Black Friday shopping craziness

Clothing StoreI don’t like shopping. I like having nice clothes, shoes and purses, but the process of getting them, not so much. With the temperatures just starting to be below zero, I knew I would have to stock up my closet with new sweaters, scarves, gloves and hats. When you live in a country where winter is the dominant season, having a variety of scarves, gloves and hats is justified. At least that is what I tell myself.

Since I needed new clothes anyway, I thought I might as well get them on Black Friday when pretty much everything is on sale. For those not so familiar with this “tradition”, Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving in the United Stated and marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Stores open very early, close very late and offer special promotional sales. The Canadians seem to have adopted this a while ago.

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Gigantic pepper mills and smiley faces: dining out in Canada

Dinner table with glasses and utensils

I opened the door to the restaurant and was stopped by a huge sign that said, “Please wait to be seated”. Next to sign was some sort of registration desk that looked like a podium for keynote speakers. Attached to the podium was a reading light where you would usually expect a microphone. Behind the podium was a young woman dressed in black. She was staring at a seating chart before she realized that I had come in. As soon as she saw me, she smiled and asked, “For how many?” “Just for me,” I replied. This was the first time I entered a restaurant in Canada.

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Forty-five minutes to two hours, depending on traffic

Highway with Toronto skyline

I knew that, compared to Europe, it would be more about cars than about public transit. It also makes sense. Canada is the second largest country in the world, and to get to most of the places you have to drive. Sometimes you have to fly, but usually you have to drive.

With so many people on the road you can expect delays. I thought I was prepared for this, but apparently I was not prepared for driving in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). For those not so familiar with this area, it is defined as the City of Toronto and the four regional municipalities that surround it, and it makes a lot of traffic news.

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Raccoons, the creatures taking over Toronto at night

RaccoonBefore I came to Canada I knew raccoons only from the zoo. I thought they were these cute, fluffy animals you almost want to cuddle. To be honest, I didn’t even know the English word for raccoon, although I already considered myself to be fluent in English at that time.

My first encounter with a raccoon was on a relatively warm fall night in October. I decided to go for a walk after dinner and was wandering around in my neighbourhood. All of a sudden I heard some rustling in a pile of leaves which had fallen down from a maple tree. Then I saw a striped tail.

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