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PS20 - Edmonton

We were fortunate enough to visit Edmonton twice, once for pre-departure in late November '04, and again for debriefing in March '05. I quite like Edmonton. It's a very hip city, especially considering it's the capital of Alberta. I could live there. Well, I could live anywhere, but I could want to live there - that's what I really mean.

We stayed at the Edmonton House Suite Hotel, and this is the view from its driveway.

We were also fortunate enough to be using the hotel at the same time as several other exchanges! The Ukrainian Youth Exchange participants, on their way to Rocky Mountain House, were just a few floors down from us! Here we're on our way to the cybercafe after checking out the local Tim Horton's.

Here we are at William Shakespeare's. That's Ashley's friend Jessica at the back right, and new participant Daniel next to her. Daniel was only with us for a short while, but he was definitely dunked into the cadre. He was funny, agreeable, and articulate - tons of fun!

The view from our room. I stayed with Czarek (of course), Przemek, and Dave. We had a lot of fun. I don't want to say that too much, because we were in Edmonton for serious learning. But we still had a ton of fun.

Przemek has us on MuchMusic quite a bit, which was great for me because I was able to catch up with all the latest trends - not to mention that my life would be empty if it wasn't for Nick, Jessica, and Ashlee.

I went up to the top floor, asked nicely, and then I could take pictures of the tops of other buildings!

Right: One of the Canadians on the Ukrainian Youth Exchange.

Goodbyes for now.

After saying goodbye to the other exchange, it was time to get back to our serious business of pre-departure.

My cousins took me to dinner while we were in Edmonton, which was a lot of fun and really nice of them.

Detox? From... ?

Here we are raising a few while meeting up with the Guatamelan NetCorps exchange, on their way to Guatamela from Saskatchewan.

And here they are. It's a small world; two of the Canadians knew people I knew.

Our visit to the West Edmonton Mall, once the world's largest indoor shopping mall. We came in Entrance 24, and I guess I didn't think too much of the place, because it just looked like a bunch of normal stores (though Entrance "24" should have tipped me off as to the scale of the place), but then we got a little deeper inside...

You can actually go up to a kiosk and get your ride pictures e-mailed to you for a dollar, but this way is much cheaper. Well, I did it both ways, maybe I have OCD or something, I dunno. =)

I guess I was supposed to flip this picture or something.

These flying discs are something else. You ought to see one.

You go around a turn, and there's this "flash-flash-flash," and it's over before you know it.

We went back to the hotel and prepared for an early start the next morning. We'd fly to Toronto, then to Vienna, then to Kiev.

But then the unthinkable happened. One minute our participation is said to be a positive statement for democracy. The next we're told that we won't be going.

They decided to send the Ukrainians home anyway, and leave the rest of us in Edmonton for the moment until it was decided what we'd end up doing. I wondered if they might set us up in Poland, since the Polish Rural Development Foundation was a partner in the exchange. It turns out that's what happened, and we started a Polish phase in January. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Two of the Ukrainians went home the next morning. Two others decided to stay. But it's the sort of thing you have to do abruptly.

Our group was always getting smaller.

What a beautiful day. We were blessed with magnificent weather on both our visits to Edmonton.

So I bought a couple of postcards...

By now we're getting a case of cabin fever, so Jen took us all to the Provincial Museum.

The Groat Rd., passing through a gorge underneath 102 Avenue.

Well, back where I live, we can climb on all the flowerpots we want.

Edmonton has recently joined the growing number of Canadian cities with a subsurface transit system.

Again, the hotel driveway. The hotel is actually situated rather precariously, and the lobby is actually five or six stories above the pavement level you see below. In between is a parkade, and there are two entrances to the parkade - one at the top by the lobby, and one at the bottom. It's quite uncanny.

I got my first streak photo by accident, and after that I stood there for minutes on end trying to get more and more interesting streaks, but my exposure times were limited to just a few seconds.

It finally came time to say goodbye to the Poles for now, but by then we had some confidence that they might get a Polish program set up. It's hard to say a "maybe goodbye," isn't it?

The gang at Edmonton House, which we were beginning to think of as home.

We found out that Vita and Yulia were safe after all, which was quite a relief.

That was the last we saw of Daniel, who wisely decided to take a guaranteed spot on a different program.

We came back to Edmonton again in March, after the Polish phase. It's fair to say that we were in a much more somber mood this time around. I went into it thinking how much fun it was going to be, not thinking that there'd be any separation anxiety. (I always try to experience mine after the fact.) That, and we were greatly fatigued after more than 24 hours of straight travel from the Warsaw hostel to the Edmonton hotel.

But we got to see Yulia and Vita again! Yulia here got a job and was living with a wonderful family. Vita worked in a Ukrainian restauraunt and took English classes. Seeing them both so happy and well was hands-down the high point of coming back to Edmonton.

The girls organized some salon-esque activities the night before we separated.

That's... just Miranda's stuff. We called her Mary Poppins.

And, anticlimatically, that was it. I left my luggage at the front desk, checked out, and went for a long stroll around Edmonton:

Cool! People I can sue for trademark infringement! =)

I've never heard tell of anyone getting lost in Edmonton, have you?

CAUTION: Idiots riding surfboards on top of bicycles.

The brown skyscraper in the middle was us.

Frequent Floaters... I hope they have a "buoyplan" card and everything...

The Muttart Conservatory, a horticultural hotspot. It would have been nice to have the time to go in, purchase a ticket, and explore.

This is how you cross the North Saskatchewan River on foot.

The Shaw Conference Centre...

... where I ran into Yulia and a friend of the lady she's staying with! She and Vita were here to apply for jobs. So it's just as well I didn't go into the Muttart Conservatory (I was tempted).

Golden Arrow busses. That was too funny for us, because that's how we got to and from Grande Prairie. Six hours on a school bus. In Poland we had motorcoaches for our long trips, but they don't have the comedic value that school busses do.

I made my way back to the hotel, cracked open a book, and waited for my cousins to pick me up. What a day! I'd been walking for hours, almost in a daze. The program was over. The program was over.

Originally I thought I'd be escorted right to the airport, and I envisioned turning to Jen as I headed into the boarding ramp and shouting, "I'm free! I'm free! (Nyah, nyah, nyah!)" with all the mean spirit I could muster. But it didn't turn out that way. I'm not sure why - maybe I grew up, or maybe I made the mistaken assumption that every little thing would be watched and monitored right until the bitter end. After what had happened in Grande Prairie, I lost all objectivity towards Canada World Youth.

And now I'm going with them again.

I'm such a nut.

return to NetCorps exchange, Phase 2 (Poland), and other stuff