Friday, November 23, 2007

Sacha's Graduation

November 16, 2007 in Toronto.

It was a cold morning, and too early to be getting out of bed, but we were all excited to troop to the Convocation Hall where Sacha will be receiving her diploma – Masters of Applied Science at the University of Toronto.

I wore a long woolen skirt that hid my leggings, and on top of my thermal undershirt, I had my knitted shirt, a sweater, a jacket and a knee-length winter coat, plus a red scarf to either put around my neck or over my head. The black pair of velvet gloves that I bought at a bazaar in Manila came in handy, and helped me to feel warm. I carried a large bag – with “windows” that held photos of our family and scenic spots in the Philippines - to hold the winter clothing accessories that I had to put on and off.

It started to snow, very gently. Sacha said that it was the first snow of the year and season. She pointed at the round convocation building as the place where we should be while she dashed to go to Knox Building to get her toga. We found only one lady who was there ahead of us, waiting for the doors to open. She had a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in another, and we chatted. She assured us that we were at the warmer side of the building, as the wind was blowing on the other side. She turned out to be the Convocation Officer, and offered to take us where Sacha was.

We found Sacha (thanks to cellphones) at Knox in her full regalia. Aida – the Convocation Officer whom we met earlier– taught her how to wear the toga, and gave us tips where to take her pictures –stairs, hallways and courtyard of Knox building. We decided she was truly the expert on graduations at the U of T, and followed all her suggestions.

We had a few minutes to take pictures before Gay and I had to queue to enter the Convocation Hall, while Sacha looked for other graduates from her department.

We got good seats (for Gay, Wayne and myself) – right behind one row of seats reserved for those in wheel chairs. It was warmer inside so I started peeling off some of the warmer clothes that I was wearing – coat, jacket, sweater, gloves, scarf – but had to wear them again when the ushers opened the main doors to let the graduates in.

A man next to me complained of the cold draft, so in a friendly tone, I remarked, “At least you’re accustomed to this cold.” He said – no, he never liked the cold, and everyday, he said, he would imagine himself in a tropical island, sitting under a palm tree. At that point, I brought out my bag that showed pictures of Boracay and Cebu and he exclaimed – “That’s the place where I want to be right now – where is this place?” Beaming with pride, I replied, “The Philippines.” (We learned later that he was at the Convocation Hall with us because his wife was graduating with a Masters in Nursing).

It was not a very long ceremony – since they segregated the graduate students from the undergrads who had a much longer ceremony the night before. The main speaker – who gave a short, sweet and simple speech - was a professor at the University. So, in no time at all (about 2 hours), it was over.

We did a lot more picture taking before proceeding to one of the buildings where they were holding a reception for the new graduates. All alumni were given small gifts (chocolate) and letters exhorting them to be active members of the alumni association. Wayne excused himself to go back to work, while Gay, Sacha and I decided the food there was good enough for lunch.

Sacha then took us to her building and we met her adviser, Marc Chignell, and other colleagues.

After we left her campus, we went back to the inn, and then downtown for a quick visit to IBM where she now works. Sacha had invited her friends to a vegetarian dinner in the evening, but before that, we met up with Scott Ramsay, a friend of the family. Scott helped Sacha get oriented in Toronto and to find winter clothes when she first arrived in Canada a little over two years ago.

We met Scott at World’s Biggest Bookstore (now, no longer world’s biggest bookstore), and walking around the block – we found a nice coffee shop/bar, and chatted there until it was time to go to the vegetarian restaurant.

Scott dropped off Sacha at the restaurant (so she could be there ahead of her guests), and then gave Gay and me a short city tour, on our way to Cabbage Town to fetch his girlfriend, Nathalie. The four of us then went back to the restaurant where we found a large group (from U of T, Toastmasters and other people she met at conventions) of Sacha’s friends. Wayne and his daughter, Jessica, came shortly after. There was a stream of friends – some leaving early, some arriving late – but all toasting, praising and congratulating Sacha on her graduation.

It was fun evening. What a full day!

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