Sunday, September 26, 2010

Queen's Homecoming Weekend 2010 - Save A Car, Flip A Cop

Aberdeen Street on Homecoming weekend,
located within the Queen's University Student Village (Ghetto)

I came to Queen's two years too late. Why? Well, friends, starting last year, Queen's University officially cancelled its annual Homecoming tradition due to the epic riots and rowdiness Queen's became famous for, along with the subsequent debt that Homecoming brought to the city of Kingston. Students flipping cars, police busting out the tear gas. As a result of the past years' riots, Queen's cancelled Homecoming last year and law enforcement in Kingston during this particular weekend has been militant ever since. Incredibly militant. The invasion of Prague Spring 1968, really.

Yet as we all know, Queen's will always recognize its traditions. A tradition to respect tradition. And despite the university's cancellations, unofficial Homecoming activities still took place this past weekend. Homecoming was now cleverly called Fauxcoming. And despite the (in your face) police presence, Homecoming (Fauxcoming) weekend was incredibly fantastic. Awesome, great, amazing (I'm running out of adjectives). Plus, no cars were flipped this year, I promise.

As a side note, the latest issue of Queen's University's The Journal published an article discussing the extensive police presence in the Queen's community this weekend. "Fauxcoming Fallout: Police estimate the weekend cost around $375,000." To read the full article, click here. A question up for debate: was the $375,000 really necessary?

Well, my friends, Homecoming weekend was incredibly enjoyable. And while the amount of money spent on policing bothers me (a topic for a separate blog post, I'm sure), on a superficial level, I had a great time. I'm still constantly amazed at how different the Queen's student culture and environment is compared to what I saw at the University of Toronto. Events like Homecoming demonstrate the close-knit, student community spirit that we all grow to love. The following are some anecdotes and observations I made this past weekend:

Observations from Homecoming (Fauxcoming) Weekend 2010

ONE: Don't expect to sleep Homecoming weekend. Even if you choose not to partake in Homecoming activities, the house next door probably is. And so is the house next to them. And the house next to that. And the house next to that one. If you can't beat 'em (i.e. sleep with earplugs on), join 'em?

TWO: Experiencing Homecoming as a graduate student is far different from going through it as an undergraduate student. You know you're getting old when you turn in at the early hour of 1:00 am, just as the perky undergrads next door head out in bar attire. Just as you pull on your pajamas and settle in bed to read the latest issue of The Economist. Because you're 50.

THREE: At midnight on Friday night, crowds of people turned to stare as uniformed police on horseback trodded down Princess Street. It was quite the spectacle. Saturday night was no different. Students were ticketed for carrying water bottles, as police suspected the water was mixed with traces of vodka. Hundreds of students were arrested on Saturday night, even if they were only slightly inebriated. Police cars patrolled every street. Drunk tanks were parked all over campus, ready to arrest and aggressively throw in (even slightly) drunken students. Wow. Don't tell me the G20 came to Kingston?

FOUR: On Monday, the day after Queen's epic weekend, the city smelled. Of cheap wine and nights students can't remember. After an entire weekend witnessing house parties, late nights, riots, and rowdy university students, I'm not surprised (yet quite amused) that the city reeks. Alcohol and bad decisions? That, my friends, summarizes a university's Homecoming weekend. Seriously, it really is just like the movies. Hollywood depictions aren't too far off!

FIVE: It's all about the football, my friends. And football loyalty here is fierce. Imagine thousands of people standing on bleachers cheerfully chanting, "We all got into Ottawa!" and "Safety school!" in an effort to distract Ottawa's quarterback and insinuate our guests' institutional mediocrity. Queen's fans are entertaining yet vicious, I've discovered. Vicious but so very amusing! Because its true. I did get into Ottawa.

SIX:My housemates, housemate's visiting friends and I walked to the football game together, following the mob trickling towards Richardson Stadium. Upon arrival at the gate, the security guard requested that she "pat me down," a process completed with each entering student. She then rummaged through my purse. And pulled out my apple. I smiled and noted, "Sorry, that's my apple. It's my breakfast, can I take it in?" Not responding, the security guard put my apple to her ear and began shaking it vigorously. Confused, I asked why she was shaking my apple. Nodding, she gave my apple back to me to place back in my purse. In response, she told me she couldn't be too careful. Apparently, hollow apples have been previously used to sneak various forms of narcotics into football games. Drugs in an apple. Wow. Clever.

