Canada Day Review

Mounties at the Musical Ride.

Canada Day was not a Canadian version of Fourth of July.  It’s a little different.

Oh, Britain. A Poster from the Canadian War Museum in the “Keeping the Empire” exhibit.

While Fourth of July is about so-called patriotism (cough.. nationalism… cough) and all about stump speeches, war veterans, and how America is the Greatest Place on Earth (TM), Canada Day is a bit off that mark.  It’s still about being a Canadian and still about how great it is to live in Canada.  However, Canada’s independence came from a very different place than America’s.  Remember, we left forcefully and later, Canada came down to burn down our White House in 1812.  They love to remind you of that part.  Canada, instead, asked for independence.  They wanted to be free of British rule technically but did remain in the Commonwealth.

So, Canada Day, in large part is about peace.  It’s a far less “violent” holiday.  I mean, even the firework situation was quieter.  While the national fireworks were big and superb over the canal, very few people are setting off a million-and-one fireworks or blowing their hands off with mortar shells.

RCMP Equitation demo  – look at how round that horse is!

I spent Sunday before Canada Day at the Musical Ride, a free show put on by the RCMP’s ride time – ie the Mounties.  It was great.  The horses were a lot of fun and it was a bit hokey in parts but generally really fun. There were a ton of demos – from the equitation team to the agility dogs.  Something for everyone, really.  Peace was stressed more than war.  I was taken back by HOW much it was stressed.  Likewise, while there was a hugely Canadian way about this thing, it didn’t border into what I expected the Canadian equivalent of “I’m Proud to Be An American” would be.

Part of the musical ride demo.

The ride itself was a sight to behold and something very iconic.  I’m glad I went.  All it cost me was a bus ticket and it was totally worth it.

For Canada Day, I chose to ride my bike in the rain to the Canadian War Museum.  Almost every museum in Capital region is free on Canada Day.  Transit is even free, so you could spend all day with things to do and not pay a red cent for any of it.  I really loved that part.  Why the War Museum?  I don’t know, I’m American.  It seemed interesting.

However, I don’t know if the War Museum is so aptly named.  While Canadians have fought valiantly in a number of wars, they are perhaps known most recently for their peacekeeping missions, a fact which shows in the museum’s collections. At least 1/3 of the collection is about peace and peacekeeping and there are numerous kid-friendly exhibits that stress this, too.

I liked my visit and found it interesting.  I learned quite a bit about peacekeeping and Canada’s role in some less-talked-about wars.  

After the War Museum, I went to Parliament Hill.  It was an easy jaunt as the river path is linked to Museum.  I climbed up to Parliament and then went to the Byward Market to get a Beavertail, the pastry that Ottawa is famous for (it’s an elephant ear shaped like a beaver’s tail, basically). It’s so weird that people just go to parliament and hang out there.  They fill the streets and cause a commotion.  It was crazy.  Most of the streets are closed within a mile of parliament (but just to cars, not bikes or people).  The fact that people can just lounge on Parliament Hill all the time is bizarre to me as an American.  You can’t just walked on the White House lawn or stroll into the Capitol without a reason to be there.  It was really cool to see the people take the place bad, though. That, however, was a lot for me.  I was pooped.  I rode home, drank a beer or two, and relaxed while waiting for the fireworks to start.

All in all, I really loved Canada Day.  It was a lot of fun!  Also, I got to see Pierre Trudeau say “Just Watch Me” at the War Museum in an interactive exhibit, which totally justified all the Trudeau jokes I make but that fall flat because Americans be weird and don’t get it.

It’s a small world after all: learning to grow in Ottawa

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Riding along the river path. Yes, that’s parliament in the background!

A Canada Day blog post is coming soon, I swear!  Why the long delay?  Why, I’ve been having allergy attacks and was in bed the past two days.  Well, about 36 hours.  I *did* ride my bike last night to get dinner and cupcakes to help me feel better.  Other than that, nothing has happened. I have, thus, missed ONE day of riding in Canada but I was legitimately too sick to climb the stairs without wheezing.  Riding today, I still don’t feel 100% but I can breathe and it feels great to be back out and about.  It’s a beautiful day in Ottawa and while Rogers has again screwed the pooch and we have no home internet, it was just the carrot to get me out of the house.

