Sunday, February 26, 2006

Keeping on

(Picture: outside Founders residence, York U)

Well, what have I been up to in the week since I got back from Québec? Good question...

I mentioned at the end of the previous entry that I went to a party at Andrew MacKenzie's house on the Saturday night. Andrew is my Bible study group leader and the "key student leader" of Campus for Christ here at York - top bloke. Playing Risk took up a chunk of the evening - ie. until 2am, and even though I got a lift home (thankfully) I was up until 3am, and still pretty tired from the week away. So, I didn't get up in time for church in the morning - oops. Bummed around for a while that day, but managed to hook a lift with Josh to Grace church in the evening, where Paul Martin was speaking about consistent church attendance! Ahem.

The week was pretty good - got back a test on Monday which I somehow managed to get 81% for despite revising for, ooh, about 10 minutes. I really hope my marks aren't "adjusted" when I get home from being way too high for the work I've put in. Better than that, a summary of 10 readings that I bashed out for "post-colonial geographies" (AKA Bash the Brits) was graded 92.5%. Two record marks in as many days: sweet.

Last night I was invited by Nick Mitchell to a men's fellowship evening at his house out in Markham. It was a good time with good food, good company, and good foos-ball. Living in a big house while your parents are away must be a cool, if slightly bewildering experience. Josh and I gamely agreed to keep Nick company overnight, and spent quite a while dissecting his bookshelves, watching DVDs and so on. I got a lift back to York this afternoon with Murray (Josh's dad) and wrote a little bit of an essay due in on Tuesday. Noooo... I have to start working again! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Je me souviens

You can see the photos I took over on my photo site (link opens in a new window).

Err... it's been a while, hasn't it? I apologise for letting this blog stagnate for so long. Duly chastised, etc. Anyway, I'll bring you up to date with what I got up to for the week after my last post - optimistically called "Reading Week". I didn't go home for the week (though it might have been nice), but I had the opportunity to go away. Kate, Natalie and Jay - three other exchange students - had arranged a trip to Québec, Montréal and Ottowa for the week, and I hoped to do something similar so we went together.

We travelled to Québec on Saturday using the sweet Canadian trains - it might be -20º outside but inside the train it's toasty and comfortable. Due to a communications breakdown, I booked myself into a different hostel to the other three - the Hostelling International outpost which was pretty decent, especially for $20 a night! While we were in town, the Winter Carnival was just wrapping up, but there were still lots of funky things around like ice statues and a general air of festivity.

Québec highlight: the old town perched on top of cliffs with old buildings (gasp). It could almost have been in France!

Québec lowlight: walking down to the port using some steps along the cliff, and then going for a walk and wasting an hour going along the highway looking for some steps back up.

On Tuesday, I hopped back on the train to head west to Montréal, which up until about 50 years ago was the dominant city in Canada. I've never returned with a backpack to somewhere I've been before sous sac, and staying in the same hostel as before was certainly an interesting experience! The neighbourhood remained mostly the same, apart from the addition of another Starbucks. C'est la vie...! That night (the 14th February, if you're not keeping track) the four of us went out for dinner in a steak restaurant. "Good choice" I said to Natalie - especially as she's a vegetarian! Regretfully, none of our budgets extended to actually ordering a steak.

Montréal highlight: perhaps the gloriously pointless Biosphere - a metal globe built for Expo '67 and that has some kind of museum inside; or maybe eating at Schwartz's smoked meat café: awesome sandwiches.

Montréal lowlight: blizzard conditions! Kate and I climbed the "mountain" on Wednesday, and it took about three times as long as when I did it in 2004, because all the paths were covered in ice. Getting down was obviously easier ;-) I also wondered where everyone was in the city centre, until I discovered that they've built passages underground! I could walk almost from my hostel right into the Eaton Centre or the train station without going outside. Ingenious...

The third and final part of the trip was stopping in Ottowa for two nights. Kate, Natalie and Jay had been invited to stay with their friend Calli, but I hardly know her, so thought it would be better to stay in a hostel. By this time I was a day ahead of the other three (I'd been to Montréal before so didn't need to stay as long) and it turned out that I didn't see them for the time I was in the city.

Ottowa highlight: the hostel is a converted prison! Quite a unique experience to sleep in a jail cell, and not one I'm planning to repeat... Also, the Musuem of Civilisation which was pretty interesting and worth $6 to get out of the cold!

Ottowa lowlight: hmm, how can I say this? The train station is two miles outside of the city, so you have to take an (expensive) bus each way. The city centre itself is very dull - in fact, it makes Canberra look exciting! The Parliament building is a poor pastiche of Westminster, and the rest seemed to be 1970s office blocks. The weather was another negative: a board in the hostel declared "feels like -33", which made me think: just what does -33 feel like? Once we're below the temperature of my freezer I'm pretty much lost.

So, I got back to Toronto on Saturday evening, and was whisked straight-away by my friend and social consultant Josh to Andrew Mackenzie's house for an end-of-reading-week party. Good to get back into my (Christian) friendship bubble, and good also to play Risk which I nearly won (ie. I was the last to be obliterated).