SEVEN: Once a Queen's student, always a Queen's student. At halftime during the football game, students rushed the field, along with hundreds of alumni wearing Queen's jackets, waving flags that stated their graduating year (i.e. Science 1955). Thousands of students cheered themselves hoarse. The loyalty and attachment demonstrated for this university makes you tear up, really. And these sentiments are demonstrated so well at Homecoming, witnessing retired men marching around the football stadium, cheering for the school they attended and loved. It was very sweet to watch.

EIGHT:The area around Queen's is composed of about 80% students, a result of being in such close proximity to the campus. However, come Homecoming weekend, the student population triples. It looked like the world came to Kingston. Busloads of students from other universities came to join Queen's students for an epic weekend. Who says Homecoming was cancelled? It may have been cancelled officially, but I stand firm in the fact that Queen's reputation for memorable Homecomings will always have people coming back for more. And if the university decides to cancel Homecoming forever, I'm sure the traditions will still continue. Fauxcoming for the next twenty years? So be it.

(As a side note, student responsibilities during Homecoming, especially in regards to alcohol, will be the topic of a separate blog post. There's a reason the police were here. I'll address this issue at a later date).

I cheerfully admit that my weekend was amazing. I had a great time. I don`t know if I`ll ever experience Homecoming weekend at this Americanized level ever again. But as September draws to a close, let's chalk Homecoming/Fauxcoming weekend up as another memorable experience I've had here at Queen's. One of many, I'm sure.

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave,
and grow old wanting to get back to."

- John Ed Pearce

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."
- Tryon Edwards

The Masters Degree - Higher Education, Lower Benefits?

I have a terrible habit of eavesdropping. Really, I do it more than I wish to admit. On Friday afternoon, I stood in the lineup of Stauffer Library's checkout desk, attempting to hold on to my stack of books without having them topple over, when my ears perked up at the conversation that began in front of me between two tall, well-dressed male students. Upon closer inspection, I concluded that they looked slightly older than me and were, most likely, graduate or professional students of some sort. By listening closely, I immediately figured out which faculties they belonged to. Their conversation went something like this:

Tall Boy 1: It's great to see you, I haven't seen you since high school!
Tall Boy 2: It definitely has been awhile! What are you up to?
Tall Boy 1: I'm just finishing up law school here at Queen's. I'm in my third and last year.
*awkward silence between both parties*
Tall Boy 2: Law school? Oh. Congratulations.
Tall Boy 1: What about you, what are you doing?
Tall Boy 2: I'm starting my Master's degree. In History.
Tall Boy 1 (enthusiastically): That's awesome, congratulations!
*even longer awkward silence*
Tall Boy 2 (sarcastically): Congratulations to you too. You have way better job prospects than I do. Thanks. Have a great life.
*Masters walked off in a huff with Lawyer staring after him in bewilderment*

I have to admit, I giggled a little as Masters walked away. His reaction to Lawyer's potential job prospects resembled such elementary-level childish jealousy that it amused me for more than a few minutes. Lawyer turned around, gave me a puzzled smile and shrugged, wondering what exactly happened to make Masters so angry. I shrugged back in amusement, commenting on my own bewilderment.

As I walked home, however, I paused to wonder whether Masters' insecurities had some merit. Childish as his reaction was, I realized that they did. Higher education is incredibly enriching, an avenue to heighten one's knowledge in whatever area they choose. Further, devoting time and effort researching and studying the subjects we love as a career would be a dream come true for those who are incredibly passionate about their fields of study. However, in a world driven by Western consumerist culture, we have to ask ourselves the inevitable question: Is a Masters degree (in the Social Sciences) going to pay off in the end? Pay being the key word.

I think those with Masters degrees in the Arts and Social Sciences have a harder time planning out which job opportunities to pursue compared to those in fields such as Science or Engineering. Graduate degrees in the Social Sciences offer very vague job prospects, as opposed to the more clear-cut fields one can enter with a Masters degree in, say, Education, Environmental Science or Mechanical Engineering. Those with professional degrees (like Mr. Lawyer above) have even greater job prospects waiting for them. Without my plan to attend law school after my year here at Queens, what could I possibly do with my Masters degree in Politics, apart from a career in academia? Clear-cut job prospects don't immediately come to mind. I remember my former LSAT instructor, fresh out of his PhD, complaining about his troubles with the job market and the lack of job opportunity.

Entering the world of graduate study is a fantastic experience. Believe me, I would not trade my experience here at Queen's for anything. But does it pay off in the end? Is a Masters (in the Social Sciences) degree really worth it? Will our job prospects ever become clear-cut? Is pursuing a Masters degree (in the Social Sciences) merely a way to put off deciding what we really want to do with our lives? Do Masters degrees really set us apart from the rest? Such questions worry me.

