Toronto to Victoria

Hey all,

I haven’t written anything in a while, but I think it’s because life has been a little crazy lately. Just over three weeks ago, I set out from Toronto with the car packed to the roof and Maverick flat in his litter box as if we were driving at G forces, and pointed the wheel West. It only took four or five days of driving, but  I passed through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, dallied in Drumheller, Calgary, and Canmore, then drove straight through BC and hopped on the ferry to get back home. The morning after arriving in Victoria marked the beginning of a crazy week where I completed my SVOP, MED A3, and ROC(M) certificates so I can now drive “non-pleasure'” (commercial) vessels, and after that I launched into a long interview process to find a good job for the summer on the water. So now I have a job, a place to live, a cat that is currently passed out on a windowsill, so he seems to not be totally traumatized from our drive, and it’s looking like a great summer on the island.

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Movers came & went, and all that was left was the last supper

Mav actually like travelling apparently; loved the hotels at least.

Mav actually liked travelling apparently; loved the hotels at least.

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I'm actually not sure which province this is.. Either SK or AB

I’m actually not sure which province this is.. Either SK or AB

First view of the badlands

First view of the badlands

Ferocious as always

Ferocious as always

Massive ammonite, fossilized into ammolite

Massive ammonite, fossilized into ammolite

Dinosaur Provincial Park, where real dinosaur fossils were found by yours truly

Dinosaur Provincial Park, where real dinosaur fossils were found by yours truly

Pretty rock with raw garnets exposed

Pretty rock with raw garnets exposed

Then I got to see the happiest little boy (and his wonderful parents) in Canmore

Then I got to see the happiest little boy (and his wonderful parents) in Canmore

Notice the awesome sand tiger stuffy he loves. Only aquadork presents for Linden!

Notice the awesome sand tiger he loves. Only aquadork presents for Linden!

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Mav got really excited about BC and took over driving for a bit

Mav got really excited about BC and took over driving for a bit

Going through Active Pass

Going through Active Pass

Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly happy to be on the island again, but leaving Toronto wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I met and fell in love with some really amazing people back there, and it was so hard to leave the Fish Mafia. I can’t wait until they come visit, or I go back to visit, but either way, I could not be more excited to see their beautiful faces again. And I will show them why I love Victoria as much as I do.

Ten Mile Point

Ten Mile Point

You know you're back among your people when you buy a scooter with a milk crate zip tied to the back

You know you’re back among your people when you buy a scooter with a milk crate zip tied to the back

He seems to have recovered well

He seems to have recovered well

Sea lions in the Salish Sea

Sea lions in the Salish Sea

Pretty little clown nudi at my new job

Pretty little clown nudi at my new job

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A huge ctenophore bloom is just off the Oak Bay marina right now

A huge ctenophore bloom is just off the Oak Bay marina right now

Chubby little harbour seals in the marina, waiting for food

Chubby little harbour seals in the marina, waiting for food

Putting Crazy Run through her paces; caught two salmon that day

Putting Crazy Run through her paces; caught two salmon that day

'Little' Finnegan and I

‘Little’ Finnegan and I

Out at Pat Bay mudflats, collecting for work

Out at Pat Bay mudflats, collecting for work

Not sure how, but this little guy was gilling and very determined to look like mud

Not sure how, but this little guy was gilling and very determined to look like mud

And to top it all off, after what should be a great summer with a little side of Stampede thrown in, I’ll be heading off in the fall to begin my masters with Sean Rogers at the University of Calgary! Not sure whether I’ll be at Bamfield full time to start (which would be amazing) or at U of C, but this summer is just a warm up for a very interesting couple of years to come.

I’ll keep you posted on my misadventures. Til next time,

 

Sara x

 

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Beautiful British Columbia

That’s actually what it says on our cars’ license plates: “Beautiful British Columbia”. I find that the provinces typically have their license mottos pretty spot on. I’ve never met an unfriendly Manitoban, so “Friendly Manitoba” seems pretty fitting. Ontario is definitely there for you to discover; in fact, I’ve been living in Toronto for eight months now and only today did I discover that Hamilton, an hour’s drive away, is apparently home to some amazing waterfalls, including Albion Falls. Nova Scotia proclaims that it’s “Canada’s Ocean Playground”, which I would have a hard time not believing. And just to cover all bases, the commemorative plates for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics state that BC is the “Best Place on Earth”. To defend BC’s latest claim, I thought today’s post would be a tribute to my homesickness and the beauty of my home province.

