Saturday, February 19, 2011


it's been almost half a year since i graduated from simon fraser university. almost half a year since i left the canadian soil. the time has come to finish up this blog with a short, goodbye note.

i am writing it from xylokastro, greece where i am currently doing my european voluntary service. i am writing a blog from here too. it is in polish, but non-polish speakers tell me that google translator does a relatively good job in getting my stories across. find it here if you're interested. i will be in greece till july. after that i hope to continue my education by pursuing a master's degree in sports and exercise psychology. that would combine my ultimate love for the world of sports with a solid training in psychology i received from sfu. that's my wish for the next chapter. an idea of where i want my life to take me. a dream to pursue.

thank you very much for following this blog and reading my posts. i have really appreciated that. please, continue keeping your fingers crossed for me. it has truly helped.

best to everyone.

/grzegorz więcław, b.a.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

final note part 6

part 6: the photo shoot

my mom was being a mom. knowing i was about to graduate, she requested pictures of me in the sfu regalia. when i told her that i was going to skip the graduation ceremony, because of terrible timing (it was in october 2010), she was almost offended. i didn't want to let her down and told her i was going to rent the regalia, go to a professional studio and get a private photo shoot session. then i discovered a price: $125 for renting the regalia and being able choose 7 pictures. "fuck it," i said "no pictures then. not worth it" so i went off to yukon (you can read about this adventure in the previous post), forgetting about the whole thing.

when i came back, my mom asked about the regalia photos again. i sighed and told her i'd find a way to get them. i remembered i had awesome friends (adam nowek and newby douglas, by the way!) who were interested in photography whom i asked to perform a graduating photo shoot for me on campus. they did it for a cup of coffee, literally, and they did it with great artistic pleasure.

the sun was shining, the suit i borrowed from fraser was way too big, but i had immense amounts of fun to be a model the first time in my life. adam even brought a polish scarf and flag! being sincerely thankful to both of these people, i present some outcome of their work below:

Sunday, January 09, 2011

final note part 5

part 5: yukon adventures

after flying in from halifax in the beginning of august, the time i had had left in canada was limited. not even a month to go and there were many things to check on my to do list. i wanted to take full advantage of every minute on the soil fertilized by maple syrup. i permanently moved out of the most awesome house on pender st. and lived into another magical house on sherbrooke st. other necessities involved playing tennis with my friend mannan and taking the last exam of the bachelor’s degree (kinesiology 140), sealing the diploma with an a+.

meanwhile, my roommate, ta, and dear friend, jesse got a placement at the ubc medschool. having celebrated properly with many beers in black frog in gastown and later with a bbq in the backyard of our house, jesse told me that the real celebration is yet to come. jesse was going to yukon, a remote canadian territory in the north bordering with alaska. yukon covers area roughly equaling to the area of germany, spain and france combined, but it is home to only 25,000 inhabitants (which is merely a tenth of population of my hometown in poland).

the scenes from sean penn’s “into the wild” came alive in my mind when jesse asked me if i wanted to join his crazy enterprise. at this stage, i must make clear that i had a week left in the canada before going back to europe. i was disorganized, but excited. i looked for some flights from whitehorse (the capital of the yukon territory) to vancouver, booked the cheapest one and proudly announced to jesse: i am coming with you, man. i had three and a half days to get up north, almost 3,000km in a gmc wrangler truck which was older than i. it was that kind of a truck that would have given my mom a heart attack had she known i was travelling in it. what can i say? challenge is part of adventure; no risk, no fun.

gmc wrangler 1987

we left on saturday. we left confident, in the full vancouverite summer sun. driving north seemed easy at first, despite greater vancouver traffic jams and lack of radio or ac. it was going surprisingly smooth and we cruised the trans-canada highway 120 km/h (mind you that the truck’s speedometer showed only 130). on the first day we stopped only couple of times to tank some fuels and energy drinks, and to enjoy the views of the interior british columbia.

cruising 120 km/h

we arrived in prince george after dusk, but at the gas station we decided to drive on, into the darkness. we faced a crucial decision; take highway no. 97, through the rockies and liar river hot springs or perhaps take highway no. 37, the so-called stewart-cassiar highway, very scenic, but not fully paved road, leading straight up north. 97 was jesse’s pick (yes, because of the hot springs), i wanted to go on the stewart-cassiar. there were two reasons behind my pick: firstly, it seemed more of an adventure to travel through the true wilderness with very limited traces of civilization, and secondly it was 350 km shorter. because we were a bit behind schedule we decided to go my way. after all i had some flights to catch.

