Friday, December 9, 2016

Saint John, NB

--Sorry for the delay in getting this posted! I had it mostly finished in November but had to stop to work on an assignment and only remembered I never published it until today!--

The day began with us all struggling to wake up to our stupidly early alarm clocks. But we rallied and made it to the hotel breakfast by 8:30. The hotel's manager is Korean and he was excited to talk to Christine about things and events going on back in South Korea. I was able to pick up a couple words here and there, but sadly I've lost a lot of my ability with the language in the two years since my last Korean class.

After our conversation and breakfast, we left the hotel by 9 and headed for downtown Saint John. I attempted to parallel park for about two minutes before giving up and heading for the safety of a parking garage (which turned out to be the better plan since we didn't leave until the evening and would have had to worry about feeding in quarters all day long had we parked on the street).

We then walked to the historic (and happily indoors) City Market. Its been around since the 1830's and today hosts a number of food and craft vendors. It reminded me a bit of a small-scale Canton (a super fun shopping adventure in Texas) and I roamed the booths looking for some truly unique souvenirs (success!).

A view of the City Market, open year round!

Following our time at the market we perused the downtown area. We passed the King's Square Park that had a lovely memorial to fallen soldiers, still decorated with many red poppies in honor of Remembrance Day. We also looked in on some of the city's old churches (My friend Wakana has a keen interest in their architecture) and admired their unique and beautiful designs. In our walk, we also stumbled upon the old Loyalist House. Though usually open for tours, it was closed for the holiday weekend. Still, it was fascinating to see a structure that housed some of America's (and Canada's) first citizens.

Outside view of the Loyalist House

Next, we walked back to the Market Square. This is different from the City Market and houses many stores, restaurants and the New Brunswick Museum. We shopped for a while then had a quick lunch at Grannan's Seafood Restaurant where I had the fish 'n chips but wished I'd ordered the lobster rolls (my friend, Ruby, got them and they looked delicious).

It also had this adorable library we browsed through. I was irrationally tempted to sign up for a library card.

The last half of our day was then spent in the New Brunswick Museum. The facility houses numerous and diverse exhibits and I highly recommend it if you're ever in Saint John, NB. The first floor holds a display about the history of Saint John, from its founding to the present as well as an exhibit on the history of the various ship and seafaring exhibitions launched from NB. The second floor has probably the most popular of all the exhibits, the Hall of Great Whales. A number of whale skeletons are on display (including a 13 meter Right whale skeleton) as well as information about the historic whaling market and the more recent tourism market based around the animal.

There's also an immense exhibit that takes you through the many ages of geological time, fossils showcased along the way. Another room houses a display on the history of Nursing in Canada (made me think of a good family friend!). A temporary display detailed the culture of death and funerals in Canada, varying between cultures and religions (little creepy but very interesting). There's also a space entirely devoted to kids where they can be creative and get personally involved with the science and history of the museum. Finally, the third floor houses Canadian and international art. All in all, we spent about 3 hours at the museum but I could go back and spend another day, no problem!

Our day ended with another stroll through downtown Saint John. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant, Taco Pica's where I ordered the chimichangas (in honor of grandma's favorite dish!). All of my friends, being from East Asian countries, have little experience with Mexican cuisine, so I tried to explain some of the dishes they were considering ordering...I don't know how helpful I was but we all enjoyed our meals immensely (though I really missed the US tradition of free chips and salsa. I almost didn't know what to do with all that time between ordering and getting the meal that would normally be devoted to chips)!

A picture with this moose was inevitable after we stumbled upon him

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hopewell Rocks and Other Adventures

This Friday, Canada celebrated Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day, to the Americans) and the national holiday granted us lucky UPEI students an extra two days off. Four friends and I decided to take full advantage of this long weekend and planned a trip to Saint John, New Brunswick to see the incredible Bay of Fundy and some other awesome sights.

One of the perks of being from the US while in Canada is that my driver's license is still valid, making it possible for me to rent a car and see more of this awesome country. So I began the day by picking up our vehicle from the rental car place (well, it actually began 2 hours before that when I woke up at 6:00...stress from the election has completely thrown off my schedule so that I was in bed before 10:00 the night before, something anyone who knows me can assure you never, ever happens). From there, I went back to campus and met up with my friends and we set out on our journey.

