On Leaving Manitoba

Life is full of surprises. A month ago, if you would’ve asked me when or if I was planning on leaving Manitoba, I would say no way! I wasn’t planning on leaving. I wasn’t hoping to move on anytime soon. I knew I wasn’t going to be here in Brandon forever, but I was hoping to stick around for a little bit. But then, life happens.

I won’t really go into the long and short of it, but due to some unseen circumstances, I have decided that my time here is up. I’m packing up and actually heading to Edmonton, where I’m hoping a promising opportunity awaits. It’s going to be hard. I’m dreading saying goodbye to certain people. But also looking forward to a new adventure that is upon me. I’m young, not tied down, and I’m looking forward to writing a new chapter.

Manitoba, and Brandon was an interesting chapter to say the least. It had its good times and its bad times. I think it may be the place that gets me to the place where I need to be. It introduced me to the West, and I’m certainly not done with the West. And at this point, I couldn’t imagine going back to Ontario right now. Someday, maybe.

What will I miss the most? My friends, obviously. Couldn’t have asked for better ones. The weekends up at the lake. The fun trips into Winnipeg. Getting lost in Winnipeg. All the kids at the Humane Society (yes, we call them kids). Doing things I would never do in Ontario, like…going to hockey games or going to the Winter Fair or  grooming a horse and even help a friend look around to buy one. Oh, and the minute drive to work. There are so many other things, but my brain is in crazy packing chaotic mode, so I’m not quite thinking straight!

And now, I’m moving on and I’m going to Edmonton. Very soon. And my cat and dog are going to learn to love each other on that road trip, let me tell you! Fun times in close quarters. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I guess that’s the exciting thing for me. And I may not be Maude in Manitoba anymore, but I’ll still carry Maude’s motto around (Harold and Maude, 1971 movie – if you’re wondering), which is:

“Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE!”

So, as I close a chapter here, it just means that I’m going to start living out another chapter somewhere else. Thank you, Manitoba. You’ll always be a part of me and I’m sure I’ll be back for multiple wedding seasons!

Dogs, Cats, Manitoba and Me

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to have a dog. I always, always, always wanted a dog. Or any kind of pet, really…other than fish. However, this was always a problem, because my mom was allergic to the fur and hair on the fuzzy animals that I wanted. So really, it was always out of the question. This meant I had fish growing up. I loved my fish and all, but I always wanted more.

Circa September 2010. I had come back from a month long backpacking trip in South East Asia and the cutest orange cat I had seen prior to my trip was still on the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA website. I was going to get her. Enough is enough. That day, Trixie became Beatrix, and the rest was history. Of course, I was like, “it’d be so nice to get a dog”, but I was in a little one bedroom apartment and I really didn’t want to get a dog in such a small space, although many of my neighbours had dogs in their apartments. Beatrix was just the right fit at that time.

Beatrix

Fast forward to September 2011 and I’m moved into Brandon, Manitoba. It took so much hard work and a very lucky and unexpected connection to find a place that would even accept Beatrix. I found a great apartment, but I had to pay a ridiculous pet deposit, which I just didn’t understand – I didn’t even ever have to pay a damage deposit in Ontario, let alone a pet deposit! It was all just so new. I didn’t know why wonderful dogs and cats weren’t allowed in homes and apartments. But I quickly learned that Manitoba is one of the least pet-friendly places I have ever seen. I know I was lucky to find my apartment and have my cat.

I still longed for a dog, and I just wanted to spend more time with animals in general, so in August 2012, I started volunteering at the Brandon Humane Society. I think it might have been the best decision I’ve made since moving to Brandon. It has brought so much positive stuff into my life, that I just can’t complain. It’s brought me community, friends and care, and dogs and cats that I absolutely love. And it brought me Josie! But first…

At the end of September 2012, a year after I had moved to Brandon, my friend wondered if I would consider being her roommate. She wanted to get out from under her mom’s roof, but she had a dog, so we had to find a pet friendly place that would allow both cats and dogs. It was like magic, a pet-friendly house showed up on eBrandon and we went to the Open House soon after. And at the Open House, what do I learn? That my landlord volunteers at the Brandon Humane Society! Of course this house is pet-friendly. There were a lot of applicants for the house, and we thought it was a longshot, but my friend and I ended up getting the house and we couldn’t have been more excited!

