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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
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This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Wednesday, 18 June 2003
Georgetown --> Toronto, Ontario, Canada

After a great sleep-in this morning (I guess my body is working hard to recover that burned skin problem of mine), Dave checked his cell phone and discovered there was a message from the President of Toshiba!
"Hey Ramon, you've got a memory chip waiting for you!" Dave told me. The prez was startled about my project and told some technical guy to help me out. If I would go to the Toshiba headquarters in Markham today, I could pick up a block of memory for my laptop.

That was great news! And as I had to get out again today, Dave offered to drive to Markham (only on the other side of Toronto) and drop me off at a subway station, so I could meet up with my last host in Toronto.

We got on the road around noon, but when we got on the 401 Highway to Toronto, Dave got an emergency call from one of his clients. "Well, actually it's a friend of Brian for who he agreed to built a computer. That didn't work out too easy and I helped Brian with a hand. Today I delivered the computer but it seemed to have crashed."

We got back off the highway to visit this client and see what the problem is. We were nearby and Dave didn't want to let the guy wait a whole day. "The problem is that this man is also a friend of mine and he is the best bike repair man around. I don't want him to see me as a person that delivers bad computers, because it was not my deal. You know, that's why I don't repair computers of my friends, it can harm a friendship in case things going wrong. It's just a safety issue."

Back on the road again, I was getting pretty hungry. There wasn't any breakfast material at Dave's (acknowledged!) dump basement, so as it was almost afternoon, my stomach was aching for attention. Fortunately Dave was getting hungry too and we pulled through a Drive-in Wendy's for a hamburger combo with fries and coke.

It was quite a drive to Markham and I was really honoured that Dave wanted to help me out in getting there.

At the reception of this grand Toshiba office complex we picked up an envelop which contained a chip with enough RAM memory to speed up my laptop. We tested the new chip in the car and I was happy.

I can actually see my letmestay-movies in editing mode now! Toshiba Canada is now the powering motor behind the Letmestayforaday.com weekly movies. Thanks again!

David dropped me off at the subway station of Yorkdale, somewhere in the far north of Toronto. He gave me five bucks for tokens to get on the metro and we waved goodbye after a generous thank-you.

From Yorkdale I took the metro to the Spadina station, almost right in the downtown district of Toronto. I was back in the big city again and walked around a few blocks to find the right place where I met up with my next hostess.

It was Krisztina Kurtossy who had invited me over at her place. She is the director of the travel company Champagne Travel and she is highly specialized in trips and tours to Cuba. "I do specialty travels there, such as cycling tours, art, music, history and photography."

It was there in Cuba where she fell in love with a tour guide. "I am still waiting for his official proposal, but we will be marrying later this year. In Cuba," she said. And she dreamed away with her eyes.

As it was around 4 in the afternoon, she made it time to finish her job for today and take me to her home. Krisztina lives in the "very nice, cool, part of Toronto called The Beaches on Lake Ontario." According to her it's the closest to nature in the city of Toronto.

By the sound of those few people who vheard me talk about this last stay in the big city, hearing The Beaches made them go, "Wow!" or "Ching-ching!" as it could be the Beverly Hills of Toronto.

Well, maybe it was. After a rather uncomfortable street car ride from downtown to The Beaches (it was crowded at this time of the day and I am carrying lots of stuff with me) I was amazed.

This place is indeed a particularly appealing district with chic boutiques, big green trees streets and a sandy beach with an apparently popular boardwalk.

A century ago, The Beaches, was a summer vacation area used for frolicking about the shores of Lake Ontario. Today, The Beaches is more a residential than a holiday spot, but its overall atmosphere has retained that look and feel of a turn-of-the-previous-century seaside resort.

Krisztina lives in a small apartment a few blocks from the lengthy Queen Street and has a view on a ball park, a beach club and the beach behind it. But she will be leaving the apartment in August. "I will move in with my family, to save money for the wedding later this year," she said.

