I said I wanted a puppy, a mysterious puppy appeared

One of the best feelings in the world is when a baby smiles at you. I see babies and kids all the time in Toronto, usually being carried by one of their parents, and I always smile at them. 90% of the time, their cute little mouths form a tiny smile back and my heart just melts. I was at the bank this morning and two little girls that were in line beside me excitedly showed me a cool bracelet they made. I love children!

I was talking to some friends of mine over coffee about how I think my maternal instincts are kicking in – which is ridiculous, I’m only 20! I came to the conclusion that maybe I should just get a puppy instead.

I looked up from my coffee and all of the sudden, a small puppy appeared out of nowhere! Standing right beside me was a tiny cream-coloured fluffy dog, staring at me with its big brown eyes. Had God just given me a puppy? Was this a miracle?

IMG_20140918_105642

The dog looked pretty scruffy like it had been homeless for a while, but it was odd because I’m around this coffee shop all the time and I had never seen it before. It had no collar. Its fur was a little bit mangled and its paws were black from the dirt. I figured it must be hungry.

I took out my sandwich and tore off little pieces for the dog. I threw the first piece to it, then the second one a little bit closer to me, the third one even closer and the dog gently took the fourth piece out of my hand. I am a dog whisperer, a master animal tamer.

IMG_20140918_105553

All of a sudden, an old man comes out of the coffee shop and screams, “SUKI!” (Spelling may be incorrect.) He glares at me. “Did you feed her?! She doesn’t eat human food! She never eats human food!”

He calls the dog so it stands beside his feet. “She always waits for me right here and she knows she isn’t supposed to eat human food! She never goes close to strangers – I don’t know why she went up to you!” Little does he know, I am the master animal tamer, as we previously established.

I apologized and Suki and the man walked away and sat down at the farthest table from where I was sitting.

THE TAKEAWAY: Dog owners, take better care of your dogs so I don’t mistake them for homeless dogs and feed them “human food.”

Advertisements

If You Need A Challenge, Try House Hunting

 

I’m not sure if it’s a Toronto thing, but house hunting is DEFINITELY one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever been given. To add to the difficulty, I’m living an hour and a half away from Toronto, which is where I need to find my accommodations.

 

I live and breathe Kijiji and Craigslist. Any chance I get, I’m browsing the classifieds to see if somehow a decently priced room opens up.  I’m asking everyone I know – any rooms available in Toronto? I sent a desperate message out to the Twitterverse: Anyone know of a decently priced apartment in Toronto for August or September?

 

After two months of looking, I found a place that seemed alright. $620 for a room in a large house with laundry and everything included. This might be the one, I thought to myself.  The room’s owner told me to come at 12:30 and said she would be there to show me the room. I decided to make the voyage to Toronto.

 

Conveniently, the Gardiner was under construction so the speed of traffic was at an all time low, going about 1 km/h. My mom was with me so we had some nice bonding time. Long, drawn out bonding time. Good thing we left an hour early.

 

We actually ended up arriving a bit early for the viewing so we walked around in the disgustingly hot weather, went to Starbucks (of course) and visited Ryerson. When we got to the apartment at 12:30, I rang the buzzer. No answer. I rang the buzzer again and we waited. No answer. Maybe she’s late? I pressed the intercom button. No answer. We sat on the front steps and just waited in case she was late. I didn’t have her number – everything was done through email. Someone walked beside us and started going into the house. I asked if her roommate was home. “I’m supposed to view her room.” She gave her a call and shortly after, the roommate came outside.

 

“I’m sorry,” the girl said from the doorway. “I gave away my room this morning. It’s rented now. Sorry.”

 

My heart dropped. We just drove two hours for nothing. It was swelteringly hot. I paid money for gas and parking. Why don’t I just throw my money into the street? It would probably melt.

 

Beware of Toronto renters. They’re a cruel bunch.

 

I didn’t want to completely waste a visit to Toronto so I quickly logged on to my two favourite sites – Kijiji and Craigslist. I contacted everyone within the Ryerson vicinity and found a couple rooms to view. “When are you available to come see it?” they asked. “Right now,” I answered.

 

We walked around for hours in 30+ degree weather. I have never sweated so much in my life. Even my feet were sweating – since when do feet sweat?

 

One place we found was a little run down on the outside…and a lot run down on the inside. One person could barely fit through the hallway. The bathroom door only opened halfway because the counter was right in front of it. None of the lights worked. The owner had to awkwardly wake up one of the tenants and kick her out of her room so we could view it. I actually felt sympathy for the people living there. There were bugs flying all over the place. Their conditions were worse than the houses I repaired on my trip to the Dominican Republic.

