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

My Idea of Heaven: Summer in Ottawa

Ottawa is stunning. God really out did himself when he made this place. Two days here and I am already blissed out. I hope Canadians know just how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful warm place. You can do anything here and the weather rarely disrupts.

On the way home from the airport, my friend Michelle and I drove passed people having barbecues, sunbathing, cycling, running, playing with their kids. Imagine Scotland on a really good where everyone is outside enjoying the shy sun. That’s Canada, every single day.

I adore life here. I am writing this in a luscious green park a minute from my apartment. I am watching the Ottawa river flow past, geese paddling, planes flying, squirrels hopping across the grass. Sometimes one stops to acknowledge me and then continues to hop, hop, hop and scamper up a tree.

The air smells sweet like fresh cut grass and a summer warmth. A cosy breeze kisses my body and I feel the sun nourish me with vitamins and good hormones and sporadic freckles.

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This is probably the first place I have ever lived where I need to apply sunscreen every single morning. Yesterday I walked past a homeless man begging on the street and he said “Beautiful day isn’t it?” And then noticing my pale complexion he exclaimed “why don’t you have a tan yet?!” I’ve been expecting this question but it makes me laugh that even strangers are taken aback by my milk bottle skin.

One thing I have noticed about the homeless in the summer time is that they sleep outside every day, tops off, lounging on the benches. And they seem content.

What is it about the warm weather that makes people smile?

In my opinion it’s the freedom and opportunity to share an experience with hundreds of other people. Everyone outside is appreciating the same thing as you, they are being made happy by the same thing that’s making you happy, you get to be with people and share life with them. No longer do you have to bussle indoors and hide from the cold, or stay in your home watching TV because it’s raining outside. You can experience life the way it was meant to be lived; with others, with strangers, with new friends and old ones.

I feel at home here, lying on the grass, under an old tree, writing about my world. This place is my idea of heaven.

Love Jill.

Home is not a Fairy Tale. It is a Reality you have avoided for too long.

When you are abroad, home becomes a fairy tale place. One you sink into when you fall asleep. Drifting in and out of consciousness. Remembering your best friends, family, favourite places. Drinking tea at the kitchen table with your mum. Driving around with your friends, singing your favourite songs. Watching crime show after crime show on your parents’ Sky box.

It is only on returning that you realise home is not how you remember it. Home is another version of reality. One you have so skilfully avoided for months.

You return and you are faced with problems, dramas, traumas, issues, everything you had erased from your conscience. They all come flooding back. You expect your best friends to be shiny Disney versions of themselves. Everything going well, everyone happy, everyone healthy, everything good. But it’s not. You return and you find that those you love are unhappy or sick or facing difficult life decisions.

I don’t know why I expected everything to be perfect. Everything to be magical and fantastical. This is a life I once lived and it wasn’t perfect then and it sure isn’t perfect now.

Those I love are facing problems with family, lovers, health, university, work, and even visas. A part of me feels sad that home is not how I remembered. But another part of me feels guilty for not being here for everyone.aSAM_2168

The future looks scary. And who am I to leave again when they need me the most? It doesn’t seem fair. That I can just disappear and return whenever I please.

But another part of me feels glad that I can escape. To avoid responsibility and deny that I have a role to play on this side of the world. Of course, I feel guilt for that as well.

When you are abroad, people say to you “Don’t you miss home?!” They say how they couldn’t do what you have done. They couldn’t leave. They would be too homesick, too lonely, too afraid.

But a part of me is beginning to believe that they are the brave ones. They remain while I leave. They persist while I escape. They stay where they are needed. They support and help and stand strong while everything around is falling.

Nothing is how you remember. Home is not a fairy tale place. Home is the reality, abroad is the fantasy world. Perhaps that is why I love it so much. While I am away, I feel how you do when you read a story and you are transported to another land. Once you close the book, your memories are fuzzy and warm and you lived in that world for a while. But now the story is done and you must return to your reality. This is how I feel today. Maybe this is a depressing take on travelling, but it is a frighteningly honest one.

One I can barely even admit to myself.

Love Jill

Then and Now: Canada circa 2000 and 2014

My first time in Canada I was seven-years-old.

Fourteen years ago my parents planned for us to visit relatives in Vancouver.

The story goes: my Mum’s father had two brothers. When they were young men, one brother emigrated to New Zealand, the other brother emigrated to Canada, and my Grandfather stayed in Scotland.

I have never met my Great-Uncle Malcolm who still lives down under. But I do know my Great-Uncle Al. He is a lovely and sweet man, much like my Grandfather was. I haven’t seen Al since our visit in 2000 but I remember the holiday vividly. Fourteen year ago was when I first fell in love with Canada.

