Hello! So I arrived back in Tuk on Friday after a 3 day journey (Edmonton-Whitehorse. Whitehorse-Inuvik. Inuvik-Tuk) to wonderful food and my nice warm bed.
The ice road has officially closed down today, so from now on, all our groceries and everything will be coming via plane. Prices will be going up accordingly. It also means no more day trips to Inuvik for this girl. (Not that I went on very many.)
I have 2 months left at the top of the world. My job with these wonderful kids comes to an end on June 30th and then I'm back to Edmonton, July 2nd, and in Portugal, July 10-25th! In September, I will start working at my new position in Joussard, Alberta teaching kindergarten. It's a beautiful area, right on Slave Lake, but probably not necessarily blog worthy. (3 hours from Edmonton and DV. 45 mins from a Walmart. I know who I am now and what I need.)
When I went up North, I thought I was a certain kind of person, one who can do without and enjoy that lifestyle. While I can certainly do without with a smile on my face, as my 3 months without a working smart phone shows, I don't necessarily enjoy it. Not the way I enjoy Winners or Bulk Barn or Simons or Whyte Ave or West Edmonton Mall or even Walmart.
My mom says that it's good I found myself. But usually when people do that whole Eat Pray Love garbage, the point is finding out all that they can do without and that they are less materialistic than they believed. And it was the opposite for me... So that's ironic. But... I did used to go to Winners or Bulk Barn as my happy place in university. When I walked back into Bulk Barn again, the level of calm that descended over me was like a Xanax. So it's true. I love shopping, I love stuff. I love Ikea and Costco and McDonalds. I love that I got to splurge on my hair and throw out my cheap cosmetics in favour of a shopping spree at Sephora. i love that I got to have my unicorn frappucino and utilize my 2 day Amazon prime shipping. I love going for ice cream or nachos or burgers or sushi with my friends. I love going to Yoga with my DV bestie and hanging out with my YEG besties and the world's cutest freaking dog and going shopping on 124th. I love walking across town for ice cream and catching up with my little sister and all the TV we've missed. I have to remember that I do have a diploma in Fashion Marketing and that I love it. I'm not Laura Ingalls, but I'm not Becky Bloomwood either. I'm a small town girl with big city tastes. But that city is more Edmonton than NYC.
I love Edmonton because no one will ever say Edmonton is the greatest city in the world, or Canada or even Alberta. It's not a city that people are snobby about. A best selling t-shirt reads "Still in Edmonton". People don't take it so seriously like Vancouverites or Torontonians. It's a weird little city with ridiculous architecture and horrendous city planning, but there is always something to do and amazing restaurants appear out of nowhere. And if you're in Edmonton, my favourite restaurants are on top of each other: El Cortez and Have Mercy. I also love the Sugarbowl like most former UofA students, and Maki Maki and A-Plus for cheap quick asian eats.
City girl in my city clothes in my amazing airbnb. If you want to go to Edmonton and want an amazing home base close to Whyte Ave (like 5 minute walk) You need to rent Brett's Airbnb! If you don't have an airbnb account already, sign up with my referral code so we can both get some travel credit!
I'm clearly a mallrat. I need my side pony and scrunchie to really complete the look of a girl who genuinely enjoys wasting time and loitering at the mall even when she's not shopping...
My Whyte Ave haul. Books, dress, vest, sorbet and kombucha.
Unicorn Frappucino at the Edmonton airport on the way back to Tuk.
Blueberry and Lychee ic cream from the new ice cream store in Drayton Valley.
So with 2 months left here, what would you like to see or hear about? Keeping in mind that I'm a teacher and have to maintain a certain image. (So no bikinis on the Arctic Ocean, unfortunately.)
Please comment below using Facebook comments or through the contact page and I'll use you suggestions to guide my photos and adventures!
Presented with minimal edits from August 1st, 2009. Please remember that I was 15.
WARNING: VERY IMAGE HEAVY.
