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Writings from Canada (June 16th-25th)

June 16th

We're in bear country. We saw one running across the road a few days ago and they are massive.
We were told what to do if we have a visit from a bear: clap or make a loud noise to let it know that you're there and then walk away and it should walk away too. If it doesn’t, and decides to attack you, you have to:
  • Fight it off if it’s a black bear, or
  • Go into the foetal position covering your head if it’s a grizzly.
I'm not too sure of the difference between a black bear or grizzly bear and the first option doesn’t sound very sensible, so I think I would opt for the second option for any bear.
We arrived in Banff yesterday, which is in the Rocky mountains. We’re here for 3 days so no putting up and taking down tents for a few days! The rocky mountains are incredible. We went on a hike up a mountain today, and I told Pete that it reminded me of the Lake District, he wasn’t very impressed – apparently I don’t appreciate the Rockies. Me and Pete broke off from the group and as we were walking up, we heard a growl, so we walked a bit faster. On the way down, Pete stopped very suddenly and started listening very intently and we both heard a very loud growl. Pete said “I think it’s a motorbike.” I appreciate him trying to make me less scared, but we were miles away from any roads so it was definitely a bear and the bear was definitely very close. We made a loud noise and walked away quickly and didn’t get any part of our bodies mauled off, so the advice obviously works!

June 17th
Yesterday was the best day we've had so far, it was amazing.

We went to Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a big lake in Banff under some beautiful snow-topped mountains. The minerals from the glaciers on the tops of the mountains make the lake a very bright blue. You wouldn’t believe it was real if you saw it on a postcard, it’s just awesome (again, using the original meaning of the word awesome). We decided to take the 14km trek up to the top of the mountains to a place where you can see all 6 glaciers. After the bear incident, me and Pete thought it would be more sensible to stick with other people, but it wasn’t long before we were separated from the group again. Luckily, instead of coming across another bear, we came across two gofers, a beaver and the two Korean girls who are on our tour. (people keep calling them ‘the Koreans’ instead of their actual names, which is rather un-PC, but also extremely difficult to stop.)
The view from the top was breath- taking, so we stayed there until we were starting to feel the begins of hypothermia. There was a tea house a little further down the mountain at 2100m (6800feet). The ingredients were brought by helicopter and they had no electricity or heating so all their food was cooked in propane ovens. The staff lived there 5 days a week and got there by walking the same route as we had just done. They must be fit. And cold.
On the way back to the campsite we stopped at some hot springs. After a day hiking in the cold it was heaven. Everyone expressed their desire to spent the rest of their lives there, but after 20 minutes we were all over-heated and got out. On our way down the mountain to our gloomy, flooded tents we saw an opportunity that me, Pete, Elle, Kristen and Nick couldn’t resist taking – A warm and comfortable bed in the form of a YMCA hostel, so we checked in while the others in the group went back to the swamp to catch a variety of colds. The town was a 5 minute walk away, so we went out that evening. It was very fun, I wouldn’t have thought that Banff (the Canadian version of Keswick) would be a party town, but I was proved wrong (I ended up sleeping with my face on the cold hostel bathroom floor next to the toilet, not my proudest moment!).

June 18th

Elle and Kristen's eggcupping each other
We had a free day yesterday which I spent getting a hair cut by a lovely Aussie woman (everyone in Banff seems to be from Australia) and catching up on my facebook gossip. In the evening we went to a amateur male strip show. Weird, very weird. Probably the most unattractive thing I have ever seen. In other news, I appear to have started an eggcupping frenzy. Pete eggcupped an old man in the hot springs, I eggcupped the singer of a very annoying band between songs and Elle eggcupped a man in a bar who thought she was coming on to him and shouted, “IM MARRIED” in her poor little face. 
(I should probably explain the eggcup phenomenon – it is when you cup someones chin and say ‘eggcup’. I’m not too sure where it came from but it has something to do with Richard Baxter.)
June 20th
Yesterday we went white water rafting in Yoho
A few of us went horse-riding and I got the naughty horse who liked to go very slowly just so he could trot to catch up to the rest of his friends. I didn’t mind though!
Jess, me, Fred, Tylie, Brad, Josh, Nick, Amanda, Kristen, Elle, Rachel, Pete, Fi.
The group have really bonded now; I guess it’s inevitable when you live together for 2 weeks. I am going to miss them lots. There are Brad and Tylie – another couple who are Australians and sort of the parents of the group. Fi and Amanda – also Australians and very lovely (Pete gets on especially well with Fi). Rachel and Jess – the two Korian girls who are very sweet and innocent and have an extensive beauty regime, although the language barrier
Restricts them from joining in completely. Nick – a Bulgarian guy who doesn’t speak much (I don’t think hes having the best time). Fred – the crazy Frenchman who is extremely funny without meaning to be and gets very passionate while playing Yahtzee; he does a dance when he wins and swears lots in french when he loses. He is in my cooking group, which is hilarious. He’s 36 but doesn’t really know how to cook and many things are lost in translation. There is Elle from Surrey and Kristen from Australia, who are probably my favourites. And finally there is the tour guide: Josh, who  is American and has driven us hundreds of miles and has been amazing! They are all lovely and we laugh lots. The tour is almost over :(

