Monday, 30 April 2012

A new job ...

A few weeks ago, I applied for a temporary teaching job at one of the schools high on my 'I want to work there' list, thinking that if I got an interview, it would be a great experience.  Well, I had the interview last Tuesday morning, was offered the job on Tuesday afternoon and started the job on Thursday afternoon!  Phew.  It was a crazy week.

Some of my family visiting my classroom during my last big parent exhibition at MLC in Melbourne

The job is teaching Grade 5 at Calgary Girls' School, which has caused all sorts of wonderful memories of teaching Grade 5 at MLC in Melbourne flooding back to me.  It's a lovely little school with Grades 4-9 spread over two campuses.  It is a public charter school but definitely has more of a private school feel - the students all wear uniforms and all have their own Macbook computers to work on.  I've now had a day and a half of handover time (including a fascinating field trip to the CTV studio today where we watched a live broadcast of the news) and tomorrow, the girls are all mine for the next 8 weeks.  The class are delightful and being with them really makes me realise how much I have missed the buzz of the classroom and the interaction with so many diverse personalities.  I'm really being thrown in the deep end because the girls are in the middle of a number of intriguing curriculum projects and in two weeks, we'll be heading off on Grade 5 camp for two nights.  The job has also helped me clear a bureaucratic hurdle - I'm now a certified Albertan teacher!  Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope that the departing teacher loves maternity leave and I can continue in this role in the next school year!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Off leash adventures ...

It was a beautiful morning here today.  Perfect for Abbey's first off leash adventure in the park just down the road from our home.  Abbey had a brilliant time running amok in the park and playing with the other dogs but was also incredibly responsive to my calls for her to return - the fact that I had freeze dried chicken breast in my jacket pocket may have had something to do with this!  Since we all had so much fun, we will definitely be adding this park to our regular walking routine!

Green grass!  At last!

Surveying the downtown area from the off-leash park

Happy puppy

Racing dog

Following the well trodden pathway

Treats for coming when called

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Run, Anna, Run!

After announcing that I was going to train for a half marathon this year, I've since signed up for not one, but two half marathons in the next few months.  Originally, I'd just planned to run the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon but then I saw the inaugural Millarville Run to the Farmers' Market Half Marathon and immediately signed up ... now that's my kind of run, running towards a delicious array of fresh local produce!  I have also signed up for a couple of 10km races, the first one being held this Sunday.

Great Wall Marathon 2009

Training is going pretty well and it is incredibly motivating to have an actual event to train for as opposed to simply training for health's sake.  The training for these half marathons is very different to the training I did for the Great Wall (half) Marathon I completed back in 2009.  For starters, Calgary is a very active city so it's not unusual to pass huge numbers of runners during a lunch time run.  Often, the river pathways are like highways, especially now that the weather has picked up.  It makes a refreshing change to be amongst other like minded people rather than in China where I was often stared at, followed or encouraged to accept rides from strange men on rusty scooters.  To many Chinese, it was simply incomprehensible why anyone would want to run when they could ride on a scooter!

Beautiful Hangzhou scenery during the 2009 Hangzhou Marathon (I just ran the 14km race)

The training is also different because of the nature of the events.  The GWM was a unique event in that the first 5km of the race were up a huge hill.  Once you reached the top, there was no breather because most of the rest of the race was actually on the wall, meaning a lot of mental concentration (and physical agility) went into the rough, uneven and undulating steps along the wall.  To train for this, I ran up and down the stairs in my apartment building.  I hardly did any 'long' runs, mainly because of the smog outside but also because I thought that I'd be okay in terms of endurance, it was just the steps and the hills that challenged me.  For both the Millarville and Rocky Mountain races, the terrain will be 21km of rolling hills, albeit at an altitude of between 1000 and 1500 metres above sea level.  To prepare for this, I am including one 'hills' session and one 'long' run in my weekly training.

The satisfied feeling of having a 'participation' medal around your neck after a 21km race!