The first adventure of the day arrived in the form of the Confederation Bridge, as I've posted about before, this is an 8 mile long bridge that connects PEI to mainland Canada. The privilege of using this bridge requires a toll payment of $46 (!!!) or you'll never get off the island. After that unexpected expense was taken care of, we started across the strait. Our last experience with the bridge had been less than fun (see Halifax Day Three) so we were all a bit nervous, but the wind stayed low and I set the cruise control and in no time at all, we were entering New Brunswick.

Some of our riveting car-ride antics
(Photo Cred: Asano Wakana)

From there, we drove on to Moncton, NB where we stopped for lunch. After deciding on pizza but no specific restaurant, we stumbled across Piatto's Pizzeria and Enoctea in downtown Moncton and decided to give it a shot. Fancy Italian places, with their unreadable menus, are always a little intimidating but the food turned out to be excellent. I even got adventurous with my pizza and ordered the Dolce e Fumosos topped with a mixture of unpronounceable cheeses, bacon, and a drizzle of honey, yummmm.

After lunch, we headed to Hopewell Rocks. It is located on the Bay of Fundy where you can walk the ocean floor and admire the amazing sedimentary rock cliffs that have been slowly eroded by the never-ending tides.

Me, adventuring out across the, increasingly muddy, ocean floor, sans shoes and socks 
(Photo Cred: Asano Wakana)

Hopewell Rocks is truly astounding

There are a lot of tourist options, such as kayaking and guided tours, that are offered at Hopewell during the summer season, but most of these are closed down by the end of October. We were a little worried this meant the entirety of Hopewell would be closed, but happily, people are still free to explore the area...they just do so at their own risk. After a couple anxious glances at each other, we climbed past the 'warning' signs and joined some other off-season tourists on the ocean floor. A couple fortuitous events coincided to make our time there awesome- the sprinkling rain that had been falling since morning subsided, and we arrived almost exactly at low tide. We walked in and around and up and down the ocean floor for over an hour, taking pictures, being silly, and standing in awe of the natural surroundings- from the smallest strand of seaweed to the tallest of the cliffs.

We were only brave enough to try this after watching
 a French-speaking dad and his son do it first

Feeling small in the face of nature
(Photo Cred: Christine Min)

The awesome group from Halifax, reunited!

With most of our daylight drained away with this long detour, we didn't arrive in Saint John until after nightfall. Before heading to our hotel, we stopped downtown at the combined restaurants of Lemongrass Thai and Peppers Pub (a really nice atmosphere and not at all as sketch as 'combo' makes it sound). I convinced our table to order an appetizer of crab cakes as I am determined to get out of my comfort zone with food this trip. They were delicious. We had them devoured in only a couple of minutes and I couldn't even discern an overly seafoody taste. For the main course, I ordered Thai Fried Rice (one of my favorite dishes) and was given a giant portion of delectable food. Luckily, our hotel room comes with a fridge so I will be dining on more than just the continental breakfast's paltry offerings tomorrow.

That's all for this first day in New Brunswick. I will do my best to get a new post up tomorrow, but we've got a full day planned so I might be too exhausted!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fun on Campus

This past week, I attended a few truly varied and fun events on UPEI's campus and thought I would give a brief rundown of them here:

Firstly, on Tuesday the 11th, the well-known Canadian novelist Camilla Gibb visited our campus for a reading from her memoir. In my Canadian Prose class (my favorite of my courses) one of our assigned readings was Gibb's book The Beauty of Humanity Movement. The novel spans multiple generations in Vietnam from the ousting of the French in the 1950's to the present day. I had absolutely loved the book and was extremely excited to meet Ms. Gibbs. The reading was expressive and thought-provoking and made me eager to read more of her work. Afterwards she answered questions and signed people's novels. When it was my turn to have my copy signed, we talked a bit about her novel (she hadn't known that my professor, who had organized her visit, was also teaching one of her novels).

My book signed by Camilla Gibb!