first we entered highway no. 16, the so-called yellow head highway connecting edmonton, ab and prince rupert, bc. it is sometimes gloomily referred to as ‘highway of tears’, after many kidnappings and murderers of the first nations hitchhikes along this way. as we drove up, there was much wildlife crossing the road: caribou, rabbits, foxes. it was so hard to drive in complete darkness that around 2am we pulled over into a town called fraser lake, where we spent our first night on a parking lot of some random elementary school.

we rose up at 6am and drove on towards smithers. it was in burns lake, where we first learnt of wild forest fires raging on further up north. at one point a road sign said that there’d been temporary/permanent road closures along the stewart-cassiar highway, right before it reaches the junction 37, that is the intersection with the alaska highway. this is when i first though, i was going to miss a plane. in smithers we calculated: to continue on no. 16, and then 37 would take us about 800 km to reach junction 37; to go back to prince george and up highway no. 97 would take 1,700 km. shit. that meant no way back. we needed to take our chances.

on the road, with jesse

it was getting smokier and smokier the further up north we drove. before noon we reached the junction of highways 16 and 37. we were about to enter the most remote highway of bc, the stewart-cassiar highway. driving through complete emptiness in an extreme hot sun, equipped with a 1987 Wrangler truck and zero experience with northern wilderness felt awesome. we were probably totally underprepared had something happened. but screw it, we drove on, up north, towards the wild fire, towards the yukon!

along the way there were only three or four communities and many abandoned towns. The whole stretch of stewart-cassiar was about 725 km long and there were maybe 1,000 people living in that strip of land. gas stations, shops and settlements were scarce (with 250km longest distance between two gas stations), so we really were making sure that we had gas, water and food for emergencies. fortunately, the most adventurous (and scary) things that happened were jesse's jokes, black bears on the side of the road eating berries, and driving gmc truck through the unpaved, gravely and dusty parts of the highway.

somewhere along the stewart-cassiar highway

the further north we got, the more hope i had. listening to the locals’ info about the situation at the junction 37, we got to know that the fires had raged for one week on both sides highway before the firefighters were able to do anything!! in dease lake our moods were elevated up high cause we heard we were going to get through, escorted by a pilot car. excited, we decided to drive as close to the barrier as possible, sleep there and take off early in the morning. so we did - we camped the car in boya lake provincial park, had a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear lake, slept for good 7 hours and took off at 6.30am to line up for the escort.

the remainings of the beautiful forest along the stewart-cassiar highway

it was really frightening to see the remainings of the beautiful forest on both sides of the road. Some parts were still smoking, but nothing too extreme. this way, on day 3 we reached junction 37. alaska highway, babe! the yukon territory – larger than life! from there it was a matter of a distance that even my european mind was able to grasp - a mere 450 km to whitehorse! we alternated driving, cause both of us wanted to hold the steering wheel along the famous alaska highway! :-)

yukon - larger than life!

on the alaska highway

in the afternoon we finally reached whitehorse and slept at brett's place, who is working up there as a geologist. we also tried some locally brewed beers, which were delicious! in case you didn’t know, i’d like to inform you that yukon red won some serious awards, among which last year it was selected as the best beer in canada.

chillin' in the takhihi hot springs

in front of the north bean roastery

the next day we went to the takhihi hot springs, wandered around downtown whitehorse (which really has this wild west atmosphere on the streets), and visited the north bean coffee roastery. it was also time to get my ass on the airnorth flight back to vancouver in order to getmy shit organized before i left for good.

the smoke of the wild forest fires, taken from the plane

these days were full of excitement, joy, happiness, fear and anxiety. some people thought i was stupid to spend 200$ on a journey to whitehorse and back in three days. but what was i suppose to do with this money? get myself an iphone? occasions like a crazy and spontaneous trip to whitehorse are exactely the occasions on which money is ought to be spent! this is what money is for – to have less and do more. for that little i had experienced one of the most majestic things in my life. thanks jesse, thanks gmc wrangler 1987, thanks yukon. i shall be back!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