Now a dog was a real possibility. I didn’t want to rush into anything, because it wasn’t a decision I was going to take lightly. No way! Plus, I wanted Beatrix and my roommate dog to get accustomed to the house and each other (which they are still working on, I will admit). However, I was pretty sure I knew what dog I wanted from the Humane Society. It was a process of elimination in terms of who would be good with cats, and I also knew I wanted a black dog, since they are always the last to be adopted. Josie was it! So mid-January, I decided to take that girl home. It hasn’t been perfect. There have been tiffs between the dogs, and Josie is still a little timid of Beatrix. There is still so much for me to learn and for Josie to learn, but it’s working out amazingly well.

Josie

I never thought that my dream of having a dog to call my own would happen in Brandon, because of the lack of pet-friendlyness here. But I guess life is full of surprises, right?

Wintertime Fun

In the midst of the terrible cold in lovely Manitoba (and I mean it, it’s been gnarly lately), someone along the way decided that it would be a fabulous idea to have a winter festival to celebrate the different cultural communities that make up this place. And in the gnarly cold, this means lining up for stuff…outside. But hey, the cold creates character, right? In all seriousness, the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival is one heck of a party, even if it’s in the cold! For those who don’t know, the festival comprises of different pavilions all over the city from varying cultural groups in our area. There is food, music, entertainment and some history lessons!

I had wanted to go last year, as I was like “Oh my! Something to do in Brandon! In the winter!”; however, I unfortunately had no one to go with and didn’t feel like trekking out alone. So this winter, I was determined to go and I rounded up some people to trek out into the cold with!

The first pavilion we hit was El Salvador. It was probably the most tame and most family friendly that we went to. I wanted to make sure I could get some vegetarian food somewhere, so this was a good pavilion for that. I had a quesadilla, but not in the way we would think of one. It looked like a thin, flat pound cake. And ohhh it was so sweet! It had some cheese in the middle, but I think my favourite part of it was the bread part. So good! The music and dancing was fun, and it was nice seeing something that you really don’t see everyday. And really, who knows too much about El Salvador? I sure don’t! So it was good to learn and see something different.

Next up was the Irish pavilion, complete with Paddy’s Pub. I’m not going to lie, there were incredibly adorable old Irish men in their little green get-ups which I loved. The music was fantastic, as were the dancers. They were incredible! If I’ve researched correctly, it was mostly Irish stepdancing. I wish I had gotten a picture of all the dancers, but I wasn’t close enough to them to get one. The girls had on these incredibly bouncy, full on ringlet wigs and their costume dresses were intricate in traditional detail. They were just amazing!

After the Irish pavilion, we headed to the Scottish one! What can I say? I LOVE KILTS. So many kilts. And I also happen to know one of the big Scottish families in the area (accents still intact), who were all participating in different ways – serving food, selling tickets and announcing all the acts! Again, there was a great live band performing. But to be honest, I was in the back and I was distracted by all the kilts, so I wasn’t paying too much attention.

Finally, we hit up the German pavilion. The only one we had to wait in line for! Pretty good, eh? I had heard that the German pavilion was always one of the best at the Winter Festival, so I suppose it was fitting to check that one out last. We certainly stayed there the longest! It was quite the show with non-stop entertainment. Lots of tuba and trombone sounds and some fun dancing acts. Who knew the orchestra could make The Village People’s YMCA sound German? Now, I don’t know if it’s the Dutch in me, but I don’t know if I was fully prepared for the German’s boisterous event. Lots of “zigga zigga zigga oi oi oi’s!” Lots of dancing participation from the crowd. But hey, I guess that’s why it’s one of the most popular pavilions, right? You know you’ll end up having a good time, because it really is just a big party.

***On a side note, the chef’s name at the pavilion was Larry De Vries. Ever since I’ve moved here, people have always ask me if I’m related to Larry. No folks, I am not related to Larry. And now I just can’t stop thinking about Larry’s ancestry…is he half-Dutch, half-German? Is he actually more German than Dutch, but the name De Vries has just been passed down because that’s the way the cookie crumbled? So. Many. Questions.

