Two nights in Manila

If you can visit another country, you should do it! I had the chance for a very short visit to Manila in the Philippines and it was really interesting. My friend and I visited Guam Island for a week and we transferred planes in Manila so it didn’t cost any more money to stay there for 2 nights.  We stayed at a hostel near the airport and we arrived pretty late in the evening. The next day, we spent the whole day looking around Intramuros, an old Spanish walled city, the museum and main park, as well as Mall of Asia (a lot like West Edmonton Mall)!  We travelled by jeepney, which was very cheap, to get around the city. We saw very poor areas and we also took a train to visit a big mall with very expensive stores. There was a lot of history in the city and there were also many American businesses. I was very surprised to see so many guns because every business and building had guards with guns. For a short trip, I saw a lot!

Canoeing the Athabasca River: Fort Assiniboine-Vega Ferry #2

I paddled this stretch of river in 2014, and really enjoyed the area.  It’s a good, easy river run, relatively close to Edmonton, but very peaceful, once you’re on the river.  I invited members of my outdoors club to join me this year.  There were some folks who are usually hikers but who wanted to try paddling. Most people on the trip had a fair amount of previous paddling experience. We made the trip with 8 people in 4 canoes, which was a perfect number for staying together and moving along.

There is a really decent municipal campground adjacent to Vega (Klondyke or Klondike) Ferry. We camped both nights at the campground for $12/site, and there was firewood and a cook shelter available. Most of us gathered at the A&Ws in Barrhead, where we could also purchase food & beverages nearby.  There was a worry about how high and fast the river might be, so we met at the bridge near Fort Assiniboine to assess. The group decided that things looked manageable, so we locked up our canoes by the bridge, before proceeding to our campsites. Saturday morning we started out fairly early, returning to the put-in with 2 vehicles.

Most of the day on the water was very pleasant.  Although there were dark clouds on both sides of the river a lot of the day, there was no heavy rain or lightning. The speed of the river kept us moving at a comfortable pace. We spotted deer and moose along the river, eagles, and assorted other birds and wildlife. As we neared our destination, the wind picked up and we had to work very hard to keep moving forward for about 30-45 minutes. Luckily, the wind died down again and we reached the campground with plenty of time to relax and fix dinner.  Some of us returned to pick up our vehicles from the put-in, and I enjoyed the old-time general store and lovely coffee shop in Fort Assiniboine.  Some of the group checked out a short hike in the morning. My trip partner had an injured ankle, so we explored the discount stores and

On Sunday, some of the group checked out a short hike in the morning. My trip partner had an injured ankle, so we explored the discount stores and Pokestops of Westlock on the way back to Edmonton. There were hearty, healthy lunch dishes available at the grocery store.  It was lovely to watch the crops and livestock along the highway. An excellent weekend adventure!

First visit to China: 2008

The city wall in Xi-An is 10 kilometres long, and in good condition for walking or cycling around

When I was young, my family lived in Thailand for 2 years, in Southeast Asia.  It was very strange and difficult to live in a foreign country, but it was also very interesting to learn about new cultures, languages, foods, and environments.  I always wanted to spend time in foreign countries after that, but I didn’t want to make a quick trip to a country that’s a long way from home.  In 2008, my daughter was invited to visit China with a family that she worked for, and she suggested that I also come along.  I was already thinking hard about teaching ESL in another country, so I decided that the time was right to visit China, and then to move to another country (Viet Nam) for teaching.  We visited in May 2008, a few months before the Olympic Games were held in Beijing.  As well as Beijing, I really wanted to visit Xi’An, to see the terra cotta warriors as well as the many ancient historical sites there.  We planned to fly to China on Air China, because the prices from Asian travel agents were very low for return airfare.  In fact, I was able to spend 2 weeks in China on my way to Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, without paying any extra money for the stopover.