In this blog post I have decided to share with you, my wonderful Scottawa readers, some photographs from our holiday. None of the photos were in digital form so I had to spend a little time coaxing them from their beds inside the photo album, peeling them out, introducing them to the scanner (technology they have never seen before) and bringing them to life on the screen. And now I will immortalise these photographs so they can forever live in the great world wide web.

A few of my memories from Canada and moments I have never forgotten…

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Picking raspberries with my Great-Auntie Marg. The fruit tasted delicious! And I had never seen fruit patches in someone’s garden before.

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Meeting my Canadian family with their tanned skin and lovely accents!

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Seeing my Mum drive on the other side of the car and on the other side of the street.

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Going to see the Pokemon movie and getting special Mew cards.

Visiting places around Vancouver.

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Being with my brothers.

I hope you have enjoyed these photographs as much I have. They are a wonderful reminder of when Canada first ventured into my heart, unpacked its bags and poured itself a cup of tea.

I love you Canada! From Jill.

Then and now: Myself in Canada circa 2000 and 2014.

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The Scottish Coast and the Strangeness of Families

Family day in the Stevens household.

We collected the troops and headed for Auchmithie, a former fishing village on the coast. Despite being only half an hour away, I had never been there before. It was beautiful. The restaurant was perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea. You couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the sky began. A wash of light blues painted the horizon.

My family consists of three couples, an elderly lady, a middle-aged woman, a twenty-something girl, and a baby boy. The couples include my parents, whose love still resembles that of a teenage romance, my brother Alan and his fiancé Zara, and my brother Roy and his girlfriend Sarah. Then we have my Grandmother, Zara’s mother, my one-year-old nephew and myself.

We are a strange mix and it is obvious that strangers find us quite interesting to watch. Whenever my family is in a public place, people stare. I know this because people in Scotland are subtle about nothing. It’s daunting at first but now we have an adorable mini-human to consume our attention. And what an amazing little human he is.

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Sebastian has wonderful pearl teeth, he runs away faster than my hamsters, and he has awesome catch phrases. After dropping his spoon on the floor, Sebby exclaimed “OH NO!” and stuck his head under the table searching for it. Considering that I have barely heard him speak before, this was a surprising and hilarious moment for me. Seb also has a complete fascination for technology. He picks up any phone around, sticks it to his ear and says “HIYA!” again and again.a3

I love that little boy. Another of his fascinations is girls. Waitresses, strangers, other little toddlers. He will seek them out, smile and say “hiya”. And then get embarrassed and run away. Adorable.

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Back to the adults, we all updated each other on our lives. Roy is at university, Sarah works for a game designing company, Alan works with my Dad, and Zara is a hairdresser. I love my brothers and I love their partners. Zara was discussing their wedding plans and meals and bridesmaids etc. Sebby is going to be dressed in a kilt for the wedding! It is in June 2015. She also asked if I would like to be the Chief Bridesmaid and I gave a resounding ‘yes’! I feel very honoured to be given the role (and it also means that I will be in a red dress instead of a purple one like the other bridesmaids – result!).

Sarah talked to me about awesome feminist web zines and comic strips that she thinks I will like. They all sounded awesome. I love her recommendations! Sarah and Roy told us about their holiday in Spain and there future trip to Portland, Oregon (Sarah’s hometown) in May.

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After some delicious local fish dishes, we drove to Lunan Bay which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland. Sebby walked on the sand in his new Wellies and he wasn’t afraid of the incoming tide. Instead, he splashed around and said hello to dogs and ran at full speed in any and every direction.

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I love seeing my family. They are a strange selection but it keeps things very interesting. And I imagine most families are a confusing jumble of people. We are different and I think it is a wonderful thing to be.

Love Jill

Pandas, Sharks and Memory Lane

If there was ever a perfect incentive to wake up then my red Citroen waiting in the garage would win every time. Four months of no driving can take its toll on a country girl. But today I could drive and it was glorious.

First stop: Dundee.

I would say that it is difficult to find the right words to describe Dundee, but that would be wrong. There are plenty of accurate and appropriate words to illustrate the city but none of them are particularly pleasant. So instead, I will romanticise it from a personal point of view.

Dundee is where I spent my teenage years: from twelve to seventeen. Those were very interesting years to say the least. And so Dundee has a special place in my heart. Most importantly because two of my best friends still live there. And the other two are originally from little towns near the city and they visit every so often.

Today I was meeting Sophie.