I don't necessarily have answers to these questions. But I hope those with doubts regarding the use of their graduate degrees find answers soon. As Joel Gray in Cabaret so wisely put it, money makes the world go around, my friends. Will social science graduate degrees pay off? I suppose time will tell.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
- Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The (Not So) Starving Grad Student - Quick & Easy Cooking

I don't know why people despise Rachael Ray. Watching her whip up meals in a matter of minutes on 30 Minute Meals never fails to leave my mouth hanging open in amazement. 30 minute meals? Meals in 30 minutes? Friends, the woman is a genius. An utter genius.

Between 300 pages of reading every week, TA preparation, and other extra-curricular activities, I barely have time to cook. Much less breathe, for that matter. And I know I'm not the only student suffering from a lack of cooking time and, ergo, a hungry stomach. As I was walking to school this morning, I passed by several convenience stores eagerly advertising their sale on frozen dinners and pizzas. The temptation to give into the world of saturated fats and sodium goodness is all too obvious. Falling into the habits of microwave dinners, swimming in a minefield of transfats, preservatives, and unknown chemicals is all too tempting. Believe me, I've had my share of preserved, ready-made dinners several times since moving to Kingston: an easy route after a tiring, stress-inducing day. However, I've come to the conclusion that I need to eat properly. Starting now.

While I dragged my feet to the kitchen this evening after coming home from a late class, I'm glad I stuck to discipline, pulled out the frying pan, and cooked dinner without resorting to collapsing in bed to sleep and starve voluntarily after an exhausting day of class and reading. Despite our hectic schedules, healthy eating habits are so important. It probably isn't the best idea to starve ourselves or to constantly rely on preserved meals. Our graduate degrees won't mean anything if our brains have disintegrated into utter mush, a smorgasbord of preservatives, sodium, and transfat. And so, friends, we always have an option to maintain healthy eating habits: Cooking.

Cooking is unavoidable. We can't rely on preserved TV dinners forever. The state of our health will always and forever be in our own hands, and as grad students, we shouldn't voluntarily starve, no matter how tired we are. We don't have to constantly resort to microwavable macaroni & cheese with interesting bits of preserved plastic cheese swimming within our potential dinners. Cooking doesn't have to consist of a long, elaborate process. Cooking can be quick. Meals can be hearty, healthy, and easy to make. Here are a couple of websites where we can search for super quick & easy meals. Emphasis on the quick and the easy.

All - This is, hands down, my favourite recipe website, ever. EVER. They even have a section on 30 minute meals. You can find any type of recipe on this website, and will most likely discover recipes you've never even heard of. For example, what in the world is stuffed cod wrapped in bacon? Who knew cod could be wrapped in bacon? It boggles the mind.

30 Minute Meals - What can I say, Rachael Rae is my hero. For the time-sensitive grad student, a quick & healthy meal is the way to go. Emphasis on quick. Other than Bobby Flay, she's the one reason I was addicted to the Food Network over the summer. Although I'll admit that if I ever came face-to-face with Bobby Flay, I'd probably pass out. It's the fangirl in me.

Minute Chef - This is pretty self-explanatory. There are some meals listed which can be prepared in a matter of 15-30 minutes. That's as long as a Friends episode. If you can commit to giggling over the lives and loves of six imaginary people in New York City for half an hour, I'm pretty sure you can cook yourself a good, hearty, healthy meal in the same amount of time.

Let this blog post merely serve as a friendly reminder that we are all capable of cooking and eating right. Give it a chance, cooking can be fun! However, if we continue with unhealthy eating habits, there's always that other option. What other option, you ask?

Well, we can always ask our parents to come visit on the weekend, convince them we're living in utter squalor, and have them take us out for a hearty meal at Chez Piggy. It all comes down to choice. Whatever works for you.

Happy cooking, friends!

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."
- Vincent T. Lombardi

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The First Week Of Class At Queen's

Today officially marked my second week of classes as a Master's student. With my first full week of classes officially over as of this past weekend, I thought I'd physically document this past week's momentous occasion on my blog, since first days and first weeks for everything are certainly special and worth documenting to reminisce over at a later date (i.e. In a year, I could certainly look back on this post and think, "Wow, look at this blog post. I can't believe it's been a year since my first day of week at Queen's, I'm getting old. I'm getting so old. Etcetera. Etcetera"). I think my mother has a whole album filled with pictures from my first day of kindergarten. No joke.

