Paying it forward

So this is my paying it forward story.

I needed to get new lenses for my glasses, so I went to Hambly’s downtown. They have been in business in Orillia for 30 some years. Mr. (Dr.?) Hambly was very attentive so I would get the lenses I wanted. $275. Gulp. I am a retired lady with a very limited budget, so I told him I would come in the following week to pay half and then the following month I would pay the rest and pick up the glasses then. Accordingly, I went in with $150, leaving $125 balance.

One day recently I was in Apple Annie’s downtown, where they sell old-fashioned candy. I was buying some fudge (my treat) and the kids in front of me had pooled their money to get some candy but did not have enough. I gave them 50 cents and asked the young girl if she knew what paying it forward meant. I explained and we were all happy.

That afternoon the guy from the glasses shop called to tell me my glasses were ready. I said I would be in when I got the rest of the money. He informed me that the balance had been paid. What?! I asked if he could tell me who it was but he said the person didn’t want me to know. I was flabbergasted.

However, there is a dilemma. One good friend and I exchange baked goods and occasional coffees or lunch. Is she my $125 friend? This is not my sister’s modus operandi. Beyond that, I have a few acquaintances only. I can’t ask either friend or sis if they were the mysterious donor, because if, say, my sister were not the one, she might then feel guilty for not thinking of it. (Or not, knowing my sister) I have told them about it, but neither has admitted to it.

I was telling someone about this and she asked if Mr. Hambly were sweet on me. Ewww! He is even older than me and I am certainly not interested in anyone being sweet on me. Perhaps he was doing his human wish to help out a retired person. Or not.

This is a sweet mystery to me. People can be very kind, and I appreciate the kindness involved.

PS I did ask my sister (nope) and then I asked the friend. She just ignored my question, so what do you think?


wild life in orillia and istanbul


As I sat outside this morning listening to the morning bird song, I realized that when I was living in Istanbul, the only birds I saw or heard were the many seagulls, the doves and pigeons, and the karga, which are a sort of crow with gray wings. As for helicopters, there were a lot of police helicopters flying around, especially when there were protests, and some private ones. I saw one here tonight that was sort of wandering around, but it was not a police helicopter. Once in a while there is an ambulance helicopter transporting patients, but that is about all.


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In Istanbul in one place I lived in some doves decided to make my window box their home. The mother lay one egg which did not hatch and then another one that did hatch into a rather ugly chick. When I opened the curtain to look at it, if the mother was there, she opened her wings and made herself look bigger. One day I looked at it and the chick flew across the street to a windowsill and they never came back.

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Another time in Istanbul when I lived in a terrace flat, I watched a war between kargas and seagulls. They were on a nearby roof, lined up with about a dozen of each on either side of the roof. All of them had their wings arched back, ready to go at it. However, being smarter than humans, they just threatened and then flew off.

From the same terrace I watched a seagull who had caught a pigeon belonging to a guy a few rooftops over from me. The guy kept whistling for his beloved pigeon but it could not get away from the seagull who had it by the throat. Until then I actually did not know that seagulls killed other birds. And pigeons are a big hobby for many Turkish men. On a wall walk with a group of friends, we came across a pigeon market. Many of the pigeons had bead bracelets and some tumbler pigeons were tethered so they could fly and tumble but not get away. It is quite amazing to see these pigeons fly and do flips in the air.

tumbling pigeon at bird bazzar


And on that terrace were some baby seagulls.  Noisy and ugly!  An Armenian Turk I knew who had a workshop across the street told me that when he and his brother were kids in Galata, they would look for seagull eggs to eat. Yuck!


Here there are all sorts of birds. There is the elusive cardinal, which I hear and occasionally see. cardinal

There are lots of starlings who have been collecting twigs for their nests. Starlings are sort of a nuisance bird, but they have pretty songs and it is interesting how they click their beaks as part of it. starling

chickadeeThere are also chickadees that twirp around and robin

the robins that are full of ‘cheerios’. And there are a few seagulls and crows.crow


Although not birds, there are some black squirrels that come around. There used to be a fat gray squirrel, but he got run over. One of the black squirrels is a mama, as when she sits up I can see that she is nursing. There is one that comes within a couple of feet, carefully, as she knows I feed her.

And that is the wild life in Orillia and Istanbul.

Ode to Molly by Brad

Brad is an old friend who I actually met in Istanbul, though he is from Canada.  He visited me many times over the years and we had some great adventures. He has never been to Orillia, so readers from Orillia, please forgive him!


Get Out of Orillia!


I once knew a girl from Orillia

Whom I’m sure just has had her full fillia

Of a culture-free life,

That makes her dream of “the knife”

We can’t wait ‘til she gets the hell out of Orillia


I once knew a redhead from Ont.

Who a halo of silver did want

And now her scalp’s a white hue

But her spirit’s still blue

We can’t wait ‘til she gets the hell out of Ont.


I once knew a Canadian chick

Who moved away from the East to the sticks

She chose a place of froze flowers

Instead of tea near the Tower

We can’t wait ‘til she makes a much better pick.


I once knew an exotic redhead

Who Cevdet and Sait loved to bed

Who was bowed to on the street

Man, it was always a treat

To know that her rep was widespread.

scottish molly

I once knew a dish from Galata

Who overnight seemed to turn into a nanna

With snowy hair that did gleam

That makes me think of ice cream

I’d love to hand her a tube of red henna.

dancing musician

Oh, the tough times can be trying

When you live in a city that’s dying

A place like… Orillia, that’s it.

But once you break out

There will ne’er be a doubt

Your soul will once again be a’flying!