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We have been best friends since first year English class when Sophie went all Mean Girls on me and took the fresh meat under her wings… Wow that sounds creepier than I had intended. If you have seen the movie then you will understand.

Nine years later and here we are: twenty-something and trying to figure out what the hell we’re going to do with our lives. Sophie very recently accepted her offer to study acting in London. We are all extremely excited to visit and go on some nights out in the big city. It will certainly make a change from Dundee.

We caught up on relationships, work, friend situations, did the obligatory bitching about people we have seen from high school, shared recent stories in which we had humiliated ourselves (usually publicly), verbally abused each other for a while, visited the Disney store and drank awesome Raspberry Ripper smoothies from Fuel. The usual escapades.

And then we got a message from our best friend Vicky and her girlfriend Sophie (yes, the name thing gets confusing). They were driving back from Edinburgh Zoo and wanted to go out for dinner.

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We headed for Nandos. The thing about Dundee (and I imagine any place where you have grown up) is that you have a very high probability of seeing someone you know. Or at least someone you used to know. “I’m getting that feeling,” I said to Sophie, “I’m going to see someone I know in Nandos.” Five minutes into our meal and two guys join the queue to order food. They just so happen to be the best friends of my ex who I have not seen in two years. “I told you!” I exclaimed to Sophie. Nobody was surprised.

Our meal was awesome. Vicky and Sophie told us all about the sharks and the pandas at the zoo. We ended up going into great detail about the panda situation. For all who don’t know, Edinburgh Zoo have been feverishly trying to get these two pandas to mate for a while now. It’s safe to say, we all quickly lost our appetites but only for a few minutes until the food arrived.

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Vicky and Sophie have moved into their new flat in Aberdeen and are very happy together. We discussed summer plans, Canada, coursework, and stories from our teenage years that nobody wants brought up again.

We had an awesome time before departing to our separate cars. I drove Sophie home and we listened to Avril Lavigne’s Sk8r Boy on full volume. The occasional trip down memory lane is healthy. I certainly think it helps us all feel slightly less daunted and insane about our impending doom futures.

Love Jill

A Quick Update on Scottawa

I am back home in Scotland now. Laying in my marshmallow bed and listening to the birds chirping in the forest outside. It’s pretty early and I have been awake since 3am. Jet-lag has truly taken over my body clock.

The flights home were uneventful and I was very grateful. Although I was sat beside a talker on the first flight to Newark. The lady apologised for interrupting my book reading on several occasions and then proceeded to tell me all about the pilot’s manoeuvres, how the weather would affect us, if we would all catch our connections etc. On the second flight from Newark to Edinburgh I was sat beside a middle-aged gentlemen whom, on discovering the movie list, exclaimed loudly “They have the Lego Movie!” His wife was not too impressed. It was only on our departure from the plane that I noticed he was wearing a waterproof jacket with the Lego logo embedded on the front. And I’m still not sure what to conclude about that situation.

My Mum was waiting for me at the airport and we hugged for at least a full minute. I then demanded a trip to Tescos. On my list was fancy Tesco bread (either olive or chilli), Fruit Flakes, Petit Filous, Princes Marshmallows, 100% orange ice lollies and Oatibix. An eclectic selection for sure but these were just a few of the edible goodies I had missed while in Canada.

The clock said 10:30am by the time we arrived home and I went straight upstairs to my Blink-182 covered, book-filled, teenage bedroom. I slept for eight hours and awoke in time for mince, neeps, tatties and white pudding. This meal has become tradition for when I return from abroad. It tasted like home. I saw my Dad for the first time in four months and we talked about flights and work plans and my parents’ trip to Bruge.

Today I am excited to drive my car and see Dundee and hang out with some of my best friends. I have begun making plans for the next few weeks, I will make sure to keep you updated.

I’m happy to be home but Canada hasn’t seen the last of me for this year…

Love always, Jill.

Two Swedes and a Scot take on New York

I miss my Swedes. To remember our awesome time together, this post is dedicated to our trip to New York. The adventure that I never recorded here on Scottawa.

Near the end of last semester, my friends Oskar and Rebecca and I decided to go to New York. We talked about it for months and finally got everything booked and our bags packed. We would bus over night and stay in a hostel in Brooklyn.

We arrived at the Greyhound bus station on the last Wednesday of November. The station was quiet and broken, which was exactly what I had expected from Greyhound. But the bus was different. Our journey was cosy and comfortable and I soon fell asleep. We had to wake up every couple of hours for stops and border security and more stops. But then, in almost a blink, we were there.aSAM_2117

American Thanksgiving was taking over the city when we arrived. And we were perfectly on time for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Giant balloons of American characters flooded the streets and people of all ages cheered and chatted and took photos.