C'était une semaine excellente, mais j'ai trouvé l'accent des Québecois un peu difficile, parce que ce n'est pas la même qu'en France! OK, French knowledge exhausted. Blog on the last week upcoming, but I have an essay to crack on with first. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Frozen Football

Campus 4 Christ here at York are trying to set up a weekly sports event outside Founders residence (where I live). Ostensibly it's street hockey, which everyone is welcome to, followed by some food; but in the last 2 weeks there's been a group of Chinese students there playing football (soccer) on the court, so we've joined in. Today was pretty interesting as the court gradually froze over with continuing snowfall! Trying to intercept people when you can't run is good fun...

Anyway, I'm going away tomorrow for a week. I'll be gone until next Sunday, in Quebec, Montreal and Ottowa, so if you're planning to get hold of me then you can email and I'll try and be online once or twice in that time. Otherwise, till next time! Gotta love reading week.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lovin' it

Hello everyone,

Well, the honeymoon period for this blog is over! I'm going to try and focus on quality rather than quantity of posts, but in all likelihood I'll manage neither. This post has a few antecedents:

- It's Valentine's Day soon, so a lot of people are thinking about "love" in that sense (not me!);

- Josh Robinson blogged about his "thoughts on love" with a more Biblical basis;

- I heard a powerful testimony of a local minister this week on his life and why love matters. It made me think about God's love. This minister (Pastor Dino from the local Christian Centre Church at Jane & Shoreham) has led a very interesting life. He's from Montreal and as a kid was talented at sports, but then got into improvisation and acting. On a whim, he decided to try and make it in Hollywood, so he went there (!) but couldn't make it. He resorted to some pretty desperate measures, and eventually got a break. At this point he realised he needed a green card, so made plans to marry a girl to legalise his status.

He'd come into contact with a Christian on a bus who'd given him a tract about Jesus, and this Christian kept praying for him. Just before Dino was to get married to this girl, a Christian lady knocked on his door and said "Dino - what you're about to do [she didn't know what] is a big mistake. Don't do it." This was God's love stretching down to him in his situation. Soon after that he was saved and started preaching himself, seeing people come to faith; and eventually he returned home to Canada, went to Bible college and became a pastor.

That's all a bit peripheral to my point. Dino kept emphasising "God loves you" and "God is love" and these are two gloriously true statements. But he never went on and explained why that's actually important or even relevant to us. I mean, if someone I've never met apparently loves me, what do I care? It doesn't change my life in any way. What I was a little uncomfortable about his testimony was that he never went on to explain this:

God loves us. Why is this important? He loves us so much, in fact, that He wants us to be in relationship with Him, and this led Him to create a way that we could be forgiven. Why is this important? Well, because of our lifestyle that's in opposition to God. Dino saw this with his dodgy marriage and furtive lifestyle, but it's true for all of us, to one degree or another. The parable of the lost son in the Bible features a young man who runs off to another country, squanders his money with prostitutes and ends up destitute. Eventually he comes to his senses and decides to return to his father and apologise. His father, of course, forgives him totally and is ecstatic that his lost son has returned. It's the same with God! That is love, right there.

So, love. It's a great thing, and our response should be the same: "We love, because God first loved us". Charles Wesley:

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!

PS: Another thing I love is that the student ministry has funding. I suggested holding a prayer breakfast here in Founders residence (analagous to Early Morning Prayer back in Southampton) and Andrew, the leader of this group, said that's a good idea, and we could provide free muffins! Now that's a prayer meeting I'd attend...

Friday, February 03, 2006


Bouya! I've had an absolutely mental two weeks, but it's pretty much over thankfully. My Southampton semester has just ended with an exam period for which I'd normally have two week of study leave then two weeks of exams; instead I've had two weeks of class... and then two more weeks of class! I had exams on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, and would have had two assignments due in too but I got extensions for them until this week. This week then, I had exams on Monday and Thursday, and assignments due in on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday - argh! I'm really thankful I made it through, because I haven't been this stressed in a while.

I wasn't too busy to set up and post to this blog several times over the last week though! Never mind, I work best in short bursts... anyway, tonight was nice. I went straight from my last exam to the Campus 4 Christ meeting (getting pretty lost on the way), and then Josh invited me back to his house for dinner and watching "Sweet Hereafter" with him and Jessie. That was a good low-key evening, but a good break to my hermit's existence this last week.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I finally got around to seeing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tonight. I went as part of a JCR event (of sorts) - the residence (ie. my fees presumably!) paid for the cinema ticket and pizza beforehand, so I was happy to shell out $5 for bus tickets. Even if we did nearly miss it on the way home.

But the film was superb. I now know how people who'd read Lord of the Rings felt a couple of years ago. It worked superbly! From the wardrobe and the forest, to the Turkish Delight, to the beavers, the wolves, the presents, the battle camp, Aslan (seemed somehow familiar) and so on. Hollywood had its weaselly way in one or two places: river-surfing on an ice floe with a sword is not an episode I remember from CS Lewis! These still added to the film though, and I thought it stood well on its own. The only niggle I had was that seeing talking animals and Peter becoming "Sir Peter Wolfbane" seemed entirely reasonable in a book, but seeing it on screen just felt a tad strange.

Once I've evaulated it more in the next day or two I think I'll remember it well :-) In other news, I have an exam on Thursday [so why are you on here!? - Ed] and assignments due on Thursday and Friday. Joy...