June 22nd
We went on an icewalk on athabasca glacier a couple of days ago. We were given hats, gloves and boots and a man led us up the glacier. The start of the journey mostly consisted of rocks until we arrived at the actual glacier. There were little streams running down it and it was so cold that the streams were forming pure, perfect snow as we watched. Strange and magical. The man led us through the first part of the glacier quickly because it was deep slush and rather hard to walk through. Beyond the slush the ice was hard, but not slippery at all. The man told us that the glacier was 250m deep. He warned us not to go off the track and  definitely not to walk on fresh snow because it can hide crevices and millwells – holes that form in the glacier that can be as deep as the glacier. If you fall down one you get stuck somewhere down the hole like a cork in a bottle, and your clothes and skin get frozen to the sides of the glacier if you are not rescued within 40 minutes. Not everyone was listening to this information, so Pete, Brad and Fred went off exploring and pushing each other over. Further up the glacier, the millwells were massive and while Pete was leaning over one, Brad put some snow in his trousers which, obviously, made him jump and he nearly fell in. I was not impressed.
We dropped some snow down the hole to see how deep is was and it took about 7 seconds to get to the bottom. Talking about bottoms, a tour bus was on the side of the glacier on its way up to the top. The tour guide said we could wave to them or do anything really because the bus couldn’t get anywhere near us. So we mooned them. He said it wasn’t the weirdest thing he had seen athabasca glacier.
Yesterday me, Kristen and Elle went into Jasper for a bike ride. The bikes were rubbish and I cut my leg twice, but the scenery was lovely. Although, we were told that most bear attacks happen to people on bikes because the bears think you are sneaking up on them, so we had to make lots of noise. We couldn’t hear each other, so we had to shout and sing to ourselves instead. We watched the A-Team in the evening – it was quite odd watching television again after camping and playing Yahtzee for so long.

June 25th
A few days ago we went horse-riding again and I got the naughty horse again. I’m starting to think its something to do with my ability to control animals. I have also been attacked by lots of mosquitoes. I am allergic to mosquito bites and I’m a habitual scratcher, so I now look like I may have an infectious disease.
The day after the horse riding we travelled to Vancouver. Me and Pete are leaving the group a day early, as we decided to go to Vancouver island and the tour officially ends in Seattle. Pete booked a hostel in East Hastings Street. We drove through East Hasting Street and I have never seen anything like it in my life. There were people shooting up in broad daylight in the street and it was as if all the homeless people in Canada had been dumped here. We found out from our tour guide that this was, in fact, true. Vancouver is the warmest city in Canada, so homeless people either travel here or freeze to death. Hastings Street is the place where the police contain the homeless people. Obviously, I think homeless people are just the same and definitely as important (if not more) as people who are more privileged, but ultimately, you wouldn’t want to go on holiday to Brixton or Hackney and this street was 10x worse that both of these holiday destination nightmares put together. I knew Pete would not be able to leave the hostel because East Hastings Street is a world away from his little house in a tiny village, and that could be a little difficult. So when we tried to check in the next day and were told we couldn’t book in without a credit card, we readily accepted this wonderful fact and ran. Instead, we booked into the hostel that we had stayed in with the group the previous night. It was a 10-bunk dorm, but it was in a lovely place and the people didn’t try to kill us, so that was nice.
On the last day of the tour (yesterday) with the group, Pete and I decided to do a bungee jump. We went to Whistler Village – a ski resort in the winter, but in the summer the slopes become mountain bike tracks and there are zip wires and bungee jumps. The jump was 160ft (53m) and was in a canyon over rapids. We were attached from the stomach instead of from the legs, which I thought may be a little less scary. You could either jump forwards or backwards if you felt like you couldn’t jump forwards. Josh (our tour leader) jumped first and tried to jump forwards, but had to jump backwards. He enjoyed it. Pete went next and he looked absolutely terrified. I couldn’t understand why because it looked fine. He jumped backwards after a little deliberation. Then it was my turn. They strapped me to the bungee rope and I walked onto the platform and it was terrifying. They told me to go backwards straight away because I looked so scared. I put the heels of my feet on the edge of the platform and looked down. Big mistake. I freaked out and gripped the railings with all my strength. The bungee guy who was on the platform with me (without a harness!!) was saying; “you can do it, just don’t think about it, take your hands away and lean back,” while pushing my hands off the railings. I said, “don’t push me!” and he said, “I’m not”, while pushing me, which made me freak out even more and I told him to let me go back on the bridge and he did after a while. When I got back on the bridge, I felt fine and I was wondering why I couldn’t do it. So I tried again and as soon as I stepped onto the platform, my anxiety got the better of me and I just couldn’t jump. This happened once more until they offered to either throw me over the railings, or jump with an experienced jumper. I chose the latter, so I had to wrap my arms and legs around a man (much to Pete’s distress!) and hold on for my life. He jumped off the platform backwards, so I was going forwards, which I found a bit easier. He jumped and I saw sky, then river, then sky and then I was in the river and then the horrible, hopeless feeling of free fall was abruptly halted as the rope caught us and we bounced up towards the bridge. We fell down again but we managed to not get wet this time and I started to enjoy it a little bit. It was all over very quickly and as we were dangling over the rapids, I asked the crazy bungee man if we were supposed to go in the river. He said; “well, I’ve never been in the river before but we are alive!” which was very reassuring.
They threw us the safety rope and we were lifted back up to the bridge. I was fine dangling from the rope but when it came to climbing back on the bridge (which required looking down from the platform again), I freaked out a little again. But we got back to safety and everyone clapped, which I thought was a little undeserving as I didn’t actually properly do it! I would like to do it again just to prove to myself that I can jump, but not because it was fun. The experience was more a feeling of relief than actual enjoyment.
That night was the last night of the tour, so we went out in Vancouver for a farewell meal. We did an awards ceremony and I got ‘most likely to get lost’ and ‘second most likely to be attacked by a bear’, which I didn’t know how to take. Pete got ‘Most dirty’ because he hardly washed for the duration of the trip. Oh Pete. All in all, it was a very lovely but sad night because we probably wont see most of these wonderful people again. The next morning was even sadder because everyone left for Seattle and me and Pete were staying in Canada. There were lots of hugs and tears on Pete’s face and I think we will be lost without them.
It’s time to move on soon though and we have booked a ferry to Vancouver Island and a car and hostel to stay there for a few days and rest after what has been the best few weeks of my life. 