How was my first week? Well, friends, I think I've fallen in love. Actually, let me re-phrase that. I think I've fallen deeper in love. With politics. I can't even describe in words how incredibly, hopelessly excited and even more devoted I am to the study of politics after this past week.

Yes, I did admit that. And in the corniest words possible.

I'm actually most excited about my course study on political parties, which focuses largely on Canadian parties (although there are a number of readings that briefly focus on other countries). I haven't been this excited since I found out that Top Shop was coming to Toronto. Or when I discovered my beloved limited edition (!!!) Longchamp tote bag on sale in Paris. In all seriousness, the course takes a look at what political parties are, their functions, roles, organization, internal structures, ideology. And while I certainly hold a special place in my heart for the study of constitutional politics, my political parties readings has led me to seriously consider studying an aspect of party politics for my Masters Research Paper in the Summer term instead. We'll see what happens!

While I initially had reservations about another course I had to take (the worst conundrum I've ever been in! too stressful for words), my worries over course selection were over as of this past Friday. Deciding which courses to take over others was an exhausting experience, but it's finally over. And if there's one lesson I can take from my struggles over course selection last week, I've discovered that enjoying what you study and do as a career is so incredibly important. Without passion and honest-to-goodness love for your work and material, the motivation to continue researching and investing hours of effort will eventually wane.

Beyond the academic setting, I think genuine dedication and fondness (versus having to do things because we should or we have to) for our careers, our hobbies, and volunteer activities is so important, and I hope we all find that subject, career, or activity we love. Because finding mine is turning out to be an incredible experience!

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
- Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Eventful Evening - Animal Help Hotlines & The City of Kingston

Earlier today, after my housemates and I realized that it was garbage day tomorrow, we promptly brought our garbage and recycling bins outside for the scheduled pickup. However, as we headed out the door, we knew it would be an eventful evening. As two of my housemates took the garbage bins out, they discovered a huge (read: MASSIVE) dog wandering around our porch. Running to the porch with the recycling bin, I stopped in my tracks when, at first glance, I thought there was a wolf standing on our porch (you can't imagine how much my heart pounded).

The dog looked like Lassie. Seriously, she was incredibly huge, as large as a wolf. Affectionately (and temporarily), we named her Wolfie.

Wolfie had no collar, no source of identification, and her knees were terribly scarred. Honestly, as we all stood on the porch, we had no idea what to do. Although I have a phobia of huge (read: MASSIVE) dogs due to a scarring experience when I was younger, Wolfie softened my ogre's heart, and I found her (we decided Wolfie was a girl) absolutely endearing (albeit at a distance).

As we watched Wolfie scavenge through our garbage, we quickly figured that out that she was extremely hungry. Quickly, Brittany and I ran to the fridge and found some milk, cheese, and chicken to provide the hungry Wolfie. Once she was fed, I then set out on a hunt for a 24-hour Animal Help Hotline, as leaving her on our porch to fend for herself probably wasn't the best idea.

Let this blog post serve to recognize the Kingston Human Society's wonderful, amazing work in the community. I want to note that I'm extremely, incredibly impressed by its efficiency and prompt response. Within 20 minutes of my call, an individual serving our area called me right away to discuss the issue. She promptly told me that she would be at our house in about 20-30 minutes, as she would be driving in from outside of Kingston.

And so as we waited patiently for the Humane Society to arrive, my housemate decided to read Wolfie a story: Emily's Eighteen Aunts. Wolfie enjoyed the story so much that she took a little nap! Forty-five minutes after our call, representatives from Animal Control arrived with a leash to take Wolfie away. As they left, they mentioned that Wolfie was the third Husky they picked up this week. Waving goodbye, we watched as they loaded Wolfie into the back of a truck specifically for the use of Kingston Human Society's Animal Control division.

Although I haven't been a pet owner since I was a very young girl, I'm not naive enough to believe that animal neglect is a rare phenomenon. As we saw tonight, there are a number of owners who neglect their pets, leaving the animal to fend for itself. I hope Wolfie finds a nice, warm place to sleep tonight. And, unlike Lassie, I sincerely hope and wish that Wolfie finds a happy ending.

