Well, well, well, hasn't Toronto grown up since I was last here sometime in the early 90's? The only thing that appeared somewhat familiar was the CN Tower. With it being both Canada and the world'd tallest building, it's the kind of land mark that you cannot help but recognise. It looks somewhat like the Telstra Tower in Canberra, or as my friend Bec (from Canberra!) fondly calls it, "the Hypodermic Needle". Yes, it does look a little like a big needle jutting out into the skyline.
As most of you would know, the USA/ Canada part of our journey has mainly been catching up with friends and family, many whom I have not seen for years. But yes, we did manage to go to the top of the CN tour, where needless to say we were afforded panoramic views of Toronto. www.cntower.ca Alex is the photography aficionado, so views from tall buildings are always good. And I must say, despite the fact that I often joke about how he always seems to be taking photos, it always seems to pay off as there are some exceptional ones amongst them. I have taken some too, as we have a camera each, but I think Alex is over me chortling, "Aleeeeeeeeeex, flash or no flash? Scenery? Macro? Red eye reduction?", which usually precedes a fairly large portion of my attempting to take a photo.
I definitely need to find the time to read the camera manual.......after the several other books I currently have on the go. At the moment, they are: "The Lost Realms" (The long-hidden secrets of the lost civilisations of the pre-Columbian Americas), "The Heart of the Buddha's Path" (by the Dalai Lama), "Travel Writing" and Lonely Planet's "USA and Canada on a Shoestring". Nothing like a good mix, is what I say.
Again, some of you may recall my very special friend, Annie Cervantes, whom I met whilst living in Ecuador in 1999. She was one of my best friends in Ecuador, and moved to Toronto just under two years ago. She is very dear to me, and has remained someone very special and close to my heart. Although two years had passed since I had last seen her in Ecuador, it only took a soul-felt hug and a few seconds to realise that nothing had changed, and we were able to pick up where we had left off. It was great to also be able to meet her new partner, Dale.
We shared a wonderful six days together: laughing, crying, reminiscing, hugging. We were also honoured to be able to share a very poignant moment in Annie's life - We went to Canadian Immigration with her, and she was finally granted Canadian permanent residency. As Alex too went through this a couple of years ago, we both know what such a day signifies. Many doors close, but many more open! One never forgets that South American passion of their mother country, but those feelings are always mixed with the knowledge of the opportunities that a first world offers. This is when I close my eyes and envisage utopia.....no first or third world, no difference between black and white, straight and gay, no poor and rich, equal opportunity in all places and for all people, and above all peace, love, freedom, shelter and food for all.
All good things must come to an end, and as Alex and I jumped on the bus outside Annie's apartment, we hugged goodbye before boarding, and I cried all the way to the Greyhound bus station. I must say, I felt so very truly sad. I have some spectacular friends, but they live all over the world, and so goodbyes are part and parcel of seeing them. The amazing friendships I have formed and the love and joy they bring me, however, by far outweighs the sadness.
Annie, thanks for your unconditional love and support, and for always standing by me. Please know that I will always be here for you too. Each goodbye is not the end at all, but simply a beginning!
Our bus was not leaving until 1.00am, and we had also organised to meet my friend Mari Alvarez at 10.00pm (at the Greyhound station). Mari is a Canadian woman I met whilst working in Japan as an English teacher in 1997/98. We actually shared the sameapartment when I lived in Tokyo. Mari, you are as beautiful as I remember you, and although it was brief, I am so glad that we were able to connect again. Thanks for making the time to come out and see us, when I felt that we were almost on the verge of not being able to after such a long time!
Paolo Cristante and Renee Knarr-Peev are two other friends from the Toronto area that I met on one of my several sojourns around the world. Paolo I met in 1999 in Patagonia, Argentina and Renee in 1994 (I think! Help me here Renee!) They are both married now with 2 and 3 children respectively. Unfortunately, we were not able to catch up on this trip, but we did manage to connect via e-mail. Next time......and with the way I travel , I expect that there will always be a next time!
(Images: 1. Ombi, Annie & Alex city center Toronto 2.CN Tower 553.3mts (1,815 feet, 5 inches) 3. View Fron top CN Tower SkyPod 4.Ombi & Anie. 5. Mari & Ombi)
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