My favourite part about being in New York was the feeling that I had seen it all before. I recognised places and streets and stores as if they were part of my own memory. I would say This parade was in Jingle All The Way!…This park was in Home Alone!… This library was in The Day After Tomorrow… This building was in Godzilla… Spiderman… Ghostbusters… Independence Day…

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Walking around New York was like wandering through my childhood memories. The extent of my movie knowledge is enough to make my parents proud. We have this joke in my family that if you don’t get a movie trivia question correct then my Mum and Dad would exclaim We have failed as parents! What uneducated children we have! And I love those moments, they illustrate the wonderfully relaxed and culture-orientated way I was brought up. Movies, movies, movies. Old, new, action, romance, sci-fi, ’90s, Disney, etc etc etc. And New York embodies so many of these memories for me.

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Central Park was even better than I had imagined. Beautiful. Magical. And memories of Friends episodes sprung to mind. We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I was reminded of When Harry met Sally and my friend Rebecca exclaimed These steps were in Gossip Girl! We saw the Statue of Liberty, which I’m sure everyone has seen in a few movies. King Kong being the major one. One evening we drank at McGee’s, the bar which inspired the hangout place for How I Met Your Mother. That night we got tipsy Barney Stinson style and partied all over the Big Apple. Our Luxembourg friend Anne-Sophie and German friend Matti joined us on our late-night adventure.

The next day we found a secret burger place hidden inside a hotel. Down a marble corridor and behind a red curtain lay a small wooden room. The walls were covered in writing and drawings from previous customers. And they sold the best burgers I have ever tasted.

We spent hours wandering around New York, seeing the art and the beauty and the ruggedness in the everyday. On our last day, we skated in Central Park. And I had this flashback of a young Macaulay Culkin sliding across the ice with an angry Harry and Marv running close behind.

I looked around me, at the black and gold city and it’s bright lights, the skating couples and horse drawn-carriages. And I thought to myself, this is New York… Where memories are created years before you even step inside the city.

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Love Jill

The Vagina Monologues

For all who know me personally, or have seen my many activist posts on Facebook, you will know that I am a staunch feminist.

I believe in equal rights for everyone. I believe that no man, no woman, or anyone of a gender-in-between, should be afraid.

I believe that we should all be aware of our privileges. We should all make ourselves aware of the different forms of oppression which holds others down. We should educate ourselves on all the many forms of sexism, racism, ableism, classism, cissexismageism, slut-shaming, heteronormativity, sizeism, misogyny, misandry, and queerphobia (note: more inclusive than ‘homophobia‘). Not to mention the intersectionality that can exist in all of the above.

And if some of these words are not familiar to you then see my definition fact sheet at the bottom of this post. Expand your understanding of the worlds that others live in.

One thing which made me fall deeply in love with Canada is it’s romance with human rights.

I couldn’t believe it when I found out all the wonderful things Carleton has to offer. A Womyn’s Centre, a Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre, a human rights group, and (possibly the most exciting of all) the Vagina Monologues.

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For years I have heard about the feminist show The Vagina Monologues. The play was written by Eve Ensler and first performed in 1996. My only real experience of the show was a ten second clip in a really old Friends episode where Joey takes everyone to see it. Their reaction was not positive. But when I saw the first sign of the play postered up on a hallway in Carleton, I was excited.

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My friend Caroline and her boyfriend Josh invited me along to see the show. And it was far more than anything I had expected. It wasn’t funny; it was hilarious. It wasn’t sad; it was deeply moving. It wasn’t well-done, it was perfect. I laughed. I cried. The talent was awesome and the audience loved every moment.

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The show is made of a dozen or so monologues with different people in each one. There was lingerie, moaning, angry voices, and witty stories. Each piece had a rhythm like spoken word. Each were crammed with emotions and stories of  rape survivors, genital mutilation, and victims of war. And sex-positive women, men who love vaginas, women who love to make other women moan, naming ceremonies for genitals, and women learning to love their own vaginas.

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The Vagina Monologues was beautiful and funny and surprising and heart-wrenching at times. I loved the whole show and I applaud the courage and talent of all those who performed. And I am seriously considering bringing the show back to Scotland and maybe getting something set up at my university in Glasgow.

