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.