All in the all, the night just got better and better. It’s great that Brandon has this festival, and I’ve only heard good things about it from people who attend. A friends of mine said “Why in the world do they have to have it in the winter? It’s so cold!”, but I think that’s the point. It’s nice to have something in the winter that gets us out and having fun. Winter can be so blah and keep us in, not wanting to do anything. The Winter Festival is a great way to break things up. I’m already looking forward to next years one and I’m going to make sure I go to some pavilions that I didn’t get the chance to go to this year!

P.S. I really did have pictures and even a little video, but they are deciding to not upload! Sorry!

(Mostly) Guilty Pleasures

All in all, Brandon is just a fine place to live. It’s not the coolest. It’s not the hippest. It does have some hipsters, which I talked about on the Winnipeg Internet Pundits show on December 5th (check ‘er out here!), and some other cool people and things. However, it can become a pretty predictable place most days. There aren’t that many night life options, there aren’t many small, cosy coffeeshops or different restaurants and your life can somehow so easily become driving up and down Victoria and 18th and popping into Superstore for some groceries. That’s it. Sometimes the mundane life is a nice break (I’m certainly not complaining!), but other times, it just becomes too comfortable. When I get to that point, I start noticing some guilty pleasures creeping in and having more of a forefront in my life. And I’m not going to lie, I kind of like it. There aren’t called guilty pleasures for no reason!

So I’ve decided to come clean. Talk about my (mostly) guilty pleasures from living in Brandon. Here goes.

1. eBrandon.ca discussions

This site may be one of the greatest sites of all times. Before I moved here, the online buy/sell/trade/find apt/find job stuff was all about Kijiji and Craigslist. But not here in Brandon, no. Brandon is so incredibly special that it has it’s very own version of Kijiji, but it’s even better, because hilarious and awkward discussions are had on such site. For a long time, I just wanted to start a separate blog where I would be recording monologues of eBrandon discussions because they were the most weird and hilarious things I’ve ever read. Some people truly do have too much time on their hands and enjoy complaining about anything and everything, while not using proper spelling or grammar of course!

If you’re not from Brandon, I suggest you check out the discussions on eBrandon occasionally. You will not regret it. It may even become a daily highlight if you check it out consistently!

2. The not-good-enough veggie burger at A&W

Yup, I went there. In fact, I totally just had one yesterday. As a vegetarian, I’m always on the hunt for a good veggie burger. Even as veggies, we still have cravings for junky vegetarian food because let’s face it, we all have those days! I used to only get the veggie burger from Harvey’s. Every time I would go to the mall in Hamilton, I would hit up Harvey’s religiously. I loved that veggie burger. It was the best. But now that I’m in Manitoba, I’ve had to change things up a little. Harvey’s barely exists in this province, but A&W is king here. So I’ve adapted because I’ve had to! The burger isn’t nearly as good, yet I think it’s more expensive. And whenever I go to A&W, there are, let’s just say…some interesting characters. But at the end of the day, it’s my veggie burger. But because it’s just not good enough, it’s my guilty pleasure one.

3. The Roadhouse

Admittedly, I haven’t been there in months. And when I moved here, it was all about Houston’s and people had horrible things to say about The Roadhouse. But I have a few personal qualms with Houston’s, although I have had some good times there. So when I was invited out to Roadhouse for the first time, I was kind of weary…but then, I somehow ended up having more fun there than ever! It was definitely a summer hotspot for me and my friends, and certainly some great memories were made there. So whoever tells you that Roadhouse is super shady and you should hit up Houston’s instead, just scoff at them and tell them to shoo!

4. The occasional country song

I think this one is the hardest to admit. I was definitely a country fan when I was very young, but that was partly due tot he fact that it was some of the only secular music I could listen to. Somehow country was better – they mentioned “the Lord” sometimes, but then followed with lyrics about going to the bar right after, so…yeah. Anyway, I digress.

Many of my friends love country here, but I have kept my stance of not liking country at all. I’m strong on this, but…but sometimes a catchy country song starts playing at a wedding. Or a social. And it’s so fun. It’s innocent enough, but then it gets ridiculous. I go home and secretly go on YouTube and listen to that song…at least a few times. And I like it. And any friend that is reading this who loves country is honestly probably rejoicing while reading these words. Others who similarly hate country are probably crying right now. This may be my most shameful guilty pleasure!

