I was the first of our group of four to get to get to the customs desk in Toronto. I handed the officer my declaration form and passport. He looked at the section where I marked that the main purpose of my trip was business.
“What business do you have here?”
“Uh, academic conference.”
“Where is the conference?” he asked and looked at the 5 year old picture on my passport.
“The Hilton. No, the Sheraton downtown,” I said.
“What’s the topic of the conference.”
I froze momentarily.
“Um, higher education and institutional research.”
He handed my documents back to me and waved me along to baggage claim.
I’ve attended a number of academic conferences during my graduate school career, but this was the first one in (a) a new city and (b) out of the country.
I got the business stuff done early on Monday. While Canadians were out celebrating Victoria Day, my colleagues and I presented a paper on graduate students in science and their relationships with their advisors, faculty, lab mates and other peers. That went well, and thankfully I had a good public speaking day. Even better, our PI/my advisor liked the presentation.
I spent the rest of my short trip eating through my per diem, running along Lake Ontario, biking from downtown to High Park and back along the lake front, and hanging out with new/old grad school friends. I wish I had some photos from the parks along the lake and during my bike ride, but I’m much more concerned about my safety biking through a busy, unfamiliar street to whip out my camera. And I never take my camera out with my while running. It’s too bulky and I’m too busy, you know, running.
I’d love to go back to Toronto when the weather isn’t so finicky (it was warm/sunny, and then cool with light rain everyday) and I have more time to visit. We were really close to the Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays play, but the team was out of town. If they weren’t, I’d definitely have gone to a game. I also remembered on my last day and last few hours of sightseeing that the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are set in Toronto. When I visited the Baldwin Steps and Casa Loma, both felt familiar. I kicked myself for not doing a Scott Pilgrim tour of the city. Oh well.
Ever since my friends and I got pulled aside and grilled by US customs agents as we returned from Vancouver, I get nervous crossing the border or going through customs at the airport. This time I worried they wouldn’t think I was the same person in my passport photo since (a) that photo is from 2005; and (b) I look much different. Fortunately, the US Customs agents asked fewer questions and I had no trouble getting back in to the states.