Writings from Canada (June 6th-14th)

June 6
We went to Montreal for 2 days after Pete’s birthday. Most of the first day was spent traveling, but we did go to the city and it was quite a generic city with lots of nice people in it. Everyone seems to be lovely in Canada! The second day was a free day, so me, Elle, Fiona and Kristen went to the theme park. We thought, as it was a school day, there wouldn’t be many people but we were wrong. It was infested with school children so we only managed to go on 3 rides, but they were amazing! We went on one which was the longest roller coaster in Canada (or maybe the world or something) and that was awesome. That night, we went out in Montreal. The night involved lots of walking and lots of sweets and ice cubes being thrown at each other in some kind of strange, cold, sugary battle. We went to a cool bar where there were sweet dispensers on the table and the bar was made out of Lego. They did cocktails which all came with some kind of sweet. It was great. At one point during the night we thought we had lost the Bulgarian bloke that was on our tour because he said “I’ll be back in a minute” and walked out of the pub. Half an hour later, we were all quite worried and went out to look for him. He turned up a few minutes later, and when we asked where he'd been, he told us that he had gone to get some food. When pressed, he told us that he’d been for a sit-down meal at a Thai restaurant.
We went to Ottawa the next day, which is the capital of Canada. It didn’t really feel like a capital city though; it was quite small. I spent the day drinking coffee and going to an Internet cafe. Very cultural.
June 7th
We’re on our way to Niagara Fall – very excited!
Yesterday we arrived in Toronto. It feels a lot more like a city to any we’ve been to so far. I haven't seen much of it yet, but the parts I've seen are a bit like London. I think it should be the capital of Canada. Maybe I’ll tell them.