In her memoir, Gibbs visited PEI with a friend. 
The beach above is referenced in her memoir and I was 
lucky enough to get to visit that beach this past weekend. 

The following night, I attended a Harry Potter trivia night hosted by the on-campus pub! Many groups were participating but I joined the English Society's team. We figured we had the contest in the bag, but the hosts, trying to up the difficulty from the previous year's tournament, had made sure to choose extremely difficult questions (What fragrances does Firenze use in his classroom?)! We were also an honest team and nobody googled any answers unlike some other teams with less moral fiber than us. 

Yet despite our loss, our group of English majors had a lot of fun. Conversations ranged from politics (both American and Canadian) to Grey's Anatomy to the wonderful Butterbeer the pub was serving in honor of the trivia night.

Finally, on Saturday, I attended my first ever hockey game featuring the UPEI Panthers versus the Universite de Montreal . As this was also my first time to actually watch hockey outside of a cinematic setting, I went in with absolutely no idea as to the rules of the sport. My two friends I attended the hockey match with were equally clueless and over the course of the game we were more than a little surprised as to what was constituted a foul and what didn't. From one goalie losing his glove in the midst of a pile up, to a player having his stick cracked in half, to players grabbing the puck out of the air with their hands, to a guy who actually threw down his stick in order to go after a member of the opposing team, play continued on, uninterrupted, to our ever raised eyebrows. 

We were only three rows from the glass, guaranteeing excellent 
views whenever the players pushed each other into the walls.

--My friends and I were sitting in a section with a lot of other international students and the first time the puck banged against the high fiber glass walls separating us from the rink, we all jumped back in surprise--
Selfie-time at the rink. During the game we also discussed what 
the most popular sports are in our respective countries 
(US: football. Taiwan: baseball. South Korea: baseball and soccer).

The rink was also very cold and by the end of the first period my toes were feeling rather numb. Still, the game (unlike most sports) held my attention and when what I thought was the final period came to a close, I was surprised at how fast the time had gone by but happy at the thought of leaving the cold rink...except there are three periods in hockey, not two, so I had to settle back down for an additional twenty minutes. Luckily, I got some hot chocolate during this intermission and was sufficiently warmed to continue to cheer on the panthers. They had led for most of the game but in the final five minutes, UdeM scored, leaving us in a tie. Overtime was enacted and in those five minutes, UdeM managed to score again. As soon as that happened, the game was apparently over, even though over three minutes still remained on the clock. It seemed unfair, but by that point it was clear that hockey rules would remain a mystery to me. Still, it was an exciting night and a definite must on the Canadian culture experience scale!  

The panthers may have lost but it was still a great game!

Halifax: the Final Day

I woke to my final day in Halifax with the intent to cram as much as possible into those final few hours as possible. The bus was set to depart at 12:45 we my friends and I were all up by 8 and ready to begin our day. However, the weather had other plans. Over night, the final remnants of hurricane Matthew had descended upon the Maritime provinces with blast of strong wind and rain.

So even though we had planned to begin at the Public Gardens, we had to nix that stop or face a drenching. Instead, we decided to head straight to the Museum of Natural History. It was only about a 15 minute walk from the museum to the hotel, which would have been fine...except for the rain.

Those who know we won't be entirely surprised to hear that I wasn't all that prepared for the rainy weather. I'd left both my jacket and poncho at UPEI and wound up thoroughly soaked in the walk. Some of my friends had the forethought to bring umbrellas and were kind enough to share their shelter, but the wind prevented even the umbrellas from being all that effective in keeping off the rain.

Eventually, we tumbled into the museum, dampened form our efforts but ready to explore its archives. The first room was filled with many live reptiles, amphibians, and even a hive of bees (yay!). The next room held a geological history of Nova Scotia from the time of the dinosaurs and onward. Beautiful bird and mammal specimens are on display here, as well as excavated whale and walrus skeletons.

Beautiful honey bee colony in action!
Some of my friends didn't find the bees as wonderful as me

Encountered my first Canadian moose while in the museum!

Another room depicted the history humans in the province from the First Nations peoples of the Mi'kmaq to the European settlements by the French and the British peoples who began to arrive in the early 1600's.

