The Final Scottawa Post: People Who Made My Year…

Caroline

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Caroline found me in a journalism classroom last autumn and we immediately became friends. Since then, she has taken us on many adventures and made me feel loved and cared for in a way I hadn’t expected to feel so far from home. Caroline introduced me to the Corner People and invited me along to the cottage for awesome winter and summer experiences. Our adventures have included: exploring Toronto, horror movie nights, La Ronde amusement park, water-parks, Colour Vibe Run, Sugar bush, craft fairs, hiking, birthdays, barbeques, babysitting, canoeing and much more. In May, Caroline visited me in Scotland and I was able to fulfil one of my life-long dreams of introducing my world to a foreigner. I was able to show her all the different parts of my history; home, family, friends, high school, home town etc. And then I showed her my country’s history; castles and museums and old buildings. Now, Caroline has plans to return to Scotland at some point in the future, possibly for an internship. Otherwise I’m sure our travelling paths will cross one day, wherever we are in the world. I love you, Caroline!

Jack

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We began our friendship almost a year ago, a couple of weeks after I arrived in Canada. On the first day of class, I walked around the tables and sat down beside a tall, dark, handsome boy and asked him about the Wi-Fi. The class was Gender, Diversity and the Journalist and that boy was Jack. Over the past year we have spent our time reading each other’s stories, writing, watching Suits and Adventure Time, eating home-made stew, going for coffee, hanging out at Roosters, discussing our lives and opinions, and generally holding conversations for inordinate amounts of time. I count Jack as one of my closest friends and I miss him far more than I can express in one paragraph or even in a thousand words. So I’ll leave it at this cryptic and slightly cliché message: They didn’t climb that hill in one day.

Michelle

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Michelle is my beautiful French-Canadian friend whose chilled-out nature and humour have been incredibly infectious over the past few months. I knew Michelle was good people when I noticed that she always carried a book in her bag. Because that – for me – is a crucial sign of awesomeness. We usually hang out whenever Michelle has free time from her million and one jobs. Her dog Julius has been an endless source of amusement and antics, especially when paired with Michelle’s roommate’s cat Caesar. Recently Michelle invited me along to her family cottage with a dozen of her cousins and other family members and it was an incredible weekend. And when we’re not insanely trying to pass time on road trips, we walk Julius, watch Orange Is The New Black, read, eat, drink cocktails, eat, stargaze, and eat.

Jaimie

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We talk about all things queer, and cute – especially her ever-growing family of kittens and guinea pigs. Jaimie introduced me to the wonder that is Bubble Tea and she came with me to see the burlesque show of The Suicide Girls, which was entrancing to say the least. We both stood at the back with our mouths open for the whole two hours. Unfortunately our adventures came to an abrupt end when Jaimie left Ottawa for the summer and we never properly said goodbye. Hopefully one day we will see each other again!

Brigit and Erik

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Brigit and Erik are an entertaining and adorable couple, much like a comedy duo. Every moment spent with them is filled with innuendos, dirty jokes and musical references. Brigit is an awesome violinist, adorable redhead and fully-fledged Dr Who geek. Erik is a professional drummer, proud Trinidadian and enthusiastic player of RPG game Dungeons and Dragons. I began my 21st birthday with these two buying me shots and encouraging me to sing karaoke. I wish them both a magical future filled with (not so faulty) sparklers and ostentatious showers… (Sorry, inside joke).

Ellen

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The first time I saw Ellen, I stood in shock and had to repeat to myself “Lauren is in Scotland. Lauren is in Scotland. Lauren is in Scotland.” Ellen and my best friend Lauren look almost identical, so I guess from the beginning I had a soft spot for her. But the first time we ever really spoke was when Ellen turned around to me in journalism class and said “Do you live with Zach?!” I looked very confused and replied “Yes… You… know… him?” and she laughed and said “He’s my best friend!” Now looking back, I guess we both had a best friend connection before we even spoke; some kind of friendship fate? We have many common interests and our discussions revolve around some of my favourite things; weird life occurrences, sex, queer stuff, feminism, hot people, and cute puppies. But mostly we just talk about sex.

