28 days in the ‘Shwa’

28 days.  That’s four weeks.  Basically a month.  Let’s reflect briefly on just how long that is.  It’s just a bit shy of a lunar cycle between full moons (29.53 days); it’s the timeframe for the ‘Shrink Your Stomach Challenge’ on the Dr. Oz Show; it’s the duration most heroin addicts spend in rehab to fully detox; it’s the number of days that CBC journalist Mellissa Fung was held hostage in Afghanistan; and it encompasses both the beginning and end of a menstrual cycle.  In other words, it’s a long freaking time.

But that was the deal we struck before heading out on this journey – Mama Bear wanted to have an extended visit with her family and Toronto area friends.  Now it wasn’t meant to be quite this long but dates and plans (strangely) took shape that led to a double fortnight with the in-laws.  So here’s some of the highlights from 28 days (or 672 hours) living in the outlying suburb of Oshawa, Ontario.

  • The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is big, really big.  Toronto is the largest metropolitan area in Canada with a population over 6 million.  In North America it ranks fifth in size after Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  So what did that mean to us?  Extreme traffic congestion!  Despite having huge multi-lanes highways, there’s basically 24-hour-a-day rush hour anywhere you go in the GTA.   And if you live all the way out in Oshawa, you measure distance to just about everything in hourly units.
  • Summer weather (at least this year) was defined by one primary quality: humidity.  Our visit featured mostly hot, hazy days and while Ontarians seem to have acclimatized to living in the tropics, our more delicate West Coast constitutions felt like we were putting our heads in a blast furnace.  At least we enjoyed the AC while sitting in traffic…
  • Historically, Oshawa has been referred to as the ‘armpit of Ontario.’  To us, that’s a bit unfair.  Oshawa has all the amenities (big box stores, decent chain restaurants, etc) but is lacking a quality bakery, a sausage factory and there’s no craft breweries.  On the other hand, it does have the White Feather Country Store, Lakeview Park and a giant 20 foot wooden Mallard duck.  So on balance, Oshawa is probably more aptly likened to an elbow, with some inflammation. [Editor’s note: if you Google Top 10 things to do in Oshawa, number 3 on the list is ‘services to seniors’ so it’s not exactly a tourist mecca.]
  • Living with the in-laws.  For even the closest of families, a 28 day visit is sure to test the limits of the progeny bond.  So we tried our best to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Instead, Papa Bear broke a bowl, Mama Bear ‘flooded’ the basement by overfilling the upstairs bath tub, broke the washing machine as well as setting off the house alarm and The Bear left a large stain on the nubuck couch in the front sitting room from an oozing wound on her butt.  To wit, we made sure we’ll never be allowed another 28 day visit again…

All joking aside, the GTA is a world class city and Oshawa is a charming part of it – we had a GREAT time. The Bear loved her twice daily walks through beautiful Harmony Valley Dog Park and we were completely and utterly spoiled, including (but not limited to) a Cirque Du Soleil performance, a ‘Big Green Egg’ BBQ dinner courtesy of Mama Bear’s sister’s family, a (winning) visit to the Great Blue Heron Casino, a full family ‘meet and greet’ with terrific Chinese food, a day at Canada’s Wonderland, a German feast in Unionville, the Dolly Parton concert at Molson Place, an early Christmas celebration with the family, incredible home cooking and baking every day, highly competitive card games and lots and lots of laughs.  We also saw many old friends who were equally kind and generous to us.  So a big thanks to everybody – especially Nana and Opa – for an absolutely wonderful stay in the Shwa!


This was the best family photo we took.  Total freak show.






2 thoughts on “28 days in the ‘Shwa’

  1. we are indeed a wonderful (sometimes wacky) family and all the gettogethers were great – so nice to have you guys visit for that 28 days and I wish you all the best during the rest of your journey

    auntie al

    Liked by 1 person

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