My training is (rightly or wrongly) varying from how a 'real' runner might approach their preparation because I am reluctant to give up my strength workouts in the gym.  I love feeling fit and strong after a weights session, so am including two of these in my weekly training.  So far, it's been tough to fit it all in (I don't think I'd ever have the dedication to train for a full marathon) without neglecting the other priorities in my life.  But so far it's been fun and I can't wait to feel the sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line of the upcoming spring/summer races.

Monday, 23 April 2012

More bureaucratic hoops ...

Last weekend, I finally handed in the last assignment for the ridiculous course in Canadian history that the teaching bureaucracy made me complete.  I'm not going to celebrate its completion until I receive my mark ... the paper I handed in was 2000 words short of the required length but I had written everything I possibly could about the women of Red Deer in the early 1900s.  After the minor celebration of jumping through that bureaucratic hoop, I turned my attention to the next one ... gaining an Alberta license.  Most Canadian provinces simply let you exchange your Australian license for a Canadian one.  Not Alberta.  Here, they currently have a policy that says that, if you have an international license, you can driver in Alberta for one year.  And, that one year starts again every time you leave the country.  Which is perfect for me, given that I know I'll leave Canada at least once a year.  Simple, right?  No.  C tried to list me as a driver on his insurance policy but was told that it would cost well over $2000 per year.  But, if I got an Alberta license, it would be closer to (the wrong side of) $1000.  Okay, that's fairly reasonable.  I dutifully trotted along to the licensing building to inquire about getting a license.  The process seems pretty simple - 1) Sit a written test; 2) Cut up Australian license (!!); 3) Hold a learner license for 2-4 weeks whilst they check out my driving history (which, by the way, I also need to provide to them before I sit the written test); 4) Take the driving test; and 5) Receive a license.  So, the process is quite simply but a major pain in the rear end ... a learners license?  Which could be interesting given that I work an hour out of town.  The comical part is the actual driving test.  One can choose to complete a 'basic' or 'advanced' test.  "What's the difference?" I inquired.  The difference was explained (an advanced test costs more but gives you a full license) and I asked about what the advanced test involves ... very complicated things like slowing down through playground zones, changing lanes and entering highways.  "So," I asked, "does that mean that if you sit a basic test, you can speed through playground zones, don't have to changes lanes and can't enter highways?"  No response to that.  Given that there are a huge number of incompetent drivers on Alberta's roads, I wondered if there were a ton of drivers who have only completed a basic test.  Apart from the bureaucratic nonsense, life is going pretty well!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Downtown biking ...

The weather for the past week has been very spring like - well, until last night when the snow and rain appeared, causing our backyard to turn into a big slushy mud pool, much to Abbey's delight.  I've been taking advantage of the lovely weather to do some biking around the neighbourhood, along the river and into downtown Calgary.  I made my first foray into downtown Calgary on Wednesday to catch up with a friend for a coffee.  I got plenty of stares and lovely comments as Abbey and I negotiated our way through the numerous one-way streets and traffic lights.

Getting ready to head home

Taking off ...

On the way home, we stopped to take a stroll through Prince's Island Park, where Abbey loved exploring the rocks next to the fast-flowing and icy cold Bow River.

New smells in Prince's Island Park with downtown in the background

Abbey checks out the river

I feel so relieved that Abbey loves being on the bike because it means that we can share so many more adventures with her!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Canada catches up (and loses the penny) ...

Canada has finally decided to enter the modern money era and ditch the penny.  It was announced a few weeks ago that production of the penny (1 cent) will cease shortly and their use will be phased out.  Thank goodness for that.  Pennies do nothing but weigh down my wallet and gather in piles in random places in our home.  Apparently, it costs 1.5 pennies to make 1 penny, so it's definitely a no-brainer.

