one of Toronto's regions, York (which is comparable to Sandton). 12 cars hijacked this year so far...
Here is the (single) crime report page from that newspaper.

Sigh. Reading the article, all I can say is, South African criminals have superior methods and are more ... creative... in their criminal activities.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Shopper's Paradise... with banking to support you

Stores are usually open until 21h00 during the week. I wonder how much later they will stay open during Christmas shopping periods?!
Sales are true sales here... up to 75% off.
24 hour stores allow for late night grocery shopping... woohooo.

Standard business hours:

Certain banks are open late here, till 20h00.

As a South African, the most amazing thing is that there are no bullet-proof glass windows separating you and the teller! No heavily-armed security guards patrolling the entrances, no double-door entry system either.

In fact, security at the movie theatres is more hectic than at the banks!

Speaking of movies... it is *really* expensive to go to movies here. Especially compared to Discovery Vitality R14 movies ;)
$10.95 + tax = R77 a ticket!! After R14 Discovery Vitality movies, I feel ripped off.
DVD's here cost $24 (R169). No brainer. Hell, with high-speed Internet access, no wonder there's a piracy problem...

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Proudly Canadian

There are Canadian flags wherever you look... from people's houses to cars to flagpoles in the middle of nowhere.

And of course following the Soccer World Cup, some Italian pride too ;)

Canadian humour can be quite ... interesting. Roots is the national clothing brand, kind of like Mad Dogs I guess. They are currently having their Big Beaver sale.

Monday, 24 July 2006

Waste & Recycling

Canada is a very environmentally aware country - everyone does their part in not contributing to damaging mother earth. It's quite refreshing to see this happening. There are "green" campaigns for everything from recycling to picking up doggy poo (to prevent water pollution) to turning down your aircon (to conserve energy).

Everywhere have recycling bins - even the public ones on the street.

Here, they will take away anything you leave on the sidewalk. Saw someone dispose of their bicycle, and once before a bar fridge! I wish I had my camera, but unfortunately did not.

Saw this monitor and keyboard on the sidewalk downtown:

Saturday, 22 July 2006

Foreign Accents, People and Languages

When people here first hear me speak, they ask where I'm from. When I ask them where they think I'm from, their first guess is usually British. Then Australian. Then New Zealand. Africa doesn't even feature on their radar.

So I ordered a Caramilk McFlurry at McDonalds the other day and got a caramel sundae. Hehe, not quite sure if it was my accent or an inattentive server!

Some more terms I've had to learn...
Cooldrinks/ fizzy drinks are called pop (i.e. Coke, Sprite, etc)
Prams are called strollers
Pavements are called sidewalks
Serviettes are called napkins
Shops are called stores
Jelly is jello

I have heard so many different languages heard around here.. in fact, I think the only time I have heard the second official language of French was at the airport. So many people asked if I was going to learn to speak French - well, I think I would do better to learn Mandarin there are so many Mandarin speakers here.

The cosmopolitan nature of Toronto is so aptly pictured here - one neighbourhood shopping block has such a variety of cultures... from Chinese to Indian to Middle-Eastern

Thursday, 20 July 2006

True Broadband

Broadband Internet is a reality here.... my brother-in-law has cable to his home - a grand 6Mbps.
Is this enough to make you sick... It costs $49.95 per month, which is about R350!
Modem set-up of up to 6.0 Mbps download and 800 Kbps upload.

I'm not even going to say anymore except that companies don't have problems with employee Internet abuse here - it's quicker to download from home than to abuse company resources.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Public Transport

Efficient. Toronto Transport Commission (TTC) covers most of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and you can pretty much get anywhere and walk a few blocks to your final destination. Then there's the VIVA and GO systems which take you to the outer-lying regions/ towns - commuting for work is a way of life here. And I thought Pretoria people were crazy for driving to work in Joburg everyday!

The subway here is easier than London - the system is a U with a line through it. The stations are named after the intersections, so looking at a street map, it's easy to relate to where you are.

Buses generally run east to west or north to south. Tokens costs $2.10 (about R13) and this can take you from one end of Toronto to the other. You just deposit a token when you board the bus, and get a transfer (paper slip indicating time and date and something or the other relating to the bus you're on) and this will allow you to board another bus without further payment, as long as you're not travelling backwards on your route.
Alternatively, you can buy unlimited weekly or monthly passes that allow you to use all systems (buses, subway, streetcars, light rail transport) on the TTC. A monthly pass is $100 (about R620) which is worth it considering the price of petrol.

The buses run frequently, and I've never had to wait more than 8 minutes for a bus. It is quite conceivable that you can get around without a car here.

