On this cold Saturday, hundreds of Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill, right in front of the Peace Tower, to march in solidarity with the people pushing for democracy in Libya and Yemen. The protesters peacefully called for the end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya and a loosening of oppression in Yemen. Despite worrying reports from Libya where violence escalade and demonstrators clash with Gadhafi ‘s brutal security forces, people were optimistic in Ottawa and hoped for a better future.
Monthly Archives: February, 2011
The difference between European coffee and North American coffee can be illustrated by the cup: in the old world, you sit down for hours sipping a concentrate of the precious beverage in a thimble-size cup, a small piece of sugar and a square of dark chocolate in the saucer. In the new world, you line-up for a mega-size of super-hot coffee served in a large disposable paper cup.
I got my first health card in 2005 when I became a permanent resident. This gave me the right to benefit from the many health care services paid for by OHIP, the Ontario Health Assurance Plan. Unfortunately, the card didn’t come with the following warning, which I think should be mandatory: “the quality of care is excellent but good luck accessing the system”.
We came back to Canada just in time to take a peek at the 2011 edition of the Winterlude, our yearly winter festival. This was Winterlude’s last week-end and even though some ice sculptures partially melted because of a warmer weather spell last week, the crowd was here.
Coming back from the tropics reminded me how harsh winter in Canada can be, and how hard it can be to adapt to this unique challenge. Yet, because I’ve been living there for a few years, I’m prepared and within a few minutes of landing in Ottawa, I was wearing my full winter armour, complete with gloves and a hat.
Language is highly cultural. Grammar and spelling can be taught at school but some vocabulary can only be learned in the street or even—gasp!—watching T.V.
In my first few years in Canada, immersed in the culture, I learned a lot of words and expressions I wouldn’t have found in grammar books.
Coming from Australia, where food was expensive and not exactly haute-cuisine, South-East Asia was a foodie’s paradise. First, food is cheap by world standard and simple meal usually cost under $5. Second, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have a “street food” tradition and numerous hawkers offer local delicacies on-the-go. Finally, the blend of flavours was simply amazing, from Thai curry to Penang’s Nasi Lemak.
We left Singapore on Tuesday evening and arrived in Sydney early morning on Wednesday. We barely slept in the plane (note to self: budget airlines suck for long-distance trips). The F1 Hotel we had booked in Kings Cross looked like a halfway house: the shower was a trickle of water, the window was busted and there were cigarettes burns everywhere. Both exhausted, we headed to Bondi Beach for a last look.
I love taking pictures of signs because they tell so much about a country. For instance, Canada’s bilingual “stop-arrêt” sign is unique, and so are the many weather-related warnings, “ice falling” being my favourite.
During our trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I collected various signs.
Singaporeans seem to have two main activities: shopping and dining. When you are done shopping, you grab a bite and when you are done eating, you go for a walk with your credit card in hand for some exercise. The country is one huge shopping mall and there is food just about anywhere.
I have this theory that everyone should be a minority once in his life. The rich one among the poor, the poor among the rich, the short among the tall and the tall among the short ones etc. Just to experience what being on the other side of the mirror feels like.
Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐！
As China and Chinese communities around the world celebrated the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit on February 2nd, we joined the party in Singapore.
So, did I fall in love with Thailand? I can’t say I did, for a few reasons.
We enjoyed the scenery. The islands in the South, close to Malaysia, were great and people were really nice and helpful. It only got worse close to touristic places and I must admit some tourists behave pretty badly in Thailand where they seem to do things they would never do at home.
Wat Pho, birthplace of traditional Thai massage and home to the imposing Reclining Buddha, Wat Traimit and its five-tons solid gold Buddha image, or Erawan Shrine, nested among Bangkok’s skyscrapers, were all busy with tourists and locals alike.
Asian malls and markets are somewhat of a surreal experience to most Westerners. Upon entering the maze of shops, people usually go through several stages, notably “oh my God everything is so cheap”, “oh my God I have to bring that back home” and “oh my God I need to buy another suitcase to bring all that back home”.
“We are now in Bangkok and we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule” bragged the flight attendant upon landing in the capital. Gee, I would have rather arrived ten minutes late and avoid the near-death experience when touching down.
Along with “Taxi boat? Taxi boat?” and “Tuk tuk? Tuk tuk?”, the ubiquitous call for massage is the most overheard sentence in Thailand, and you will hear it even in your sleep. Massage is both part of most Asian cultures and loved by tourists. The result? There are massage joints at pretty much every corner.