One of the world's most well-known and on-going treasure hunts takes place in Nova Scotia. 
The mystery of Oak Island continues to enthrall many people, 
including my family, and I knew they'd get a kick out of this exhibit. 

Time sped by in the museum and when we once again ventured out into the (now even sronger) rain storm, we had less than an hour left until we were scheduled to depart. After arriving back at the hotel, changing into wonderfully dry clothes, and checking out, it was time to board the bus and we said goodbye to Halifax.
Rainy day last looks at this great city. 

I assumed our departure would be the end of this post, but I'll add an additional weather-induced anecdote. After a couple hours drive, we arrived at the Confederation Bridge that connects the mainland to Prince Edward Island. Because of the strong winds, our bus was too large to safely make the crossing of the 8 mile bridge. Instead, we pulled into a rest stop and waited over two hours for a troupe of vans to arrive and take our group of 30+ people across. Yet even in the vans, the wind pushed back and forth upon the vehicles as the drivers carefully edged their way across the bridge.

--More than a couple people had a death grip on their seat belts during that crossing!--

But finally, we were all safely back on PEI soil, boarded onto a new bus, and deposited back at UPEI...only about 3 hours later than originally planned.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halifax: Day Two

This was a day that started early and ended late.

My group of friends and I were determined to cram as much into our one full day in Halifax as possible, starting with an early morning trip to the Citadel. The Citadel is an old fort built in 1749 that helped defend Halifax and its surrounding harbor from attacks by the French. When planning out our day's itinerary, I figured an hour would be more than enough time to tour the grounds-- boy, was I wrong. We ended up spending more than two hours at the Citadel and only left because we had to press on to other sites. There are numerous old stone buildings within the walls of the Citadel, practically all of which are open to to explore. Stairs take you to the top of the fort's walls allowing amazing views of the city's harbor. Men and women, dressed in historic uniform, patrol the area, offering information to curious visitors. There are also interactive stations scattered around the citadel, including one where you can dress-up like an 18th century soldier (see embarrassing picture below)! In the middle of all of this is a large two story building in which is housed a museum that depicts Canada's, and more specifically Nova Scotia's, involvement in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.
Me in soldier attire, ready to do battle. 

The museum's room on WWI and Canada's place in it.

After a requisite stop in the gift store, we finally forced ourselves away and headed downtown to tour some of Halifax's historic churches. But, silly us, we had forgotten it was Sunday and ended up just peaking our heads in the doors of St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica (built 1899) and St. Paul's Church (built 1750), admired the architecture and the parishioners, then backed back out into the street. Lucky for us, right across from St. Paul's we stumbled upon a beautiful memorial to fallen Canadian soldiers and the historic city hall.

St. Mary's Basilica

From there we headed to lunch at a restaurant called Bluenose II, recommended by our tour guide from the day before for their excellent sea food. I didn't order any seafood but a couple friends ordered the chowder and said it was delicious, but I was more than happy with my sandwich and yummy sweet potato fries.

After lunch, our real adventure of the day began. Seven of us from our UPEI group decided to book a tour to the small, rural community of Peggy's Cove. The Cove, about an hour outside of Halifax, is famous for being one of the most beautiful spots in Nova Scotia and attracts thousands of tourists every year with its rustic village and rocky shores.

A panorama of Peggy's Cove that can't do justice to its beauty.

From the first few minutes into our journey, I knew it was going to be a success. Somehow, we had locked into an expansive and talkative bus driver who informed us of many different facts throughout our drive (Did you know that on every Canadian McDonald's "M" sign, there is a maple leaf?). He was also a purveyor of groan-worthy jokes that kept us all entertained.

When we arrived at Peggy's Cove our driver reminded us to get back at the bus by 3:20 or be left behind, and also gave us one last warning to not walk on the black rocks  as they are slick and accidental deaths have occurred to less cautionary tourists. Aside from these rocks closest to the sea, visitors are free to climb and explore all about on the smooth rock formations (it reminded me of Elephant Rocks in Missouri, but, you know, with an ocean). I had a lot of fun clambering about, inching to the rock's ledge and simply enjoying the ocean breeze. Atop these rock formation stands Peggy's point light house which is still in use today and purportedly one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada (don't worry, I got a selfie).

