Sunday, 21 January 2007

Snow is Over-rated

Real Winter finally came to Toronto with a blast of freezing rain and ice pellets last Monday morning. The temperatures have finally dropped below 0C, and it's "normal" Canadian weather.

Actually the late winter has been quite upsetting for Canadians - it seems many people here are dependent on the winter season for income. Blue Mountain resort (north of Toronto) had to send a whole bunch (about 1300 people) of their seasonal employees home because of the lack of snow and therefore business. Toronto City programs for ski and skating lessons were cancelled, snowblowers were not being sold...

Brendon and I went in to work late that Monday, although we did debate not going in at all. In my office, about 70% of people just sent out mail saying they were working from home. It was pretty scary being out on the roads on that morning. The first snowstorm of the season... Torontonians were out of practice and not prepared for the road conditions, especially since the Winter snow had arrived much later than usual. People had put off buying windscreen washer fluid (which instantly tripled in price at all petrol stations!), and putting on snow tires. The Ontario Provincial Police reported over 600 accidents that day, but mostly bumper bashings from cars skidding around. Pretty crazy.

The public transit systems were late and overcrowded - when there are bad weather conditions people opt to take public transit, as they don't want to risk it out on the roads. Ironic for me, since I'd rather drive when it's cold. I guess the point is that you can be really careful, but it's always the other idiot who isn't and smacks in to you. In summer we'll probably revert back to taking the bus and subway - I am definitely missing (and I can feel it physically) the daily walking.

I have to say - snow is overrated. When the snow first comes down, it's all pretty and white, but after the snowploughs, salters, de-icers and shovelers have been at work, and the cars have been driving on the roads, it looks really ugly out there with all the mud in the snow.

I passed my driver's test on Tuesday afternoon - thank goodness there wasn't another snowstorm to make the roads slippery and dangerous. The area I did my test in is the airport, and is pretty 'industrial'- not many people or traffic. The roads there are wide enough for two cars, but no lines on the road, so you can pretty much drive in the middle, which helps with the snow on the side. The test itself was very quick - just a drive around the block, one three point-turn and reversing in to the parking back at the test centre. Whew. I'll have to tackle the highway test in a year's time again, in order to become a G-class driver.

Lastly, a little personal anecdote regarding my first experience of this horrendous winter weather... Brendon tells me, "Some idiots pour water over their windscreens to clear it" and I'm thinking... "What's wrong with that?! Sounds perfectly logical to me." I guess when you've never lived in a place where water can freeze on contact with the windscreen, stuff like that just never occurs to you...

Monday, 1 January 2007

Happy New Year

Wow, 2007 has finally arrived, and 2006 has been such a roller-coaster.

We saw in the new year at Nathan Phillips square, in downtown Toronto outside City Hall, along with 40,000 other people who came for the free concert dubbed "Canada's New Year's Bash." It was a wet evening but interesting to be surrounded by tens of thousands of other strangers at an alcohol-free concert - the people here don't go half as crazy as South Africans at New Year's. The other interesting thing - that I was also told about at our company holiday (Christmas) party - is that the hosts of parties are criminally liable for their guests if they are allowed to drive under the influence. Sheesh... talk about corporate responsibility. It obviously works, since the road death statistics here are minor compared to SA. And I guess that's what happens when you live in a litigious society.

The mild weather is holding up, and instead of a snowy Christmas, it's been mild and New Year's was wet. Yesterday it was 11C and boy, I'm not complaining :) The cold weather is coming though, so I'll probably see some snow soon.

So in summary, I..
- lived without my hubby for 6 months of the year
- got to practice yoga with the living Ashtanga guru (Pattabhi Jois) in London
- resigned from my job at IS, the first company I ever worked for
- saw my brother married to his best friend (finally)
- stood by my best friend as she got married in Croatia
- sold my car (my little 206!)
- moved city, country, hemisphere - from Joburg to Toronto
- got a job (so similar to my old one) at a new company, Afilias
- bought a new car (a Nissan Versa - called Tiida outside of North America)

2006 was also a year that I
- cried the most (those farewells and weddings)
- flew the most times on an airplane, internationally (twice to London, once to Croatia, twice to Canada; next time I'll use the same airline and earn those loyalty miles!)
- threw away tons of useless stuff accumulated over the years
- got rid of most of my clothing and shoes (*sob*)
- finally cleared out my old room at my folks
- used the most bubble-wrap and foam ever
- packed up a house and shipped off everything in two weeks
- spent the most money (flying and moving is an expensive exercise)

So in ending, some New Year's wishes:

During the year may you have...
Enough happiness to keep you sweet.
Enough trials to keep you strong.
Enough sorrow to keep you human.
Enough hope to keep you happy.
Enough failure to keep you humble.
Enough success to keep you eager.
Enough friends to give you comfort.
Enough wealth to meet your needs.
Enough enthusiasm to make you look forward to tomorrow.
Enough determination to make each day better than the day before.