Henrique

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My lovely Brazilian friend. We met at an exchange night and have been hanging out since February. We make sushi, watch Star Wars and action movies, and talk about travelling. And maybe one day, we will bump into each other in a distant European country or somewhere in South America or even at a random gas station off a highway in America. Henrique, I wish you many exciting and outrageous travelling escapades in your future.

Corner People:

Josh, Jonny, Marta, Ian, Sophie, Mikael, Kevin, Mattias

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You guys are awesome. You welcomed me into your friendship group and made me feel like I had known you all for years. I had many good times with each one of you and I am forever grateful for our adventures. The cottage trips, birthday parties, road trips, barbecues, hiking, and swimming. Pretending to be water Pokemon, playing Cards Against Humanity and Lougarou and Sardines, drinking tequila shots around the campfire, climbing into igloos, and picking raspberries on the mountain. I’ll miss the cottage trips but hopefully at some point I will be able to join you there on Harris mountain once again.

Rebecca and Oskar

SAM_1449aMy Swedish exchange friends. Rebecca and I lived together in first semester and she introduced me to Oskar on her first day in Canada. That night we hit down-town Ottawa, met a famous Swedish hockey player then partied at a posh hotel. Another time we took on New York, drank at the How I Met Your Mother bar, splashed out at Victoria’s Secrets, and tackled Macy’s on Black Friday. During class time we went to parties and revelled in exchange life together. I miss them both very much. I especially miss being The Two Swedes and a Scot. Wishing you both the best in everything you do. Maybe I will hop over to Sweden at some point and we can relive our exchange days!

My Dynes Road People

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Brandon, Zach, Concetta, Curt and Walter. The twins, Andrew and Rob, and our neighbours. At my second home in Canada I lived and spent time with these wonderful people. The evenings of my second semester were often spent with Brandon and Zach on the sofa watching TV shows and movies and playing video games. B&Z’s bromance was adorable to watch and their company was such a blessing to me during my breakup, school stress and the freezing winter months. Thank you both for your friendship!

And Everyone Else…

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I wish to thank all my friend’s families who have shown such beautiful generosity and affection towards me over the past year. Erik Stolpmann, first I simply wish to say thank you for all your love and for letting go, (Jennifer; thank you for everything, your love, encouragement and generosity. Chris and Jaclyn; thank you for the adventures and the music, I send my love to your beautiful baby girl Adelaide and good luck with your new lives. A big thank you to all the Stolpmann’s. Chris Mataija, Brayden and Jaclyn Mackenzie for all the fun and friendship.) Shannon Walsh, thank you for easing me into Canadian life, I won’t forget all the things you did for me, (Shea; for friendship and adventures, Patricia; for opening your home to me and for all the dinners), Michelle Wilcox (The Wilcox’s; thank you, thank you, thank you for everything). Jack Lawson (Judy and Peter; thank you for the dinners and conversations and for welcoming me so lovingly. Judy, I especially appreciate every moment you have spent reading my blog and for the support and interest you have taken in my life.) Jonny’s parent for letting us use the cottage for our adventures. To everyone who ever let me crash at their place, or drove me around, or fed and clothed me, thank you. It is people like you who give Canadians such a good name and make the world worth exploring.

Thank you to my Mum and Dad for everything and thank you to my family and friends for supporting me throughout my exchange.

I love you all.

A thousand thank-you’s to my four hundred and three followers, and everyone else who checked in throughout the past twelve months.

This is Scottawa officially over and out.

Love, Jill.

The Day of Lasts

As the Scottawa adventures were coming to an end, Jack and I decided revisit some of my favourite places. So we spent my last day in Ottawa wandering down-town while reminiscing and telling stories about the people and places that we passed.aDSCF1300
We people-watched at the Second Cup on Bank Street which should be renamed “The No.1 Place To Find Character Inspiration For Your Next Short Story”. It’s a bizarre little haven of people living through good and bad and finding comfort in other strangers. I have witnessed the oddest and most life-affirming scenes in that coffee shop.