I’m going to Montreal tomorrow.  Got my bus tickets and hoping I don’t die in a Greyhound crash or anything.  However, what to say about the last week or so?  Wow, a whirlwind!

Last week, I met with the Deputy Lobbying Commissioner and his chief analyst.  Well, it was a really productive meeting and I learned a lot – including that the Deputy Commissioner now wants to visit us in Missouri because he LOVES the States and he thinks Indiana is “the coolest state” because of the Indy 500.  He’s a real car and racing bike guy (the type with a motor, alas) but he acted as though I was cool because that’s my homestate.  That’s the first time I’ve ever had that happen and had the person be genuine about it.

The weirdest part of this story is when I was waiting to meet him, the political analyst who was sitting in with us came out to meet me.  She was so sweet and asked me about the book I was reading (to calm nerves).  It put me at ease, we got to talking about how I’d been able to actually read for pleasure and ride since I got up to Canada since I was separated from my partner who was trapped back in the States.  She asked me if I did any group rides and I told her I did.  She then told me that she did on Thursdays and we ended up going to the same riding group that night!  I ended up drinking with the whole lot of the group after the ride and agreeing to meet she and her cousin for a ride up to Pink Lake later that week.

So, I managed to schmooze with some bureaucrats and got immediately introduced to like 10 people in one day I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  This place is so small (people compare it to D.C. a lot).  The difference is that Canadians tend to stay out of huge political debates over dinner – even those working for the government – and since executive level positions are quite anti-political for a reason, these people are the LEAST apt to get involved.  The way the bureaucracy works is different.  Everyone is so very welcoming, though, and everything is way more laid back.  I keep getting told I am overdressed.  I would still feel not dressed enough for these interviews if we changed the locale to D.C.  People here are happy to dress a bit down to commute for work – changing out their Louboutins for expensive carbon-soled SPD’s and a pair of work flats in-office.  People just aren’t in the same hurry.  Perhaps that’s because the heat isn’t nearly as bad here (although last week WAS brutal) and people are just less-label-conscious?  Either way, I really like the feeling I get around here.  It just seems… more sensible?

I felt really at home.  I could get used to this!

Another small world thing happened yesterday.  I had brought some coffee home to add to the coffee pool for Kate and Dan.  A local roastery (Ottawa, like CoMo has a lot of them and they are usually CHOICE) had a bunch of Rwandan Bourbon home.  If you’ve never had it, you really need to.  It’s just the perfect coffee for an espresso roast.  I’m not kidding.  It’s buttery, carmelly, and just so nice to drink.  Everyone says it is good.  So, I had asked them if they wanted any when I first got here because I’m able to find it more and more and so, when I saw it, I picked it up.  Grinding it for my morning espresso yesterday was the first thing that made me feel human again after being so sick the day before.  It made me feel like I was back in Rwanda and I immediately yearned to be out on the terrace at Cafe Bourbon surrounded by a beautiful city view and gorgeous rain forest-esque weather.

After I got home from my food travels last night, Dan (the male host, not MY Dan) told me that it was the best coffee he’d ever had.  I smiled, happy to convert him into the “club” and they confessed that this was some amazing coffee.  I told them they had to go to Rwanda.  And they, being the travelling type, are more interested.  I’m glad to bring things to people in this way.  Sharing is caring, I guess hahaha.  There are days I really think back to that summer in Rwanda and think I was the luckiest person alive to get to go.  I learned so much about myself, the world, and what I was capable of.

And, as I stare down my last 6 days here, I realize this experience has taught me a lot, too.  It’s made me less fashion-obsessed (and for the better) because every outfit should be somewhat bike friendly.  And while, much to Dan’s chigirin, I will probably never get rid of my 25+ pairs of shoes (still less shoes than my own father owns, I believe) because I almost never wear heels and they are all bike practical for the most part, I have determined that having comfortable commuter clothing makes more sense.  If the bike is what makes me happiest and I have thrived this much sans-car, I’m just going to have to keep making this work.