That little figure is me! I didn't even know this picture was being taken but I'm so glad it exists! 
Photo cred: Ishibashi Ririka 

This is almost our whole group! 
Photo Cred: Ishibashi Ririka

At 3:16, my friends and I re-boarded the bus and prepared to leave. However, our driver did a head count and discovered that two people from our tour group of 30 were still missing. He waited until 3:23 then shut the doors and started the engine! We looked for the stragglers as we continued out of Peggy's Cove but, alas, they never showed. He informed us it costs about $100 to get a taxi back to Halifax and I was grateful my friends and I had the sense to be punctual!

After we arrived back in Halifax (and after some more dad jokes from our driver) we headed only a few yards over form the bus station to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. By this time, it was already 4:30 and we only had an hour until the museum was set to close at 5:30, so we had to rush through it a bit. Still, I'm very glad we took the time to tour the facility. Not only did it have a talking parrot cawing loudly at visitors at various intervals, but there were exhibits on polar exploration, the Canadian navy's role in war, the days of sailing ships and figureheads, various ship wrecks, deep sea diving, and artifacts recovered from the Titanic. We were there until the very last minute and as we left, I heard the museum staff commenting that the parrot (I forget his name) was very tired after a long day's work and more than ready for bed- and so was I!

I'm (almost) on a boat

Channeling my inner figurehead.

Still, we were determined to press on and we all began the trek across town to the Public Gardens, a 16 acre Victorian era garden free to the public. After we arrived we began to stroll along one of the gardens paths, snapping pictures and admiring the plants. However, only a few minutes into our walk, one of the staff members came up to us and informed us the garden was closing! Our bus driver had told us the Gardens were open until dusk and it seemed to us there was still plenty of daylight until then, but, alas, we had to leave. Still, we planned to return early the next morning in order to fully appreciate the beautiful grounds.
The gate to the Public Gardens.
Doesn't it look tantalizingly pretty?

We ended the day with dinner at Durty Nelly's, an Irish pub. Irish music was playing in the background of the dimly lit pub, creating a cozy atmosphere for us to talk and visit in. I ordered the fish and chips, and it was the best I've ever had, the haddock was fresh and delicious and seemed to just melt in my mouth!

Finally, we trooped back to the hotel and though I had intended to go immediately to sleep, I got distracted with the Presidential Debate. My roommates, who are all from countries other than the US, kept laughing at my frustrated sighs and snorts and I became increasingly fond of the idea of grabbing Justin Trudeau from the Canadians and taking him back to the states.

Anyway. Though exhausting, it was an amazing day in Halifax and I wouldn't change a second of it!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Halifax: Day One

The Canadians think Thanksgiving is in October and that it takes place on a Monday (I don't have the heart to tell them their wrong) which means that I have the lovely privilege of a three day weekend as the country gears up for its national holiday.

What makes this long weekend even better is that UPEI's International Relations Office organized a three day trip for exchange students (since none of us could go home to family and gigantic dinners) to Halifax, Nova Scotia! The city is the capital of Nova Scotia with a long and interesting history and lots of things to see and do. I'll try and cover my trip to Halifax as much as possible, starting with today's adventures.

Our group of about 30 students and our bus driver left UPEI at 8:00AM this morning. (I brought along my pillow,  and many of my friends found this a bit funny- I promptly blamed the weird habit on my older sister who taught me a disdain for hotel pillows from a young age). A bridge connects Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick and within 20 minutes we'd crossed the strait and entered the other province. Only an hour and a half after that, we crossed into Nova Scotia, bringing my total number of provinces visited up to four (my time spent sprinting across the Toronto airport lets me count Ontario). After a quick lunch at a roadside Tim Horton's we arrived in Halifax. Our bus took us to our hotel, but rather then disembarking and checking in, a tour guide hopped on board and we set off around the city.

First views of Halifax and first selfie of the trip!

