A seafarer’s tale of Hurricane Sandy

I’ve been attempting to set myself up to write a post about what “normal” life is like here on the ship, but it seems more immediate and fitting to update you all on the biggest current event that I, and many of you at home, were caught smack-dab in the middle of: Hurricane Sandy.

The first thought on everyone’s mind is safety. And that is our first thought too. So in order to ensure safety, these were the circumstances:

Firstly, the company alerted our guests before their embarkation day (which was Thursday 10/25), about the bad whether, and that they should be prepared for itinerary changes. This dropped the number of reservations from about 3700 guests to about 3250.  And our itinerary did, in fact, change. We shut down Castaway Cay before we left Port Canaveral, because knew we would not be able to get into the dock, and also to give the crew on the island time to secure everything properly. The guests were certainly disappointed, but I’m not sure the alternative of having access to a tiny island during a major storm was any more enticing to them, so they more or less understood. Whether we could get into Nassau, our only other Port of Call, was another question.

On the first morning (Friday 10/26) our Captain and several members of the Steering Committee gave a presentation about our situation in relation to the storm. We changed our course to sail south around the tip of Florida, and then circle back north in a U-shape, basically avoiding contact with the storm, and almost chasing it’s tail. It rained on and off the entire time once we left Florida, and the swelling of the waves was like nothing I’ve seen yet on this contract. Each rolling wave had a white crest at the top, and the water was dark, reflecting the hazy, grey sky. I don’t know how you measure the size of the waves, but they are spaced pretty far apart, which is part of the reason the rocking is so severe. Most of the outdoor decks were closed because of high winds, which harshly whipped their way around the ship like vacuums. Luckily for some eager guests, the pool and hot tub were still open. Those who wanted to brave the winds in order to sit in the pool with a cocktail, were content being sloshed back and forth, as long as they were enjoying their vacation. Most of the kids were the easiest to deal with, because they were much more interested in having fun rather than focusing on the hardship of the swaying. With all these elements combined, though, we never did make it to Nassau. So, we sat on a constantly moving vessel for the three straight days with no reprieve from the rocking and swaying. The rocking deserves it’s own descriptive paragraph:

The slow circular motion throws off your center of gravity, so we often felt like we were walking up hill and then suddenly down hill. We tried with all our will to walk in a straight line down the hallway, and inevitably were forced to swerve from side to side as we walk down the I-95. With each night of the cruise, the rocking got progressively worse. It made everyone drowsy, on top of the fact that most sea-sickness medication also has a drowsy side-effect, that can even make you loopy if you take a full dose. Most of us either felt drunk from the movement, or drunk from the medication. With each major swell made by the ship colliding into the waves, there was a loud crashing sound that echoed throughout, and shook the whole front of the ship where we live, and where the theatre is located. The entire ship croaked and moaned as it was ever so slightly bending and giving over to the pressure from the waves. It’s actually a good sign that the ship makes those kinds of noises because it was designed with that exact intention: to be malleable with the movement of the water. But it didn’t help to slake our nerves. 

Being on a ship for three days also presented its challenges in terms of keeping the guests entertained, or at the bare minimum, distracted from the sea-sickness they were experiencing. Mickey Mouse and all his friends worked overtime that cruise to give as many guests as possible a chance to visit, say hi, and enjoy something unique to this cruise experience, since the ship ended up being the only destination. There were dance parties, Halloween costume contests, free drinks being passed around, the shops were open longer, and every attempt was made to shoot off our fireworks, which did end up happening of the last night of the cruise. I have to say, I was confused by the choice to hand out free drinks in the middle of the day, because in the theatre at night, we witnessed more guests get sick during the shows than anyone should really be exposed to. Bless the hearts of the housekeeping team, who were responsible for all of the cleanup.

To perform on stage amidst the rocking was an experience I am locking away in my memory for as long as I can muster. I’d like to tell the story to my little ones later in life about the time I performed on stage when you couldn’t even stand still on your two feet for longer than a few seconds, while your stomach did flips inside you. I will never take the stillness of the ground for granted ever again. 

My heart goes out to all of those in the Northeast who experienced the same storm, but to a different degree. Although we sailed through it, there was no lasting damage or injury. My hope is that the recovery from the storm is fast and thorough. I’m grateful and relieved to know that my friends and family are safe, too. 