final note part 4

part 4: across canada (vancouver to halifax) III

day 21: montreal, qb
breakfast on emily's porch+walking up the mont royal and getting a wonderful panorama of the city+montreal allouettes vs. hamilton wildcats: canadian football game+cheerleaders are here!
montreal's panorama from the peak of mont royal

day 22: montreal, qb to quebec city, qb
allo stopping to quebec city with serge in his oldsmobile (allo stop is an organized and legalized hitch-hiking agency, i truly recommend; too bad only qubecois people are smart enough to get it running)+listening to live jazz in the park at night+couchsurfing with alex and simon
serge's oldsmobile

day 23: quebec city, qb to riviere-du-loup, qb
amazing breakfast prepared by simon, our couchsurfing host+walk around quebec vieux+loads of tourists and cycling races+orleans express taking us north to riviere-du-loup, qb, where we stayed auberge de sojour (the only night during the whole trip we paid for)
quebec vieux

day 24: riviere-du-loup, qb

getting to see st lawrence river (in a local language "quebec" means "where the river becomes narrow" referring to this very river)+tim hortons+pfk=kfc in quebec+waiting for a train at 1.09am
by the st lawrence river banks, local "road art"

day 25: riviere-du-loup, qb to moncton, nb to saint john, nb full-service in the train (soooo comfortable!)+catching the bus to saint john, nb in moncton, nb (barely)+@ saint john tourist info being offered to hitch-hike with some random guys who were going to the same campsite+camping in the rockwood park (sausage dinner and gazing at the stars)
riviere-du-loup train station at night

day 26: saint john, nb to digby, ns to annapolis royal, ns arriving at the docks at 12:05pm and catching the ferry which was supposed to leave at 12:00pm+sunny ride on the atlantic waters+again, getting offered a hitch-hike ride from digby, ns to annapolis royal, ns (the first european settlement in north america where settlers survived for more than a year)+candlelight graveyard tour (!)
annapolis royal, ns: the first european settlement in north america
where people had lived for longer than one year

day 27: annapolis royal, ns to lunenburg, ns 50c showers at the campsite+farmers' and traders' market+hitch-hiking to lunenburg, ns (done in 3 cars, the last being driven by the president and ceo of "clearwater", one of the largest lobster-fishing company in canada)+l-u-n-e-n-b-u-r-g at last (unesco heritage site, btw)+seafood stew for dinner, mmmmm...
seafood stew for dinner after a succesful hitch-hiking ride

day 28: lunenburg, ns to halifax, ns talking to a retired fisherman at the farmers' and traders' market+atlantic shore+sleepy ride to halifax, ns with "kiwi kaboodle" shuttle+ couchsurfing at luke george's and participating in a random party..
the atlantic waters

day 29: halifax, ns waterfront+pier 21 museum (this is where european immigrants landed when they first reached canada)+looking for a halifax souvenir+finding one in a second-hand bookstore (1942 edition of town's best stories)+public gardens+visiting alexander keith's brewery (the moment i had been waiting for most impatiently - only then i realized that we had made it all the way across!)+midnight walk to catch the airporter
my individualized souvenir from halifax
"tales told under the oldtown clock" (ed. 1942)

day 30: halifax, ns to toronto, on (through montreal, qb) to niagara falls, on sleeping at the halifax, ns airport and catching the early plane to montreal, qb and then continued all the way to toronto, on+greyhound bus (again!) to the niagara falls, on+camping by the youth hostel+niagara falls (majestic, but crowded with people)
niagara falls

day 31: niagara falls, on to toronto, on the last trip with the greyhound bus+street caring around (no, it's not called a "tram" in toronto. street car ffs!): toronto downtown, business district, younge street, chinatown...
toronto, on somewhere along younge street

day 32: toronto, on buying a "toronto star" from a newspaper vending machine and getting decadent and pseudo-intelectual in a "second cup" cafe+toronto cn tower (3 hour long experience, not sure if worth all the waiting)+preparing dinner at anne's and jp's
view of toronto from the cn tower

day 33: toronto, on to vancouver, bc early at the airport with male+immense sadness the trip is over+5 hrs flight back to bc+bussing back to east pender street where everything begun a month ago... knowing that nothing will taste the same ever again...
the immense sadness at toronto airport