The experience has also made me aware that I’m capable of taking care of myself without sacrificing my relationship with another person.  When it works, it works.  Dan and I haven’t had any fights.  There haven’t been passive aggressive messages back and forth – things I have seen others go through in a few weeks of long-distance relationships.  Hell, even I’ve dealt with that in a LDR before.  But we don’t do that.  We let one another do our own things.  We have made plans to talk at least daily to keep in touch with how the other is feeling.  There are times like the last couple of days where I was literally being sick all over my bedspread thanks to prednisone where I could not figure out how to prioritize shower over washing machine that I wished he was here just to help talk me down.  But I did it.  I even laughed at my quandary.  I mean, who the hell has these problems but me? It’s been good for us.  And I think if we can manage this, we can manage a lot more.  That said, I will be happy to get back home to my boys again.

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I really love it up here (minus awful telecom) and would love to move up here in the future if I could.  I know I am happy to be car-free and care-free.  I had always suspected this to be the case but when you just travel to a place on vacation, you never really know if you will love it or hate it.  I mean, I always wanted to live in Britain since i was a little girl and once tasked with it, I wasn’t so sure.  There were a lot of days I simply hated it there.  Going back a second time, I realized it all depended on the city and having a community of people to hang out with.

Here, I learned to go out there, meet people, and I’m much better for my experiences abroad elsewhere.  Most people are very friendly.  Sometimes, you have to try a little in a way that makes you uncomfortable but that’s part of growing as a person.  And if you aren’t growing, what are you doing?

What do you think about that? Being the American Ambassador Who is Well Underpaid

“What do you think about that?” the older woman on the bus asked me as we were about to get off at Rideau and Cumberland downtown today.  This was one of those moments when I really wanted to be an introvert.  I was suffering from heat exhaustion and came into work after giving up trying to survive in a 29* house a minute more.  So, that was the state of me stepping off the bus hearing this.  I asked her to repeat everything she’d just said.  We’d been talking on and off since getting on at Percy and Gladstone.  She’d been on her phone, sending messages to her grandkids that were coming over for Canada Day.  We’d exchanged pleasantries, talked about them, etc.  It was a nice way to pass the time and she was very pleasant.

She repeated, “Well, my news ticker, it told me on the bus women aren’t getting the Pill anymore in the US.  Something about the Supreme Court.  What do you think about that?”  We’d had a short conversation about why I was up here.  Once I mention I study public policy, people tend to ask me “why Canada?” so I reply with “Well, I got started on this studying health policy…”  so it was a natural question.

It hit me like a pack of bricks, though.  My head had been in a fog since I woke up feeling out-of-body and this wasn’t helping.  So, I wrote this basically as soon as I could get back to the office.  This ruling makes me embarrassed for my country.  Really angry and embarrassed.  Up here, birth control is a non-issue.  People don’t worry about it.  In the US, it’s still somehow controversial because we can’t collectively see women as autonomous human beings, I guess.  Instead, fundamentalist religious principles somehow get to win out again and again.  I think it’s a damn shame that we are allowing people to parade around as if the Establishment Clause does not exist.  I love my country for a million and one reasons, which is probably why I am critical.  Don’t mistake my need to make things better for a need to erase my whole American-ness.

I just don’t get it.  And here I am trying to figure it out.  For the next few days, every single Canadian is going to talk to me about this since the Canadians I all know are generally involved in politics or policy or study these things.  And my blood will boil explaining in depth why this is just such an awful idea.