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Appreciation Station

Observations about the ship.

Since the moment I stepped onto The Dream, I’ve been doing my best to take in the observations I’ve made. I’d like to share some of them with you, in the hopes that it will help to give some depth to how you might imagine my stories and descriptions.

1.    Physical surroundings: Everything is metal. The hallways and doorways are small and narrow. Doors are very heavy, and they are everywhere. The main hallway in the Crew Area is located on Deck 1, and is called the I-95 because it runs the entire length of the ship. Stemming from the I-95 are stairwells and elevators that take you to the other 14 Decks of the ship, both in the Crew Areas and in Guest Areas. Many of the crew are unable to pass through Guest Areas, and therefore must travel the I-95 to get anywhere. This is why maneuvering around the ship constantly feels like wandering through a maze due to the way things wrap on top of and around each other. You must go down to go up, in to go out, so everything feels hidden and out of sight. I’m often surprised by the sudden presence of someone appearing from around the corner. Additionally, the Crew Areas are masterfully concealed from Guest sight, which is all part of “preserving the magic” for the guests. There are always unexplained noises coming from deep within the ship, and you just have to assume and accept that it means nothing. And of course, none of this would be complete without the gentle and lulling swoop from feeling the ship move on the water. Luckily, it has no negative effect on me, and I’ve rather come to enjoy it. Especially when sleeping.

2.   Community: Everyone is almost always wearing a nametag with their first name displayed, so it gives us the opportunity to say hello and indulge in friendly conversation, even if we’ve never met them before. Even our Officers go by their first name, the only exception being our Doctors on board, and of course, our Captain. We must call him Captain Guus. We often see Officers in their whites and try to figure out their level of importance based on the number of stripes they have on their epaulette. Safety, safety, safety. Rules, rules, rules. We must wash our hands when entering and exiting the Crew Mess (which is where we eat), so I’ve become ultra-aware of my hands and the potential spread of germs. Cleanliness standards are through the roof here, because they have to be in order to prevent the fast spread of illness among both the crew and the guests. There is also a shift in some of the social standards within our Crew Community, because of the mixture of so many cultures. This can be a wonderful aspect, because I’m learning so much about other people and where they come from. For example, I met a girl from India who talked about how much time passes between getting to see her family back home simply due to the difficulty of visas and how expensive it is, and I wondered about the hint of sadness in her voice. On the flip side, there are a lot of staring eyes from men who work around the ship, which I also have to chalk up to cultural differences.

3.    The biggest one of all is the passage of time. Since stepping onto the ship, my relationship with the little face on the clock has changed, too. I’m sure you have all had days that feel like an eternity. But I’ve never experienced so many days in a row like that. By the time I was sitting down to dinner with my friends, the events from that morning NEVER seemed as though they occurred in the same 24 hours I was currently living. It’s the constant frequency of that sensation that starts to blow my mind. Then, in a strange twist of reality, it also feels like I’ve blinked and a month on the ship has already gone by. One whole month. I left my home almost exactly three months ago today! THREE MONTHS! Remember when I was saying earlier that three months was the longest time I had lived in one location in the last year? My understanding of normal circumstances has been turned upside down, only confirming my analogy of living on the ship as being the same as living in a fishbowl.

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I’ve been lucky enough to have a little respite, as I am currently home for my sister’s wedding. If you’re curious about those details, I’ll cover that in my next post. I just have to say right now how grateful I am to have been granted the 5 days to get off the ship and be here. It might make returning to the Dream, and all that goes with it, tomorrow a little bittersweet because I’ve been exposed to the things I miss: My family, my friends, home-cooked food, refreshing rainstorms, all the green vegetation in my hometown, my back porch, brewing my own coffee, and even just being in one location for more than one day. I’ll just have to embrace my sense of adventure once again, to embark on seeing this journey through to the end.

There’s so much to cover, I don’t even know where to begin (Station)

There’s so much to cover, I don’t even know where to begin.
I’ve sat down at my computer at multiple occasion and attempted to get out how much has happened in the last, almost 3 weeks, now. I’ve never had enough time within the few windows of opportunity to get it all out in a satisfactorily.  Even now, I’m chowing down a few handfuls of trail mix in the 20 minutes I have before I must go lead our guests in their Assembly Station, which I’ll talk about later in this post. So, this is a compilation of several drafts combined to try and describe the complete change in my lifestyle from Toronto to the ship. I’ll try to make it as clear as possible, and not too TOO lengthy 😉

Wait, how did I get here, again?