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And then we headed for Venus Envy. A place which reassures me that there are in fact other people who think like me and have similar convictions and beliefs. And yes, it is a sex shop. But it is an explosion of intersectional feminism and queer pride and sex-positive education for people of all genders, sexualities, races and abilities. I’m in love with Venus Envy… and I’m in love with everything they stand for.

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Among other favourites, I introduced Jack to David’s Tea, Miss Tiggy Winkles, The Papery, the weird cat shop in the Glebe (with a giant cat lounging around), and Mags & Fags.

But as the memories of these places already begin to lose their crispness in my mind, as faces grow pixelated and days blend together, I know that one kind of memory will always remain of Canada; the lessons I have learned there.

I came to this realisation as Jack and I stumbled upon an old memory of mine; a beautiful stone bridge overlooking the Rideau Canal where I once had my heart broken. But instead of looking at this bridge and only seeing the harsh memories that it represented, I decided to embrace a new memory there and see the bridge for all that it was; good and bad, just like life. And that is a lesson I had only begun to learn when I arrived in Canada thirteen months ago.

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For me, this year abroad has encompassed all the things which make life so incredibly unique, valuable and beautiful. I have learned difficult lessons and put my faith in people whom I should have thought twice about. I have learned that people can be cruel regardless of whether they mean to be or not. And that nobody comes from the same place; emotionally, mentally or physically. We must learn when to cut people a little slack and when it’s time to cut ties with them entirely. I have learned that everyone is born from different experiences but we can refuse to be defined by our circumstances and instead choose to feel, act and think differently.

But I believe the most important lesson I have learned is that no one is ever truly alone and you can find friends if you look hard enough and open your heart wide enough. You may think this friendship will never work and then discover that it’s one of the sweetest blessings in your life.

I’ve discovered that you can find friends in the strangest places and in the end it doesn’t even matter where you found each other, only that you did.

I spent my last evening in the company of friends; an odd handful of people whom would otherwise have never met each other. And seeing them together affirmed my belief that you can make a life for yourself anywhere, you can fall in love with any place, as long as you open your heart wide enough and smile at the world long enough.

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Canada was my home for so long and I experienced a great deal of life there. But although I am back in Scotland now to finish my degree and my Ottawa life has come to end. Let’s just say that I do have one Canadian adventure which is just beginning… And it only took all year.

Love Jill

One Year Later: My adventure begins and ends with Pride

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My Canadian adventure has come around full circle. One of my very first posts on Scottawa was about the Ottawa Pride Parade of 2013. And now I bring you photographs from the Pride Parade of 2014. A hundred things have changed for me in the past year and many of them have been documented in this blog. I want to thank you all for sharing in this journey with me and for taking pleasure in my joy and sharing your wise words when things were less than okay.

This will not be my last post of Scottawa; I have two more lined up for you in the coming week. But once the last post is published, Scottawa will retire into an old folk’s home for beloved websites. You will still be able to visit Scottawa whenever you wish but there will be no new travel posts. I am, however, planning on starting a new blog where I discuss gender and social politics (it’s going to be a lot more interesting than it sounds). Once my new blog is up-and-running I will post a link to this site. Once again: thank you, thank you, thank you, Scottawa readers, for all your support and love and interest. You are what make this blog matter. Thank you.

And now, here is the Ottawa Pride Parade of 2014:

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The sky and the streets and the sidewalks were burning hot just like last year. But this year I was not alone. Michelle was sitting by my side and we were taking in the world together. The parade was streaming past us; puppies with rainbow flags, excited teenagers, parents with babies, and groups and groups and groups of people. And in the faces of all those who walked and skipped and danced past us, there was a rich feeling of happiness, content and most apparent of all – pride.

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The rest of my photos from Pride 2014:

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Happy Pride everyone.

And just so you know, it’s Bisexual Visibility Day today! So remember: even if someone looks straight, it doesn’t mean they are!

