Saying goodbye to Canada (Last week in Ottawa) – 2 of 3

After wrapping up work in Ottawa, we left ourselves exactly 7 days to get everything in order for our big move!  We stopped working on Friday, and on the next Friday our apartment was cleaned out, we had all our bags packed, and we drove to Toronto for our final weekend in Canada.  If you haven’t read about the previous week, check out my previous blog.  It was busy-busy, but we made it through!

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Left: Beautiful sunset on the drive from Ottawa to Toronto.  Right: Steve trying to use up extra food in the cupboards by making his favourite dessert – crème brûlée!

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Left: It felt so good to empty out the first bookshelf! Right: Steve was a huge help in bringing all the boxes down to our storage locker once I had filled them up!

Thursday, July 28 – Regular work day… Went for lunch to Agave Grill with my coworkers. We even got sangria – so risk-ay! – but what were they going to do, fire me? Lol… Anyway, it was nice to chat with everyone. My job was technically supposed to end August 31, but I resigned a month early to take the position with Cuso in Bolivia. It’s weird to think they’re all just finishing up work now…

That night was also another work social. Natasha (from the 10th floor) is the queen of organizing all these types of events. So we left work around 5 and headed to the market to meet her. There was only 5 of us from my office, and the traffic wasn’t ideal. But we got there and had drinks and some food. There was already about 6 other people there from the other office. Two of the big bosses showed up a bit later (once half the people had already left) and ordered rounds and rounds of shots for everyone. The stories were crazy and everyone was feeling a bit tipsy. They kept saying it was “like Friday” because it was a long weekend, but we all still had to work the next day!  Anyway, I was home before midnight, and Steve was already asleep, but I’m proud to say that I had a total of 6 drinks (including the 2 at lunch) plus 6 shots that night – not bad for a light weight!

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Left: A mural at the restaurant we went to for drinks on Thursday night. Right: My work team (me, Pierrette, Zach, and Christy), plus my manager (Mike) and one of the other managers (Sara).

Friday, July 29 – My last day of work! I was a bit tired, but definitely felt better than most of the others who had gone out the night before.  It was weird to say bye to everyone.  I did an exit interview with my manager and we all took a group picture. It was strange to be leaving early, but 2 others (in our group of 12) were also leaving within a week – so I didn’t feel so bad.  I packed up my whole desk, and at 3:30, Natasha and Isabelle (who had originally interviewed me for the position) walked us to the security desk to hand in our badges. We hugged goodbye, and I left to catch my bus.

I got off the bus downtown for my travel doctor appointment at 4:15. I had been already the year before to have everything updated, so thankfully I didn’t actually need any shots. He prescribed me some antibiotics and dukoral (just in case), and reassured me that there was no Zika, dengue, or malaria in Sucre due to the altitude (so no anti-malarials, yay). In fact, I haven’t seen any mosquitoes since I got here, which is really nice. The Bolivian embassy had also emailed me earlier in the day, and our passports were ready to pick up.  Thankfully it was just 2 blocks away from my appointment and they closed at 5, so I dashed over to pick up our passports (with temporary 30-day visas!) before leaving downtown.

I headed home to have dinner and chill a bit before going back to Sparks Street.  I love the buskers festival. I go every year if I’m in town. My favourite is the fire performers!  We got downtown around 10 and hung out while waiting for the 10:30pm fire show.  We got a great seat, and really enjoyed all the fire breathing, juggling, and hula hooping on Sparks Street.  Alex and Lyn (friends of ours) were already nearby at Bier Markt with a friend from out of town who they were showing around. We went by for a drink and some snacks before heading home.

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Buskers festival!  I love the night show with fire and lights best of all 🙂

Saturday, July 30 – On Saturday I had made plans with my best friend Jenn (we’ve known each other over 20 years! – that makes me feel so old…).  We went shopping at Carlingwood mall for girly stuff.  Got some lunch, chatted about life, and had a relaxing girly day.  At the comedy night on Wednesday, my other friend from high school (Jessy) had mentioned wanting to go for dinner before we left. Since Jenn and I already had plans Saturday afternoon, we figured dinner afterwards would be easy. We had some time to kill, so we went to Walmart for a bit to buy some cosmetics and other necessities for my trip. Then we met Jessy at Montana’s on Merivale for dinner. The boys wanted to come say goodbye as well, but we wanted time for girl talk – so we compromised.  The girls met for cocktails and appetizers (yum, spinach dip) and they boys met us afterwards for dinner with everyone.  It was a really nice night and a good chance to see them before we left.

Sunday, July 31 – Packing day! Steve and I got to working in earnest on packing.  Let’s be honest, most of the stuff in the apartment was mine.  So while I sorted through shelves into various piles (bring on trip, donate, garbage, and storage), Steve lugged boxes down to our basement storage locker.  We’re a pretty good team 🙂

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From before to after – packing exploded our house, but we got it all cleaned up for the new tenants before we left!