Back on July 5th, we began in Orlando, Florida in Parks at Disney World for three days before boarding the ship. Once on the ship, we have been teching (I hope you remember this vocab word I gave you last time!) our shows during the day, and attending what seems like an endless number of meetings and shadow sessions whenever we’re not in rehearsal. Since leaving Toronto, this part of the journey has been nothing but information and energy overload from all of the different departments we must surrender to: Human Resources, Staff Training, Safety and Security, and then of course, Entertainment. We’ve been training, and learning, and reporting for duty, rehearsing, and smiling, and greeting, and flipping life rafts in the water, and putting on costumes, and dancing with pirates on the deck, and rehearsing, and learning more, and trying to get to all these places but inevitably getting lost in the labyrinth of this metal city that floats around the Caribbean Seas. There are 14 Decks on this ship. It can house up to about 4,000 guests and about 1,500 crew. The rules by which we are to abide are INNUMBERABLE. First and foremost, above all, we are always responsible for Safety first. Luckily, for the first two weeks, our Safety Classes on the ship were led by a handsomely intimidating man from Estonia. But more on Safety in a bit.

The beginning of ship life.

I swear, the very first day on the ship was one of the longest days I’ve ever lived. On the morning of Sunday July 8th, I was up at 3:30AM after only a few short hours of sleep, leaving the Resort in Disney World by 5AM, getting on the ship between 6 and 7AM. Our worn out bodies from playing in the Walt Disney World Parks for three days didn’t exactly enjoy dragging nearly 100 lbs of luggage around with us onto the ship first, then through two rounds of security, then through the tiny metal hallways that all look exactly the same. It was a sweaty challenge that deters me from ever wanting to purchase cheap luggage ever again… my duffle bag (the one WITHOUT wheels I might add) ripped only moments before I was able to carry it to my room. After which we entered into a non-stop stream of classes, meetings, and events in which we were to shadow and observe. In the midst of all of this, I was even put into a harness and flown through the theatre in preparations for the rehearsals that began early the very next day. We were able to complete the day by watching Villains Tonight! performed by the cast we would be taking over for in just two week’s (or three cruise’s) time. Although the physical and mental exhaustion was like nothing I had ever experienced, it didn’t completely extinguish all of the excited tingles I got from seeing the enormous beauty of our ship in the Port, from stepping onto it for the first time, or from seeing the gorgeous Walt Disney Theatre, all of which was becoming my new home for the next seven months. And although it’s difficult for me to explain all that has happened since that very first day, those tingles find a way to creep back up my spine every day that I’m here.

Post-Initial-Shock Symptoms. (on Wednesday July 18th)

Rehearsals during Crossover have been long and relentless. My cast mates and I are counting the precious hours we get to sleep, and even more so, looking for any opportunity to get off the ship to relieve our minds and bodies from the pressure of the schedule. These opportunities are few, but I have relished them immensely. Since The Dream only does between 3-5 night cruises, this means we are back in Port Canaveral every few days. One day I was able to get off the ship and go to Target (WHOA! LIVING LARGE!), and on another day, I was able to get lunch at the Crew Beach on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. The Crew Beach is going to be a haven for relaxation, I can tell already. Here’s how:

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This day in particular gave me a moment to remember, once again, just how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. I am falling in love with my tropical surroundings. I’m even starting to fall in love with life on the ship. I had originally anticipated making a lot of sacrifices in day-to-day life while living on the ship, but instead they feel less like a sacrifice and more like adaptation to a variation of the same thing. Since being vague doesn’t help you understand, an example is:          All I know, is that if I focus on the things that I am living without, then I am also without hope of maintaining any sort of happy and healthy attitude, and I might as well quit now. I have so many things to be grateful for and look forward to, and my environment is certainly one of those things.

Well, here I am, on the eve of TOMORROW.