I'll borrow the closing words of one of my housemates regarding our eventful evening. Friends, garbage day has never been so exciting.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
- Josh Billings

Sunday, September 12, 2010

School Spirit - A Brand New Experience

I felt so American today. Seriously, it was a scene straight out of Remember The Titans. The screaming fans, the faces painted in red, yellow, and blue. The chants, the school song sung heartily with arms slung around one's neighbour when a touchdown was scored, the active school mascot, the Queen's student gear worn on every inch of people's bodies (Queen's scarves, Queen's toques, Queen's knee socks, Queen's hoodies, Queen's cardigans, the list goes on and on). The concept of school spirit was absolutely, completely foreign to me before I came to Kingston. It wasn't until today that I realized the extent of school spirit at Queen's, eerily parallel to the scenes of football glory and emotional pandemonium illustrated at a number of American universities (and movies!). A new experience that I would never have found as a student in Toronto.

As you can probably tell from the above description, I attended my first Queen's football game today. And as much as I loved (no, adored) attending the University of Toronto, its lack of school spirit was notorious. I attended a total of one football game in my four years at UofT, and student apathy towards team games, team losses, and even team successes was well-known. Team successes were often met with apathetic, dismissive smiles. While academic school spirit was certainly alive at UofT, mass gatherings to wholeheartedly cheer on your school was limited, particular in the area of football.

Queen's is a completely different story. I will forever love and remember my time at UofT as some of the best years of my life. However, the environment here at Queen's is just as memorable and endearing. Despite the frigid temperatures and heavy, pouring rain, a large number of alumni and students braved the terrible weather to attend the Queen's vs. Windsor football game this afternoon. And despite the the chilly weather, each chant and song was sung with large bursts of enthusiasm, bagpipes blaring, students cheering, flags and pom-poms waving, the mascot running. Seriously, it was a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie (American Dreams? Friday Night Lights? Johnny Be Good? You know what I'm talking about).

I've officially been in Kingston for one week, and I have to admit that I'm really starting to love this school and the overall environment. School spirit is a wonderful aspect of a more intimate university environment, and it's something I never encountered as an undergraduate student. In retrospect, I'm glad I chose to attend Queen's. It is incredibly worthwhile to experience various cities and environments that you've never encountered before, and I think my year here in Kingston will provide me with experiences I wouldn't have necessarily found elsewhere.

For more on the Queen's Golden Gaels, click here.

"It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world."
- John Steinbeck

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Orientation Day 1 & 2 - Urban Shock, Registration, and TA Development

I think I'm going through what I've termed "urban shock." It's an interesting feeling. I didn't realize I would go through something like this in a city that's only three hours away from my own little suburban world. Quite honestly, I didn't think there would be such a difference in how the city would feel, on how the campus would feel. It's an interesting shock. Admittedly, working and going to school in Toronto for five years urbanized me more than I realized. I've gotten so used to the quiet, keep-to-yourself atmosphere of an academic world enshrined within a busy, urban metropolis.

Kingston and Queen's is... interesting. I've barely been here for three days and I'm already seeing a remarkable difference in the way of life, in the attitude, the culture. It's a good shock. Really, it is. Just a surprise and something to get used to. The smaller, more enclosed environment is something new to me, but I think I'll adapt to it eventually. I think I'll enjoy the intimate atmosphere once I store away the urbanite in me until the day I return home.

As for yesterday's Orientation Week activities, I spent most of my day in a professional development event for TAs. In a span of seven hours, I learned techniques on grading, assessment, student engagement. And thankfully, an entire plenary session was devoted to addressing fears of teaching, especially for first-time TAs. An interesting, yet tiring day. Today, Orientation Day 2 consisted of a welcome breakfast and fair for new graduate students. I must say that I'm very impressed with the wealth of resources that Queen's has to offer graduate students in terms of academic support. It's another shock to see such an intimate environment for academic support, which is something I rarely experienced at UofT. Another good shock, really.

Lastly, today, I had the pleasure of receiving the items that officially make me a TA and Masters candidate:
a) my office keys
b) my mailbox
c) official TA agreement documentation
d) official approval of my courses after a meeting with my Graduate Chair.

I think my office is cute. It just needs a some TLC. Next stop? Finding items to decorate my office desk with, obviously!

"Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history."
- Joan Wallach Scott

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Impressions of Kingston

I've lived in Kingston for a full 24 hours, and I will shamelessly admit that I've lived like a hermit. I've met no one, seen no one, talked to no one. Until today, when one of my housemates finally moved in. Honestly, my street has been a ghost town the last twenty-four hours. I haven't seen anyone remotely resembling a graduate student, save for the drunk, merry group of frat boys down the street, enjoying the last few days of teacher's college Orientation.

