Having only been here for a few days, perhaps it seems premature to make assessments about the Canadian culture and way of life. However, it also might be the best time: things seem most alien, and the idiosyncrasies of loonies and toonies and closed vowels haven't been lost on my ears.
On the most basic level, the greatest discrepancies seem to be that Candians are always exceedingly polite, and that Canada is more expensive than the United States. The former is, of course, one of the stereotypes of this land to the north, but the latter I was not expecting to be quite so evident. Still, books, food, and bike supplies are much more than back home. Particularly annoying: you can't ship a lot of things here! Like the books you want (Nico Castel's Spanish Lyric Diction? Out of print, and only available within the US. Sebald's Austerlitz auf Deutsch? Well, Amazon.ca will ship it to you--but it's from a seller in the states and S&H is $7.00) or a slightly better deal on a Kryptonite lock (apparently everyone's bike gets ripped off here unless bolted down, but you literally can't buy a lock at one of the many bike stores for less than $65.00 even though they would retail down south for $40.00). Ryan and I bit the bullet on the locks, but I'm shipping the Castel and Sebald to a composer in Princeton, NJ, that Ryan will go visit in a few weeks. He can bring them back for me, maybe along with some Trader Joe's delicacies? Please? Because of course there aren't any Trader Joe's here either.
Food is somewhat variable. After being rather confused for several days by what seemed to be an utter lack of supermarkets (and a glut of corner delis, groceries, and butchers), I discovered that they do exist, but that the bodegas are also sometimes affordable. A supermarket from a chain of groceries called "No Frills" is just a few blocks away, but perhaps because we're living in a multi-cultural, middle-class neighborhood there are such gems as "Economy Fruit." Yes, that's right, a store... called "Economy Fruit." (Perhaps not quite as good a name as "Canned Foods," but that's long-since been changed to the somewhat more palatable "Grocery Outlet.") Economy Fruit is just down the block from us, on one of the main arteries of Toronto, and is true to its name. I walked out of there with a LOT of food today for $4.75--plus a free bag of string beans someone had left lying around. I did get a better bargain when I found a bag of spinach on the ground the other day, but still pretty good. Alcohol, though, seems to be inescapably, ridiculously expensive. Not that Ryan and I have been boozing it up--quite the contrary--but I did buy the least expensive 6-pack of beer from one of the alcohol stores (I think you have to buy from special stores) for $9.50. Ouch.
I'm sure the reason for the increase in prices has something to do with more government services, perhaps best illustrated by Labour Day. It's the same principle here as in the States, but whereas in America one celebrates by making store workers go in extra early for the big sales, in Canada people march in the streets and then all the folks in the labor demonstration get into the Canadian Exposition (like a big state fair) for free. And EVERYTHING is closed. Even the supermarkets! I did meet a transgender man named Alex that afternoon and buy a bike from him out of his van, so there are an enterprising few... but the rest of them are as good as the Communists upstairs, I suppose.*
But enough of such mundane (and perhaps crass?) matters! In other news, we have had a few orientation-type meetings at the school and received, in no particular order: t shirts! student planners! AND LOCKERS!! I am so excited about having a locker. They're big, beautiful, have coat hooks and a shelf... I'm going to put snacks in my locker. And tea. Oh my gosh. I haven't been this excited for a long time. I could even fit inside my locker...
We're supposed to go to the islands for a barbeque on Saturday and there's an orchestra concert and pub night tomorrow. The staff is so kind and lovely, and they even gave me a work study! I'm going to assist with the Friday masterclasses (there are masterclasses every Friday). So that will make the high priced bike locks in the land of the Communists less painful.
Because this post is so long, I think I shall sign off now and update again later with pictures of home and school and life and such. And perhaps some recipes? And the Communists?
*In reference to their Craigslist advertisement. They're incredibly wonderful people and I hope to write more about them later.