5. Winnipeg

The rural Brandonites worse nightmare. Winnipeg. Do you know how many times I have heard about how awful Winnipeg is since moving to Brandon? And about how lovely and nice and wonderful Brandon is? And how Brandon is such a great size and just the best place in the world to live and raise a family? Personally, I have a different taste, but whatever floats your boat. But I am a Brandonite, and I love Winnipeg. I love getting lost in Winnipeg. I love Osborne. I appreciate that there’s a two-tiered mall. I appreciate seeing the diversity. I love the size of the city. I love that there are old record shops, and nice little parks scattered everywhere. I love that there is a vibe there. A buzz. Energy! The city feeds my soul, and since living in Brandon, I have learned that I’m actually more of a city person than I thought. Something good to learn about yourself, right?!

So there you have it, 5 of my guilty pleasures of being a non-original Brandonite. Any guilty pleasures from anyone else who lives in Brandon or anywhere else for that matter? What are the “uncool” things that you just kind of (slightly) love in your own cities/towns?

A Rodeo? Yes, a Rodeo.

For those that know me, you wouldn’t think that I’d be the first one to be eager to attend a rodeo. I mean, me? A hippie, animal loving, vegetarian, “city” girl? Yeah…not exactly a rodeo type. And even when my friend asked me, I was like, well, I don’t know how I ethically feel about this (as I’ve heard tons about rodeo abuse and whatnot), but I want to hang out and catch up with you, so I’ll go! And in my mind, I was thinking, hey, I’m a girl living in “rural” Manitoba, so I may as well get this over with and say that I’ve at least been to a rodeo! Plus, it was free.

So first up, the bronco riding. I wasn’t entirely bothered by this and I was asking my friend (who is a super duper horse person – along with the fact that her husband used to be a bull rider) how in the world the horses got so annoyed that they were going crazy in the arena. She explained that it’s all about the flank strap. As Wikipedia tells me it is “4 inches wide” and it “fastens behind the widest part of the abdomen”. I guess that would be annoying, wouldn’t it? Truth be told, during the whole bronco riding set I was focussed more on the calves at the other end of the arena. I think I literally texted my friend (who was on the other side of the arena) saying “I want to free them all”. Yes, that’s me. 

So then came the steer wrestling. For friends who have no clue what this is, it’s when a cowboy is on a horse, jumps off the horse and catches the steer and wrestles it to the ground. This irked me out a little. I was continuously reminded about how flexible these creatures are, but every time I saw a cowboy wring a neck, I shuddered. Every time a steer got away, I clapped and cheered and my friend laughed at me, calling me such a “city girl”. And for the record, my friend thinks that it’s a little ridiculous to jump off a perfectly good horse and go to wrestle a steer. I agree with her. See below.

Roping the calves came next. Again, I clapped and cheered every time they’d get away. But boy oh boy, I was honestly amazed at the roping skills some of those cowboys had…wowza. So fast. SO FAST. They got those calves on the ground and bam, it was done.

Then the highlight event – bull riding! These people are crazy. They are. Literally. Why would you ride a bull? It doesn’t make sense. And these bulls…oh boy, did they ever look mad. And who can blame them? I’m going to be honest, I was incredibly impressed with any cowboy that was able to stay on until the time was up. Most of them got bucked off, and then those ridiculously insane rodeo clown types got the attention of the bull. That’s another crazy occupation!

All in all…it was an interesting time to say the least. But for me, it felt good to be a part of the Western culture a little more, even with my “city girl”/animal lover side coming out. Families are so dedicated to this sport, and do they ever start them young! Some of those junior bull riders were 10 years old! Just amazing. I’m really quite glad I didn’t pass up this event, because I always feel like I’m sucked into another world that I don’t know so much about when I go to these type of things. Cowboy boots and hats, some country accents, country music and a real love and passion for horses especially. It’s nice to explore different worlds sometimes, eh?

Here’s a little video of the bronco riding for your viewing pleasure!