Friday, December 17, 2010

final note part 3

part 3: across canada (vancouver to halifax) II

where were we..? ah, saskatoon! the prairies! the flat lands of canada and the bread basket of the world, where you can grow anything you'd like, but for the most part the farmers stick to wheat, corn and canola. blah. anyways, let's move westwards:

day 11: saskatoon, sk to wasagaming, mb riding mountain national park (> banff national park)+swimming in the clear lake (really clear!)+getting eaten by mosquitos, which in some cases resembled birds not insects+thunderstorm in the tent (we have gotten washed off and decided to leave one day earlier)+but seriously, if i was to choose one favorite place i had visited during this trip wasagaming would top it!
clear lake, riding mountain national park

day 12: wasagaming, mb to winnipeg, mb
packing in the rain+meeting a crazy couple offering us a place to stay in their tent for the second night and then travel on with them to winnipeg (we refused for time was pressing, but i admit it was very tempting)+ discovering the kindness of the canadian people (yet again!)+to be specific we had gotten our food microwaved in a grocery store...
sad to leave wasagaming

day 13: winnipeg, mb to gimli, mb & back
some city life again+saint boniface cathedral in the french part of winnipeg, looking well medival and celtic+the forks and the granville island-like market (that's where two rivers meet in winnipeg; it was named hastily, but the name stuck)+amazing couchsurfers baking muffins for us+trip to gimli (the icelandic settlement at the shore of the lake winnipeg with the largest dwarf statue in the world)+checking out the theatre fringe festival in the forks ("look ma, no hands!")+exchange district
gimli himself with 4 brave couchsurfers

day 14: winnipeg, mb to thunderbay, on
nightbussing to thunderbay+crossing the midpoint in the middle of the night
portage at main in winnipeg, mb
apparently the windiest intersection in the world

day 15: thunderbay, on
true "middle of nowhere" kind of experience+the great lakes start here (lake superior first!)+watery coffee at the only coffee shop opened downtown+3 hours spent in the local library (plane tickets from halifax to toronto booked!)+lunch in the park+frustration with lack of food (as defined in the former post)+dinner at the bus station
watery coffee in a self-made mug

day 16: thunderbay, on to sault-ste marie, on "velorution" campsite for free (one of the couchsurfers recommended us this campsite run by a bikeshop, outside sault-ste marie; usually they host bikers who travel across canada, but since we had no car they accepted us as well!)+rotary festival in town+going back into the 50s with an awesome dinner at Muio's restaurant in a booth+long, long stroll along st mary's river banks
muio's restaurant

day 17: sault-ste marie, on to ottawa, on (through sudbury, on)
walking the empty streets of sault-ste marie to catch the early mornin' bus+wandering around the capital+stinky place of a couchsurfer (cat pee is not fun when it is not cleaned up), fortunately only one night there
brigdehead coffehouse in ottawa

day 18: ottawa, on to kingston, on bridgehead cafe+walking the streets of kingston (very victorian, you must realize), the first capital of canada+canoeing around in the lake ontario+sunny, sunny, sunny+couchsurfing+playing boardgames and drinking beers
canoeing on the waters of lake ontario

day 19: kingston, on to ottawa, on to montreal, qb much traveling, lots of walking & in the meantime checking out the parliament buildings in ottawa (the clash of glass and steel with victorian bricks)
canadian parliament:
the clash of glass and steel with victorian bricks

day 20: montreal, qb
confronting the french speaking canadians+lunch at soupe/soupe+montreal vieux+cars getting smaller+chilling with anna & emily, co-years from uwc+quebecois cinema: "les amoures imagineres"
i don't speak french, but i think someone meant to say:
"don't park here, please"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

final note part 2

part 2: across canada (vancouver to halifax) I

right after dialogue finished i had only couple of days to hand in the assignments, pack up my stuff and move out of the magical house at east pender street. at the beginning of july i was already leaving vancouver for the greatest adventure of my life. goal? to swim in the pacific and the atlantic waters in the same month... more seriously, the goal was to cover the distance between vancouver, bc and halifax, ns by land, on budget, without renting own car and within a month or so. this summer to large extent was to be a realization of my dream to hitchhike across canada, get on a fishing boat in halifax and sail to iceland. i needed to modify it a little bit (ie., cross out the iceland part), cause i still had one final at sfu in august.

in the posts concerning the trip, i will use mostly key words, but also many images (after all, one picture is worth a thousand words!). i will throw in a comment here or there to enrich what you see, or describe an experience that wasn't captured with a camera.

let's go (with a greyhound bus for now)!

