For the first time ever, I was early to work today (I'm sure my parents are cringing now). I'm supposed to work from 9-5:00, and I usually show up around 9:05 - it's all the railcar's fault. Any way, I'm typically a late person, so showing up 15 minutes early for work is quite an accomplishment.
At 9 AM, we open our phone lines for calls, which meant I had to be seated and ready to answer them at 8:55. I was briefed on how to work the switchboard earlier in the week, so I felt confident that I'd be able to manage things. When the first call came through, I calmly answered the phone with a "Good morning, Salt and Light Television" and the person on the other end politely answered back in French.
This was one aspect I had not anticipated. I faltered for a moment, trying to decided whether or not I should responded with a "Bonjour!" and try to wing it. I quickly decided I wouldn't be able to make it two or three sentences in, and I explained to the caller that I would be transferring them to our French department. A few moments later, one of our French speakers came up to the front desk with a written out pronunciation of how to say "Hold on one moment, please" in French. Apparently the French caller did not appreciate that I didn't speak to them in their native tongue. I practiced it a few times and kept it by the phone just in case the situation were to happen again.
The morning passed quickly - the phone rang every few minutes it seemed. I also had to let in any visitors, get them signed in, bring stuff to the mail room to get shipped and deliver messages to people if there were not in the office when someone called for them. For the most part, it was just quiet. Because I was working the front desk, not many people pass that way during the day. Even if things are boring when I'm working in the main office, at least there's people constantly moving around you.
Before everyone broke for lunch, Father Rosica celebrated mass. Because I couldn't leave the front to go sit in the chapel, I stood close enough to hear and see, while still being able to make it to the phone if it would ring. I had to step away from mass a few times to answer the phone. They would politely ask for so and so, and I would respond "I'm sorry, but everyone is in mass right now. May I take a message." Everyone responded the same way - "They're in mass? Oh - I'm so sorry to interrupt. No, no it's not that important. I'll call back later." Thankfully the phones stayed quiet long enough for me to receive communion.
I had someone relieve me while I ate my lunch. I walked to the corner to a McDonalds to get a salad. It was awful. I don't know why this is, but every food place from America that has been brought in simply does not taste the same. I really don't understand why. I forced myself to eat some just so I wouldn't be hungry and then tossed the rest.
The afternoon was slow as I anticipated leaving at 5:00 to go meet my sister, Jamie, in Buffalo. She was there doing an interview for a residency program. We had planned earlier in the week that I would drive there and stay the night, and then drive back the next day when she left for Houston. I was able to get a driver service to take me there and back and had scheduled for them to pick me up from work for 5:00. My driver arrived five til; right on time.
He told me the drive should take anywhere from 2-2 1/2 hours, depending on traffic. The driver was pleasant - a older man, married with four grown sons. We talked pretty much the whole way up. When he found out I hadn't experienced Tim Horton's coffee yet (it's like the Dukin Donuts or Starbucks of the North), he stopped to get us both a cup. He also assured me we would have to stop and see Niagara Falls - he said it would be a shame if I didn't see them while I was in the area.
During the Christmas season, the falls are decorated with lights. When we pulled up to the side, I immediately noticed that anything close to the mist - the guard rails and side walk for instance - were completely frozen and covered in ice. They were quite a site to behold. The waterfalls are broken up into the American Falls and then the Canadian Falls, which are the U-shaped falls and more commonly known. They sit right next to each other though. At that time, green lights were shining over the falls - giving them a very eerie, almost fake look.
I made it to Buffalo around 7:45. The area was covered in snow. This time it was nice snow - not the nasty slush I had encountered earlier in the week. The temperature was similar to Toronto's - perhaps a little less windy. Nevertheless, it was still freezing. Jamie and me were able to catch a cab and eat at a little Italian restaurant. The food was cheap and the portions were huge - I didn't even eat a third of my plate and it still could have served 3 or 4 more.
After dinner, we walked around a bit and ended up at a small coffee house. After getting some hot chocolate, we made our way back to where Jamie had been staying. A friend of hers, named Jaime actually, was out of town and let us stay there. I had brought some of S +L documentaries with me, so we watched one before going to bed.
In the morning, we were able to get a nice brunch in at IHOP before she left for her flight. The driver from the day before picked us up at 1:00 and brought us to the Buffalo airport, where we dropped Jamie off. On the way back to Toronto, the driver stopped again at the falls and let me take some pictures of it in the daylight.
I got back to Toronto around 3:30 utterly exhausted. But, I'm glad I was able to see Jamie and get out for a night. I felt a little more homesick than normal, though, when I returned to the convent. In an effort to lighten my mood, I downloaded some Christmas music. I dozed off listening to "O Holy Night" and dreamed of the Christmas celebration me and my family will be having back in Houston in eleven days.
An Early Merry Christmas from Up North,