It was a great trip. I mean, I ate nearly nothing because I couldn't stand the food. And the heat and humidity in Shanghai was unbearable (Think upwards of 50 including humidity) the 2nd hottest day in 137 yrs occured. Technically it only ever reaches 40, cos if it's over 40 they have to let the workers go home. But it was WAY over. But we were also there for the eclipse, which was super cool, even though I had a migraine and was sick. I climbed the great wall. (only a little tiny bit because I completely wrecked my knees a few days before climbing up uneven steps at the Tiger Running well or something. Like seriously, they were shaking wibbering jelly, I could barely stand while walking down the steps. It was the worst I'd ever been at. So there was no way I'd be stupid enough to tempt the completely uneven and 2ft tall steps of the wall. Especially because my doctor told me to avoid stairs. (I didn't know how many stairs there were at this spring. Everyone made it sound like it was nothing, but it attempted to murder me.)
Now we're in Hangzhou at the Tiger Running springs. Apparently you can get the best water ever here.
My dad and I on the reclining Buddha. This is carved into a cliff
Climbing up these steps to see the view. Except they went on forever and were completely uneven! I destroyed my knees going down, I couldn't actually stand up, I wrecked them so bad. They were shaking like they were having a seizure or something. And then afterwards I got sick. yay. Seriously hiking in stupid degree weather in humidity so hot it's like climbing in a steam room only worse is the worst idea ever.
Once I got down. Totally destroyed. I think my one leg is actually blurry it was shaking so much.
The Teachers run the gammut between Rude and nice. Some would be fine untill I revealed my age (They thought I was 19, 20, not 15) and then, BAM patronizing. It was all, oh you're so much like my daughter, that's a compliment by the way. And oh, are you sure you don't want to drink? (They were all drinking. There'd be two free bottles of beer with every meal and one glass of coke. I, and this one really nice guy, Marc, would have one glass of coke. And by the end of the meal there'd be ten bottles of beer on the table. At Lunch and Dinner. They'd drink in their rooms, on the bus, it was constant.) "My son drinks, if I left him at home there'd be such a party, I bet the same with you." Which, for me is like, uh... no. But they don't listen when you say, I don't like the taste, or I don't want my mind altered or what have you (Because, my god, Teetotaler and Straight edge sound so lame!) And they were so rude, they would never listen to the tour guides and would constantly whine and shop.
There was one woman who was always all, LETS DO AN ACTIVITY, a superintendent, she'd also correct the tour guides with false info.
When I was wearing my headscarf to keep cool at Tiananmen, the one younger girl was like, Why would you wear that and not a hat? And it was like DUH? I just said it keeps me cool and wicks away sweat and prevents burns, unlike a hat with a 1 inch brim (which is what she was wearing) and her mom would just GLARE at me when I wore it It's not like I was wearing it like anything close to a hijab, I just wore it as like a glamour headscarf with my Audrey Hepburn sunglasses. Far more Jackie O than Jackie (insert middle eastern sounding O last name) So either she thought I was being a diva like my dad said, or she's just stupid not to realize there's more than one way to wear a scarf on your head. Whatever, I looked fab.
The joys of crepe headscarves. It was my belt. Seriously though, it kept me so cool and wicked away the sweat and prevented burns. I <3 it In the Forbidden City
There were a lot of beggars at the Forbidden City. It was really frustrating to look up at the roofs that had just been recovered in gold leaf for the Olympics and then to look down at the horribly disfigured beggars and children. It reminded me of when we were at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and you watched this church that had been being built for ever, all this money going into a building, while it was surrounded by the poor and homeless, who would likely go and donate most of the money right back into the church. Ostentatious displays of wealth by church and state bother me, especially when it's plainly juxtaposed against their neglected most vulnerable peoples. I drew quite a bit while I was there and while I was drawing in the coffee shop at the great wall, all these Chinese girls like swarmed me while I was showing Mary my art and were pointing and gasping and giggling. I said it was like my ComicCon experience, only totally not. Dad was pissed because they blocked his way to the coffee machine and he'd just gotten down from the top. He wanted me to give them one of my pictures. But I like them all too much.