 

There are many houses whose landlords are conveniently “in Africa” and “just need someone to take care of the place.” All I need to do is give them all of my credit card information and they’ll mail me the keys. Right.

 

The house hunt continues.

 

Oh, and here’s my cry for help: if you know anyone who has an empty, un-infested room in downtown Toronto, help a girl out!

IMG_20140630_141828

 

Café Gone Crack House

My boyfriend, Milad, and I have a cute little tradition where we check out a new café every Friday morning. We try to go to small ones around the city that aren’t part of a chain, and try to get drinks that are special to that café.

Usually, he picks the café and I just agree, because he’s lived in the city longer than I have and he’s really good at finding them! However, I found a café on my own this week and I was really excited to take him.

I randomly saw an advertisement for an apartment where you could “live above the True Love Café!” and I thought, wow, that’s really cute-sounding. A true love café? Since we’re café connoisseurs, we should definitely go. It turned out the café was only a few minutes away from my apartment so we started the journey.

The building was painted bright purple with hearts and other love-themed decorations.

“What is this, an adult toy store?” Milad asked. I said no, it’s a really cute café …

They advertised chocolate chip pancakes inside one of the hearts outside so I got really excited and thought we would have a little romantic café date…. WITH chocolate chip pancakes!

Within three seconds of walking through the doors, I lost my appetite. The smell was enough to turn around and leave. There was a homeless guy sitting on a couch who glared at us. There was a guy with massive dreadlocks and dirty clothes talking to a guy in a suit. All of the furniture looked like it had been donated. There was an entire wall of random boxes of tea.

We walked past everything to the cashier at the other end of the room, not really knowing what to do. I looked around for a menu and they didn’t have their drinks listed anywhere. “What kind of drinks do you have here?” I asked the cashier, looking up.

Only then did I notice that he was wearing scrubs and had knife gashes all over his bald head and face, and he was covered in dried blood.

“We have coffee, tea and pop,” he said plainly.

I was speechless for a second. I quickly ordered a small coffee, not really sure what else to do, and we got out of there as fast as possible. I actually dumped the coffee out because I was a little scared to drink it.

I mentioned to Milad while we were walking home that I had a black eye once while I worked at a convenience store, and that was just from falling on rocks (long story). Point being, maybe that guy just had an accident and we can’t assume anything.

“Erin, those were clearly from a knife. How many ways can you accidentally get stabbed in the head that many times?” He has a point.

I got home and told my roommate that I had been to the True Love Café. “WHAT?! You went there? It looks like a crack house!” Apparently it has a reputation.

It’s safe to say that Milad will be picking the cafés from now on (again)… but the True Love Café was the most interesting one we’ve ever been to!

Here are some pictures from past Café Fridays because I was too scared to take any photos of this one!

cafe01 cafe02 cafe03

Golden Mint Coffee & Tea Co.

Golden Mint Coffee & Tea Co.

 

25 Things You NEED to Know About Living in Toronto

Good morning!
After living in Toronto for the last year and a half (minus the summer), I’ve learned some life skills and gained some knowledge that helps me survive.
I have compiled a list of things you MUST know about Toronto.  

  1. Every hour is rush hour in Toronto. It’s almost always faster to walk and a good idea to save the $3 that would’ve been wasted on a subway or streetcar token whenever possible.TorontoTrafficJam2
  2. That being said, a pair of good walking shoes is essential. Otherwise, your feet will be covered in painful blisters that don’t go away for weeks. Let’s just pretend I’m not speaking from experience.20080928_TTCTickets
  3. If the destination really is farther than walking distance, the subway becomes fair game. And it turns out that the people on the subway are MUCH more entertaining than any movie you’d pay $12 to see in the theatre. The second you get near the subway station, people surround you wanting spare change. They all, coincidentally, have experienced the disaster of a lifetime and really just need your money. If you’re feeling down, at least 4 creepy people on the subway will tell you that you’re beautiful. If you need fashion inspiration, you can find it on display there; people wear anything and everything from garbage bags to tuxedos. If your nose is stuffed up, the stench of the subway will likely clear any sinus issues. You can count on the newest “up-and-coming” 60-year-old musicians to be playing in the underground walkways with hats out, begging for change.  And the FIGHTS. When service is down or delayed, tension floods the underground air. Arguments explode over people talking too loudly, people touching other people, people taking up two seats, people not controlling their dogs… it’s a great place to relax with some popcorn and just watch the situations unfold. The fact that I say that must mean I’m a broke university student with no money to spend on real entertainment, but anyone would agree that the subway is an interesting place, unique to Toronto.