Becoming Canadian again

world map

I have been mostly gone from Canada for forty years. In that time I lived for twenty years in Oregon, two years in Japan, and sixteen years in Istanbul, Turkey. During those years, I often said that the only thing Canadian about me was my passport. However, now I am settling into a small town in Ontario and I am learning how to be a real Canadian again.


First I spent six weeks at my sister’s, a wonderful nature place on the curve of a small river bounded by two series of rapids. The trees were full of birds– crows, starlings, goldfinches, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, hummingbirds. A couple of herons often flew to the river to feed, occasionally landing in a tree. Groups of mallard ducks ranging from 15 to five to one, often came by to see if we were going to feed them. Gray, red, and black squirrels came to the bird feeder and scolded down at us from the trees. Once we saw a muskrat and sometimes turtles. It is a beautiful place. But it is not my place. My sister and her husband were very generous with their space and were happy to have me there, but when it seemed that the process for my green card was going to slow way down as I gathered more documents, I decided to move into town, where I could have my own place and potentially find some work.


Orillia is a very Canadian town. It is at the meeting of two lakes, Simcoe and Couchiching. Samuel de Champlain made it this far on his explorations. Some famous people are from here, including Stephen Leacock, a writer, Gordon Lightfoot, a singer and musician, and Brian Orsi, a skater. There are probably some more. The downtown is still working though the edges of the city are lined with box stores and malls. The downtown is actually rather pretty, and there is obviously civic pride here. The Opera House is tall with two towers, there are flowers and street art, and a general sense of care. The train does not stop here anymore, but the train station has been changed into a bus station and government service office. The former car maker Tudhope’s building has been converted into flats and some classrooms for the Lakehead University campus here.


Orillia is very white. I have seen maybe a dozen black people, the same amount of Asians, including one Sikh man with turban. There are some First Nation people around, but they are more likely to be out towards Rama, their reservation. There seem to be a lot of older people and more motorized wheelchairs than I have ever seen in my life. In my neighbourhood there are quite a few kids, including a couple of boys I talked to. They have six or seven siblings, so no wonder they are out wandering the neighbourhood. I have also seen several developmentally challenged people, no doubt because of the old Huronia school for the retarded, now thankfully closed.

farmers market

I went to the farmers’ market for the first time the day after I moved in. It is two blocks away in the parking lot of the library. There I can buy weekly seasonal vegetables, pickles, jams, honey, olives from Italy, breads, sausages. I was happy to see that I can buy locally so close, at least until Christmas, when it closes down for a few months, at which time it will be back to the supermarket.

My language is changing. The Turkish words that were liberally sprinkled through my English are gone, though occasionally I still say inshallah, partly because it fits and partly because I want to give a little jolt to whoever is listening. I find my accent is getting more Canadian, little by little. Aboot and oot, but still not many ehs.

winter clothes

The dress code is different here. In Istanbul it was casual for the most part, but people had pride in their clothes. Here it is definitely casual, as it is also usually practical. I don’t see women dressed up much, except perhaps for summer dresses. However, those are already packed away. Long dresses and skirts are not practical, especially in the snow. Everyone seems to wear some form of jeans, t-shirts in the summer, and sweaters in the winter.

mot wheelchair

Many people drive various sizes of SUVs and there are a lot of working pickup trucks. There are also a lot of electric scooters and I wonder what happens to them during the winter. Older vehicles show signs of rust from the salt for the snow, a Canadian tradition.

orillia bus

I find myself asking people for directions. When I took the bus for the first time, I had to ask a few people for the cost and the right bus. The bus was very late and the girl beside me on the bench said that busses were not very reliable. Considering that they only run twice an hour, it seems hard to believe that they can’t stay on schedule. The one I took was at least half an hour late. In fact no one got off the bus until Walmart, so I wonder where the other passengers were going.


butter tarts

This is definitely a cultural experience for me. After living in a city of 20 million for so many years, a city with all kinds of public transportation, it is quite a change to be getting around a small town that was started only in 1820. There is still a feel of pioneer about it and definitely a feel of English Canadianness. The things I took for granted in Istanbul– good tea, for one– are hard to find here. However, there is an unending supply of cheddar cheese, butter tarts and interesting breads.


When I go outside to smoke (yes, no smoking inside anywhere and even not outside at cafes and such), I watch what little is going on on the street. Sometimes there is a traffic jam– six cars waiting to cross the intersection! Some bicycles, skateboards, lots of strollers, electric scooters, and the aforementioned motorized wheelchairs. But really, not many of any of these. People do walk, especially to and from school, which is around the corner. In general there is just not much going on here. The sidewalks are rolled up about 8 downtown and on Sundays. There are lots of squirrels and birds to watch and now flocks of geese are squawking their way south.

I chose to live in this older part of town because it is my style and it is close to downtown. I like looking at the old houses and wondering what they were like when they were new. These must have been built by prosperous middle class families. They are a good size (after all this one was divided into four small apartments) and have yards. The adornment is also nice, under the eaves, over the windows. When my father was here he commented on how the baseboards, which are about 30 cm high, were hand carved (by a lathe I am sure). Now these things are purely practical and aside from paint or stain do not attract attention.

Even in this small place people often do not look at you as they walk by. If you happen to catch someone’s eye, there may be a smile, but generally people are not quick to interact. This is not to say that they are not friendly. Once you get talking, they are generally fine. I do know that the fact that I lived away so long may or may not be acknowledged, and if so, quickly glossed over. That is an experience that most people here cannot relate to. But I expected that.

cdn flag

This is a good place. It is rooted to the earth and I am happy to be here for a while. It gives me a chance to be Canadian again.