Toronto, the Short Version ... and Goodbye

Water droplet on a plant

A place is always most exciting when it's new to you. That's also when you're most likely to notice things that are unusual about it - in a few weeks, those unusual things become commonplace and you forget that there was ever anything strange about them. The first few days in a new place are the best time to take pictures and make note of the oddities of that place. Toronto is unlikely to ever be "new" to me in the way Bangkok or Hanoi was when I arrived, but freshly back from Asia does give the city a different look. I thought I'd try to write "the short version" about Toronto (and to some extent, Canada) while it looked new to me.

There are a lot of bicyclists of all ages riding their high-tech bikes in the parks and on the street - I ride with them, following the routes recommended by the free municipal government bike map of the city. Most cars on the road are large (I'm still thinking in Asian terms) and there are very few motorcycles, but occasionally you'll see a Smart car. Almost every grocery store in the city has a good selection of both Chinese and Italian spices, and, depending on where you are in the city, you'll find other stranger things. Donut stores abound. Recycling is a part of life: each week on a particular day, you put out specific items like tins, newspapers, or organic waste for collection. The Queen of Great Britain is technically the country's monarch, but beyond the currency of the realm, you're unlikely to see many references to her. The smallest paper bill is the $5, with the $1 being a gold(ish) coin called a "loonie" because of the bird on it, and the $2 a large bi-metal coin that was almost inevitably nicknamed the "two-nie." French is the official second language of the country, and some eight million people (in a population of 32 million) speak it. Either Cantonese or Mandarin may well be the third most commonly spoken language. In Toronto, the top five languages (other than English and possibly French) are Chinese, Italian, Tamil, Portuguese and Spanish. Canadians are constantly worried about the "Americanization" of the country - our news becoming more sensationalist, litigation on the rise, McDonalds, Starbucks, and Walmart running anything resembling culture out of the country. Canada shares 8891 kilometres (5525 miles) of border with the United States - the longest unguarded border in the world.

As I write the temperature in Toronto is about 10C, or 50F. The daffodils have had their day in the garden, and the tulips are just starting to open. The sun is shining again after yesterday's rains. I started looking for work today.

And with this, I leave you. There'll be more pictures - I might even start a photo blog. But for now, look at the Photography section occasionally for new photos. And thanks for reading!