We went to the CN tower yesterday, which is the tallest free standing tower in the world. It cost $30 to go to the top, which I thought was a little expensive, but Pete persuaded me and I’m really glad we did. The elevator (lift to us proper English people) took just 40 seconds to go to the top, which resulted in lots of popping ears. When you got to the top you could walk all the way round the observation deck and see for miles. On the floor down there was a glass floor. It was quite scary and a few people couldn’t stand on it. Your body is shouting “THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE”, but I kept telling it “it’s probably fine”. Everyone walks across it very slowly and carefully as if they could fall off somehow. It was really cool.
We had a BBQ with the group at camp last night. They are all so lovely. We were sitting around the camp fire with Josh, our tour leader, last night and a raccoon came really close to us. All of us were saying “awww, how sweet – a little raccoon!!” and taking pictures of it and Josh just sat there and said “what a bastard” in his American accent. Poor raccoon! Apparently they are annoying things that get into your bins and food here. I still think they're cute. The most spy-looking animal there is.
June 8th
Niagara Falls was awesome (I say this using the original definition of the word ‘awesome’.) I’d seen it on TV before, but it was just so much better in reality. Massive amounts of water gushing down creating a thick cloud of mist. It makes you feel so small because you can see all these tiny people with ponchos on and they look like ants. It’s the first natural thing we’ve seen in Canada and it was so beautiful. We went on the maid of the mist, which is a boat that goes right into the falls and into the cloud of mist. Very wet and very windy, as you could imagine. I wonder who first thought of doing that? They must have been brave (stupid). When you get to the falls, you go right in the middle, so the falls are surrounding you. Its fun but quite rough and a bit scary!
Me and Elle had frozen yogurt afterwards which was amazing (and OK because it’s healthy!) Pete played football and fell over a lot and it was lovely and sunny.
We are now on our way to Happy Hearts campground. Worryingly it is described as the wilderness. I hope it has showers and, more importantly, no bears.
June 11th
We've mostly been driving these past few days. It’s been bearable though because the group is so good. We all get on so well and everyone is just lovely. Elle told us about a town she’d spotted on the first day called ‘Mianus’, which produced endless jokes. For example “there’s a big party in mianus” and “theres a congestion charge to mianus”. Very mature.
Between the driving, we went to a lovely lake and took lots of group pictures and we went on a ferry (or fairy as I keep thinking Josh says)
We stayed in a log cabin for a night. That night we had a bit of a party, with music and drink, accompanied by a few arguments and lots of tension with one particular person. Pete had his nails painted, which was a decision he regretted in the morning as he had no nail varnish remover and I wasn't going to give him any. We went canooing on Lake (the largest fresh water lake in the world) but it was a bit rough so we got pretty moist.
We then saw a giant goose. Not a real one, a very pointless and completely unnecessary metal monstrosity. It was in the town of Wawa (which is, clearly, as odd as it sounds) and it was advertised as the largest monument of its kind. Now I've never seen another large metal goose monument before, but I'm sure that that is quite an achievement. It is also the most photographed monument in Canada. I'm not too sure what is classed as a monument in Canada, but I'm pretty sure that this is the only one I have seen so far. But still, quite an achievement I'm sure.
Today, we went hiking. Me and Kristen decided to take the route labelled as the easiest, as we didn’t have the appropriate footwear. It was meant to have a wooden path, and there was one for about 20 meters and after that it turned into a path consisting of puddles, mud and slippery rocks, resulting in us getting lost, very wet and bitten to pieces by all the giant mosquitoes. It would have been bearable if it wasn’t raining or had nice views, but it lacked both of these things. The salt in the wound was when we discovered that the other apparently more difficult route which the others took was a lot easier and a lot less wet and muddy.
I’m enjoying camping – it’s fun! We are staying 1-2 nights at each place, so we have to set up the tents and cooking equipment when we get there and take them down in the morning. I am not very good at mornings (I do have an excuse; my medication completely knocks me out, so I’m like a zombie in the morning) so we’re always the last ones to put our tent away and get in the van. Hopefully the group wont get too annoyed with us!
June 14th
We went to Winnipeg and I didn’t like it because there were no shops that sold backpacks. I probably shouldn’t judge it on its ability to provide a backpack, but I did. It did have a ‘Second Cup’ – a coffee shop which we have all become addicted to. It does amazing frappaccinos and these ice-blended strawberry lemonade drinks, which is the best thing ever to be put into a plastic cup. We went to a town called Moose Jaw yesterday, where there was another large animal-shaped monstrosity, only this time it was a moose made out of what looked like paper mache. Weird.
Moose Jaw was nick named ‘the little Chicago’ because in the 1920’s and 30’s, the underground tunnels were used to sneak moonshine into Chicago on trains. We went on a tour of the tunnels, which turned out to be more of a show with the tour leader being an actress called Fanny. We had to pretend to be Moonshine smugglers and I was re-named ‘Miss Touchy’ because I apparently touched something which made a secret panel open in the fireplace. She told me to look inside the fireplace and there was a passage. I think there was meant to be something inside the passage that was meant to make me jump because she asked me to look again, but there was nothing there. It was a fun tour!
The wonderful trek family
We stayed in a trailer park that night, which was so much better than it sounds. It had a swimming pool with a couple of flumes. It was so much fun (apart from when Pete came down the flume soon after me and we banged heads. Ouch for him – I have a skull like a rock apparently! The two Korean girls told us our names in Koren, which I have now forgotten and Fred, the crazy Frenchmen kept playing a game of knock and run on every ones doors and insisting it was me and Pete. We got him back though! (I will leave how we did it a mystery.)
We’re in Calgary now and we saw ‘the worlds largest tepee’ today (it wasn’t really a tepee though, just a few metal poles). The long car journey today was improved by the purchase of 20Q and the mystery of how it works and the wonderful sounds of The Beatles. Things are generally awesome.

Writings from America (June 3rd-4th)

June 3rd 

We were in New York for two days, which had a cool vibe. The first thing we saw when we got off the greyhound and into the subway was a man with a crooked neck, who had his eyes closed (maybe dead?) behind a keyboard and two meters in front of him was a toy baby doll, which had been made so its hips moved, wearing a Hawaiian skirt doing a belly dance to the music the man was playing. Very odd. We got out of the subway in the Middle of Times square after a 23hour bus ride with our suitcases, so we were pretty stressed out trying to dance around hundreds of people, but out of the mass of busy people and the maze of skyscrapers and billboards, a butterfly appeared and flew right past me - beautiful, it calmed me right down.
We went to Central Park which was lovely (although I did question why we were visiting a park when we were in the most famous city in the world) and we went to Ground Zero, which was quite odd; they are building a memorial on the site where the Twin towers were. We peeked through the fence and we were amazed at how small the site is - you would never imagine that two massive skyscrapers stood there. We also tried to visit the statue of liberty but it was closed for memorial day. Someone told us that they don't open it to the public much because they're so paranoid about terrorist attacks. I can completely believe that because all of the Americans that we have seen have been a bit paranoid. They seem to treat everyone like criminals. You are guilty until proven innocent rather than innocent until proven guilty.
The rest of the time in New York was spent looking for sleeping bags which we needed for the coach trip. Times square is not the best place to look for sleeping bags. We went to all the luggage shops and asked for a sleeping bag and they looked at us like we were insane and pointed us down a few blocks. Finally after walking about 20 blocks, we found a K-Mart which amazingly had a big variety of sleeping bags-hurray! Pete took us the scenic route home (Pete, "we definitely need to walk to 5th" me, "I'm pretty sure its the opposite way" Pete, "no it's definitely this way, I'm so sure, I'll pay for a taxi back if I'm wrong!" He never did.) New York is cool though, I may spend a bit longer here at the end of the trip.