Francis King Park Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Francis King Park
Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2010

Englishman River Falls

Englishman River Falls

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Bamfield, 2011

Bamfield, 2011

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Goldstream Park, Little Victoria Falls Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2011

Goldstream Park, Little Victoria Falls
Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2011

Salish Sea

Salish Sea

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Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park

Ucluelet

Ucluelet

Eagle 3 Eagle

On the road to Ucluelet

On the road to Ucluelet

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Finnegan on the way to Ucluelet

Finnegan on the way to Ucluelet

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Sidney

Sidney

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Strathcona Park Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2011

Strathcona Park
Copyright Jon-Mark Photography, 2011

Sarita Falls, Bamfield

Sarita Falls, Bamfield

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Aguilar Point, Bamfield

Aguilar Point, Bamfield

Ross Islets

Ross Islets, Deer Group Islands

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Aloha and Mahalo

Hey all,

It has been another long stretch of time since I’ve written anything down. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been because work has been busy and crazy like it was in the summer, but rather the opposite; it’s slowed down to a quick, but normal, pace, once we got over the Christmas holiday rush of families being on break. In fact, I even got away to Hawai’i in January for a week! Which was awesome in itself because it was the first time I was able to dive in warm water! I mean, I dive at work in warm exhibits, but it’s not the same as jumping off a boat into the Pacific and being able to look down to see the ocean floor clearly 80 feet below you. I didn’t even know I could see for 80 feet.

Anyway, after a night of being stuck in Chicago, the flight to Hawai’i the next day was one of six flights that left O’Hare International; the fuel and water caps were freezing as the planes were being prepped, but thank god they gave preference to getting a plane-full of tourists off to the Islands. And once the plane arrived, it was just a short hop from the Big Island over to Kaua’i, where I woke up to this view in the morning.

I mean, come on; who wouldn't love this?

I mean, come on; who wouldn’t love this?

And then fresh fruit made its way onto the table for breakfast, and life slowed down enough to breathe.

I was wearing shorts. In January. Eating fresh, local fruit. Win.

I was wearing shorts. In January. Eating fresh, local fruit. Win.

And I got to spend a bunch of time with Rob Ford. Although, we mostly called him Linden, and he happened to be the most amazing and adorable little thing in the whole world.

Little Linden and his mum, Nat. He is an angel.

Little Linden and his mum, Nat. He is an angel.

I was able to do a ton of really cool things during the week; I went on four warm water dives over two days with a charter company, went to an insanely cool luau (I had no idea they were such a big production), saw some cool birds, and hiked to an amazing waterfall. And all these awesome adventures were punctuated with family time, great food, beaches, paddle boarding (I’m a natural apparently; who knew?!), and a pitch n’ putt golf tournament (I am definitely not a natural; no surprises there).

Fathom Five dive company; I would recommend them to anyone in southern Kaua'i

Fathom Five dive company; I would recommend them to anyone in southern Kaua’i

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Smith Family Luau. Not kidding, that's the actual name.

Smith Family Luau. Not kidding, that’s the actual name.

Hiking along the Na Pali Coast

Hiking along the Na Pali Coast

Nothing on the horizon; I couldn't ask for anything more.

Nothing on the horizon; I couldn’t ask for anything more.

My advice? Don't go swimming at Hanakapi'ai Beach. Though not everyone listens..

My advice? Don’t go swimming at Hanakapi’ai Beach. Though not everyone listens..

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Past the beach is a gorgeous bamboo forest

Past the beach is a gorgeous bamboo forest

And after the bamboo forest came the Hanakapi'ai Falls

And after the bamboo forest came the Hanakapi’ai Falls

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It was a little muddy to get to...

It was a little muddy to get to…

But totally worth it; I was smiling pretty big that day.

But totally worth it; I was smiling pretty big that day.

So now I’m back, living in Toronto, and it’s snowy. Snow, snow, snow, ice, ice storm, snow, sun, wind, sleety rain, snow. My shorts and bikini have been put away in a dark drawer to be replaced by thermal tights and moccasins. Moccasins. Don’t get me wrong; they are beautifully handmade, warm, cozy, and I think the last time my feet felt this comfortable, I was probably still in the womb. Nevertheless, my toes are bundled up to not be seen until summer.