Tonight, on Saturday night July 21st, I’m sitting on my bed in the guest stateroom that I’ve been sharing with my cast mate, Emily, on my final night of this phase we call CROSSOVER. Tomorrow is probably one of the biggest days I’ll be encountering thus far, next to my very first day on the ship. Tomorrow marks the beginning of our OPENING CRUISE (This is where I make an enormous, wide-eyed face reminiscent of the boy from the Home Alone movies, because I simply can’t believe it)! After more than two months of rehearsal, it felt like we would never actually perform for an audience! But naturally, before I can say I’ve made it just yet, there is a long list of things that must happen first: I have to move out of this stateroom into my permanent crew cabin with the 90-100 lbs of luggage I’ve been carting around since leaving Philadelphia. After I move, we’ll be doing our final dress/tech run of the show Villains Tonight! in the afternoon.After which, I will lead my very first Guest Drill as an Assembly Station Leader, which means in the event of an emergency, I am responsible for accounting for up to 260 guests and 10 crew members, and if needed, getting them safely into the lifeboats. No pressure. After that, we will maybe have a minute or two to breathe, before we open with two PERFORMANCES of Villains Tonight! in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard The Disney Dream! AY AY AY! I’m starting to learn the true meaning of efficiency on this ship… because no time is ever wasted.

But all the added stuff aside, I hope that you’ll share in the excitement with me, because my entire cast and I have worked so hard to get to this point. This is one of the most technically advanced shows I have ever been a part of, and I get to portray characters on stage that come from immense legacy.

Back to Today.

Wow. What a feeling. We’ve finally opened ALL THREE SHOWS! And let me tell you, there simply aren’t enough words to describe the palpable energy of our amazing audiences as it resonates throughout the theatre. And that’s I can say about it now. Please ask me questions, because I hope this is the last time I’ll have to attempt to fit three eventful weeks into one post.

Thanks for reading. It’s wonderful to have people to write to 🙂

Aside

Temporary-Cessation Station

In just a few hours I am leaving Toronto and flying to Orlando. On July 8th I’ll be boarding THE DREAM and will begin the Crossover process. We have been told to expect that we’ll have no time on land for the entirety of the two week period, which means I will be without any means communication. Just wanted to give a friendly heads up for the slight pause in my postings, but I hope to see you come back and read when I return to the online grid. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you! Write, email, Facebook me! You can find the means to do so on the Make A Connection page. 

Thank you for reading and following! Heigh ho!  

Discombobulation Station

HIGHlights. (You’ll soon see, I’ve just made a lame pun. I blame genetics).

This week, a group of us were able to take advantage of a generous opportunity provided by Decker LaDouceur, the owner of the Toronto School of Circus Arts. For $20 per person, he and two of his instructors led a 2 hour class, introducing us to the basics of the Aerial Hoop, Silks, and High Trapeze. What a rush I got from the experience! Just overcoming the nerves to climb up the ladder to the tiny platform in the air, where you had to lean most of your body weight out over the edge to hang onto the trapeze before you jumped, took enough effort that made the gratification at the end that much sweeter. Flying through the air turned out to be the easy part! Decker instructed us how to swing our legs up to hook our knees on the bar, let go, swing back up, bring our legs down, and drop safely in to the net below us. The next time around, it was much easier to climb up the ladder once  I knew how much fun it was, and I felt confident about the sequence of moves we had already done. But THIS time, rather than dropping into the net, he told us how to do a back flip after letting go of the bar! I was the first to go in our group, and being able to accomplish the unknown, with no example to follow, was exhilarating! We were all cheering each other in encouragement, and so excited for each completed flip. That was easily one of my favorite moments of the evening. Here’s a link to a video so you can share in the experience too:

https://vimeo.com/45108959

The silks were much harder than they look because the material stretches, and therefore requires much more strength and stability in order to work with them properly. We learned a basic foot lock that allowed you to do things like this:

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My other favorite part was learning how to spin on the Aerial Hoop. The coordination required to centralize the momentum and force for a clean spin is much harder than it looks. You have to press your arms forward in order to keep the hoop in contact with your back, and squeeze your legs together so that your feet are a single focal point on the ground. I was able to get a really great spin going, but forgot about what might happen afterwards. Let’s just say I felt drunk with dizziness. Here’s a video of that as well:

https://vimeo.com/45108957 (Warming: Video is on its side… Sorry!)