June 3rd (again)
Two days ago, we joined the coach tour. We met at 7.30am in the most hard to find hotel in Newark, New Jersey. The taxi driver stopped three times to get directions. I was extremely nervous at first (meeting lots of new people scares me!) and had a bit of a panic thinking 'I can't do it, I want to go home!' but I prayed and it was fine - of course. Pete was absolutely great; he got on with everyone and made everyone laugh - very pleased to call him mine! And once I was a little less nervous, I talked to all the people and they are SO nice. So much nicer than I had ever imagined, so we're very lucky. Our first stop was the Ben and Jerry's factory - not the best stop for someone who's allergic to dairy and an ex-anorexic, but it was very fun! Jason Miraz was on the tour with us. I didn't know who he was but everyone else did and they were very excited. Pete played me his song though and I do know it and I like it lots. We stayed in a campground in Vermont the first night- beautiful state. The only things that ruined the beautiful scenery in the campground was a big sign saying 'dumping site', which i thought was a water fountain. I'm quite glad I was told otherwise.
The next day we travelled to the border of Canada. I think I should re-name this post to;

Writings from Canada:

June 4th
We got through the border surprisingly easily and quickly considering we had 6 different nationalities travelling with us. We travelled to Quebec and wandered around the city. Beautiful, there was a massive castle-like building at the top of the hill that the city was built on. It looked like a fairy-tale village. It poured down with rain. I was not prepared for rain. Not wise. Very wet shoes. Very steep hill. Lots of slipping.
Some art above the streets of Quebec
It was Pete's birthday, so we went out for a meal and blew up balloons, popped party poppers and drank Sangria. Me and Elle (a lovely girl from Surrey) sneaked around Walmart to buy them. Good day.

Writings from America (May 20th-28th)

May 20th 
I'm sitting in the same spot as before and its still lovely, although I lost my sunglasses so I'm having to squint to see the page. We're in the same hotel but we're leaving for Miami on Saturday. We're going to stay in dorms with other actual people! Hopefully there will be some people who speak English and not Spanish because there are lots of non English speaking people in this hotel which is fine for them but it means we haven't really met anyone yet, which also means that it's just me and Pete all the time-quite a test on a 3 months relationship! But we're doing surprisingly well.
We do seem to have switched genders though. Odd but true. I go on all of the scary rides and Pete wimps out. We went wake boarding at Wet n Wild (an amazing water park) and I managed to do it before Pete which resulted in the instructor teasing Pete. We went for a meal (at Bahama Breeze where Pete discovered his love for Strawberry Daiquiris) and I had the same meal as Pete, who thought it was way too spicy. I couldn't taste any spice in it. And to top it all off, Pete had a cold at the start of the week. He didn't make any fuss and passed it off as 'the sniffles. He passed it on to me and I feel like I'm dying. Classic case of man flu.

Here are the things that we have done in Orlando and my expert review:
Sea World- I guess its quite a bit better than the Sea worlds in England, but saying that, it is about 10x more expensive. $72. And most of the things you can do there cost extra. It's so big and commercial that you don't really have a good day. But the animals were lovely. (apart from the Manatees which I still think are quite ugly) The dolphin show was amazing, but the same cannot be said for the killer whale show. The actual whales were amazing, beautiful, scary animals, but most of the show was focused on a man who supposedly fashioned a whale tail necklace out of wood when he was a boy and followed his dream and everything was amazing and wonderful in his life because he followed his dreams and is now a whale trainer. He was very obviously an actor too. All of this part of the show there were no whales. I didn't like it. Pete did.
up-side down building
Wonderworks aka the upside down house- This was cool. It was a building that was built upside down, which looked awesome and inside were lots of games and optical illusion interactive exhibitions. The first corridor you walked through made you feel like the room was slowly turning upside down. There were big bubble wands which you could make a bubble go round your head and a bed of nails which I did. (hurty elbows!) At the end, there was an arcade in the dark with UV lights and there was an indoor ropes course above the arcade. I really wanted to go on it and when we did, I got to the first platform and stood there for 20 minutes saying "I can't do it!" with Pete saying "you don't have to do it" and me replying "yes I do!" I got over the first rope and up the second, but I had to turn back after that because my hands were all sweaty so I couldn't grip the ropes properly.
Wet n Wild- the amazing water park. This was the best thing we've done so far. It was a lovely sunny day and there were lots of great rides. They were mostly rides which you were on an inflatable boat with another person. There were some in the dark like brainwash, which had a massive drop at the start and it dropped you into a giant swirling dark bowl with lots of strange lights and music. And our favourite, Disco, which was similar to Brainwash but the bowl was a mini night club playing 70s music. We did wake boarding which rounded up a winning day.
Universal Studios- I thought it was going to be a theme park, and Pete wasn't looking forward to it, but I was sort of wrong because there were a lot of rides, but the aim of the rides wasn't for a thrill or focused on the daring aspects that a theme park generally is, it was more focused on the film that it was portraying, which was good for both of us. There was a Jaws ride, which I would have been terrified of when I was younger (there was at least three children crying when a giant Jaws head attacks the side of the boat) and there was a Men in Black ride, where you had guns to shoot the aliens with (I got 26000 points. Pete got 111000 points, as he keeps reminding me) and my favourite- The Mummy ride (a roller coaster in the dark with fire and stuff.) All the streets were filled with movie scenes and old cars. I liked it lots. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe afterwards.