Love Jill

Reporting from Bluesfest: Journey, Zedd and Beth Hart

Bluesfest is a major music festival in Ottawa which, surprisingly, has very little connection to blues. Some of the more famous performers this year included Lady Gaga, Journey, Barenaked Ladies, Blondie, Childish Gambino, Queens of the Stone Age, Snoop Dogg, Tegan and Sara, The Killers, and Third Eye Blind.DSCF0768eAnd I had the most awesome luck of nabbing a press pass for the first Friday of the festival. My friend Griffith is an editor at The Scene Magazine, a Canadian based music review website, and he needed a couple of extra writers to attend the festival and review whatever bands we pleased. I wholeheartedly agreed and set on my way.
The festival was pretty chilled-out and some of the stages had a beautiful view of the Ottawa River. I decided first to see Beth Hart then Journey followed by Zedd.DSCF0787eAn excerpt from my Beth Hart review: “Beth Hart has commandeered a great deal of respect in the rock world over the past couple of decades and has successfully fought to remain relevant. In 2013 she was nominated for the “contemporary blues female artist of the year” award and for someone who has been around for a while, she surprisingly shows no signs of slowing down or changing course. Her show even leaves you wondering if the Hart train actually has a brake lever. But one thing is for sure, if someone or something was to end the train’s journey then her fans would either refuse to leave their seats or burn their own clothes in the furnace for one last ride around with their beloved Beth Hart.”
DSCF0790 An excerpt from my Journey review: “As a tall frat boy succinctly exclaimed, “what a big-ass crowd”. Journey’s audience stretched back in its thousands, which is to be expected for one of the world’s best selling bands. But the crowd lacked attention and people were constantly flowing in and out of the show without much concern for what songs they would miss. Whenever a group would recognize a lyric they would animatedly join in for a few moments, much like at a karaoke night where everyone is half drunk and half disinterested. But this pub night was more like an under 18’s social event where the dress code required irritating attitudes andperfect tans. You could almost imagine them saying to each other “Do you wanna see that old band who’s song was on Glee?” which is a strange reality for Journey now since their music appeared on the popular TV show in 2009. If only they knew that there is so much more to Journey than Don’t Stop Believin’; the band has an exceptional history and impressive persistence for staying relevant in today’s music world. But at least they’re bringing in a younger audience now, which is good… right?”
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Photograph credit to Mark Horton/RBC Bluesfest Press Images

An excerpt from my Zedd review: “Zedd manages to succeed where most electro and house DJ’s fail. His music does not fall into the trap of repetition, shitty lyrics or “the louder, the better” mantra. Instead Zedd cooks a feast of music for his audience. He skillfully manipulates the music into something interesting and every 10 seconds a new sound is introduced into the mix. Zedd is a teasing DJ but his work is also very generous; the music is captivating and constantly provides new, new, new, and more, more, more. The night was a startling passionate three-way love affair between music, art and technology. And the audience loved every thrilling moment of it.”
Zedd performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Friday, July 4th, 2013. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked as one of the most successful music events in North America.

Photograph credit to Mark Horton/RBC Bluesfest Press Images

Here is a snapshot of The Scene Magazine’s homepage the following day with my three articles:bluesfest my three articlesI have included links to the full versions of each review. I hope you enjoy them as much as I loved writing them!
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Love Jill

 

 

My First Published Poem!

As a few of you know, I have spent my summer writing as much as I can. Admittedly the joys and adventures of being abroad have taken over every so often and I haven’t written as much as I would have liked. However, as French writer Françoise Sagan said “I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.” It’s all about balance.

This summer I have achieved one minor victory: I got my first poem published! My poem is called A Tree That Grows and it is for my beautiful nephew Sebastian. A website for poets called The Rainbow Journals emailed me a few weeks ago and said that they would love to publish my poem in their next issue. And a fortnight ago, my writing appeared on their online issue with the theme of childhood.

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My poem was followed by a brief biography: “Jill Stevens is a Scottish student living in Ottawa for the year. She is spending this summer writing every possible story and poem which has lay dormant inside her for years. Jill’s “day job” involves exploring Canadian culture and documenting these adventures in a travel blog called Scottawa. Despite the many joys of travelling and living in a country where milk is sold in bags, she misses her beautiful nephew and dedicates these poems to him.”

Thank you Rainbow Journals for publishing my poem. This may be a small success but it feels wonderful to see my words in print!

