Week 45 to 50 – Waterloo, Canada

So our two week sabbatical from the blog turned into six weeks. We were so good keeping on top of the blog posts all year but we were exhausted. Each Saturday we’d convince ourselves to wait “just one more week”, but we cannot procrastinate any longer. Tomorrow we fly out for Cuba which marks the end of our 5 month stint in North America. It also marks the end of our 6 weeks in Canada with Anna’s parents. It felt like we were teenagers on summer holidays: no responsibilities, loads of free time and endless food & treats. Six weeks is a long period to recap, but I’ll just stick to the highlights. If you haven’t seen the December video that Anna put together you can see it here.

When we first arrived in Waterloo back in mid-December there was plenty of snow. It was such a novelty to me and I enjoyed the opportunity to make a big snowman and using the snow blower to carve a path of destruction. After a week or so, the Canadian winter started to lose its appeal. It was -14 degrees each day and you couldn’t walk to the letterbox without putting on snow boots and a big coat with the hood zipped all the way up. One day I was standing near the kitchen table looking out the window watching the snowfall in between the large gusts of wind. With windchill factor it was -26 degrees outside and it just looked horrible. I turned to Anna and asked why anyone would choose to live here when there are warmer places like Sydney available. Anna thought my comment was hilarious and took great delight in telling her parents. Since they have lived in Poland, Germany and Canada for them winter means snow, so they don’t think anything of it. Fortunately now the temperature is sitting around 0 degrees each day, which is cold, but not ridiculously cold. Although it does feel like I’ve been living in a refrigerator for the past month.

The timing of our visit worked quite well as we had my birthday, Christmas, New Year and Anna’s parents 40th wedding anniversary. Christmas was a grand affair with Wanda preparing a huge spread, clearly excited to have Anna home for Christmas. I loved it because we had some traditional Christmas foods and then a smorgasbord of Polish foods. Zbyszek had to work NYE, so the three of us went to the cinemas to see La La Land and then came home to watch the coverage on TV with some champagne by the fire. It was a nice relaxing way to bring in the new year. For the 40th wedding anniversary we went out for dinner that night and then we had a dinner party with family friends the following week. The best part was that it was like Christmas all over again. A huge spread with food galore!

You may have noticed that our visit comprised of an abundance of food and not many responsibilities. This combined with the weather forcing us to stay indoors created the perfect environment for weight gain. In an attempt to prevent a huge blow out we joined a nearby gym and we visited 5-6 times a week. It was a strange feeling signing up to a gym on holidays, but if we didn’t, I wouldn’t fit into any of my clothes now. One thing I hadn’t thought about was the winter weather stopping you from being active. Typically we’ve walked everywhere on this trip but here it’s a struggle to even hit 5000 steps.

A large portion of our time has been taken up exploring the brilliance of Netflix. We watched all 6 seasons of Downton Abbey which equates to around 55 hours of TV. Probably not something to be proud of, but we enjoyed watching it with Wanda while Zbyszek was at work. Oh and there’s around 400 episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix, so that kept our addiction going.

We didn’t just watch TV though, we played about 10 rounds of Monopoly which was great fun. Monopoly has the ability to bring out the competitive side in everyone which makes for a fun time. I’m pleased to report there were no incidents or family fallouts like you see on YouTube where people flip the table and storm off.

Our time here hasn’t been all fun and games though. We did have some responsibilities like selling the car and organising our trip to South America. We washed the BRZ a few times on the trip but after all those kilometers circumnavigating the USA, the car needed some TLC. We detailed the car inside and out, and it looked almost new by the time we were done with it. The first people to come look at it bought it without driving it, and the best part was that we sold it for only $1,500 less than we paid for it. It worked out far cheaper than renting a car even with insurance and servicing. Plus I loved that car – I was so sad to sell it. At least we have a nice collection of photos from the trip and I have the scale model Anna’s parents bought for me.

As part of planning our South America trip we had to arrange tourist visas for Brazil which was a painful process. All flights and accommodation have to be booked before you visit the consulate and they want at least 3 weeks to complete the process. We turned up at the consulate in Toronto and they rejected the application because we didn’t have a summary sheet outlining the movements. We raced down to Tim Horton’s and whipped something up on the laptop, paid $8 to print 1 sheet at a print shop and then returned to the consulate before close. They accepted it and made a big deal about how three weeks was the minimum and we shouldn’t cut it so fine. We checked the online portal one week later and the visa was ready so who knows why they were complaining.

Apart from our two visits to Toronto for dropping off and collecting the visa the four of us went to see the stage show Matilda. We’d watched the movie a few nights before which was good as it meant the story was fresh in our minds. The production was very impressive with excellent stage coordination and performances from the many child actors. We took the opportunity to do some shopping whilst in Toronto because we had some items in our luggage in need of replacement.

So that’s pretty much where we’re at. Tomorrow we fly to Cuba for a week and then we’ve booked Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), Peru (Lima & Machu Picchu), Brazil (Iguassu Falls, Sao Paulo & Rio) and Argentina (Buenos Aires). From that point we’ll have just over a month to do more of Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. We’ll work out that last part later, but it’s all very exciting.



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