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!

(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

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.

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.

Home

While life is getting more settled here in Brandon (even with a million things up in the air), I’m becoming more comfortable being here and not always telling people that “Oh, well, I live in Brandon, but I’m from Ontario – just moved here”, or something along those lines. A lot of people I’ve worked with or met DO know that I moved here from Ontario, but I sometimes mention my education, or mention some logistical things while filling out forms that may be different, etc.

Truthfully, I am becoming more comfortable with the idea that Manitoba is my home now. Of course, I’m always thinking about my next adventure and where it may take me (meaning, I HAVE already thought about where I’m moving next, preferably overseas). But while thinking about that, I thought, “Wait, I’m finally calling Manitoba my home. I haven’t even lived here for a year…but there’s a wanderlust spirit in me that wants to go and explore and work and live in other places…”. It’s a confusing time, for sure! I will certainly be staying here for awhile, I just never know how long. But the point of this is that it makes me stop and think, because I don’t know if I want to leave “home”.

So, the novelty is finally wearing off. It’s becoming normal and good being here. That’s probably why there is a lack of blog posts, to be honest! Manitoba will always have it’s quirks, and I intend on posting about more…but I don’t feel as alien here anymore. I’ll always be “from Ontario” in some sense, but now I’ll be “from Manitoba” as well. I can’t wait to confuse people with my life when they ask me where I’m from! It was hard enough having two hometowns in Ontario…

Getting Lost in Winnipeg

I recently flew out of Winnipeg to Ontario. My friend and I decided to go in the night before and stay at a friends house for the night. Needless to say, we had a crazy time, without intending it to be. We got lost. We had Thai food. We met Confusion Corner. We got lost again. Oh, and again. Oh yeah, and we almost got in a car crash (summer tires…) And you know, we experienced that city vibrancy that we’ve been missing. Here is a photo document of that night.

First, we hung out downtown for a little.

I loved that there were snow sculptures all around the city!

So after hanging out downtown, we were on our way. We accidentally ended up at the Forks. It wasn’t even intentional! I had never been there, and even though there was no one there and it was dark and snowy, I could tell that this place is awesome! And I found some Ontario type things while there…so I couldn’t resist…

Okay, then we got lost again. We went looking for our friends place…and we ended up on the other side of town. However, the great thing about getting lost was finding a street sign that bore my last name!

We FINALLY made it to our friends place, and of course, her place just happens to have an elevator. In the house. This is not an apartment building. Proof below.

Needless to say, our evening in Winnipeg was full of fun and adventure – most of it being unintentional! I can’t wait to get back to the city. Many more adventures to be had!

Louis Riel Day? A Brief History.

I support statutory holidays, even if I don’t know anything about them. Ontario has Family Day, some weird put together holiday just to get another stat holiday for the year. Now here in Manitoba, it’s Louis Riel Day. I’ve heard of this man here and there in the classroom, but don’t know much, to be honest. In fact, I’ve heard from a lot of Manitoban’s that they don’t even know that much about him. I decided to brush up on my history today and learn all about the man who gives us a well appreciated statutory holiday.

THE MAN: Louis David Riel, born October 22, 1844, near modern day Winnipeg. He was from a prominent Metis family, and was interested in the priesthood during his younger years, and attended a seminary in Montreal before his father’s death in 1864. After that, he was less interested and became a little rebellious and was asked to leave the seminary. He returned to the Red River Settlement in 1868. Riel was described as a fine scholar and gifted student, but a little odd and moody.

THE ACT: Things were getting messy here in Manitoba, or what would be known as Manitoba eventually. There were “eastern” interests and the influx of Anglo’s in the area increased tensions and anxieties among the First Nations and Metis people. Needless to say, stuff happened to create lots of unrest and Riel wasn’t putting up with it. Riel and others seized Fort Garry. They created a provisional government, and were so not letting Canada take authority over them and the land without any discussions.

Many people, even Anglo’s, were in support of Riel and what he and others were doing. However, the “pro-Canadians” were plotting against the provisional government during this time and in the end, one of them, Thomas Scott, was executed by firing squad. Lovely.