This part of the ACA means the world to me.  Why?  Well, it is personal.  I’m a woman but I’m not just any woman.  I am a woman who requires hormonal birth control for medical reasons.  For almost 12 years, I suffered pretty much in silence, often being told there was nothing wrong with me. I was on every birth control pill under the sun because of almost-daily pains that would cause me to fall down in agony.  I was told “you’re faking it” or “suck it up” or “don’t you just want a script for Valium?” by doctors.  It wasn’t until I visited a doc in the UK that “endometriosis” as a dx was a serious possibility. Prior to this, I had had a doc go in, do an entire laparoscopy, and find nothing.  It was awful.  She blew me off, wrote me a script for pain killers and backed off.  As a 17 year old, I didn’t realize that she hadn’t done any of the medically necessary stuff apart from looking for the disease visually (which was older protocol but not current).  She hadn’t taken any samples.  She’d screwed up, basically, and was behind the times.  Still, I was dismissed as a woman looking for any excuse to have problems – by another woman.  And I lived in pain for more years until it got too bad to handle while I was studying abroad.  A doctor there finally listened, put me on Provera, and while I gained a bunch of weight I felt better.

It wasn’t until several years later when I was coping with mood symptoms associated with Depo-Provera, its sister, that things got terrible again.  I had to go off the shot, knew pills wouldn’t work, and couldn’t see why I should pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for another treatment (the implant or the IUD).  It was money, you see, that kept me from doing the right thing for my body. It bit me in the end.  Here I was, afraid, feeling like my body was a run away train.  I had no control.  No autonomy.  Most practitioners were dismissive at best on my way here, judgmental at worst.  For this reason and a million others, I did nothing.  Well, until I had a cyst burst.  I had called the doc I’d been assigned for women’s health during a snow storm when I was in so much pain I couldn’t move.  She fobbed it off.  So, I did nothing.

2 weeks later, I showed up at the ER with my good friend Nell who had driven me since I could not drive myself.  I had a CT which showed a ruptured appendix.  I was rushed into surgery while my mom drove 8 hours by car to get there to take me home.  Nell didn’t leave my side until she had to go teach her first lab of the day.  I came out of surgery and after a patient mix up, it was explained to me that complications from endometriosis (which was visible and later confirmed by tests) had caused a burst cyst to rupture and later had caused an infection that could have killed me.

I was blown away.  I was terrified.  It took me a good 6 weeks and tons of antibiotics to recover.  I later was put on the right treatment and $3000.00+ in medical bills later, I was okay.  It was something that never needed to happen, though.  And had this been the case after the birth control mandate existed, I would have been able to get the implant or an IUD quickly and for free and I would have avoided the awful consequences thrust upon me.  I currently am blessed to have an employer who absolutely DID cover my medically-necessary treatments at 100%.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

However, I’m one of the lucky ones.  My story is anything but unique.  Women with PCOS, endometriosis, and other related issues suffer in silence because their problems are often written off by a dismissive group of practitioners.  They are treated poorly and aren’t given the tools to take charge of their reproductive health, generally.  And, while i have had many problems with the drafting, appropriations, and implementation stages of the ACA, this was a BIG step forward for women.  Here we had a chance to take charge.  We had a chance to make our own decisions – whether they be about pregnancy or our personal health.  Now, these rights seem to be gone again.  My employer could choose to cover my pregnancy – as many of them as I need – but not contraceptive services.  What’s next?  They can opt out of my pap smear and choose to let me die of cervical cancer?

It’s a travesty.  And I, as an American living abroad, have to answer for anything possible.  In Rwanda, it was a good day – the upholding of the ACA.  It felt like a huge win there.  People would talk to me about it and I would be EXCITED to chat.  In 2008, being on the “winning team” seemed like a win in Britain, too.  Finally, everyone would stop accusing me of being pro-war or pro-Bush or pro-whatever they thought I must have stood for being an “awful American”.  But here, it’s too personal and I’m too vocal to just be all *shrug* “I don’t know” about it.  I feel the need to call out things when they are wrong.  It’s why I chose this line of work.  And since people who DO know me know enough about me to think I am some sort of expert, I will have to talk.  And next semester, when I teach my health care lecture, I will need to chat about this and be balanced.  That’s so hard.  I’m starting to realize this is why my lecturer for Middle Eastern politics recused himself from the lectures on Palestine, letting a grad student teach a great deal of content.  He had a horse in the race, it was personal. It was easier to hand it off.

