Three Year Anniversary

Over four months have passed since we went into lockdown and started working from home. Toronto will move into Stage 3 of its economic opening plan, which allows for restrictive dine-in at restaurants and the opening of gyms and other recreational facilities. Masks continue to be mandatory in all indoor locations, and by and large, Canadians have responded well to the recommendations by health officials - and it shows in our decreasing numbers. Despite my love of food, it's unlikely I'll be dining in any time soon, just to make sure we stomp out that remainder of cases and don't get a second wave.

I was afraid we would have a bad summer but we've been able to enjoy the outdoors over the past few months. We've been on hikes in and outside of the city, visiting places like Mono Cliffs, Albion Falls and Limehouse Conservation Area. This weekend is Civic Holiday, and we'll be spending it near Sudbury, exploring Manitoulin Island and Killarney Provincial Park. The weather has been pretty scorching on most days, and while most of the weekends have been gloriously sunny, we've also had some fantastic summer thunderstorms which I've enjoyed watching from my balcony.

We've announced our release date for Watch Dogs: Legion, which will be October 29th 2020. It's been a hard slog but there's light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm looking forward to shipping my very first AAA game. Working from home has its challenges but on the whole, many of us have embraced this lifestyle and productivity has been very good. I still miss the social environment at the office, going out for lunches or grabbing a coffee or an ice cream, and Pokemon raids at the Water Tower or at Botman, but it's unlikely that I'll go back into the office until everything is back to normal.

It's been almost three years to the day since I landed in Toronto, and after last year's immigration hiccups when returning from Atlanta, I'm glad to say I'm finally a permanent resident of Canada. More than that, I've also bought an apartment within the same building I'm currently renting in, so yeah, looks like I'll be staying around for a while. Kind of a weird feeling to be adulting like this, but happy that I won't be paying someone else's mortgage anymore. It seemed like a good time to get into the market considering the effect that COVID19 has had on property and interest rates. There's still a few more things to sort out, and I need to start tidying up the place and getting ready to move, but it's good to know that I finally have a place to call my own.


Victoria Day

It's been two months since the city was put on lockdown. Tomorrow, some non-essential businesses and offices will start to open as long as they can maintain social distancing. I will continue to work from home since my productivity is not drastically impacted, though my setup at the office is more ergonomic. In addition to that, apparently some badminton places are opening up too, so we might be able to get out on the courts next week.

The weather has continued to be kinda gross, which helps with the stay at home thing. Last week it snowed, but like I've said before, what even is normal weather in this city? This weekend was definitely shorts and t-shirt weather though. I've been doing three hour walks in all directions from my place. The trail that runs next to the Humber River from Old Mill is really nice, as is High Park when there aren't as many people. Saturday walks usually start in the morning and end up at Nations around lunchtime, where I'll grab some Five Guys or Firehouse Subs for lunch, and a cheeky milk tea from Chatime, and then do my grocery shopping before heading home.

As the weather improves (it's almost summer?!), it's going to be harder and harder to stay at home. The number of daily cases continues to drop but it's not like New Zealand where they're enjoying zero cases regularly, or one case from a known cluster. My flights to Malaysia were cancelled too. It's still very uncertain how all of this is going to pan out, and I'm really hoping things will start going back to normal soon.

I need a damn haircut.


COVID-19

It's a strange time. Countries around the world have gone into lockdown, closing all non-essential businesses, public amenities, education providers, tourist attractions and meeting places. The streets are much less busy, save for the frenzy at supermarkets as people stupidly hoard supplies like canned food, frozen pizza and for some inexplicable reason, toilet paper. Thankfully, the weather is still cold and miserable, and the temptation to go outside is almost non-existent.

I'm lucky that I have a place to live, food to eat (and damn my cooking is so good) and that I have continued employment during this time. In fact, as part of the entertainment industry, it's our duty to provide that beacon of entertainment in the darkness of social isolation. All of Ubisoft Toronto is now mandated to work from home, as are many others in the city. Having the Internet keeps me connected to friends and family around the world who are going through similar lockdowns. Of course I miss badminton, going out for dinner, karaoke, going to the gym and playing the piano, but we must make sacrifices now or pay much greater consequences later.

It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's growing uncertainty with what the world will be like in a month's time. In two month's time. We just have to take it one day at a time, knowing that our self isolation is for the greater good.


New Orleans

I spent the last five days in New Orleans, basically inspired by this video to go and explore Creole and Cajun cuisine. NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana), as its affectionately known, was never really on my travel radar, but this year I knew I wanted to get out of the country for Christmas, especially since I had the time off anyway, and I wanted to go somewhere warm and different.

As much as I would have liked to reenact the video like Katrin and Janine, I didn't have enough time, or really the stomach space. I did the best I could, and I thoroughly enjoyed not only the food, but the history behind their cuisine. Apart from that, there's some beautiful architecture in the French Quarter, and City Park and Audubon Park are really nice walking areas, but there's not much else to see in the city, so I spent a lot of time just lazing about and playing Pokemon Go. It's so good to see the city back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina, although the devastating collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel right in downtown was still visible. I found Amorino, the gelateria that crafts their ice creams into roses, which I had first tried in Seville, Spain. The Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River had a lady rocking out on the steam organ, which was probably my favourite memory of NOLA. There were street performers and random jazz music jams in the French Quarter, and a lot of drunk people walking down Bourbon Street. I'm not really a party animal, nor am I a big drinker, so I didn't really participate in that side of New Orleans, but I still had a really good time.


Christmas

It’s been a busy time. Summer flew by so quickly, and in came autumn with its exceptionally beautiful colours. We went hiking around Muskoka, Ranney Gorge, Peel Forest, Hamilton and Niagara, and the reds, oranges and yellows were truly outstanding this year.

We got our first snowfall in November, and since then, a few major storms have hit but now on Christmas Day, the weather is sitting around 0C and most of the snow from last week has melted. Work has been busy leading up to the end of the year, especially since head office pushed the release of the game to next fiscal, but this past week was very quiet in the office. All the Christmas parties are done. I made a pavlova for the first time, to rave reviews, and presented it at the church’s Round the World banquet. I nailed the piano accompaniment for the Christmas service. I cooked a Chinese meal for the young adults, which seemed to go over well. Everything is pretty much done and dusted for the year, and now I’m at Pearson Airport, on my way to New Orleans.

What a year it’s been! I look back at my camera roll with fond memories of Peru and Machu Picchu, as well as travels to Atlanta, Chicago, Quebec City and Montreal. I’ve had some great food and some not so great food. We had our big E3 reveal, to much excitement and praise. 2020 will be a big year for Ubisoft Toronto and I’m glad I’ll be around for it.