Joannes- we visited Pete's cousin and her boyfriend and two girls. She picked us up from our hotel and took us to a place called "Christmas town" to show us a chunk of American history. It was a place where the Americans kicked out the natives on Christmas Day. I didn't enjoy celebrating this fact but the wooden shacks were nice. We got to Joannes house in the lovely suburbs and met her family who were also lovely. It was nice to have a change from the fake touristy view that we had of America from being in Central Orlando. We met Pat's (Joannes boyfriend) friends; a few middle aged men who Pete told me would class as 'rednecks'. They were cool and we sat in their yard talking about the world and its people. A car pulled up and one of the men said to me "you're gonna meet Elvis now." I was slightly confused and even more confused when in the middle of this mundane setting, a man fully dressed in Elvis costume with a quiff and a grin stepped out of the car. Apparently he was called Steve and he had a normal job by day, but by night he became Elvis at a downtown bar. Odd. We got a picture with him.
All in all, I have loved Orlando. Even so, I will be glad of a change of location because there is only so much of the Disney, fairytale, 'anything is possible if you follow your dreams crap' you can take.
Miami here we come.

May 23rd 
Oh dear, we're in Miami.
It's 'just awful' as Pete would say. It's like a seaside town that's gone a bit wrong. Well, a lot wrong. There are a lot of drunks and lots of places to drink and eat for stupid amounts of money, but no supermarkets and absolutely nothing nice. We're in a hostel which has somehow been voted the best hostel in the USA. Why, I have no idea. It's dirty, the rooms are tiny and the staff are horrible.
We walked into the hostel after just having got to Miami by greyhound bus. We had just shared our cab with two lovely girls from Norwich (it's not their fault) and so we were in an optimistic mood about the journey ahead. We thought we might stay for a week in Miami. Oh how our minds changed when we walked into the hostel. It was a bar with lots of drunk people to step around and over and we went to the reception at the back and a rude polish woman hurriedly took our details and gave us a room card key and linen. We went into the room and it was a tiny room with three bunk beds crammed into it. There were clothes and towels everywhere and it was quite obvious that I was the only girl. A man came in and said hello. He was probably the scariest and creepiest man I've met. He was from Texas and looked a bit like an alien in a mans body. I didn't want to stay there, but we had no choice as we had already paid.
We met the other 3 boys who were nice, but they went out all night drinking and came back to the room at 5am talking very loudly and turning the light on (which resulted in me swearing at them quite loudly in my sleepy anger) The boy in the bunk below me brought a girl back and the less said about that the better.
The beach was the only good thing about it.
I payed $1.50 for an apple, $5.99 for a bottle of water and Pete spent $10 on a phone card that didn't work.
We are now waiting at the greyhound station for a bus which will take us 9 hours away from Miami to Daytona Beach.
Bye bye Miami. Good Riddance.

May 28th
On the greyhound to New York now, 23h 15m. The greyhound isn't as bad as I though it would be; it's air conditioned and doesn't smell funny-what more can you ask for? Pillows maybe. More leg space maybe. Nicer staff maybe, but all of that is more that bearable for the cost and convenience.
Daytona Beach was beautiful. So much better than Miami! It was a small town with a massive beach. The sand was the softest sand I've ever seen or felt. The sea was slightly rough with lots of wave breaks- perfect for surfing, or body boarding if you can't surf. We also went para sailing which was really cool. It was a parachute with a smiley face on it suspended on a boat which pulled you along so you went really high. You felt like a bird and you could see for miles. We sun bathed and swam and managed to spread cheerios and spaghetti-os all over the room. Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun. I could have stayed in Daytona for a lot longer but we've got to move; We have booked a coach tour across Canada which will start in New York in a couple of days.

writings from america (May 14th)

May 14th

We landed in Orlando, Florida two days ago at 6pm local time, which was actually 11pm in England. Our flight was 9hours and left at 1pm, so somehow we lost those 5 hours thousands of feet above the earth. I don't really understand it, all I know is that my body doesn't like losing 5 hours in the atmosphere-I'm tired! But the beautiful sun takes the edge off the jet lag. I'm currently sitting on a sun bed by the pool, the only thing that's not perfect about this setting is all the black bugs that seem to have taken a liking to my sun screen. They all appear to be mating too.
I have just realised that there is a big tree above me which is attracting the bugs. Maybe it isn't my sun screen. Maybe I'll move.
Oh dear they seem to have followed me. Oh well I'm sure they don't bite. Or maybe they do. One of the set backs of being an alien in a different country is that you know absolutely nothing (what is a dime??) You don't want to ask anyone these questions because you know they will just look at you as if you have said 'what is picnic?!'
Our hotel is AMAZING. For $22 a night we get two double beds, en suite bathroom, coffee maker, fridge, television and free breakfast. And this lovely pool :)
I'm so glad Pete invited me!
He's been great and I'm pretty sure we're not sick of each other yet which is a good sign!
Its a very bipolar city, Orlando. Everything seems to be taken to the extreme. People are either incredibly lovely or incredibly horrible. and they don't do things half-heartedly here. there are massive theme parks and water parks, they definitely wouldn't have a Pleasurewood hills here. Even the Sea World is so much more extreme- you can actually swim with the dolphins! And obviously the food is taken to the extreme and excess, For breakfast there is a make-your-own-waffle machine and bacon and eggs and bagels and cakes and horrible multi-coloured cereal etc. Almost every restaurant is an all-you-can-eat. Great if you don't have an eating disorder! I'm so glad that my anorexia is not in full flow because I would NEVER have been able to do this this time last year. I'm SOOOOOO lucky.