I CLIMBED THE GREAT WALL!!! This high anyway. After I busted my knees earlier I wasn't going to be an idiot and do it again. My dad went to the top in under 35 minutes. Some of the steps were two foot high blocks followed by 1 inch steps. Also, I totally made that shirt.
Photos from the Great Wall, including No.1 Parking Lots (everything in China is Number One)
I looked great though, I lost ten pounds (according to different Chinese scales. according to Canadian I lost none) and have a collarbone now. Granted it was cos I sweated the little bit I ate away, but I look great. My hair was so very red and I never got any colour in my skin, so the Chinese were just amazed, I kept realizing they were taking pictures of me, which totally weirded me out. Only one actually asked to have their picture taken with me. The tour guide asked me my ancestry for why I had such white skin
(Icelandic/Ukranian/English/French/whatevs. I'm Canadian, we're mutts. I said Icelandic though (Future Note: I kind of enjoy identifying as Scandi-Scotch now, I'm most in touch with my Icelandic roots, but I'm pretty sure my blood is majority Scottish from both sides)) Also, I wore all my shirts I designed, the ladies adored them and were amazed that I'd made them, they all said I should continue with Art and Fashion. (The annoying ones said I'll be a teacher, which I WON'T BE DAMMIT) (Future Note: AHAHAHAHA. It's like I say, I was very fortunate to achieve my childhood dream of not being a teacher for 22 years.)
In the Shanghai market with their Expo mascot. Who looks like Gumby. Right after this picture was taken, this old lady asked my dad if she could take a picture of me with her granddaughter. That whole day I'd notice people randomly taking my photo without asking and smiling afterwards. This one guy with a massive paparrazi camera followed me around at one point. A blonde woman on our tour and one who looked just like Kirsten Dunst got photos too. (Future note: She looked nothing like Kirsten Dunst. But apparently whenever she travels to countries in Asia or Africa people think she's Kirsten Dunst.) Our hotels were all 4/5 star. Really amazing. The bulk of the trip was spent in the v. uncomfy buses because Shanghai traffic sucks!!! Srsly, I swear they think that the lines on the road and the signs and such are just there for decoration. They are the worst drivers! The buses had ridges on the back of the seats, which I swear were designed to rip your knee caps off. They were air-conditioned though. So...
The rest was in special sites and factories. Like we'd take ten minutes to learn what they do and see examples (never the actual sweatshop/factory) and then 90 minutes in the guest shop.
We went to a Kung Fu show. I had my leg up too, I wasn't just being Spider-man. It was very dancy.
We took a rickshaw tour around old Shanghai
In the Silk factory in Suzhou. They use the double silk worm cocoons to make comforters. They boil them to kill the larva and then rip them apart. Then they stretch them over a little hoop, then soak them, then over a big hoop, then stretch them like me and some of our tour group are doing here. They're really stiff, it's crazy that one inch high coccoon can be stretched the size of a bed. The comforter (bit that goes in your duvet) is super soft and light and hypoallergenic. In the same place they told us that the Chinese think it's healthy and lucky to sleep on pillows stuffed with silkworm poop.
Lighting the silk on fire to prove it's real silk.
Silk worm. Dad ate a chocolate covered one.
We went to a Silk factory and my dad bought a comforter, like what goes in your duvet, but instead of feathers, it's raw silk. It was surprisingly cheap, cheaper than feather ones at home, and is v. light and cool and hypoallergenic. We went to a Jade factory, but the factory was closed so we learned a little about living jade and history and colours and things and then 90 mins in the gift shop. I think Jade looks tacky, so I wasn't that interested in the shopping bit. We went to a tea farm. We bought some Emperor White tea, the type they don't even export and if they do it's upwards of 300 dollars. It tastes like meat.
We went to a pearl factory and oh my god, the amount of times the woman mentioned credit cards, I wanted to punch her in the face. I have pearls at home, and like really nice ones too that I was given/inherited.
We went to a embroidery school, it's amazing how like realistic and insane it is. The goldfish ones looked like they were really in water. The panda ones looked like they were on acid though.