3 Days Left.

The remainder of time left here in Toronto feels a little like that classic Indiana Jones moment when the walls and ceiling are closing in. You know there’s got to be a way out, but you don’t’ discover it until the very last second. And until that moment comes, the passing of each second happens both at a glacial pace, and the speed of light.  Not all of the anxiety I’m feeling is negative. A lot is eager anticipation. I’ve recently counted, and in the past year, I’ve moved approximately 7 times. Sometimes just to a different apartment in the same city, but every time it has involved the packing, relocating, and unpacking process. The longest I was ever in one location was 3 months. So, naturally, I’ve adjusted to the ability to pick up and go, and have even started to look forward to being able to expect new experiences in the near future. That feeling is ever apparent right now, but on the other side of the same coin I know that the ship is going to be the closest thing to a permanent home than any of the last 7 places I’ve lived (excluding the home I grew up in, of course). Sometimes I feel like a sound mixing board. I’m constantly adjusting my settings and nodules up and down to be able to balance out the changes in frequency, intensity, volume, environment, etc, etc. I’m so very analogical today.

Celebrations. 
All in one weekend, Toronto was bubbling with excitement around the Euro Cup Final between Spain and Italy, Toronto’s Pride Weekend, and Canada Day on July 1st! I loved going to the Pride Parade, seeing almost every bar with a patio packed, and fireworks happening all over the city that we watched from the roof of our building. Not to mention the almost full moon reflecting on the water of the Lake. We also celebrated a birthday in the cast, boyfriends and girlfriends are visiting other cast members, and we have reached the end of our road in rehearsals. Tomorrow is the day we do final runs of all three Mainstage shows in our canon, and one of the Pirate-themed Shipwide shows. Everywhere, but especially in the studio, it feels like the last day of school in the studio, where the energy is buzzing with eager excitement to do things for the last time before we embark on our next voyage. I hope I can feed off of the excited energy to help keep some of the anxiety at bay. 

Volitation Station

Monday, June 17th

I’d like to start with a story that I often tell. It’s okay, you can roll your eyes if you’ve heard this one:

When I was 5 years old, the middle school did a production of Peter Pan that year. It so happened that my neighbor, Meghan, was given the leading role, which for a 5th grader was very exciting. My whole family went to one of the performances. I was very familiar with the Mary Martin televised version, and could not wait to see one of my favorite stories on stage. I was riveted through the entire performance, and by the end, to my parents surprise, I was in a fit of hysterical tears as we were leaving the auditorium and crossing the parking lot. They turned to me and asked, “Beth, what’s the matter?! Didn’t you like the show?” and I replied through my sobs, “I WANT TO BE PETER PAN!” From that moment on, I was hooked (excuse my lame pun) to not only the idea of being onstage, but of flying through the air.

AND THAT DAY HAS ARRIVED! I finally flew on a fine afternoon in June!!! I have to back up a little bit to fill you in on the fact that we have begun rehearsing our third and final show Believe! This is the show in which I portray my good friends Mary Poppins and Mrs. Potts 😉 It’s been a slightly slow start-up into this show because our Director was away for a little over a week, and there’s much more attention paid to the dancing in this production, so I’d say the pieces of the puzzle are still being organized by color (my family will understand that reference). ANYWAY, last Monday was a thrilling afternoon of venturing to the last stop on the subway line, getting on a bus, and walking across a vast parking lot to a warehouse of studio space where, once inside, there were more contraptions than you could possibly come up with uses for. This was the Toronto School of Circus Arts. Our friends from the school, who have also been training our cast members in the Spanish Web, were there to greet us, strap us into the harness, somewhat reminiscent of a corset with garters made out of seat belts (trust me, it’s safer than I’m making it sound…. certainly not all that flattering, though), and propel us through the air. I say “us” because it was me and my understudy, Allison, and our two cast mates Steve and James who are the actor and understudy for another character in the show who has a brief moment of flying. Our flight patterns are relatively simple, so we were able to get in a couple of flights for each person.

Dare I say it, but I felt a little more complete throughout my ascent. I had such a visceral response even just getting hooked into the wires, I almost had to remember myself to keep breathing. Nerves were flaring, my heart was pattering, my face was flushing, and nothing could wipe that smile from my face. Even throughout the detailed instructions about safety, and the steps to prepare me to be lifted into the air, flown across the studio, brought back and gently lowered back down, I took it all in with eager nods and a giddy spirit. The machine is a wonderful contraption that creates a pure gliding affect that calmed my every nerve. In that first moment of flight, I probably felt like I could have lived the rest of my life in the air and been content. I know that this moment in the show is going to be the moment that I relish over and over again no matter how many times I it in the coming 7 months. Shall I give you a little sneak peak?!