When I got in the house I was jumped at by two 6-months-old kittens that seemed to enjoy nothing else than climbing and fighting with strangers on their territory. I had my hands full keeping those buggers away from me, hehe. But of course I enjoyed them!

As it was still sunny and light outside, Krisztina decided to go for a walk over the famous boardwalk and go out for dinner somewhere on Queen Street.

As we walked along the beach line of the lake, with industrial Toronto's smoke stacks rising as the backdrop, Krisztina enthusiastically talked about Cuba. It was clear she was totally in love with this place, not only with that tour guide.

And she knows how to sell it too, during our dinner at Mr. Greek, a (guess what) Mediterranean restaurant, she made me yearn for a visit to "beautiful Cuba with its friendly people and preserved un-commercial culture."

"My dream is to start a travel agency there," she said. As Cuba is a communist country, the people of Cuba are not allowed to leave the country. As the United States of America is almost a communist country too (especially lately as everybody seems to be finally finding out how the government has been betraying its people), Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba (Americans risk a $50,000 fine if they do go).

Both cultures might learn from each other and that could be very bad.

"You know, as soon as Fidel Castro dies, the country will change so much. I hope it protects itself against American commercialism (read: fast food and hotel chains that take over the industry) and preserves its unique culture. If I open a travel agency in Havana at that time, the people in Cuba will be able to finally get to travel and explore the world. Hopefully."

She told me that I should not skip Cuba in my travels. It will be very difficult to ever get to Cuba and to travel around there, I think. I depend on people who have internet and invite me over and therefore I am pretty much limited to the western (Anglophone) world. You won't easily see me hitchhiking around the north of Africa or plugging in my laptop in Iran.

And how would I ever make the distance from The Netherlands to Cuba? Oh well, I never know what might happen in the future. But a tour around Central America doesn't sound that bad.

I have to tell you that Krisztina is a big talker. In more words: she talks a lot. And I don't often mention my hosts being very talkative, unless they really are that conversational. Krisztina is able to talk on and on for ten minutes and I hardly could get a word in the conversation myself. At a certain point I really had to interrupt her and say "please, time out for a second," my head is spinning around.

"I am sorry," she said. "I know I can talk too much. It's because I am from a big family with five brothers and sisters and we all had to talk much otherwise nobody would listen to us." And she happily told me about her family situation for the next ten minutes.

It sometimes can be overwhelming to listen to a very talkative person and I can explain you why. Because I am Dutch.

I listen to the English, have to translate that in my head as that crazy head of mine still thinks in Dutch, then I have to enable myself to understand what the conversation is about and if that goes fast it gets harder to process it all.

And also some people tell a story like a newspaper article: first the headline so you know what it is about, then the rest of the story.

Other people tell stories from the bottom of an article, send me an avalanche of words before finally going towards the clue of the story.

Sometimes those people can have me on the tip of a chair wondering where they might be going with the story, and sometimes I am totally lost at the end.

So far some travelling psychology from me.

After a good dinner we got back to the house. Tonight was going to be my last night in Canada's biggest city and Krisztina had concluded I had not really been to a real Toronto party place yet. "Let's go out tonight!" she said and disappeared to get changed (women!) and not much later we were in a taxi driving towards the Entertainment District of Toronto.

We ended up at the Crocodile Rock, a crowded dance club. Krisztina skipped the line of people and told the manager about me and my travel. He smiled at me and let me in for free and let her pay her cover charge only. Funny!

We drank beers on the rooftop patio of the club, looking out at the surrounding sky scrapers and talked about life, love and more beers. We ended up grooving away on the second floor balcony, looking out of the dance floor down below, when the music became interesting enough to get this guy from Holland moving his feet a bit and wiping off sweat from his forehead.

We could not make it that late and got in a taxi back to The Beaches around 1am. I still had some daily writings to do and when I finally headed off to the unfolded sofa in the guest room, it was already around 2.30 am and Krisztina had been in dreamland for a long while.

That's not so good, Ramon, especially because I already knew I would have to wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning. Oof!

Well, good night Toronto!

Ramon.