We flew first to Vancouver and waited for our flight, and then we spent 13 hours of night in the air, arriving at Beijing on the previous day!  They fed us 3 huge meals, and when it was time to land over the hills surrounding Beijing, I was sick to my stomach.  The airport is very big, with trains connecting the terminals.  We had a small bus that met us at the airport.  I brought my bicycle with me to Viet Nam, and we also had 8 people and a wheelchair to manage.  The travel agent in China made excellent arrangements for us to stay in furnished apartments in a central location, and she also helped us with any extra activities that we wanted to do.  This included trips to the Great Wall (one group to Badaling, and the other group from Jinshanling to Simatai), a hutong tour, the Beijing Acrobats, and all of our travel to Xi’An.  It was excellent to have so many options, but we didn’t have to travel in a big tour group.

Soon after we arrived, we visited Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the Silk Market.  Everything was pretty amazing to be able to see in person.  One of the things that we learned quickly was that Beijing food was not very delicious, to any of us.  Most food was very heavy and oily, with a strange spice.  Some of us ate most meals at McDonalds or KFC.  I bought groceries from the store in the basement of our building, as well as some cooking utensils, so that I could eat familiar and delicious food.  One of my favourite experiences was visiting a dumpling restaurant, where there was a fantastic selection of freshly prepared dumplings, but this was in a different area from where we stayed.  A hotpot meal was another great meal during our stay.

After a few days in Beijing, most of us took the overnight train to Xi’An, the ancient capital city of China.  For me, these full 2 days were really amazing!  We had a fantastic tour director, Ting, who was an English graduate from university.  We also had a minibus and driver, which meant that we could easily get to many amazing destinations.  It’s hard for me to recall all of the attractions that we visited, because there were so many, and they were all very interesting, for different reasons.  Of course, the highlight was the terra cotta warriors, thousands of individually made, life-sized warriors that were buried for centuries.  The farmer who accidentally discovered them on his land was still visiting the gift shop regularly, but he didn’t want to be photographed.  The scale of this are is so enormous that it’s difficult to imagine how many sculptures were created by the emperor at the time.  Another hill nearby is believed to contain many valuable treasures, but it’s believed to be very dangerous to disturb.  We visited a maternal village that had been buried in a mudslide, with everyone intact.  An ancient bathhouse that had belonged to an emperor was outside the city.  The city wall was really impressive, since it still surrounds the central city and is 10 kilometres in total length.  We needed to manually carry the wheelchair and user up to the wall, in order to enjoy it, since there’s no elevator there.  It’s possible to rent bicycles to ride around the wall.

Other sites we visited included a temple of literature, where ancient writing was carved into stone, for students to visit and study.  The provincial museum had beautiful examples of early ceramics and military equipment.  The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Great Mosque were both very interesting places to visit.  We greatly enjoyed visiting many places where artworks were produced, and the market in the Muslim district was a great place to try tea and see different tea sets.  The food was excellent everywhere we went, and the quantity was amazing.  Ting was such a warm and knowledgeable guide that we all cried when it was time to leave her.  We returned to Beijing by the very comfortable high-speed night train.

I’ll write another post about the last part of our stay in Beijing.  I took a huge number of photos in China, and I also got copies of the photos that the other people in our group took!

In Flanders Field, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae


In Flanders Fields: Remembrance Day

In Flanders Field, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

This coming weekend (Monday) the country will celebrate Remembrance Day, to honour the war veterans who fought and died, especially in the First and Second World Wars.  Canadians fought very hard in both wars, and many were killed.  You can see many people wearing the red poppy on their coats at this time of year, and it represents the overseas graveyards where many of the soldiers were buried.  The story about this poem is an interesting one.

World maps with information

I love maps, all kinds of maps!

This is very interesting, with many different maps that give you ideas about what the world is like now.

My computer is being repaired right now, so I can’t choose a photo to go with this post, but click the link, it’s interesting.

Town of Stony Plain, Alberta, featured on US TV

On the small-town Main Street in Stony Plain

On the small-town Main Street in Stony Plain

Stony Plain is the town where I raised my kids, and it’s where I lived and worked for 14 years.  This video shows many of the features of the town.  Although it’s growing rapidly (doubled in size during the last decade), the town council has worked very hard to keep the feeling of a small town.  It was something that I really appreciated about living there