day 1: vancouver,bc to kelowna,bc
couchsurfing in kelowna at dillon's+tasting the wine from local wineries (for those who do not know, i want to inform that canadians make excellent wine especially around kelowna, in the okanagan valley)
couchsurfing at dillon's

day 2: kelowna,bc to calgary, ab (through salmon arm, bc)
hiking up the knox mountain+swimming in the okanagan lake

half way up the knox mountain towering over kelowna

day 3: calgary, ab
the calgary tower and stepping over the glass floor at the top+alternative 17th avenue+heritage park, the largest in canada, where the wild west spirits were well alive

the glass floor on the top of calgary tower

day 4: calgary, ab
olympic park 1988+getting frustrated with calgary virtually non-exisitent public transit system

olympic park 1988

day 5: calgary, ab to banff, ab
camping at the tunnel mountain campground+checking out the town of banff, which looked kind of like the alpine resorts except everything was oddly new+writing couchsurfing requests from the local library+netherlands 3-2 uruguay+asking a fellow camper for some boiled water and getting a whole gasburner
the tunnel mountain campsite grounds

day 6: banff, ab to lake louise, ab to kicking horse valley, bc (& back)
whitewater rafting on the kicking horse river(one of the most awesome experiences during the whole trip!)+a hike up to the famous lake louise+troubles finding food at safeway (by definition food is something that does not contain corn syrup, guar guar gum and/or sodium glutamate)

lake louise

day 7: banff, ab to edmonton, ab (through calgary, ab)
night walking (sleep walking) along the north saskatchewan river+sleeping over at lara's relatives

edmonton downtown at night

day 8: edmonton, ab
the 12 hour tour of the city with dana: whyte avenue and the old strathcona district, downtown, the university

edmonton's skyscrapers

day 9: edmonton, ab to saskatoon, sk
riding the nightbus+discovering saskatoon berries and what can be made out of them+checking out saskatoon farmers market+couchsurfing at johana's

streets of saskatoon

day 10: saskatoon, sk
western development museum+fair of agricultural technology+netherlands 0-1 spain at winston's pub downtown+also at winston's: bison burgers and stew+also at winston's: meeting up other local and foreign couchsurfers

fair of agricultural technology

Saturday, December 11, 2010

the final note part 1

damn, time flies.

i meant to write the final chapter of this blog right after i returned to poland in the end of august, but off-line life absorbed me and i had no time for blogging. still, i want to have the last word as the creator and the only contributor to this canadian saga of mine. so much had happened in the last months of my stay in canada that i could write a solid book about my experiences. i will try to summarize this magical time here, just to give you a glimpse. also i will tell you what's going on now and what i want to happen in the future (i will do that in parts, so you don't get overwhelmed by catching up with me :D). so. ready for a ride? here we go!

part 1: the end of dialogue

at the end of june, the wonderful dialogue course i have written so much about had come to an end. as a class we organized an awesome public event at emily carr university at granville island. we presented our group projects (remember? what matters most!) and i also installed my artistic collage there. it looked something like this:

this image shows the beginning of the working process. all the pictures of colorful produce and hands were eventually connected with a laundry string. the installation as a whole was some sort of free hanging.. something. :-) but looked well cool and i was impressed with my artsiness. next to the installation i wrote:


to survive and grow humans have to eat. but food has always meant more than just being a fuel for the body. it is more than a sum of its nutrients; food means everything and leads to things that really matter. food can be a driving force behind physical and mental well-being, community building, moment-to-moment experiences, enjoyment of living, connection to the earth, and keeping the bellies and brains full and satisfied.

alas, the food we eat today is nothing like what our great-grandparents used to eat a hundred years ago. the food-imitations and food-like products constantly scream at us from the supermarket shelves, “save money, time and effort!” we seem to believe them, buy them and eat them. that’s how modern business and hectic lifestyle have driven us away from eating the real food and as a consequence lead us to forsake the things that really matter.

our focus shifted from quality to quantity in many important aspects of life. shift it back! refocus on eating real food and everything else will take care of itself.

keep food simple, colourful and real. keep food yours. where else will it take you?

yes, it was sad the course had finished and i needed to say goodbyes to the people, instructors and the whole spirirt of living dialogue.. but i gotta say that it has been one of the best academic experiences i have had. i am grateful i had a chance to ask the question "what matters most?" and... get deadly confused!