Monday, 17 July 2006

Toronto Drivers

So... some Canadian road/ driving/ traffic terms I've noticed:
You all know this one - robots are called traffic lights;
And pavements are called sidewalks.
Highways are called parkways
So... you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?!

There are traffic cameras everywhere, and electronic signboards to tell you where traffic delays are. Heck, there are TV channels dedicated to traffic reporting...
Peak traffic is mild compared to Joburg, though traffic reporters will tell you that there are major delays... JA RIGHT... a major delay being more than 10 mintes than usual. That being said, it is summer and apparently many people are away, so I guess we'll see what happens come September.

This is traffic to go on to the Don Valley Parkway at 18h00:

Notice that cars here drive with their headlights on at all hours.

Petrol err sorry, gas stations are self-service and petrol/ gas price varies from day-to-day, in fact, from morning to evening and weekdays to weekends.

Cars really do stop for pedestrians here... yes pedestrians actually have right of way. Sometimes I feel guilty walking across the road or driveway with a car patiently waiting for me!

The average vehicle here is HUGE... SUV's galore.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

First Impressions

The best way to describe the weather here is - pleasant. It's warm but not hot and definitely not cold, unless you count the aircons in the malls ;) It's raining today, and apparently from August it gets really humid, so I guess I'll only experience the true Canadian summer in a couple of weeks still. Sigh... saw an advertising poster yesterday - "There are only 58.7 days in a Canadian summer- make the most of it".

The strangest part is the sun setting so late, after 21h30. At least the malls, shops and banks are open till late! Was at the North American institution of Wal-Mart last night... omigod, the variety and choice is mind-numbing. Yes it took me two hours just to buy shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and shower wash! Just in general, the sheer volume and variety of products available in stores is just incredible... I mean, where do people find money and space for all this STUFF!!
Starting to wonder if I shouldn't just leave everything behind and not bother shipping anything over. I have yet to hit the malls for clothing and household stuff though, so I guess I'll see how it goes.

Went to the bank this morning, to re-activate my dormant bank account that I opened here last here. The teller asked where I was from, 'cos she likes my accent! Must say that's a first for me ;) Hopefully I won't lose it in lieu of the North American twang (and no I still cannot tell the difference between a Canadian and an American accent).

Going to dinner for a friend's birthday tonight, so I will be wandering around (hopefully not getting lost) downtown Toronto before meeting Brendon after work. Hoping to check out some yoga studios and re-orient myself with the city.

Monday, 10 July 2006

Second Leg - London to Toronto

We got to London on schedule (6h30 July 10), but then spent a bit of time in a holding pattern before we could actually land. And... as usual the most tedious part was waiting to clear customs and security. Sigh.

Bit the bullet and bought a return ticket on the Heathrow Express for GBP 27. Met up with my friend Nadia and had a bit of a chat. Dashed back to Heathrow in good time for my flight... and promptly waited. We sat on the plane for a good hour before taking off... apparently there had been some sort of delay earlier, and there was a queue of planes waiting to
take off. I counted 7 planes taking off before us, and saw another 5 behind us. Yup... Heathrow is one busy airport.

Air Canada's planes are older than SAA's ones and there were no personal screens this time. Once again though, I managed to get in some sleep (to make up for the week of 19 hour days spent franctically packing).

Anyway, landed at Pearson International about half an hour late. There had been a hectic storm, delaying many flights.
Luggage took a long while to come out, as they had to switch off the conveyor machines due to the lightning. How rude... you need a $2 coin to get a trolley. Argh. You can of course use a credit card, but for what is essentially R12?! Me with my two 30kg+ bags definitely needed one... and thanks to the kindness of a Canadian gent I met at the conveyor, I managed to "borrow" a "toonie" and get one. Whew.

Sunday, 9 July 2006

The Trip Here ... Joburg to London

After what seems like forever, I am finally leaving for Toronto!

My departure gate was damn far from the main departure hall... in fact I'm pretty sure I walked all the way through to the back of the domestic section of Joburg International. The plane took off almost an hour late. We had some "missing" passengers and one who was denied boarding. The airlines are getting so strict in enforcing visa checks - a Malawian gentleman who did not have a visa to transit the UK to Germany was prevented from flying. So due to security policies, we had to wait until they could locate the passengers' luggage and take them off the plane.

The plane was a Boeing 747-400 and my seat was upstairs... somewhere I've never been on a plane before. *Really* great for me, as I had a window seat in the last row and therefore a nice ledge to put my stuff and of course, stretch out my legs fully!! Yes, it's great to be not so tall ;) The only issue was that my personal TV screen wasn't working, but I was so tired that I just ate dinner and passed out till breakfast the next morning.