But there was a sign saying no Picturing or Photographing. wtf. Chinglish is either funny or annoying. I mean how much would it cost to hire a freelance proof reader for your signs? Honestly. There was one that said "Vst aprj civilsation frbld" and that was the english translation... There were also vaguely threatening ones like "keep off grass for sake of life."
This translation is fine, it's just a really shockingly beautiful Recycling bin.
There was one, not really Chinglish but in the Olympic Village that said, "Beautiful art comes from your kind soul". I laughed and said to my dad, "So where does mine come from?" Without missing a beat he replied, "Someone else's." (Future note: Yes, edgy 15 year old filled with self loathing and anxiety, do not miss those days)
The one time I used an umbrella like a parasol.
(Future Note: This is a very rare photograph of me with an umbrella. After walking through pre-tornado rains without an umbrella in Columbus in 2012, I declared umbrellas useless pokey garbage and never used one again. Including when I lived in Vancouver. I still think umbrellas are useless pokey garbage, but if I go somewhere sunny I may buy an actual parasol.)
The school we visited for the conference had 4000 students and it's own observatory. It was called "The No. 1 Middle School of Nantong, Jiangsu". classes are between 50 and 100 people with one teacher. I did papercutting and calligraphy (which I SUCKED at) while my dad was in the conferences, lots of teachers skipped the second session to do calligraphy, which I found incredibly rude.
They had one day to learn and they refused. They'd never let their students skip their lesson to do something else because they thought it was boring. But that's how they decided to represent their school and country. The closing ceremonies of the conference: They brought all the preforming kids back from summer holidays and it was quite impressive. The English play was horrible and you couldn't understand them, and the English songs made my ears bleed, but their dancing and kung fu and music and weird cheerleading thing was amazing, I swear they must have had a visit from the Joker beforehand to obtain their permasmiles tho...
And it was all under such HOT lights (We went on stage after for a group photo) A bunch of teachers would shake their hands and give them Canadian flags and pins when we went up on stage afterwards. And I had no idea what to do, so I shook hands too, even though they weren't really sure why. Some were speaking to them in English and trying to have a conversation, and, well they know English, it's like a Huge thing, you can't graduate university or high school without an English proficiency exam, but with our accents and the amount of noise and everything, they kind of just smiled wider and nodded and tried not to look confused.
The Watchmen were insane tho. EVERYWHERE someone would pop up trying to sell you a fake Rolex or other types of watches out of a briefcase or some other type of crap. You'd be siting down and one would pop up behind you from a chain link fence. I'm so amazed I didn't punch any of them. If you said NO or put a hand in their face, they would leave you alone, but everyone else would be interested and so they wouldn't LEAVE! There were flyermen in the Shanghai market and apparently, when you follow them, they take you through back alleys and secret passageways where you knock three times and then a hidden door opens and is replaced by another door and then you're taken into a warehouse and locked in and they place a call after you've said what you want and a motorcycle courier shows up with it five minutes later. I didn't do it, but others on the trip, like Marc and David did. I was a bit Jealous, it sounds creepy as hell, and I'd only do it in a group. But Mad adventuresome too.
CRAZY EYES! In the Beijing market after drinking my macchiato at Starbucks. The sellers are vicious and nuts. I bought a bracelet, a spiderman thing for Philippa and a gift for Cami. My dad got a knock off Chopard watch for my mom.
(Future Note: This picture is after I had a massive panic attack. Turns out I didn't deal too well with people jumping out at me, yelling and touching me and badgering me to buy things. My Dad calmed me down and we started treating it like a videogame. We'd see how many we could get by with out being touched, and then when we'd be at the booth to buy something, I'd say I only have a little bit of money from my dad and while I talked to them, my dad would look at the book they recorded their sales in, to see how low they already had gone and therefore how low they would go. He made it fun and I left having enjoyed myself. The knock off Chopard watch was one that my mom had seen in Switzerland in 1986 and wanted so bad (it had the dancing diamonds in it) but knew she'd never be able to afford it, but maybe one day. So when my dad saw the knock off, he had to get it for her. It's sweet. He got himself a "Mickey Mao-se" watch as he calls it, a few of them actually. Mao's saluting hand does the hour. When we were at the Forbidden City, right when we entered, one of the guys on our tour saw a watch guy with a watch he liked but he wanted 5 of them. The guy said not to worry, he'd get more and find him later. Which like... It's China, there are a lot of people, we'll never see him again. Sure enough, when we exited the Forbidden City, the watch guy was there smiling with the 5 watches!)