    Bloor-subway

  4. Living near the university is beyond useful, especially when you tend to forget 90% of what you need when you leave. It IS possible to leave class, run up seven flights of stairs, print off an assignment, run down seven flights of stairs and get back to class within two minutes, successfully making the due date. Oh, and making a mental commitment to never be this unprepared again won’t really make any difference. One night, I was having trouble sleeping and couldn’t get to sleep until a bit after 1. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but I had an exam at 8 AM the next morning. I FINALLY start drifting off and then hear THE LOUDEST NOISE. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP! THE FIRE ALARM GOES OFF AT 1:30 IN THE MORNING. Everyone’s hustled out of the building and sent outside into the freezing cold. We stand out there for about 15 minutes, lining up at the doors and just waiting for them to let us back in. Firefighters arrive and inspect the building and finally, the fire alarm goes silent. I burst in the door, “YES! I’m the first one in the building! This is awesome!” I had a few milliseconds of joy before security guards came from every angle screaming, “NO! NO!” and threw me back outside. Apparently I wasn’t allowed in yet. Anyways, we finally arrived back in the room just before two and my adrenaline was pumping so I couldn’t sleep AGAIN. Eventually I dozed off and my alarm woke me up at 7. “Ok, I’m getting up,” I told it…. and dozed off again. It is a MIRACLE that I woke up again at 7:50 – Thank you, Lord. I put on my contacts and just RAN to my exam, ended up out of breath but on time and passed the class with flying colours. So if you have to decide whether or not to live on campus, choose yes.
    download (1)
  5. If you have a dog and you leave it to go to university, you will develop a weird dog obsession and stare at any dog that walks past until it makes eye contact with you and ask every owner if you can just quickly pet his puppy and you’ll occasionally just Google search images of dogs and puppies and send these pictures to friends periodically and you’ll talk to any dog that barks at you and convince it to be your friend if no one’s around and they always accept the offer …. Wait, that’s just me?momscam 046
  6. If you’re going to a university that has sports teams, you are automatically a fan. Snag some sports paraphernalia and support your athletes! GO RAMS GO! I bleed blue and gold.Rams_logo
  7. “Big Slice” – the pizza place serving a cheap slice that’s about a foot and a half long – seems AWESOME the first time. However, after feeling sick after the second and throwing up after the third… it was really a bad idea.
    20070726012121_another jays game 013 Return Again To The Big Slice 1
  8. Still on the topic of pizza (and coincidentally number 8)… when your friend dares you to eat 8 slices of pizza in one sitting without water and promises you $50, he is lying. You’ll feel sick for 48 hours and have nothing to show for it. Other than bragging rights, because ingesting 8 full-size slices of pizza is pretty impressive.
    download (2)
  9. Let your past make you better not bitter. I saw this on a church sign in October and thought it was a wise little tidbit of advice.
    A135DtqCIAAECit
  10. FROSH WEEK is fun AND wallet-friendly because the amount of free things that are being thrown at you every minute is mind-blowing. Take advantage of this, because you’ll be broke soon enough. And at least when you’re broke, you’ll have an unlimited supply of writing utensils, reusable bags, USB sticks and more. I did the majority of my first semester’s interviews with a free Medieval Times notepad that I got during Frosh Week.
    A5511imCAAE6YTv
  11. The free events hosted in Dundas Square and surrounding downtown Toronto are actually pretty awesome. For example, I got a free pen on Brazilian Day. I impress everyone in my classes by showing them the mini calendar that comes out of it when you pull on a tab. As expected, I make a lot of new friends with that pen.
    IMG_1253
  12. I can’t even emphasize how important “free” is. If a contest is free to enter, by all means enter it! You could win $150 on a prepaid MasterCard, like me.  A friend of mine followed this advice – in her own words, “I decided to be like you, Erin” – and she ended up winning her own $50 gift card! If the world would just listen to me, it would be SO much happier. I also ended up winning a $25 Starbucks gift card. FREE is REAL, people.
    download
  13.  Growing vegetables – and any other plant, for that matter – is hard work. I got a free basil plant and my roommate and I were growing it like the nice little pilgrims we are. Despite our best efforts, someone rowdy ALWAYS ended up knocking over the poor little basil plant and I’m pretty sure the thing died from stress.
    Bush Basil6
  14. A toaster oven will end up being your best friend. It works like a regular oven but in the convenience of your room! I’m not sure if I published this already, but my roommate and I were performing some illegal activities throughout the year. The rules of residence clearly state that one must not have any electrical cooking appliances in their bedrooms…. But they equipped our room with a counter and a sink so what choice did we have? I don’t think there’s any appliance that we DIDN’T have. Of course, these were all hidden during inspections. And we never got caught!
    A-Toast-To-Toaster-Ovens-1283
  15. Of course, after moving to the big city, a country girl is bound to miss the farmlands. So when country comes to the city in the form of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, you can’t miss it! I was fortunate enough to talk my professor into giving me a free pass so I could write an article about everything there. It turns out that I didn’t need the pass because I – believe it or not – got lost and ended up inside the fairgrounds without ever passing security. And it was amazing – I spent the day with horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, llamas and more. I’ve never felt more at home.
    tumblr_md38v3pH051rou3zlo1_500
  16. Views are important. My roommate and I lucked out – one of our walls was a HUGE window looking over the downtown streets with a nice cityscape of the CN tower and other bright buildings in the background. We spent a lot of time just sitting on our beds watching the people down below, which isn’t creepy at all. So when my cousin asked me what I was looking for while we were condo shopping, my first and only answer was “a good view.” Never underestimate the importance of a good view.
    A3Rw42eCUAEqEzU
  17. Busses will always be late. Clear and simple fact of life.
  18. Never be afraid to try new things. I ate camel meat from a street vendor and I’m still alive!
    A31qt1yCAAAhlle
  19. Grammar is SO, so important. With everyone rapidly firing off messages and emails and relying on the spellcheck of a smartphone, grammar mistakes are everywhere. So many people still can’t tell the difference between “your” and “you’re” and “they’re/their/there.” If you’re one of these people, I suggest you do a quick Google search and learn this right now!
    Untitled
  20. Hockey is a privilege that many other countries do not have. When a Brazilian exchange student wanted to come to the hockey game with me and my friends, I was not saying no. It was his first hockey game EVER and he was decked out in Ryerson Rams horns and a GO RAMS foam finger. “It’s so violent; I love it!” he said. It was awesome.
    A5xeu0LCEAAyIAd
  21. In my opinion, the police on horseback do not belong in Toronto. Their horses poop all over the streets and it’s usually there for hours because they don’t clean it up. I probably wouldn’t be this concerned if I hadn’t stepped in it…
     image 
  22. Everyone you meet matters. A janitor is no less significant than the president of the university, and I learned to just be kind and smile at everyone. Whatever their job, anyone could be having a bad day and anyone could use a simple, “Hey, how are you?” If you think this is a minor thing, it’s really not. I once went to a cafeteria for lunch and asked the cashier how she was doing. “You’re the only person who’s asked me that all day,” she said and it actually took her by surprise. She said she wanted to give me a discount for it but she would get in trouble. A little bit of care goes a long way.
    download (3)
     