Love Jill

The Cottage in Summertime

In July, we returned to the cottage for summer adventures.
10547555_441085266032424_5487576009174066889_nNot only do Jonny’s parents own the land surrounding the cottage, they also own ‘Harris Mountain’ and the nearby lake.10351893_441085192699098_8898043372308968041_nThe first time I visited the lake it was frozen over and coated in icing-sugar snow. This time, I dove in head first and swam with the fishes. We played on the wooden dock; tipping it over, knocking each other off and doing faux-yoga until the dock sunk underneath us.

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We canoed to a forested island in the centre of the lake and explored dark chilly caves with icy puddles at the bottom. We found woodpeckers and snakes and frogs and chipmunks. Twigs scratched our legs, dirt covered our feet and sweat dripped down our backs. I felt like a kid again, exploring the wilderness; being Tarzan, Pocahontas, The Swiss Family Robinson, Rambo.
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984156_441086129365671_5261790709755614026_nWe hiked up the mountain; dodging poisonous plants, eating wild berries, and admiring the incredible view. At the top we took a few moments to appreciate the green landscape, the sapphire water, the burning sun. And then we became kids again and began rolling boulders off the cliff edge and listening to them crack and tumble into the world below.

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In the evenings we swapped bathing suits for pajamas and huddled around the campfire. Ian played guitar and sang Barenaked Ladies songs, Kevin admired the stars through a telescope, and the rest of us roasted potatoes and marshmallows on the fire. We played a game, the same one at least twenty or so times. It was called Loup-Garou which is French-Canadian for werewolf.


Loup-Garou is a detective game where people are given secret roles to play; three werewolves, a witch, a detective, a little girl, a fat boy, the lovers, the hunter and the villagers. Occasionally someone was Jesus which meant they could rise from the dead. Basically everyone has specific things they can do and the goal of the game is to figure out who the werewolves are before the whole village has been eaten.

In the night (when everyone’s eyes are closed) the werewolves decide who they are going to eat and they tell the leader of the game ‘God’. Then they go to sleep and the witch wakes up. God points to who is going to be eaten and the witch can decide whether to save them or kill someone else. She goes to sleep and the detective wakes up and asks God for the identity of a certain person. Then he sleeps and the whole village wakes up. The little girl is the only person allowed to peek throughout the night but she can be killed if she is caught by a werewolf. If the fat boy is eaten then the werewolves cannot eat on the second night. If one lover is killed then the other must profess their love and die as well. If the hunter is killed, he can chose someone to kill at the same time. In the morning, zero, one or two people can be dead and the villagers are angry and have to decide who to lynch. Arguments and tactical votes are made then someone is lynched by the town. After every death, the dead person must reveal their role. The game ends when either the entire village or all the werewolves are dead.

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The game was awesome and resulted in many fictional deaths, betrayals and twists. We spent the rest of our time eating hot dogs and snacks and drinking until the mosquitoes became too persistent. We played board games and listened to music and swam in the lake for hours.

The cottage in the summer is completely different from the winter. I adored exploring the wilderness and experiencing a real Canadian summer. A few years ago, when I was still in high school, I had a section of my bedroom wall designated for Canadian travel pieces and photographs. I remember this one picture specifically of a couple in a canoe on the most stunning lake I have ever seen. And as I sat on the dock admiring the beauty around me, I couldn’t help but feel like I was finally experiencing that photograph and how lucky I was to realise one of my travel dreams.10353040_441085562699061_1854150886947462560_n

Thank you, friends, for the wonderful cottage times. I’ll never forget them.

Love Jill.

Credit for the wonderful photographs goes to Colleen Jones (the awesome girl with the dreads).

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Turning 21 in Canada

On July 7th 2014, I turned 21 in Canada.

At 12:00am I took a birthday shot of vodka with my new friend Brigit and her boyfriend Erik whilst listening to their friends sing Sweet Caroline on karaoke. We had known each other for roughly eight hours so I can officially say that I began my twenty-first year with a group of strangers in a foreign country. And it was a blast. It felt like we had been friends for years and everyone was super enthusiastic about my birthday; buying shots and giving me birthday kisses.