One of the highlights of the tour was a stop at the Fairview Cemetery. In 1912, the White Star Line shipping company asked the city of Halifax to journey into the arctic ocean in hopes of recovering some of the victims of the Titanic's infamous sinking. As some time had passed since the tragedy, the seamen doubted they'd find anything, but they recovered 328 victims. Some of the bodies were buried at sea, others sent home to families in England and Ireland, and 150 buried in Halifax; 121 buried at Fairview. The graves, laid out in three rows that form the picture of a bow of a ship, were a somber experience and created an amazing link with history. One of the graves is of John Law Hume, one of the heroic musicians who refused to leave his post until the last possible moment, playing on in an attempt to prevent mass panic.

The three rows of graves curve into a bow of the ship. When the wreck of the Titanic was found, it was discovered that the graves lay in the same direction as the bow had fallen in the ocean. 

One of the best known true stories of the Titanic brought to solemn reality before my eyes

After the bus tour we arrived back at the hotel and began the check in process. Though most of our group was able to get into their rooms right away, housekeeping was still busy in four of the rooms leaving some to wait in the lobby for half an hour...go ahead and guess which set I fell into.

Anyway, after me and my roommates were finally able to check in, a group of five of us sat off for the MicMac Mall in Dartmouth. Dartmouth is a city separated from Halifax by a basin. The two cities are connected by a bridge, as well as a ferry and we decided to cross over via the ferry because that just sounded a lot more fun. It was a delightful, 10 minute experience, and I'm sure we entertained the locals with the massive amounts of photographs and selfies being taken on their commonplace mode of transport.
Our group of adventurers on the ferry (photo cred: Ishibashi Ririka) 

The mall was a mall, but I got some good deals on Bath and Body Works soap and stumbled upon the delicious Newfoundland Chocolate Company; Halifax location! Their artisan chocolate tastes wonderful but my true delight came from the cup of hot chocolate I purchased: 3/4 cup base of hot chocolate mix, a dipper full of melted hazelnut milk chocolate stirred in, covered in a blanket of freshly made whip cream, and all topped off with white chocolate shavings. It was as heavenly as it sounds.

We then headed back to the Dartmouth ferry port for a peaceful, twilight cruise across the basin. After our Titanic encounter earlier, there may have been some "king of the world" silliness going on.

The view of Halifax and its twinkling city lights from the ferry

Then we arrived in Halifax and began the arduous process of searching for a place to eat. You know how when you're in a group heading to dinner with no clear place in mind, no one wants to be the one to decide where you're going to eat because you don't want to seem like your placing your wishes above everyone else's? Yeah, that's how we ended up walking around downtown Halifax's restaurant scene for a good 30 minutes, stopping to look at menus, then moving on so as to spread the indecision around as thoroughly as possible. Finally, we ended up at a place called Flip Burger that had some wonderful burgers (very good quality meat) and where I tried poutine for the first time! The first bite was a bit daunting, the combination of cheese curds and french fries drenched in gravy doesn't sound all that appealing after all, but the flavors somehow work together and by my second bite I was a fan.

I really can't be faulted for thinking this looked disgusting

With another necessary Canadian experience tucked under my belt, our group headed back to the hotel, planned our our adventures for tomorrow, and I began work on this blog post. I hope my incessant typing hasn't annoyed my roommates too much ;D

P.S. We stumbled upon this random guillotine in the middle of downtown Halifax. 
We all, of course, took our turns serving time. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Weeks and Counting!

Hi all! First off, my apologies for taking so long with this post! The last two weeks have just been a whirlwind of activity and getting acclimated to a new country and meeting new people.

Let me rewind to my first day in Canada before catching up on more recent events:

I awoke in day-old clothes after a night spent on hotel-like linens that did little for the few hours of rest I'd managed to squeeze in before my 8:00 AM alarm. I stumbled out of bed, brushed my hair, tried to straighten out my slept on shirt, and got ready to leave my dorm room for the first time. Only to realize I had no idea where I was going. I hastily looked at a campus map, vaguely figured out my position, and hoped I'd see some other confused-but-less-directionally challenged international students wandering around and whom I could covertly follow to my destination.

A view of two of the campus dorms from behind, the rest of the college
 sprawls out beyond these buildings. My dorm is the one on the right.