  23. Old technology is better than new technology. Since I’ve been through about 11 phones, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the subject. My old blackberry was submerged in a puddle once and worked again later that night – no rice, no anything. My new blackberry was on the floor when a fat guy at the gym rolled a bench onto it and sat down… the screen never turned on again. My old iPod nano was put through the wash by my ingenious mother… and lived to tell the tale! Along with its headphones. My friend’s wasn’t so lucky. A bodybuilder dropped a 100 lb. dumbbell on her new iPod touch and completely shattered it. Maybe this lesson should actually be that the gym is a very dangerous place for technology.
    Nano3
  24. If you leave a sink running and leave for a while, it WILL continue running and flood the room. This flood will also create an odd-coloured brownish stain on any towel that you use to clean it up.
  25. Last but definitely not least, dancing skills are important. The feeling you get when you beat a Wii U employee at a Just Dance competition in front of a huge crowd in the middle of the mall is indescribable.
    images

 I encourage you to memorize these 25 lessons and apply them to your daily lives for an extra little dose of happiness and wisdom each day. Have an amazing day, readers! 

Intro

This is me. My name is Erin Hesselink and I’m currently a 2nd year journalism student at Ryerson University… which is right in the middle of downtown Toronto. 

I haven’t always lived in Toronto. I’m actually a country girl, born and raised. I’m used to being surrounded by fields and forests – not crowds of people and skyscrapers.

My journalism interests brought me into the big city and it was a HUGE lifestyle change. That’s why I started this blog.

I can’t wait to share some of my adventures with you. Follow me in my attempts to nagivate the big city!