Monday, August 1 – Another packing day!  It was also a long weekend, so a lot of the stores were closed and most people weren’t at work. We wanted to see our friends again, but Jenna had been away for the weekend. Since it was a holiday, we all got together at Alex + Lyn’s house for drinks and games. Phase 10 (a card game) always causes a lot of drama when some people always move ahead and others get stuck behind.  It was a fun night 🙂

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Left: New hair cut before the trip (though it’s not too different, but does make you feel good). Right: Trying to finish up all the booze before leaving – a challenge I’m willing to accept! 😉

Tuesday, August 2 – Packing day! Wow, only 3 days left. I was really starting to panic a bit and I was sure it wouldn’t all get finished in time.  The first rooms were easy (empty all bookshelves, clean out kitchen, remove all toiletries from bathroom, etc.), but what was left was difficult (mostly sorting through all my clothes, shoes, jackets…).  The best part was trying to finish all the alcohol we had by making fun, new cocktails with random ingredients! 🙂

Wednesday, August 3 – Packing day! Each day I was a bit more stressed, but we had a bit more done. I kept thinking how grateful I was that we were sub-letting our place furnished.  That meant we only had to pack up the actual stuff (books, picture frames, clothes, etc.) but could leave all the big stuff (couches, bed, TV, kitchen stuff).  It also meant that we could simply store our belongings in a storage locker in the basement, for the low price of $10 a month – amazing! No moving truck, no wrapping dishes in paper – totally perfect 🙂 That night we went to dinner in the market with Jenna, Alex, and Lyn for the last time and had a nice meal.  It was sad to say goodbye, but definitely nice to see them again.

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Can’t believe we fit everything we need into 4 suitcases (well more like 3 suitcases for me and 1 for Steve – but y’know….)

Thursday, August 4 – Packing day! Even though it was our last full day to pack, I had already made some plans.  I went for lunch with a great lady named Xenia, who I had met online, since she was working with a great civic engagement startup called CivicUp.  We had Skyped before and sent messages but never met in person.  It was really great to put a real face to a name, and chat about all sorts of issues. We met at Clocktower on Elgin and I had some really delicious perogies. I even saw my cousin Kristy randomly walking by, which was nice because we got to say another goodbye before I left.

After lunch I went to my hair appointment (just a trim – it’s always difficult and scary to get what you want in a foreign country where the hair and styles may be different than you’re used to). Unfortunately, it was a sweltering hot day so I was already sweaty and it was super humid.  But the hair got cut and I was feeling good. I walked over to AccuRate to take out some American money before leaving (always a good idea to travel with some, since it’s accepted or easily changeable in almost every country) and you can’t get Bolivian money in Canada (at least not that we could find).  I went back home to help Steve with packing. Since it was mostly my stuff left, I continued filling boxes and sent Steve on a few errands with the car. We had divided our charitable donations into a few categories – toiletries and extra food (women’s shelter), cable and other electronics (e-waste recycling at Best Buy), books and movies (donate to the library for them to resell to fund activities in the community), and miscellaneous + clothes (Value Village). That night we had a nice dinner and drank our last bottle of ice wine we had from a previous trip to Quebec city.

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Goodbye apartment – we’ll miss you!

Friday, August 5 – Packing + travel day! Our last day in Ottawa (at least for a year) – weird feeling. We were supposed to have finished packing the night before, but of course that didn’t happen.  We had 3/4 bags fully closed and done, but 2 of them were underweight, and the final unpacked bag was WAY overweight.  We were allowed 2 bags each of 23kg.  We rearranged some heavy (but small) stuff into the backpacks (because they hold less) and put some lighter, but bigger stuff (mostly coats and clothes) into the larger bag. Eventually we got 3 of the 4 bags to the correct weight (I love my hand-held travel scale!), and I worked on the fourth one while Steve ran a few more errands.  We still had some donations to drop off, and some final paperwork to drop off at the Cuso office before we left.

By the time Steve got back, I was a bit freaking out.  I was supposed to have 23kg for the final bag but I had like 35kg – oh no! For those who are not packing/airport/travel experts like myself, you should know that 32kg is the max-max any bag can be in Canada for health and safety reasons, it’s just too heavy for the baggage handlers.  Between 23-32 kg it’s “overweight”, but over 32 kg they just won’t accept it.  I had looked online and saw that we could pay a fee to have one bag a bit heavier.  Steve helped to take a critical look at what I was bringing and narrow it down so it would all fit into the bag.  In the end, we packed up everything we needed in 4 large bags, 2 carry-ons, and 2 personal bags (purse for me and messenger bag for Steve) with our laptops and such.  One bag was overweight, but I was happy – we were done packing!

We didn’t leave exactly when we wanted, but we were on the way to Toronto around 3pm. It was crazy hot and our car has no air conditioning, so we were sweating buckets, but it was a fun road-trip.  We sang, and chatted, and ate lots of snacks. I’m so glad we didn’t decide to take a bus or train (as we normally do), because taking the car allowed us to leave at any time.  We also didn’t have to cart heavy bags all over the city or pay any extra fees, which is always a bonus. We arrived in Toronto just after dinner time, dropped the car at Anne’s house, and took the subway to our friends house (where we were staying the night).

Stay tuned to hear about the weekend. 🙂

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Driving to Toronto – all packed up and ready for Bolivia! Time for a final weekend to say goodbye to family and friends 🙂

Read the rest of this story in my previous/next few blog posts:

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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