So, I will try to enjoy Canada Day tomorrow.  It’s a welcome excuse to ignore the fact that I am American or to be “on the hook” for such things.  It’s just a sad day for me having to represent my country abroad.  I have a hard time supporting the idea of being American and having it be so great when, today, I am not proud of what was done.  I still love my country but perhaps that’s why it hurts so much. You only hurt when you’re invested.  It’s things like this that lead me to not want to be as invested. I know that may change tomorrow but for today, anonymity seems a better choice.

I will leave you with a palette cleanser photo of the bike path from Saturday overlooking the Library of Parliament.

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Shake it off…

Today I have to be on my A-game.  There’s no doubting this.

I have two important interviews.  One with the most powerful publicly-available civil servant on ethics legislation in the Country if not in North America – the Deputy Lobbying Commissioner of Canada.  I also have an interview with the Lobbying Commission’s Chief Legal Counsel.  This is a big day for me.  A stressful day.  A day with a lot of prep.  I will probably spend over an hour on hair and makeup alone.  Gah.  I even am riding the bus so I don’t screw my hair and makeup up on the way to the building (which is only a short walk or ride from my house).  I think I have the hair thing with a helmet down (to the point where I can curl it in the right spot in front and not lose a curl, for example) but I don’t want to feel uncomfortable in my meeting.  It sounds silly but hair, makeup, and my clothes make a big difference.

Interviews and meetings up here have been anything but normal for me.  I am not usually “on” all day.  And not only do I have to answer questions about my dissertation, I am asked about job market stuff back home because advisors with students looking to the US are interested and am asked about my own career aspirations in Canada.  While I am a very good schmoozer, or so I’ve been told (I get this from my Dad), it’s tiring and being “on” for an entire day is really daunting.  Today, it’s just the afternoon.  But being “on” even for 3 hours or so is really a lot to ask, I think.  Now I know why the job market really runs people down.  It’s like this every time you have an interview but 10 times worse.

And it’s not easy today.  I’m sore.  You see, the last two days have been utter hell.  I called Dan on Monday crying because I just wanted to hear his voice.  I was pretty homesick.  It was pouring down rain.  Despite rain gear, I got SOAKED.  I was miserable.  I got on the bike and had to turn around because even my underwear was soaked and there was too much high water.  I could have swam to work on Tuesday.  And, to top it all off, I was exhausted from a really fast 40 miles the day before.  I had no food.  I had no changes of clothing.  I found ONE pair of pants only to have to walk two blocks to get a burrito bowl.  When I returned, I had cold rain down my entire backside (despite raingear that was supposed to cover it).  I’d been tagged by no fewer than 4 cars with a fine spray of dirty water, and I was actually crying.  It was a terrible day.  And, to top all of it off, my allergies were going crazy thanks to the weather’s mood swings.

Yesterday, I hoped for better, going to my favorite nut-free bakery.  After leaving, a slow leaking flat.  Fudge.  So, I said “I am going to solve this flatting mystery for once and for all” and rode my bike to the shop that hosts our weekly ride (Kunstadt Sports).  Brian, one of the wrenches I had met two days before, was sure they could hook me up.  He pulled the tube out, listened to it, pumped it up multiple times, but it never died.  NEVER DIED.  He picked up the tire and found no foreign objects (as I hadn’t found any in the past).  I swore I wasn’t crazy.  So, Brian, Patrick (another wrench), and I all went over the tube and tire for about 20 minutes in the shop before Brian declared “I’ve found it”.  It was a long, thin slash of about 2 inches down the tire.  It was in the SAME place I’d found foreign objects in April.  So, basically, this was the reason for all my flats.  I chose to pay the money to buy a puncture-resistant replacement and have never been so happy to part with my money.  I’m not crazy, guys!

I have a group ride tonight with the ladies group, one of whom helped check me out at the store upon BUYING my tire.  More mileage (probably about 30 miles).  I need to get a long ride in this weekend and I need to do it before the bad weather predicted for Canada Day happens.  That is my goal.  I may never break 50 on a ride but my pace more than makes up for it.