Photo Credit

Thoughts on the One Year Mark

Wow, how time flies. I can’t believe that about a year ago (Sept. 16, 2011 to be exact) I drove into this province and into Brandon with my dad and my U-haul, parked it up at my friends place on “Bannock Bay” and stayed there until I could move into my new place, way on the other side of town. I was off on a new adventure and I was questioning it the whole time.

I remember in August 2011, when I wrote my closest friends an ESSAY about how I was moving, and how I loved them, and how I couldn’t believe I was leaving them…but that we are all going to go in our separate directions at some point in life, and that I may be back in Ontario at some point – as we sometimes wanted to live the dream of living beside each other, and raising our children together, and making them marry each other.

I wondered what I was doing. I was a little impulsive. Manitoba held my heart since I was 18 years old, ever since coming up to Boissevain to work at a camp that summer. But sometimes, summers are so different than the rest of the year, right? Either way, I moved here. And I knew I had to. One of my best friends said, “Sheri, you need to go, or else you will regret it and always say ‘What if?’” And she was right.

I thought finding a good job wouldn’t be too hard. It was hard. I succeeded eventually, then things fell apart. And here I am, still looking for that opportunity. I know it will come, I just hope it comes sooner than later. If anyone sees a girl living in a ditch anytime soon, you’ll know it’s me!

So sometimes, I look back on this year and I ask, “What in the world? Has this turned into the biggest failure of my life? Did I do the right thing?” And then sometimes, I miss the city. Like, a real city. I miss sirens. I miss people. I miss crazy people. I miss people going the speed limit, or a little more. I miss independent coffee shops, and a snobby arts and culture scene.

Through thinking all of this though, I realized that moving to Brandon just opened up more doors and opportunities for me in the long run. I realized that if I had stayed in Hamilton after school for a few years, I would have easily settled down there. Get a dog. Another cat. Buy a house. Stick with my stable job. By moving here, I realized that those things probably won’t happen, because Brandon isn’t my total comfort zone, unlike Hamilton. Hamilton was my “Under the Bridge” city, thank you very much Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was there when I had nothing else. Brandon certainly isn’t that, and that’s not to say anything bad about this small town city. I know that by being here, I’m going to eventually go somewhere else, while looking back on my time here fondly, even though it’s been a struggle.

Throughout this past year, I have gained new friends. I have had the greatest and sometimes life altering experiences with them. I have been able to reconnect with friends from the past. I have been able to take care of people I love the most. I have learned patience and humility. I have learned to rely on others. I have learned a little more about what I want in life. I learned about my love for bunnies (I am The Mother of Rabbits, as my friend says). I have learned that Ontario is not the center of the universe. I have learned that I really love trees and rocks, and that I actually miss them dearly. I have learned that I really like warmer weather and don’t know if I can handle the winter that’s coming up – but know that I will survive, because I’m from Manitoba now. I have learned that I am content here, for the most part.

Most of all, I have learned that life doesn’t always go as planned, but wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you will learn and grow and eventually conquer. So I can say that I’m thankful that I moved here, despite it not being perfect. I can’t wait to see more of Manitoba, and see where life takes me from this one year mark. Thanks, Manitoba!

Discovering the North

This past weekend was a little nostalgic for me. I realized it when I was driving from Brandon to Flin Flon and I said that we were “going up north”. Saying that phrase is second nature to me, as I would regularly go back up north while I was living in Hamilton to see my parents and friends in the Sault Ste. Marie area. And then came the trees. The long lasting evergreen trees that were practically suffocating the highway – I loved it. Then came the rocks. I loved that even more. I didn’t realize how much I took rocks for granted until I saw them again near the Flin Flon area. Needless to say, I loved going up north and discovering some different parts of Manitoba this past weekend.

I was up in Flin Flon for a friends wedding, which was at the beautiful Bakers Narrows Lodge. The surroundings were just gorgeous and I couldn’t have asked for a better long weekend! It was so refreshing to see how diverse different parts of Manitoba are. Oh, and another interesting quirk of the north…the roads are a lot better up there than they are down here! Just putting it out there…

My friend and I also ended up camping for one night at Duck Mountain Provincial Park near Swan River, which was a great experience as well. Once again, it was just beautiful and awesome to see some of the amazing lakes that Manitoba has to offer. We stayed at Childs Lake, but also took in the multitude of other lakes within the park. I can be a little bit of a lake snob, having lived in northern Ontario and having Huron right at my feet, but the trip this weekend gave me a little more respect for Manitoba and what it has to offer in terms of its natural scenery.