The Fashion was amazing, especially in Shanghai, Girls in like fifties/forties cut dresses everywhere and high heels looking fantastic and no fat people to be found (I mean, you can't actually be fat or you'd die of heat exhaustion or become a mushroom farm with the sweat) Ooh, grocery store story. We were buying Crackers because I need Carbs. And Stoned Wheat Thins (the king of all crackers and the cure to all munchies) are a Canadian thing. And so we look up and all the aisles are labelled in English, and this isn't a tourist spot. So there's the Soup aisle and the Candy aisle and the Crack aisle. Yep, the Crack Aisle. It explained a lot. When we went to the checkout the girl held up a bag and my dad said No. and she was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! and laughed, and the other clerks were like NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! back and laughed. No must mean something hilarious in China. My dad was also mispronouncing the way you say Thank You in China, in a way that meant he was calling everyone short. He's 6 foot. They were not impressed, they did something nice and then the ginger giant made fun of their height!)
Grocery store pictures!:
Also, they think Disneyland and crap travelling fairs are the same thing. There was a crap looking travelling Fair we saw that looked slightly dangerous and the tour guide said look! Chinese Disneyland!!! It made Calaway Park look legit. (Future note: based on googling this place it's clearly not a travelling fair, but from the window of a bus, it looked like one, and of course now they have a real Disneyland in Shanghai and it's pretty cool. Not as cool as the Hong Kong or Tokyo ones, but pretty neat. (Seriously look at videos of the Mystic Manor ride in Hong Kong...) ) They did try to build a Disneyland type thing outside of Beijing, but it's only like 1/4 completed and the money ran out two years ago. So like the castle would be all framed but only half covered.
Tianamen and Forbidden city and all those historical sites were really neat to see. I'd decided to go in blind, without doing research beforehand, just to see what the Chinese/official perspective was. They said that the images and video of the tank man are banned and they have never viewed them, only heard of them. The bloody history was casually never ever mentioned or made reference to other than that. When they'd mention Tibet, they'd gloss over it and make them sound like barbarians and if you weren't aware of it, you'd never know there was massacres going on. The censorship was really quite amazing. CNN Asia, was obviously a hotel only type thing, same with HBO and the other English type channels. On the internet, facebook, youtube and twitter were the main things that I noticed to be blocked. And Wiki is selectively blocked, the page on Tianamen Square for instance. Emails take a long time to send and pictures take a very long time to upload. Especially to email. You know you're being watched. The gov't buildings are covered with satellite recievers and antennaes. And it's rare to see someone who isn't smiling while preforming or on TV. Lots of smiles. The old houses are allowed to decay and fall apart while new shiny skyscrapers are built directly behind or on top of them, some are hidden by billboards. The apartments soon grow mould on the outside and are covered with laundry, many windows are broken or cracked, Shanghai especially, you look up and it's a sparkling Metropolis, you look down and it's a sad, shabby, decrepit city. It was a really weird experience, it definitely is like another world, the censorship, the denial, the incredibly visible divide between rich and poor. According to our tourguide, there are no drug problems because no one can afford them, yet people afford Buicks and Bentleys and lots of clothing, so obviously they do have money, they didn't try to cover up the fact that there's crime as much, but if you only listened to the tour guides, untill the last day anyway, you'd think the only crimes committed were copyright infringement. It's a weird and wacky place, China. I'm glad it was only two weeks. I would have starved to death otherwise.
The Oriental Pearl Tower and some city pictures:
Also there is a stupid amount of KFCs there. I think Pepsico owns half of China. There's even Dairy Queens. And I discovered the joy of Burger King Chicken Tenders. They have mango chicken burgers at Mickey D's which I shied away from. I'm sure they're lovely tho..."
Solar Eclipse and West Lake.