However, despite the non-existence of living, breathing human beings on my street, I've utilized the wonders of technology by using Skype to keep in touch with the outside world. Technology certainly has its uses!

First impressions of Kingston?

1. It's cold. I should have brought my winter jacket. All I can think about is how insanely, incredibly cold it is here. I don't know if temperatures are equally freezing in Toronto, but I've already had to bust out my fall jacket this morning.

2. I wondered where I could purchase Asian-like food and ingredients in a predominately Caucasian (ergo, white) city. Much to my delight, walking down Princess Street this morning, I discovered an Asian grocery store. Aptly named Asian Grocery Store. Awesome.

3. The Metro here is a rip-off, moreso than regular Toronto Metros. $6.99 for a small bottle of shampoo? Please. Clearly, the system to rip off starving students doesn't end in Toronto.

4. Think of the prettiest city you've ever been in. Ever. Then come visit Kingston, because Kingston (and it's waterfront) is a hundred times prettier!

5. Kingston's "downtown" consists of a strip containing a Dollarama, a Tim Horton's and a Pizza Pizza. Obviously, the staples of life.

6. There are a total of six small bookshops (a la Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail) on Princess Street. They're so quaint and small-town-esque, I love them.

I'm sure I'll have more to add to this list when I start the School of Graduate Studies' Orientation Week tomorrow.

Side Note: In preparation for registration this week, I've been working away at my course schedule, trying to decide which courses would be most beneficial to take. Global governance? Development studies in the area of global finance? The development of capitalism? Political parties? There are a number of possibilities. And as usual, I'm indecisive. Let's hope that I make up my mind soon.

Next stop, Teaching Development Day, Orientation Week, meeting the rest of my mysterious housemates. Exciting? I think so.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
- Aristotle

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Week of (Memorable) Goodbyes - 2 Days Till Moving Day

It's almost here, friends. I'm moving to Kingston in 2 days. This entire week has flown by too quickly, I've barely had time to prepare as much as I should have. I'm flabbergasted at how quickly Moving Day has crept up on me. This is most likely my last blog post before I move, as I'll be spending tomorrow running around the city, picking up last minute items before my move at 7:00 am this Saturday. So much to do, so little time.

And so inevitably, when one leaves town for an extended period of time, we go through a process that can, at times, be a little hard to handle. Moments that can leave you a tad teary-eyed. A process that tugs are your heartstrings. Goodbyes are a necessary part of life as we head from one phase of our lives to another. Yet the process of saying goodbye to close friends, family members, and those who have been a constant, dependable part of our lives can be incredibly emotional, particularly if we're aware that we may not be reuniting with some of these individuals for months, even years.

I've spent the week saying goodbye to a number of you. The dinners, the late-night coffee (tea?) runs, the Tim Hortons dates, the surprise visits. They've all occurred this week. I've spent the week saying goodbye to those I've come to love at church: the students, fellow friends. I've spent the week saying goodbye to relatives, and will be saying goodbye to my wonderful former boss who, in the past year, has taught me more than she will ever know. I've spent the week saying goodbye to close friends. The wonderful surprises of this past Sunday's goodbye/farewell party reduced me to tears, incredibly taken aback by all your thoughtful efforts.

In a couple of days, some of us will be leaving the city, others will be starting new jobs, continuing old jobs. The day has finally arrived where we all part ways. The time has come to finally move, to begin the new, exciting lives we've prepared so much for. And while these goodbyes are teary, and while the thought of moving to places so far away from home may be a tad intimidating, we should brighten at the fact that these new phases of our lives will lead us to brighter, greater things beyond what we can currently imagine. And while saying goodbye may be sad, the promise of opportunity isn't.

And while this week's goodbyes were comprised of frequent hugs, bursts of tears (usually mine), we can rest on the fact that we will see each other soon. While some of us jet over to England for the next year, spend the next eleven months in Vancouver, at a new job, at teacher's college, volunteering in Sri Lanka, getting ready for next summer's weddings, one thing will always remain the same: our special, lifelong friendships will not wane. Famously cliche as it may be, we part to one day meet again. I rest on the confidence that these goodbyes are merely a process. A temporary separation paving the way for a happy group reunion in the (near) future.

Friends, I will miss you all dearly. Kingston will inevitably be a wonderful experience. But none of it will ever compare to my amazing, lifelong friends and my home.

Next stop, Kingston!

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth.”
- Robert Southey

“We will never forget them nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.'”
- Ronald Reagan

How our car will look on the way to Kingston,
due to the amount of stuff I'm taking with me. Too much. Far too much!