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CLICK HERE FOR MORE!

I have my second flying appointment this morning! Chim-chim-erooooo!

Friday, June 22 & Sunday June 24
These two days, we had another class in a series of many classes held by the Human Resources department that are considered part of our extensive training as employees of The Walt Disney Company. These courses are of a general design, meant for all employees, regardless of rank, position, or skill level. Therefore, we were quickly aware of how much of the information was beyond what we would expect to encounter on our contract. That’s not to say we should ever overlook the possibility that we COULD end up needing to know some of this stuff… but I guess I at least have to pretend that learning about the differences in treating a hot burn versus a cold burn is relevant to me. The one that really got me laughing was the video we watched on how to protect our back in the workplace. While they taught us how to effectively lift a box within our “Safefy Zone,” our cast of characters and performers are LITERALLY bending over backwards to perform 6-7 days a week for the next 7 months. I think we’ve got that area covered, but thanks anyway HR!

We had a four hour meeting on Friday morning, and a six hour class yesterday (Sunday) full of instructional videos, Powerpoint presentations, and even a few exams in order to solidify our certification in the area that was being presented. Most of the material somehow pertained to Safety, Environmentality, Crowd/Guest Management and whatever policies we needed to be aware of abiding. It was the first time in a long time I had to sit in a chair and pay attention for such a lengthy period of time. It really makes me appreciate the nature of my work all the more. I crave the physicality of my day-to-day activities when it is suddenly taken away from me. Luckily for us, the class that was held this morning is usually held during our training in Orlando, Florida. What this means, is that since we’ve held the class here in Toronto instead, it gives us a FREE DAY IN DISNEY WORLD!!!!

The Future… and the affect that’s having on my Philomotions.

There are only about 10 days left in this chapter of my journey. Whoa. This fact has come up frequently in conversation between my cast mates and myself. Already, people are talking about the complicated emotions we have around leaving Toronto, and the interim time we have before beginning our real routine. This is what the timeline is looking like:

July 5th – We fly to Orlando, Florida. We’ll be staying in one of the Disney World resorts, primarily completing our employee and shipboard training, but also having free access to the Parks! J This will be my first time back since my 11th birthday where my Dad took me on a long weekend for my first time to the magical World. I think I made him ride Space Mountain with me at least 10 times. YOU ARE SUCH A TROOPER, DAD!

July 8th – We board the Dream to begin our Crossover process. Crossover is the final part of our training where we are oriented with the ship and our duties as Petty Officers, Assembly Station Leaders, and Character Greeters (more details about those jobs will most likely follow in the future once I figure out exactly what all of it entails, myself!). All of this responsibility floats on the surface while our main objective is to tech (yes, it is the verb “to tech,” click on the word for it to take you to my vocabulary page) our shows in the theatre during the day in preparation for our Opening Cruise.

July 22nd – OPENING CRUISE!

In less that one month’s time, I will once again be completely uprooted and forced to adapt to a new set of circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, this is entirely anticipated, and not the least bit surprising. But I can only ever wonder how I might react to the change. I’ve learned in the past year that no matter how much we seem to plan for the future, life’s events always seem to take us by surprise. This is all the more relevant to me, especially since my college graduation, that I have a hard time realizing how much something means to me until it’s already gone. On one hand, this is a great asset, because it means I never start to miss something before it’s left me. But with that advantage, also bears weight I place on things in hindsight. I rarely feel that I was capable of fully appreciating the things (and people) in front of me until they’re gone. Luckily, with this particular shift, the people I’m bonding with are coming with me. That helps tremendously.

Speaking of shifts: I’ll have a new address starting very soon. Check out the newest way you can Make A Connection while I’m sailing around!

Aside

Anticipation Station

This has been an eventful week both inside and out of the rehearsal room. As I was writing this past week, I realized I had too much to address for all of your poor little eyes to focus on the computer screen for that long. So, in this post, I’ll talk about my adventures. In the next post, I’ll talk more about what’s been happening in rehearsals. They’re very separate worlds at this point, and I want to give both some attention. I’ve picked up the pace on my sight-seeing recently since the inevitable fact that my time here in Toronto won’t last forever looms over my head, I’ve been proactive about getting to do and see the things on my mental list (also encouraged by a recent pay check).