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Love Jill

  • Mini Definition Fact Sheet…
  • Ableism: Discrimination and/or hatred of people with disabilities. The belief that able-bodies are the ‘correct’ or ‘most desirable’ way to move around in the world.
  • Classism: Prejudice and/or discrimination on the basis of social class.
  • Cissexism: Belief and treatment of transgender and/or transsexuals as inferior to cisgender people.
  • Ageism: Discrimination and/or stereotyping based on age.
  • Slut-shaming: The act of shaming and/or attacking a female for being sexual.
  • Heteronormativity: The assumption that heterosexuality is the ‘default’ sexual orientation.
  • Sizeism: Discrimination against a person based on their physical size.
  • Misogyny: Hatred of women.
  • Misandry: Hatred of men.
  • Queerphobia: Hatred of non-heterosexual people.
  • Homophobia: Hatred of homosexuals.
  • Intersectionality: The concept that all forms of oppression cannot be seen as separate from each other. All are interconnected and experienced in different combinations. For example: If a black woman experiences racism and sexism, she is not experiencing them separately. She experiences sexism differently from a white woman.

 

The Weekend at Jonny’s Cottage

With new friends in a hand-built cottage surrounded by snow. This is how I spent my best weekend in Canada.

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Classes are almost over and Spring is nearly here (though you wouldn’t know it). For the last weekend in March, I went on a mini adventure. My journalism friend Caroline invited me to her friend’s cottage with her boyfriend Josh’s group of friends. I was told to pack warm and bring food.aDSCF0533

The adventure began in Kevin’s car. The guitar riffs from Hotel California played in the background while Caroline filled me in on everyone’s stories. Who does what, who dates who, and who did that funny thing that time.

The group is made up of mainly high school friends. They are all about three years older than me and most have full-time jobs in technology. Of the people I met, there are three couples and four singles.

And then began the stories of the cottage. For six years they have visited the cottage bi-annually. For Christmas and summer holidays. In the winter everyone skis, builds igloos, has snowball fights, and drinks to stay warm. In the summer they roast food on bonfires, swim and canoe in the lake, eat endless hot-dogs and never sleep.

We drive up snow-covered roads and over countryside hills and along a dirt path hugged by trees. And then we arrive at the most beautiful wooden home I have ever seen. I meet Jonny and he shows me around his family’s cottage. The place was built by Jonny’s father over thirty years ago. It is beautiful. Everything is wooden. Upstairs is made up of six bedrooms filled with three or four beds each. Ladders are everywhere and bunk-bed’s appear to be carved into the walls. A log fire in the living room keeps the whole home warm.

The cottage is rented out to large groups all year round. Sometimes students, or middle-aged friends, or big families. Sometimes the place is left in a mess and sometimes it is left cleaner than when a group first arrives.

Once the mini-tour was over, it was time for me to meet the people. So far we have Caroline, Josh, Kevin and Jonny. Then I meet Marta, Ian, Victoria, Shawn, Sophie, and Mikael.

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We spend the rest of the night drinking, eating chili and playing games. Over the weekend, there is a never ending flow of food as everyone takes it in turns to make meals for the group. 

On  Saturday we feast on eggs, bacon and hash-browns. Then venture out into the wilderness. We investigate igloos made by the last group of cottagers. A snowman is built and named Arnold for his American-football shaped head. 

We amble over to the frozen lake with beers in one hand and snowballs in the other. The lake is beautiful. I look around and all I can think is how perfectly Canadian everything seemed. The snow, the deer, the hiking hills and the canoeing lakes.

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People tell me stories from past summers; of snapping turtles, catching tadpoles and being Kings and Queens of the lake.

That evening we played Sardines and it was awesome. Sardines is similar to hide-and-seek except one person hides and everyone looks, when you find the person you have to hide with them. The last person to find everyone is the loser. And in a cottage filled with hidden spaces and secret rooms, the game was one hundred times more difficult and one hundred times more fun.

Eventually everyone was sweaty from searching and cramming into tiny places. We played cards instead. Kevin made dinner for everyone, he called it ‘a modern aboriginal meal’. We devoured our food and continued the games late into the evening.

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The games ended in the early hours and one-by-one we fell asleep. Caroline says they used to stay up all night and drink heavy and party loud. She says there used to be more people but many have come and gone over the years. The group dynamic at the cottage has changed as often as the leaves on the trees outside. Everyone has grown up and is dealing with the realities of adulthood; heartbreak, uncertainty, paying bills, and feeling lonely.

But the beautiful thing about this weekend was that it didn’t matter what everyone was feeling about their lives or relationships or jobs when they arrived. The cottage thawed everyone. And for a couple of days everything was more than okay. Everything and everyone were perfect.

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Love Jill