So it's been an exhausting week or two for me. I'm gradually getting over my jet lag after a week in Canada. You can blame me for the quiet Twitter feed! I've been busy exploring Toronto. I've been countless of times, but my partner, Aaron, has never been before. It's always fun showing a new person around because I feel like I'm seeing things for the first time too.
If you've been following Donna, you'll know how cold it is in Toronto right now!
The first thing that struck me when we landed this time was that French is all over the signage. Canada has two official languages: French and English. It means that the border security officers greet you with "hello, bonjour!". It threw me a bit. I'd just left France, but finding French everywhere was oddly comforting. Almost everyone in Toronto speaks English, so the French ended at the airport. That said, Toronto is full of Catonese-speaking people so familiar languages were still everywhere during our trip.
One of the things I love about travelling is the people you meet. Like British people seeming to congregate in every Irish pub throughout the world, Aaron and I managed to spend an afternoon with a French lady at the Steam Whistle Brewery. We were then joined by an Australian (who I identified by his opening line of "How ya going?"). I may have accidentally sent them off to a bar together since they were both in the city alone. I'm not normally a matchmaker but when the opportunity presents itself, who am I to say no? Chances are, they had a reasonably pleasant evening and parted ways, but I like to dream.
The French lady and Australian man weren't the only people I met at the brewery!
Our lovely Unfrench founder, Donna, is also in Toronto at the moment, although not for long. This gave us the chance to meet in person. What a lovely person she is! We didn't stop talking for hours and several bottles of wine. Donna's husband and my boyfriend happily chatted through the entire evening too. Needless to say, Donna and I were both feeling it the next day. We must have had most of the wine between us! I do love the real life community that's been created by this online one. Several of our other bloggers meet up, and we're planning a bigger meet up. I'm so excited!
Of course, things are rarely sunshine and roses all the time. While the food, sightseeing, shopping and family visits were lovely, I had a bad experience in a hair salon, of all places. Coronavirus is scary, but it isn't an open invitation for racism. I'm ashamed to say I sat and listened to customers and employees talk about how Chinese people brought this on themselves, and force the rest of the world to deal with the illness, and that they shouldn't be allowed in the country. Each time the conversation ended, someone started it afresh. I was so upset, I wanted to walk out. I didn't speak up. In the end, I left as soon as the dye was washed out of my hair.
One of the benefits of this lovely Unfrench group is that I had a lot of online support during all of this. They made me feel better, and encouraged me to speak to the manager (not that she has bothered to get back to me - I've asked the salon three times and just emailed head office). My amazing Unfrench mothers even offered to call the salon for me.
A stunning but icy cold Niagara Falls.
A friend pointed out today how multicultural Geneva is. It's reassuring to be back here where (in most cases), the colour of your skin doesn't matter. This might be because I'm in my NGO bubble. It's not perfect, but at least no one tells me I'm not allowed in the country.
Flying back also gave us the opportunity to enjoy the disability support from KLM. They really made our day. After a terrible airport experience a few months ago, I was nervous, but I had no need to be. The staff at check in couldn't be more helpful. The lady came round to our side of the counter so our special requests were kept private, she said they were no problem at all and then asked what else she could do. No one questioned a thing or demanded a lanyard. It was such an easy and pleasant experience. I'll be trying to fly KLM as much as possible from now on.