Once the partying ended, I slept at mine until the sun rose again and the birthday celebrations resumed. My Mum skyped and we planned my ‘home birthday’ and talked for a while. Then I dolled up in a pretty pink dress and met Caroline for birthday fro-yo at Menchies followed by deep discussions at Major Hill’s Park. We met Ellen for delicious pizza dinner and I officially introduced Caroline and Ellen (despite them being in the same journalism course for the past two years). We had a lovely time and once they both left to get an early night, I text Jack to see if he was free.

aDSCF0814aDSCF0810aDSCF0820Jack and I drank cocktails at The Fox and the Feather Pub until Michelle arrived. Jack and Michelle had also never met before and it was strange watching another two of my friendship-worlds colliding. They bonded over cooking tips and teasing me, endlessly. Somehow we began talking to our table neighbours; one guy who had just returned from shooting a documentary in Sri Lanka and another guy who was working on a short feminist film. Both of whom were entirely fascinating until they began name-dropping then we decided to skedaddle.aDSCF0855adsg

Michelle bought me a rose and invited Jack back to her place for Caesars on the porch. I hopped on the back of Michelle’s bike – with the fresh cut rose between my teeth – and we laughed as the bike wobbled all the way to my bike in the Market. Then, like three awesome musketeers, we all cycled to Hull and sat under the stars with Lacey’s cat, Caesar, and Michelle’s dog, Julius, and drank cocktails until the early hours.

My 21st birthday was pretty magical and I loved spending it with my favourite Canadians. Of course, I miss celebrating my birthday at home but my Mum and I are simply postponing celebrations for a month (because we can totally do that). Thank you, everyone, for an awesome birthday!

Love Jill.

Canada Day

Canada Day is a blast of red and drink and fireworks.

July 1st is the busiest day of the year in Ottawa. Some Canadians avoid the streets altogether and others embrace the fanatic celebrations with red clothes, beer and boundless pride.

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For the past year, people have told me stories of Canada Day; of drunken mishaps and crazy crowds and memorable evenings. So when the day arrived, I woke up excited, threw on some red and ventured out to meet Ellen. I was at least ten minutes late because the streets were filled with revelers. We explored pop-up stalls and ate street food and enjoyed the live bands and performers.

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Later on, Ellen went to her friend’s house and I met up with Michelle. We went on a boat tour guided by her roommate Lacey and avoided the momentary rain as it dispersed the crowds. All three of us walked over the bridge to their house and began our drinks and festivities. We returned to Parliament Hill for the incredible fireworks which I think were the most awe-inducing fireworks I have seen in my life. I even felt a little patriotic…

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We found some France-French friends and invited them back to Michelle’s. The evening was spent consuming tequila shot, discussing cultural differences, and salsa dancing. Our evening was pretty cool and eventful, with drama and romance aplenty.

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Overall, definitely one of my favourite days in Canada and one I hope to experience again. Go Canada!

Love Jill.

Jack’s Housewarming Party

After two or three months of living in his new place, Jack finally decided to have a housewarming party. So he cooked a feast, bought weird beer and invited his Ottawa friends around to party.

On arrival we were welcomed into the fairy-lit garage which looked like a magical castle for students. A table was loaded with food and alcohol, and a box of coloured chalk lay awaiting tipsy drawing on the stone wall.

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A dozen or so people arrived and, not surprisingly, every single one of us were journalists. But we managed to quiet the journalism chat long enough to begin playing games. First, Pictionary on the wall; hence the Pikachus and Charmanders. Second, Heads Up with phones.

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By 11:10, we were so enthusiastic about our games that the police rolled up to the garage door. They looked confused at us; a group of fairly sober twenty-somethings sitting around a table playing family games. This was the crazy party keeping the neighbours awake?! So instead of giving us in trouble, the police complimented Jack’s decor “It’s a nice setup you got here” and rolled on.

By the end of the night we had guacamole inside jokes, funny photographs and full bellies. Thank you, Jack, for an awesome evening! 
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Love Jill

P.S. Lumpy Space Princess!

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So Many Stories To Tell…

You’re probably wondering, what is Jill doing back in Canada?!