Week 10:

Total Mileage Goal: 120 miles (total: 140 miles)

Long Ride Goal: Didn’t make it but did 2 40’s in one week which seems to work.

 

Week 11: 

Total Mileage Goal: 130 miles

Current Mileage: 65 miles

 

You never know what you’re made of until you try.

 

The view from my office this morning.

The view from my office this morning.

There’s a certain merit in exercise to trying something new and pushing yourself just a little bit harder than you ever have.

It’s scary at first but just like anything, you have to do it if you want to improve.

I have learned in the past week that I am made of a lot more than I ever knew.  On Monday, I did a group ride of about 30 miles at about 16 miles per hour.  That is the fastest I have ever ridden more than 20 miles.  I was riding with race folks and kept up on a MUCH heavier bike.  I was riding like my legs were on fire worrying if I could do it.  I proved to myself that I *could* do it.  When I got separated, I picked up my pace and reached the pack again.  I made up a good quarter of a mile in just few minutes IN TRAFFIC.  While I always complain of seat pain after a long ride (even with a nice saddle), I complained of nothing that night. I think it’s similar to what you learn while running distances – you run too slow, you get sore faster and you end up pretty miserable.  Meanwhile, if you over do it, that’s no good either.

So, it’s a balance but you have to try to reach it.

I have now officially gone a WEEK without driving!  Woot!  I can’t believe it.  I was tempted to drive yesterday but didn’t manage it.  I had some bad allergy attacks and ended up in a benadryl coma for most of the day.  Thanks, pollen!  I still rode, though.  Had to go to the store since I had no food.  And then I grabbed some “get better” cupcakes on the way home.  Yum.  Still got 6 miles in.

So, you can do it!  You may want to break but you won’t.  I have to be my own cheerleader right now.  Dan usually serves that purpose but I can’t expect anyone to help me now 🙂  Will probably get 30-40 miles in today easily and well overtake my goal.  I may do a short tour on Saturday or may just go out and do my own solo ride.  Thereis a part of me that just wants to ride back to QC again.  We’ll see.

Either way, you can do it!  Sometimes you just gotta push a little harder.

Riding for life.

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Bike path in the capital.

So, for the past two weeks, I have basically on the bike at least daily – even if it was just a hop on, hop off.  Most days, I’ve had a lot of time on the bike, though – 15 miles+

This week’s goal is 120 miles and I am well on target for that.

Why?  Well, I’m riding everywhere.

The best and worst part of Ottawa is its ease of use – you can get around by foot, by bus, by bike, even by car pretty easily.  It’s just shy of a million people, which, in my opinion, makes it the perfect size. Big enough to have a vibrant art and cultural scene as well as transit but small enough to feel like a community.  The best part about my neighborhood, too, is that it is pedestrian and cycling friendly.  There are well-defined bike paths, routes, and lanes everywhere.  It’s part of a “traffic calming” zone as the Canadian call it, so there are speed humps, curbs, etc to slow down traffic.  And, for that reason, about 2 blocks off the busiest highway in Ottawa, it is almost silent.

Most people have a car which can get them anywhere but they rarely use it for daily drives.  Dan and I would prefer this to be the way we live – have A car that we can use but don’t have to drive everyday.  My hosts bike almost everywhere.  Kate, the woman of the house, biked up to Hull today for a meeting in work clothes and was able to bring back a whole host of groceries on her rear rack.  They use their car occasionally in the week but usually just on weekends.  Most families in the area do the same.  While parking is still really affordable ($7-10 USD/day), it’s not perfect.  And having a bike or walking is SO much faster.

And, seriously, I love this.  I can be in a separate bike lane for most of my very quick commute.  The cars pay attention and I legitimately have not had a reason to drive in almost a week.  That said, I take being able to just ride down the block to get some ice cream or get off my bike, hop in the car, and get dinner.  Now, if I want dinner, I still have to exert physical effort to get it unless I plan ahead.

