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!


Edmonton transportation: videos

It’s interesting to watch videos and TV shows that are filmed in your hometown, when you can recognize many of the landmarks and objects in the video.  Here are some videos that were filmed in Edmonton.  They are very useful for reviewing a lot of the vocabulary that relates to different kinds of transportation.  Enjoy!

Edmonton Airport Below Zero

The TV show was all filmed during one day at Edmonton International Airport, and shows many of the different problems that happen at an airport.

Martin Kerr’s music video was all filmed on the LRT train system in Edmonton, as well as at some stations.  People from Edmonton should be able to recognize many familiar locations.

Edmonton Bike Swap & Edmonton Bikeworks



The fourth annual Edmonton Bike Swap is on May 9th, 2015 at Northlands Hall A at 7515 118 Ave NW.

Bike intake 8:00-2:00PM

Sale from 2:30-4:00PM

Please consider donating bicycles at this event. We are collecting children’s bicycles at this event for some fantastic local groups.

Riding a bicycle serves so many purposes!  You can get fit, save money, have transportation and make friends!  Here in Edmonton, we are so lucky to have the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters with 2 locations in the city.  Volunteers take used bicycles and prepare them to sell to you for a very reasonable price.  After my expensive bike was stolen, I bought a bike there for the price of 1 bus pass.  3 years later, I’m still riding it almost every day!  There will be a huge selection of bicycles at this one-day event, and it’s probably the best place to go, if you want a good-quality used bicycle at an affordable price.  If you miss the sale, go to Bikeworks, look for bikes on Kijiji, or you can even buy a new bicycle.  Whatever you decide, I don’t think you’ll regret your choice!


Traveling Internationally? Do These 20 Things First | Travelzoo

Traveling Internationally? Do These 20 Things First | Travelzoo.

There are some very good tips for travel planning here.  Something else that I often think about is the location of flight transfers.  I really prefer to arrange about 2 hours for my flight transfers, so that I have time to walk around, take a bathroom break, pick up something to eat, and look at what’s different.  Some airports, like Seattle, are very comfortable, with excellent services, like a seated massage, and delicious food.  I can relax more on my flights, if I know that I have a little extra time to make my connections.  What about you?  What’s important.

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!

Focus on your goal, not on obstacles! HCMC crazy traffic video

When we work towards a goal, it can be very easy to focus on all of the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of achieving your goal.  I often hear people start by saying “I should…”, and soon after that, they will say “Yeah, but…”.  No matter what we want to achieve, there will always be things that make it difficult.  Keep in mind that whatever you focus on will become bigger, and that will be what you put your energy towards.  Therefore, it’s necessary to have a very clear view of where we want to go, and to keep focussing on that goal, not on the obstacles.  Here’s a great blog post that explains this idea in more detail.

After reading the blog, watch the video of the crazy Ho Chi Minh City traffic.  I love this video, because it really demonstrates the energy and enthusiasm of Viet Nam.  To a North American, the traffic just looks like insanity, and it seems impossible that there aren’t fatal accidents all over the city.  There are fatal accidents, however, within the city, the traffic flow is usually amazingly smooth, amid the chaos.  I know this firsthand, because I biked everywhere around the city on my bicycle during my 3 years in Viet Nam.  I only broke one little pinky finger in all of that time!  Everyone focusses on where they are headed, and they (almost always) flow around obstacles like water flowing around a rock.

<p><a href=”″>Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam</a> from <a href=”″>Rob Whitworth</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What can you do to increase your focus on your goals, and to avoid obstacles that interfere?


Videos about environmental issues

You can improve your academic vocabulary and also your knowledge by watching videos about environmental issues.  The Canadian video addresses the issue of importing food, versus eating locally, and all of the waste and costs associated with this practice.  The video in Viet Nam (watch Dirty Water, Dangerous Fish on Vimeo) shows the practices for fish farming in that region, a practice that is associated with many environmental and health concerns.  I recommend that you watch each video once to get the main idea, before trying to analyze the vocabulary and content in more detail.



A fun airline safety video

Virgin Airlines noticed that most passengers ignored the safety demonstrations, although the instructions are very important.  They made this very entertaining video, to help passengers to pay attention.

If you watch it, you can learn a lot of the important vocabulary for air travel.


Victoria, Vancouver Island Vacation Visit

This gallery contains 57 photos.

One of the literary techniques that we learn about in English classes for native English speakers is “alliteration”, using the same starting letter for a series of words in your writing.  I used a lot of Vs in my title, … Continue reading

GREAT air flight safety video!

In my regular classes, we study a lot about travel vocabulary, and often, when you travel, that’s when you really need English.  Here’s a video you can watch again and again to enjoy the singing and dancing, while you learn all of the important safety information that you hope you will never need when you fly.  Enjoy!

Camping with a canoe: Photos, Rocky Mountain House-Drayton Valley, Alberta

Canoeing and Camping photos: see the previous post to see the story that goes with the photos.  These were taken by me, as well as by other group members.


Camping with a canoe #2: Rocky Mountain House to Drayton Valley

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Canoeing and Camping from Rocky Mountain House-Drayton Valley, AB August 31-September 2/2013 I previously posted about my first canoe trip as an independent adult, during July, on Maligne Lake.  When that trip finished, I thought that would be my last … Continue reading