Then, the provisional government made their way to Ottawa in March of 1870. These talks between the provisional government and MacDonald led to the Manitoba Act, which created the province of Manitoba as a part of Canada.

THE AFTERMATH: There was a bounty on Riel’s head. Awesome, right? So, he had to flee. This was the effective end to the Rebellion. Riel fled to the States. But just because he was there, didn’t mean that his popularity disappeared. Even though he wasn’t even in Canada during election time for the Manitoba seat in Parliament, Riel was elected. Of course, that didn’t exactly work out and he was kicked out when he showed up in Ottawa.

The following years were interesting for Riel, with visions from God, and questionable actions like tearing his clothes off all the time. His mental state was certainly questioned at the time.

THE RETURN: Riel, with the request from others, mobilized another rebellion-type action in Saskatchewan (or, what was the North West Territories). He tried the peaceful way, but of course that didn’t work out. Things got violent and the government certainly wasn’t pleased. More troops were sent this way, and in the end, Riel surrendered.

We all know what happened after that. Things were looking down, and Riel was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.

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It’s so incredibly interesting that Manitoba chooses to celebrate Louis Riel. Certainly during his life, he was despised by the majority of Anglo-Canadians and was considered insane by most, and some to this day think he was a nutjob. And of course, he was executed in the end for his actions, yet remains to be the prominent founder of Manitoba. Oh Manitoba, how you intrigue me. In the end, I will gladly take a day off in Riel’s honour. And I mean, how cool is it to be a part of a province where the prominent founder was as hardcore and awesome as Riel?

I Heart Manitoba

Sometimes while writing this blog, it seems as though I talk about some of the negative things or weird things about Manitoba. I try to express that I’m not trying to take a stab at Manitoba, but it may not come off that way. Isn’t it funny how it’s always easier to critique rather than share the love? Well, I’ve realized that, so this post is dedicated to the things I love about Manitoba!

1. I love my friends from Manitoba. I know, total cop-out for this one to be first, but it’s true! I have made some of the best friendships right here in the friendly province. I don’t know what I’d do without some of these people in my life. They ground me, on many different levels, but I can just as easily let my hair down with them! You all know who you are 😉

2. I love the sky. The sky that goes for miles and miles. This morning as I was walking to my car, I just looked in awe at the sky which had streaks of pink, blue and orange in it. Going for miles and miles. Because of the landscape (nature and urban) in Ontario, you simply don’t get to see the sky in this way, and it’s such a bonus to living in the Prairie’s!

3. I love the genuine friendliness. I recently started a new job, and with what it is, I was expecting people to hate their jobs and hate each other. Nope, I was wrong. Everyone is too nice and friendly. Too supportive. Too helpful. It’s mind-boggling to me, but I love it! I think Manitoba has certainly earned the title of “friendly”.

4. I love the intentionally tree-lined streets. I first found this when I came to Manitoba for the first time about 7 years ago to Boissevain. What beautiful streets! The trees were canopies over the streets and were just perfectly lined up. It’s the same way in a lot of towns here, as well as many streets in Brandon. It’s just gorgeous. I wish this existed more in Ontario!

5. I love how much money I save living here. Yup, you heard it. I love it. Insurance is the huge thing. Coming from Ontario to here – wow. It’d be such a huge shock to move back and have those huge expenses again! And let’s not forget to mention hydro and gas prices lightning the load of bills!

6. I love (or do I?) how all the Sheri/Sherry/Sherrie’s are coming out of the woodwork. Completely and utterly random. I don’t have a common first name…unless you live in Manitoba/the Brandon area. It’s crazy! In the last 3 weeks, I’ve come across at least 5 different Sheri’s (a.k.a Sherry/Sherrie) on some level. This is something I have never experienced, and obviously something that Manitoba has brought into my already insane life. Woo!

Some true and sweet, and some kooky. But that’s a good thing! In time, I’m sure there will be many more things I “heart” about Manitoba. I’ll keep you posted 😉