The other new money development in Canada is the introduction of the new plastic $100 and $50 bills.  It was Australia, apparently, who invented the technology behind plastic money and now Canada has caught on.  I've only had the pleasure of having the $50 bills in my wallet ($20 bills are definitely the most commonly used bills in Canada) and they are lovely.  Much thinner than their Australian version but so shiny and crisp.  Now the only thing that Canada needs to do to catch up in the money world (in my view), is introduce Visa Debit cards so that us foreigners can have the use of a Visa card without the hassle of putting down an enormous 'bond' on a credit card.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The search for the best hot cross buns ...

Best hot cross buns in Calgary!

 Hot cross buns are my favourite part of Easter ... although I have already eaten my fair share of chocolate today as well.  Good quality hot cross buns are easy to find in Australia.  My favourites were always my grandmother's home-made ones when I was a child but it's been quite some time since I've had the pleasure of eating them.  Over the past few years, my favourites have been the organic spelt hot cross buns from Healthybake, a Yarra Valley company who specialises in wheat-free breads and buns.  When they weren't available (they were sometimes tricky to find), I'm a little ashamed to admit that my favourites were those from the large supermarket chain, Coles.    It's been tricky to find good quality hot cross buns here, specifically the way I like them.  My favourites are quite dense, have lots of raisins, minimal dried peel, a traditional cross and a not-too-sweet glaze on the top.  That's not asking too much from a bun is it?  Well, they've been incredibly difficult to find here ... custard crosses, too much peel, too few raisins, light and airy as well as a multitude of other dried fruits such as cherries, cranberries and apricots.  It's been a difficult challenge!  I've driven all over Calgary sampling buns in different suburbs, but I have finally found a winner ... the best hot cross buns in Calgary come from the Wild Grainz Bakery!  In fact, they are so tasty that I purchased three dozen so I have plenty to freeze and enjoy over the coming month or so.  Granted, these buns do have cranberries and apricots in them, which I'm putting down to a North American twist, but the rest of my criteria have been met.  However, since I've been so fussy with my Easter buns this year, I'm thinking that next year might be the year to make my own!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Abbey Update ...

C and I are still enjoying the lovely Abbey.  She is an absolute delight.  Enjoy these pictures from the past few weeks ...

Enjoying the warmth of central heating

Just hanging out

Asleep with a favourite toy ... an 'exotic series' koala

The beginnings of a love affair with balls

The guilty escapee ... who could get out of her pen and onto the chair but couldn't get off!

Abbey modelling her lovely new harness

The toy basket that is a toy

Dog version of a night cap ... a beef chew stick

Tuckered out after a heavy play session but still not ready to part with her toys ... a nap in the toy box

Sucking up to C as he fixes Abbey's pen so she can't escape ... it didn't work!

Snoozing while I study

Checking out the new pet basket for ...

... my new bike!

And to finish with, a few short videos of Abbey ... 

This is Abbey playing with Jake, a 6 year old Yorkshire Terrier ... Jake spent the whole weekend trying to hump our Abbey (well, she is pretty cute!)

Abbey loves to play with her 'cow' ... I love the way it's a lot bigger than her head but that doesn't stop her from trying to kill it!

This is Abbey enjoying her first ever bicycle ride ...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Sheep River walk ...

Crow surveys the blue, blue sky

 Last weekend, I needed to visit Okotoks - 45 minutes south of Calgary - as part of the tutoring arrangement I have with one of the families I'm working for at the moment.  Since it was such a lovely day, I left home a little early and took the opportunity to take the pup for a wander around the Sheep River which runs through Okotoks.  Spring was definitely in the air with a stunning blue sky, birds chirping and the sun shining.  The only indication that the day was still a wintery cold (for an Australian) were the remnants of snow on the side of the river and the snow capped Rockies in the background.  The pup had a brilliant time scouting new territory while I enjoyed the fresh air before several hours inside.

Pathway along the Sheep River

Looking under the bridge towards the still-icy part of the river

Hiding in the long grass

Spring skies but still little pockets of snow remain

Checking out the sit up bench in the 'workout park'

Looking back towards the old granery