Well, after nine months of thrills and some of the best weeks of my life, I woke up one morning in April and thought to myself why the hell am I leaving Canada? I have so much left to do here!

I longingly wanted to experience the Canadian summer. Actual heat during June and July is a concept very much lost on my Scottish self. It is a beautiful thing. Most days are in the high twenties (degrees Celsius). Any time I’m talking to someone from home and I tell them about the weather, I always get the same shock and awe responses;  are you kidding me?! I am so jealous. It’s how hot?!

I brag about my almost-kinda-sorta tan. And by tan I mean that my freckles have come out in full force and from a distance you could maybe trick yourself into thinking my skin was slightly less milk-bottle than usual. Every day I spend time outside; cycling, playing frisbee, messing about in the river, walking my friend’s dog, BBQ’s, reading in the park, and even stargazing.

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I haven’t even mentioned how alive the city is in the summer. Last weekend there were EIGHT, I repeat, EIGHT festivals happening in the town. We had Jazz Fest, Glow Fair, Fringe Fest, Ribfest, Dragon Boat Festival, Hintonburg Happenings, and the Summer Solstice Aborignal Arts Festival. And that’s not to mention all the many and bizarre events going on outside of the festivals; Electric Pow Wow‘s, Spoken Word Slam Nights, and Zine Off‘s.

This place is crazy and awesome and my days are flooded with things to do and experience.

Last week, among other things, I went to a board game cafe called Monopolatte with Caroline and her friend. The coffee shop had over eight hundred games to choose from and the employees could teach almost all of them, at your request. The cafe had every board game you could think of; Firefly, Sex and the City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc. We ended up playing Urban Myth and Ticket To Ride, both of which I had never heard of before.

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On a different day, my friend Ellen and I went to the Franco-Ontarian Festival and sunbathed at the Pique-Nique Africain, listening to French African music and watching families from many cultures having fun together. Then we got our picture taken with a bunch of rescued parrots who were the sweetest and calmest birds I have ever met.

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A few days later, I experienced my first ever improv show (which is apparently a big thing in Canada) with my friend Michelle as part of the Fringe Festival. And I loved every moment. The show was performed as the storyline of Aladdin, except an audience member picked a card from a hat and each card held a different genre. And the performers had to act out the show in which ever genre was chosen. On that particular evening the actors performed Aladdin as… an office drama. Yes, it was as awesome and pun-filled and hilarious as it sounds. There was a magic brief case, Genie was a consultant, Jasmine was the bosses secretary, Aladdin was a minimum wage intern who wished to be a CEO. The puns flew from the actors mouths faster than we could register. A whole new world floor…

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Image credit to GRIMprov

As part of Glow Fair, I wandered down Bank Street at 12am on Saturday night and took in all the strange and wonderful things along the way. This is the Glow Fair’s first year in Ottawa and it was a huge success. Volunteers spent days decorating the streets with thousands of lights and colours and setting up outside cinemas and silent discos. The free-admission event took place over three days and the public reveled in entertainment by drag queens, street artists and over thirty musical performances. And on Saturday, as part of the Fair, I partied at a Queer Mafia club night in Babylon. The atmosphere was upbeat and inviting and I was surrounded by so many beautiful queer men and women and everyone in between. Walking home at 3am I joined hundreds of people who were outside bathing in the afterglow (pun intended) of an awesome night.

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Photograph credit to Alexander Vlad, Glow Fair

Glow Fair Slideshow Photographs

The culture here is endless fun, but I also do normal non-touristy things with my time. Things that are only made possible for me by the generous offers from my Canadian friends (of which I am eternally grateful).  The week before last, I ate dinner with Jack’s lovely family after his graduation. And another day I listened to Michelle’s brother as he played tuba in a high school performance. On Friday I caught up with my cottage friends at Kevin’s birthday party in Hull, Quebec. In the past, I’ve been to friend’s highland dancing competitions, thanksgiving dinners, Easter family lunches, classmates’ nights out, birthday parties etc. And it’s only in retrospect I realise that all the exciting experiences are incredible and thrilling, but the normal stuff matters too and often it is those things which make you feel truly at home in a foreign country.

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Love Jill