I will admit my feet have never looked prettier

I will admit my feet have never looked prettier

I do have this one little monster that keeps me company though. He’s about six months old, furry, adorable, and an absolute terror named Maverick.

He's got the pointiest little fangs in existence

He’s got the pointiest little fangs in existence

You may hear from me again in the next couple of days, so stay tuned.

All my love,

Sara x

I did what..?

I graduated! I know, hard to believe. But I did, and it was pretty fun. Mostly, I was just really excited to get to go home for a few days. My brother flew in from Calgary, my dad took some time off, my mum is now retired (yay!) and I had some time to just see family and friends. The whole convocation ceremony kinda got in the way, actually, but it was the whole reason I got to go home, so I’ll take it.

I got to see the ocean (it’s been four whole months!), my fam-jam, and the awesome city of Victoria. Here’s a few pictures of the beautiful place I call home (even though I don’t live there right now) and the awesome people I saw there.

(Art says ‘sup’)

Sidney, BC

Sidney, BC

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We were there over Remembrance Day, and this memorial was in Sidney

We were there over Remembrance Day, and this memorial was in Sidney

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The flower man had a few poppies this time around as well

The flower man had a few poppies this time around as well

Reppin' T-dot on VI

Reppin’ T-dot on VI

Whoo graduated! Proud mama

Whoo graduated! Proud mama

Seriously. So legit.

Seriously. So legit.

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Mos at Original Joe's!

Mos at Original Joe’s!

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Aleah's friend had baby Quinn recently; we got on well.

Aleah’s friend had baby Quinn recently; we got on well.

I was only home for a few days, but it was well worth it. And I was totally fine with going back to Toronto again til Chad sent me this photo…

Beautiful Victoria

Beautiful Victoria

Can’t help but miss it. But all in all, a great trip, though it was short. I eagerly look forward to my next trip out.

Til next time,

Sara x

Life Since August

Hey guys,

So as I’m sure you know through one way or another, life has not slowed down at all since I moved to Toronto. I started work the day after I landed, and started work with a bang. We were transporting sharks daily, working 24 hour shifts, up to 14 days in a row, and doing some of the craziest things I think I may ever experience. It has been a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly; some days have been amazing, others have been draining and downright disheartening, and others still have been some of the weirdest compilation of hours. But I’ve done it all with some fantastic people from all over Canada and the US, and honestly our husbandry team is pretty freaking awesome. We were under pretty strict orders to not post anything too detailed, or any photos, of the aquarium during its start-up phase, as the excitement and tension was mounting in Toronto, and understandably, the company wanted the grand unveiling to be a huge surprise. Thus, they didn’t want anything leaked ahead of time. So now, as we officially opened on October 16, 2013, I’ve finally had a chance to catch my breath, and I’m going to explain my life in the last three months. More through pictures than words, as I’ve come to do more and more lately.

First, we had 15,000 animals to bring into Toronto through a variety of methods of transportation. And we had some weird job requirements. I was lifting sharks (like the sand tiger below) that were up to 400 lbs! And then having to wear fall arrest harnesses to feed them, just in case I pitched over the edge of the rock. It was a fun day-to-day chore, and our days were anything but normal or similar.

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Keep in mind, when I started, it was still an official construction zone, thus the safety glasses, hard hat, and steel-toe boots.

We started transports coming in a specially designed semi truck, trailer trucks, and by Air Cargo. The semi is below, and we brought in so many animals in this truck. It was, without a doubt, the longest process to do a semi shipment; we acclimated the animals, sometimes gave them treatment baths, transported them to their respective new homes, and then cleaned. Cleaned like there was no tomorrow. Drain, fill, bleach, thio, test, drain, fill, drain, fill… sometimes it took us 24 hours to do the whole shebang.

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And those kinds of nights resulted in us getting energy in any way we could.

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Xyience, by the way, stands for Xtreme Science. And somehow I willingly drank this, many times. The transports had tons of cool moments, like when the piranhas bit through the nets we were using to catch them…

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Nikki & Leah proudly showing our ruined nets

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… and bringing in 250 jellyfish in bags from Japan.