About 10 minutes later (and after a vague shadowing of some fellow wanderers) I found the building where the international student orientation was taking place, checked in, and was ushered over to the cafeteria for some breakfast. I got some reliable cinnamon toast crunch (no need to be adventurous with my food yet) and looked around for a place to sit. I saw a group of three girls sitting together and asked if I could join, they said yes and I pulled out a chair. We all made our introductions, one of the girls was from South Korea, one from Japan, and one from India, though she'd lived in Japan for the past several years. We chatted for a bit when another girl arrived and asked to sit. We welcomed her to the table and she introduced herself and said she was from the island nation of Malta in Europe. It was really cool sitting with such a diverse group of people and I was only mildly jealous of them and all their bilingual, and even trilingual, glory (*le sigh* US education system).

I also decided to stop lamenting about my struggles with air travel since, unlike a lot of others, my flight didn't take 15 hours or come with a huge time change (I only had a 2 hour difference, not bad at all). Although, hearing about all their free European colleges and cheap-by-comparison Canadian colleges made me want to rant about something else... (*hides eyes from student loans*)

After breakfast, we attended a presentation that explained some of the basics of UPEI and Charlottetown. Whenever the presenters wanted to make sure some important points were getting across, they had volunteers translate what had been said into Mandarin and Arabic, since those two languages are some of the most commonly spoken among the international students. Both languages were spoken so fast, it was crazy impressive. I also learned that Charlottetown's city bus system is free to students, which makes exploring much easier.

Next, we broke up into groups based on majors and I met even more interesting people including a fellow American from Connecticut who will be attending UPEI for his entire college career. I also talked with a guy from Sweden and we exchanged some cultural rants about temperature (why won't America just change to Celsius already), the metric system (ditto), driving on the wrong side of the road (at least America got that one right), and politics (apparently Sweden recently experienced their own crappy election and he sympathizes with our prospects).

The day ended with a trip to an old-timey village set around the 1880's that shows Canada's pioneer-like past. The village, whose last resident only moved out a few years ago, has many authentic buildings including a church (spooky old graveyard included), schoolhouse, blacksmith's forge, and farmhouse. Since our group of a couple hundred packed the place, they were offering carriage rides, blacksmithing demonstrations, and a tour of the schoolhouse. It was an interesting stop and reminded me a lot of similar places we have in Missouri. I'd never really considered Canadian "pioneers" and thought it was pretty cool that people so far apart would have been leading such similar lives.

The roads are red just as LM Montgomery described them in her Anne books!

As we prepared to board the bus back to campus, my phone rang, I answered the unknown number to hear a most welcome voice on the other end, "Hello, this is Air Canada calling, your baggage should arrive to your listed address by 5 this evening." I was never so happy to hear an automatic voice! When we arrived back at UPEI, I promptly picked up my bags, lugged them upstairs (with the help of a kind stranger who saw me struggling up the stairs with two giant bags) and unzipped them! Fresh clothes! My pillow! Grandma's afghan! All the comforts a girl could ask for.

I was very happy to see my bags again

The next few days were full of more get-to-know-each-other excitement, meeting my roommate (she's from the Island), and exploring the campus and its immediate surroundings. I ventured into the grocery store on my second day and though its full of pretty much the same things I could find in America, some brands aren't present (Hunts Ketchup and Peter Pan peanut butter, how I miss you so) and its a tad more expensive. Of course, the pricing differences aren't as bad as they seem, since you also have to mentally convert all the dollar signs to USD, but the taxes are really high. Though I suppose if you want to live in a country with a high rate of health, high levels of safety, and the beaver as the national animal (that's right, its not the moose), its a sacrifice most are willing to make. 

I can't really get over the monopoly-like money though. I mean, its all different colors and is LITERALLY SEE THROUGH IN PARTS. That's just bananas. And also, why is the Queen on all their money (or at least the coins) still? I need to look up some Canadian history because its bugging me to no end. 

Look closely and you can see my fingers through the money!

I'll post about my first week of classes in the next couple of days and talk about some cultural differences I've observed (the accents are real and I love it, I even heard an "eh?" added to the end of a sentence and only then felt like I was officially in Canada). 

Bye 'til then!