Something I found from a couple of years ago.
Lets play the popular game; 'Guess which mind-altering drugs Holly was on':

Sitting on the Suffolk coast, making friends with the seagulls. Even if they're only using me for my food they're the only friends I have in 20 miles. Took a wrong turn on the way here but I can't be lost because I didn't know where I was in the first place. It's cold here but the sun keeps popping out to see me. Can I be reincarnated as a seagull please?
People have invaded my lonely place. Think I preferred the seagulls.
Everything is sharp here; the stones, the air, the rubbish shell sculpture. But when the sun stops hiding, it seems to smooth everything out. The stones look smoother, the air gently glides past you and the sculpture doesn't look quite as rubbish.
I feel sorry for the sea. It's so vast and deep, no one will ever know the horrors it holds. I want to tell it that one day it will be a cloud, like the ones it has to stare at everyday. One day it will be free from pollution and other peoples shit.
So will I.

Thud. A Story of Anorexia

Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. All that I could hear. Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. All that I could focus on; the sound of my feet hitting the pavement as I ran the same run I took every morning. Repetition. The chant in my head ‘This-will-make-you-thin’ with every rhythmic step. This wasn’t the start of my day. Oh no the most important part was just before my run- the weigh in. every morning I would take the step onto my high-tech precisely accurate scales and I would endure the dreaded wait for my weight to be calculated. The number that would determine my day, the number that would control what I ate that day, the number I’d spent yesterday trying desperately to decrease and that I would spend today trying to decrease further. The number that my “life” was built around. This morning I had only lost half a pound. Not enough. Yesterday I had lost a whole pound so this means I have failed. Again. I pass the road I normally go down and carry on to take an even longer route so hopefully tomorrow I will have lost an acceptable amount.
When I finally get home I will continue with my structured, repetitive day. Repetition and routine are the only things I have left. I will have my 50 calorie breakfast of 200g of melon carefully weighed out and then I will do my exercises; sit ups, crunches etc. all in multiples of 5. 5x5x5x5x5. If I lose count I have to start all over again.
Then I will start to cook lunch. I will cook a normal hot meal for my dad and me cooked in water and not oil and I will sit in front of the TV with my dad nearest the TV so he doesn’t have a full view of me. I will have my bag with me and when I'm sure he’s not looking I’ll put handfuls of my dinner in some tissue and then into my bag. Adrenaline pumps through my body but I don’t mind, I like it; adrenaline burns lots of calories. I won’t stop until I've fed nearly my entire meal to my bag, leaving a few vegetables to chew on so my dad thinks I'm eating. He never notices.
After that, I go out. Either to town to look around the shops, (I never buy anything though. I cant concentrate long enough to hold a conversation with someone, let alone choose something, take it to the till and give them the right amount of money) or I go to the supermarket with dad (he is not allowed to go on his own because he buys the wrong things) or I just walk around enjoying the light exercise but scared that I'm going to faint.
I have tea at half past 6, which usually consists of some more melon, or, if I've had a bad weigh day, a diet fizzy drink. Then I spend the evening carefully calculating how many calories I've consumed, how many I've burnt and I will plan tomorrow’s horrible day. I have a session on the rowing machine before I go to bed, and then I try to sleep. My bones ache and I have a chill in me, which seems to come from the inside out. It takes me a while to fall asleep because I can hear my heart beating very loudly and very slowly in my ears. Sometimes it doesn’t beat for several seconds and I sit bolt upright until it starts to lazily beat again. I am fully aware that I might not wake up in the morning. I am ceasing to care.
Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I will go to the doctors. I’m terrified that they are going to make me put weight on, but some part of me, however small, breathes a sigh of relief that I might not have to live this “life” much longer.
I wasn’t always like this. It started a few months ago. I’d had problems during my teenage years; my mum died when I was 15 and it was a very unusual and traumatic death. I had later been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for depression with self-harm. When I was discharged, I was given some wonderful pills, which made me happy, but they also made me put weight on. I moved to London, which was something I’d dreamed of doing since I was little, but the bright lights of the city were duller than I had imagined and I found myself surrounded by people but being incredibly alone.
I found a cure for my loneliness. At first it was quite harmless. It told me that I could succeed at something, that I could be someone. It formed a thin, comforting bubble around me and nothing could get in. It flew around in the bubble; a rainbow of colours, it told me I should do some exercise and eat more healthily. When I lost weight it told me that I was amazing. It told me that I would be even more amazing if I lost just a bit more weight. It wasn’t long before the beautiful colours started to run into each other. It started telling me that I had to do more exercise and eat more healthily and lose more weight. Its words of encouragement soon turned into words of criticism. It told me I hadn’t lost enough weight and if I ate something slightly unhealthy it told me I was a fat, greedy failure. It turned into a thick black fog. Still nothing could get in, but I started to realise that I also couldn’t get out. I took it wherever I went, it never let me out. I had to do everything that it told me to do or I would face the horrible consequences of guilt and self-hatred. As starvation took over my body, I became weak. Too weak to fight it and so it took me wherever it went. It controlled me.