Next trip up north? Churchill!

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Manitoba is teaching me…

…how to be taken care of.

I’m one heck of an independent spirit and I generally don’t like people doing things for me. I don’t like asking for help either. And yet, the past few months have shown me how good people are in this province and how much of a family I do actually have here. I’ve been unemployed for awhile now, and I just can’t believe how much people have taken care of me during this time! I know things would be slightly different if I were in the same situation in Ontario (not because my friends aren’t amazing – but because we’d probably all be broke together, living a struggling post university career life)

But really, here, in the land of the friendly, they have taken care of me. Whether it’s buying a coffee for me, or a meal. Or giving me the leftovers from awesome Man-family meals, or filling up my gas tank (thank you to my real ‘rents and my Manitoba ‘rents!) Then there’s just the positive vibes going out for me, the prayers (this is Mennonite country), the thoughts, the searching the web ceaselessly for potential jobs. People that don’t even know me have given concern to me, and they 100% have my back.

I’m just not used to this kind of love and care! Friggin’ Manitoba, you rip my heart out sometimes. I feel so grateful for the incredible people that I have in my life (even if I apparently don’t know them, but they got my back), and although during times like these, I miss my people back “home”, I don’t think I would want to be anywhere else right now.

Thanks, Manitoba, for teaching me how to be cared for.

Just Sayin’…

So, for a couple months, I worked for the Government of Manitoba. Of course, there is Inter-Departmental Mail, which re-uses envelopes. The envelopes easily make it all the way through the province. Once I was finished my term there, I needed to get some things from HR. They sent it through Inter-Departmental Mail, and all I can say is that I feel semi-important because I got an envelope that was used by the Premier himself! (Or his secretary…same difference!) Check it out…1 to 5!

Department of Holidays

It’s that time of year again. The snow has gone (knock on wood!!!) and summer is arriving (ish). That means that the roads are, well, painfully awful. In lots of places anyway.

I was in Saskatchewan yesterday (obviously, just to get my hair done by my amazing friend who is a hair dresser – why else would I go to “The Gap”? Kidding!), going through Virden, then Melita (where the creepy banana man lives, who me and my friends affectionately call “Lester the Molester”) then onward to Carivale. The roads. Oh the roads. Especially near Melita, which is a notorious spot for flooding. There were “surface breaks” everywhere…thank you orange signs for telling us to go 40km/hr when the term “surface breaks” is so ambiguous anyway, as my friend pointed out.

My friend’s dad actually used to work for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and she said that he liked to call that department the “Department of Holidays”. How incredibly true! Anyone who has spent even a little time in Manitoba knows how awful some of these roads are. I’ve spent the majority of my time in the South Westman area and the highways are certainly not impressive. The roads in Brandon are always needing improvements. Pot holes, pot holes, pot holes. I think Manitoba must be the pot hole capital of Canada. I whole heartedly agree about the joke of the “Department of Holidays”.

I understand Manitoba isn’t made of riches. There isn’t tons of money. But I think we can all agree that if more money was spent on Manitoba’s infrastructure, it would make all of our lives easier and more enjoyable. I’m certainly not trying to get political. It’s difficult trying to balance out what is needed for the province, but the infrastructure doesn’t only help us who live here – it gives an impression to those who don’t live here, but are driving across the province to their respective destinations. Don’t we want to make a good impression? Just a thought!

Recently, CAA told a poll to see what the worst roads in Manitoba were (totally coincidental with this post!), and apparently St. James Street in Winnipeg got the most votes, along with several other Winnipeg streets. Understandably, most votes came out of Winnipeg, and there are many bad roads in Winnipeg, but I can tell you, highways in the Westman area are crumbling and main roads in Brandon aren’t any better. When I went back to Ontario in February, I could really tell the difference between the roads there and here.

I hope that the CAA poll will make the government pay a little more attention to what the road conditions are like all across the province.