It doesn’t seem like much but my commute is about 6 miles round trip.  Today, I rode about 12 in commuting because as soon as I sat down at my desk, I realized my charger was AWOL.  Fun times.  I had to turn around and do the whole trip backwards!  So, for me, talking about limiting my mileage today after 49 miles yesterday, I was knackered.  So, I rode back to work.  Things didn’t go as planned.  I went out to find lunch and almost didn’t and then accidentally brought back a Coke that wasn’t a twist off and chaos ensued because my car keys were back at the house.  My awesome officemate, April, was helpful in using a filing cabinet to open it.  Gotta give it to a doctoral student to get things done with a bottle cap.

If I’d had the car, none of this would have happened.  I also wouldn’t have had to make separate trips to get wine or get chicken when I forgot it.  I am suddenly remembering the worst parts of living in the UK – not having many options if you forget something, having to walk in the rain to get food, etc.  But Ottawa is better.  Everything is close.  It doesn’t rain as much.  And the roads are just teeming with cycling infrastructure.  It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.  Oh, and my office, yeah, it’s the nicest one I’ve ever had.  It makes up for most things.

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Still, after putting in one of the hardest rides of my life, putting in another 15 the day after isn’t nothing.

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At the same time, when this is your view, you tend to ignore most things.

Week 10:

Long Ride Goal: 50 miles

Total Miles Goal: 120 miles

Current Mileage: 89 miles

Ottawa and Elections

Moving onto Ottawa seemed right.  It was great seeing Maya and great to be in a vibrant city like Toronto but Ottawa always feels like home.

It sounds weird, I know.  I wasn’t born in Ottawa or even this country but getting back to Ottawa always feels perfectly normal.  Every time I come up here, I love it more and more.  From the cycling culture to the way it straddles two linguistic traditions, it’s just an interesting mish-mosh of things.  There are parts of it that seem so very North American and other parts that seem so very British.  There are also parts that are very French.  It’s a weird and wonderful place, really.

So, I arrived early – about 11:30 – so I could unload my bags and change for my meeting.  I am staying at another AirBNB place in a great part of the city (Centretown).  My hosts, Kate and Dan (no, not that Dan) are this great outdoorsy couple that have been incredibly welcoming and wonderful to me.  Immediately upon seeing the street and the house, I was like, “this is so perfect”.  It’s an area that is quiet and residential but near shopping.  And, quite frankly, it really reminded me of my parent’s place.  Upon stepping in, the Mission-style furnishings, baseboards, and even paint colors were so similar to my parents’ taste, I felt immediately at home. It feels weird to say that but the house is about the same period, a similar size, and very cozy.  I carted my stuff upstairs, settled into my great little room, and called Dan while I was getting ready.  I was so happy to have FaceTime back!

The Social Sciences building where I will be working.

The Social Sciences building where I will be working.

I then hopped on my bike and headed over to the university.  I got there in about 10 minutes.  Most of the journey is on a segregated bike lane, which made me feel like a boss.  It was pouring down rain, so I cloaked myself in rain gear.  The bike handled like a champ.  I finally made it to my new building, which is all shiny and sat through 2 meetings, which kept getting interrupted by journalists wanting commentators for the provincial elections taking place that day.  All the while my brain had to switch back and forth between English and French, which was actually really hard on limited sleep.  I got my own office and a new office key.  It’s nicer than the one at Mizzou.  I have my own printer!!!! Oh, and a view that I will take a picture of later on.  Plus, everyone so far has been insanely nice and I have two lunch meetings planned for next week.  I feel so, so spoiled.

The Beer Wall at the Beer Store!  So many choices!

The Beer Wall at the Beer Store! So many choices!

I finally returned home with a 6-er of stout strapped to my bike from the beer store and actually met my hosts.  Turns out, they are beer and wine snobs like me!  I got some great recs for future drinking.  They invited me to watch the election results roll in, which was nice.  I then called Dan and fell asleep.

My purchase - St. Ambroise from QC.

My purchase – St. Ambroise from QC.

It was a good start to what I hope will be a really promising month here.