When I went to the doctors, they referred me to the Suffolk East Eating Disorders team. There was a two-month wait to get help and in those two months I deteriorated rapidly. I didn’t think I could get any lower than the rock bottom that I’d hit, but I could. It was a depression and weakness that I’d never experienced before and never want to again. It completely consumed me and I willed death to take me so the pain would stop.
The first time I saw SEEDs, they asked me if I got any cramps. I did. They said that this was very dangerous and if the cramps reached my heart I could die. They said I had to eat a banana or drink some orange juice if I got any cramps. That evening my entire legs and my hands were attacked by cramp. Dad poured me some orange juice because there was absolutely no way I could eat a banana (too many calories.) I took the juice to my room and after much deliberation; I poured it down the sink. I couldn’t even have the 50 extra calories that could save my life. Luckily the cramp didn’t reach my heart. The next time I saw SEEDs they said that I would have to be admitted to the same psychiatric hospital I was in before. I thought I’d only be there for a week so I only packed enough clothes for a week. I would actually be there for 5 months.
I saw the doctor when I first arrived and he said that my BMI put me in the life-threatening category of Anorexia. ‘Anorexia?’ I thought ‘I’m too fat to have anorexia.’ Then I saw the other girls on the ward and I was convinced that I was by far the biggest and I didn’t want to stay. I had to though. ‘Only a week’ I kept telling myself.
I don’t remember very much the first couple of weeks because my brain was severely malnourished. I was later told that I had a very low heart rate and blood pressure, I was very dehydrated and my kidneys were failing. One nurse said that I couldn’t even string a sentence together. I had to have blood tests everyday for the first week and I had my bathroom locked so that I couldn’t exercise or purge. A nurse had to watch me shower in case I fainted. We were watched all the time in one way or another and we were not allowed to stand up or walk around unless it was absolutely necessary. I thought that this was a bit extreme and unnecessary because I wasn’t thin enough to be ill.
We had to eat. We all had our own meal plans, which we had to follow; there was no choice. We had to gain at lease a Kilo a week or our meal plans would be increased. Everything down to how much water we had to drink was carefully measured out and we had to finish everything that was on our plates. We were supervised while we ate and for 45 minutes after every meal to ensure that we kept the food down.
Meal times were horrible. There was a silent battle between the nurses and the anorexia and we were stuck in the middle. The nurses knew how to fight the anorexia and most of the time they won. You could feel the pure fear emanating from us. It’s like someone with a phobia of heights being made to stand at the edge of a skyscraper three times a day.
The most cruel and ironic thing about anorexia is that you have to do the one thing that terrifies you to realise that it is not something that you should be terrified of. When you are starving with anorexia you can’t think rationally, so you’d rather die than put on weight. But feeding your brain helps you to think more rationally which then helps you to accept that eating and putting on weight is a good thing. So you have to eat in order to accept that eating is ok, it’s a catch 22.
As my brain was nourished I started to realise that I was going to be there longer than I had originally thought and I began to accept that I was ill and I did have anorexia. The bubble that I’d been living in had a name. Once it had been given that identity, I could fight it. I even began to realise that what I saw in the mirror wasn’t what I actually looked like. This realisation came when a new patient told me her BMI, which was the same as mine when I was admitted. I was shocked. She looked completely emaciated, she was a walking skeleton, she just looked so so ill. I must have looked like that when I was admitted. Anorexia had warped my view of my own body. I was so angry, I wanted it to go away. It had taken everything; my friends, my control, my happiness, my entire life and I wanted it back. I wanted to LIVE. So I decided to do everything I could to claw my way through the black fog and pop the bubble.
Anorexia is a very competitive illness, so having lots of people with anorexia living together is quite dangerous. It is very easy to feed off everyone else’s anorexia and pick up their habits. There was a constant competition of who could be the most ill because to be the most ill meant to be the thinnest. So there were games of ‘who can eat the slowest’ and ‘who can skimp on the most calories’. It’s very easy to get sucked in to the anorexic games. I was lucky enough to have a few amazing positive girls with me and we encouraged each other to not be the most ill because we knew that to be the most ill was to be the most unhappy.
After 5 long months I had reached my target weight and was released. I was free, not only from the endless routine and constant supervision of the hospital but also from anorexia - the bubble had popped! There is a 70% relapse rate of anorexia but I am going to do everything I can to not let it control me again because there is so much I can do now, that I couldn’t with anorexia. I can watch a film and remember what happened at the end of it, I can go out with friends, I can eat without feeling guilty, I can go for weeks without weighing myself, I can laugh, I can cry, I am ALIVE.