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These beautiful little Mastigias papua are some of my favourite jellies, and now all of a sudden, I get to work with them!

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Though they’re pulsing 24/7, so it’s a little hard to get a decent picture with an iPhone. Personally, being in the jelly gallery, I got to see it go from this:

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to this:

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and our Artemia harvest go from this:

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to this:

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Overall, a pretty cool experience to see how this place has grown. Here’s a few other random shots from the past few months.

The Queensland grouper, about 380 lbs of fish

The Queensland grouper, about 380 lbs of fish

One of our gorgeous sand tigers

One of our gorgeous sand tigers

Sitting on top of Kelp Forest during a feed

Sitting on top of Kelp Forest during a feed

A map showing the NEPTUNE network!

A map showing the NEPTUNE network!

And my little hometown alongside the VENUS network

And my little hometown alongside the VENUS network

One night, I was playing with this beautiful girl, Spot, scratching her shell and generally just playing around..

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until she got way too excited and splashed me pretty good… Twice.

Once.

Once.

Twice. Hadn't even dried from the first one yet.

Twice. Hadn’t even dried from the first one yet.

Then we started getting closer and closer to the opening date, and things really started to pick up.

Swell & horn sharks

Swell & horn sharks

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This is what it looks like when your bosses buy everyone dinner. We lived for these nights.

This is what it looks like when your bosses buy everyone dinner. We lived for these nights.

One of our beautiful girls, Octopus Prime (O.P.), a Giant Pacific Octopus

One of our beautiful girls, Octopus Prime (O.P.), a Giant Pacific Octopus

Pepper, our other, larger, GPO

Pepper, our other, larger, GPO

Lionfish, in our Venomous Fishes habitat

Lionfish, in our Venomous Fishes habitat

Paddlefish (and others) in the Great Lakes habitat

Paddlefish (and others) in the Great Lakes habitat

The White Sturgeon

The White Sturgeon

Gorgeous little cownose rays in Ray Bay

Gorgeous little cownose rays in Ray Bay

Kelp Forest all ready for opening

Kelp Forest all ready for opening

The biggest lobster in the world. Seriously. It's as large as my torso.

The biggest lobster in the world. Seriously. It’s as large as my torso.

But even through all this craziness, we still had just a little bit of fun.

Snapchat plays a huge role in the husbandry department

Snapchat plays a huge role in the husbandry department

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And I made a jellyfish version of myself.

And I made a jellyfish version of myself.

And then we opened. And it got even crazier! Apparently it was kind of a big deal…

There were a couple of people there

There were a couple of people there

And mermaids, for some reason

And mermaids, for some reason

And aerial acrobats for some reason...

And aerial acrobats for some reason…

And now we're a little bit popular

And now we’re a little bit popular

Maybe a lot bit popular

Maybe a lot bit popular

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We work late shifts on a rotation. Dinner is a lonely time

We work late shifts on a rotation. Dinner is a lonely time

But EVERYONE in Toronto is at the aquarium on a Saturday night for some reason

But EVERYONE in Toronto is at the aquarium on a Saturday night for some reason

And when the vets come around, we do sweet things like giving rays ultrasounds and checking out the little baby rays

And when the vets come around, we do sweet things like giving rays ultrasounds and checking out the little baby rays

A photo tour of the whole place will come soon for those of you who won’t be getting out this way anytime soon. Sorry this was a long post, but the last three months have been pretty unreal. Stay tuned for more.

Til next time,

Sara x

Kensington

Hey,

So it’s no secret that this move has been hard on me, and that I’m not really a city person. But today I went down to Kensington Market by myself and found a little community within Toronto that made me feel more at home than I have since I left Victoria. I don’t really have much to say about it, other than I think it was lucky of me to go on a Pedestrian Sunday, when the streets are all blocked off from traffic so you can just wander the streets freely. There were street performers on every corner, and I went on a mission to seek out a small coffee shop called Ideal Coffee. I started a new book there, called My Heart Is Not My Own, which everyone should read. I’m only about nine chapters in, but I’ve been brought through many emotions in just those 60 pages that I feel comfortable enough in that endorsement. Anyways, I had two cups of fantastic coffee; thankfully I now have a bean to replace my Trekkie bean from Serious Coffee back home, since there’s none of those here. It’s a great dark coffee called Princess of Darkness, which is just awesome.