Wednesday, June 13th

It all started at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) where I went to see Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. I consider myself an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to art. I’d like to think I knew more than the average person, and even if I don’t know all that much, I’m eager to appreciate and learn all that I can about the works that I do see. This particular collection was a series of sketches, paintings and sculptures organized by the many phases of his life, artistically and personally, and more or less chronologically. How logical! It quickly became to clear to me, though, the scope of his radicalism even in the way he approached making art. For example, it was noted that he often would flip between styles of painting in order to prove that he was never stuck in one mindset and constantly versatile. It was also stated at the very beginning of the exhibition, that “Ultimately, every Picasso artwork is about Picasso – the works reveal his unique vision of the world and embody his profound responses to it. They lay bare the beauty and anxieties of his time, the horrors of war, as well as his personal passions, desires and fears.” (http://www.ago.net/4375). But no one could put it any clearer than the man himself:

“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” —Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

 It was a nice surprise to realize that I actually liked Picasso’s work! Who woulda thunk? The fact that he’s a household name, prepared me to walk in there and see things that I expected. But I came out more educated, and thoroughly exposed to the unexpected too! Good work, Curators!

Thursday, June 14th

My friend, Emily, and I ventured to the top of the famous CN Tower, just blocks from our residence on John St. This structure is one of the tallest in the world, and on the “New” List of the Modern Wonders of the World! It also has one of the best elevator rides, with glass-paneled doors, and at 15 miles per hour, it takes only 58 seconds to reach the top of this 1,100+ feet tall tower. Once at the top, there are two levels for viewing-pleasure, one of which has a glass floor that you can stand, sit, take pictures on, and look down on Rogers Stadium and the Steam Whistle Brewery below. I’ve already uploaded many of these into the photo album on my Facebook page (click here to see!). The second level, you could go outside, be accosted by the wind, and look through the cage over the railing at the entire city. It was awe-inspiring, similar to the feeling I got at Niagara, where I had to pay some reverence to the natural order of things, and where I fit into it all. It was also fun to point out from above all of the places I’ve explored around the city 🙂 Other fun facts about the Tower: If one were to jump from the top, it would take only 10 seconds to reach the ground. It was also designed to be an enormous lightning rod, and gets struck by lightning an average of 75 times a year. Believe it or not, we were witness to one of these times just tonight (one week later on Thurs June 21st). As Emily and I stood directly under the Tower in the rain on our way back from today’s adventure (you’ll find out about that in the next post), we both happened to look up and see over our heads, a giant bolt strike the top of the tower and light up the sky around us!!! It was such CRAZY happenstance, and I’m incredibly grateful to have that image burned into my memory forever.

Saturday, June 16th

I went to Kensington Market for lunch between scheduled rehearsals. This is an open-air market/village/alternative community full of ethnic food places, boutiques, thrift stores, and graffiti. It’s a microcosm of this city that doesn’t really have a face anywhere else but at the Market, or maybe closer to the University. It was a great afternoon of exploring and discovering culture; the biggest highlight being the shrimp tacos I had from tiny hole-in-the-wall place that served Mexican, Portuguese, and Korean street food.

Sunday, June 17th

My friend, Zach, and I went to the Royal Ontario Museum to see ancient cultures, animals and most of all DINOSAUR BONES! On this day, it was the beginning of the recent heat/humidity wave, and I was reaching the end of my battle with a cold. Oftentimes, too, Sundays are days when you think you’ll have lots of energy to do exciting things, but really you find out how exhausted you are from the week’s rehearsals and events. We both walked around this gargantuan building that seems to wrap around itself on the inside like intestines, quietly taking it all in. There was a very cool exhibit of an artist who interpreted Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas into a distinct visual representation. They appear almost as a 3-Dimensional line graph. Very curious. There were chills sent up my spine when we graced the presence of the mummy on display, and the ancient Greek vases, and the gold jewelry from the Byzentine empire, and especially the bones of massive and spectacular creatures that no longer exist. How rarely we’re given the chance to immerse ourselves so physically in knowledge about the past, even if the end result is only taking away tidbits of information, like how the Native Americans and Canadians would shrink the heads of their victims. On second thought, I might elect to forget that one.

…TO BE CONTINUED!…

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