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The front patio of Ideal Coffee

While I was reading, people started to assemble on the street out front, and bring out some beautiful drums and gourds wrapped in beads. The people were a part of the Afro-Caribbean percussion group Maracatu Mar Aberto. Along with the brilliance of Kensington as a whole, I followed this group in a makeshift parade of dancers and admirers for an hour through the streets of the market. It was remarkable, enchanting, and the happiest I’ve felt in a while.

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I have a pretty cool, though short, video of them as well, but I don’t think I can upload videos on here. Oh well, they were fantastic. I spilled coffee all over myself as I was dancing through the streets with people I didn’t know, I signed a petition to stop a big box store being built on the border of the Kensington area and to support family businesses, poked around little stores, and browsed all the artists’ stalls as I wandered. It was breathtaking, and I loved every minute of it. As I meandered after the dancing phenomenon that was Mar Aberto, I came across some fantastic installments of street performance and genuine community happiness. The pictures are better than what I can explain. Actually, the photos aren’t very good at all, but I grabbed a few quick snaps on my phone as I was taking everything in, so you’ll just have to use your imagination to try to understand how brilliant it was.

A band that set up less than ten minutes after the Mar Aberto passed by

A band that set up less than ten minutes after the Mar Aberto passed by

Less than a block up from the first street band, another had set up on the roof of a building

Less than a block up from the first street band, another had set up on the roof of a building

Impromptu tango

Impromptu tango

At the end of my Kensington stroll, another band playing I Put A Spell On You

At the end of my Kensington stroll, another band playing I Put A Spell On You.

I had a wonderful day today, but I know how much fun I would have had with someone else who would have also loved it. I miss you Lauren.

Til next time,

Sara x

Post-move

Hey guys,

So, I’ve taken the plunge and moved to the big city of Toronto in Ontario. It is most definitely not the West Coast, or Bamfield, or the island, or BC in any way, shape, or form, which has been a shock to the system to say the least. I can’t really describe just how much I miss the West Coast and the beauty that naturally comes with that part of the world. I do realize that to fully appreciate it and to properly experience life as I would like to, I need to move away and uproot myself from time to time. That being said, it doesn’t make it any easier to admit that I now live in a relatively landlocked city; and no, the Great Lakes do not count. Well, they sort of do, I guess, I just need to get over my snobbish and idealistic view that the ocean is the one and only superior body of water. Freshwater just isn’t the same, but I’ll deal with it for now.

I’ve had my share of misadventures over the past two weeks, mostly to do with navigating a subway system that is integrated with street cars as well as buses. I will give credit where credit is due and say that Toronto has an absolutely amazing transit system. I’m accustomed to the transit in Victoria, where a bus would come to my neighbourhood maybe once an hour on a good day. Now, the buses are bumper to bumper along my street, take me straight to the subway that comes every four minutes give or take, and will bring me to most areas of the city relatively easily.

I also started to work at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada the day after I flew into Toronto, on August 5. I can’t say much about my job or what I’m really doing on a day to day basis because it’s not open to the public yet and I feel that being a bit more prudent with what I disclose is in my better interest. I can tell you, however, that the job is pretty cool and I’m really enjoying it so far, regardless of the long hours and limited time off.

I’m sure once I get more comfortable in this city, I’ll come into my own a bit more, but until then, I’m going to rely on the Bamily and my awesome new coworkers to get me through it. Here’s a few pictures I’ve collected over the past three weeks or so.

Alice & I reunited in Victoria before she went back to Sweden

Alice & I reunited in Victoria before she went back to Sweden

Big fam jam outing to the Ridley Scott documentary 'Springsteen and I'

Big fam jam outing to the Ridley Scott documentary ‘Springsteen and I’

Oh. And I graduated. Neat, eh? Convocation in Nov, I'll keep you posted.

Oh. And I graduated. Neat, eh? Convocation in Nov, I’ll keep you posted on that.

Family dinner at my old work before we spread across the country again

Family dinner at my old work before we spread across the country again

A little bit of the Bamily in Toronto. Love these girls.

A little bit of the Bamily in Toronto. Love these girls.

Until next time,

Sara x