My boyfriend and I visited Boston a while back, and of course, being in Boston one cannot miss out on visiting America’s first institution of higher education: Harvard University, where we took a 2-hour walking tour around the prestigious campus. Visiting Harvard really interested me, as I was very aware of the fact that Harvard is ranked as the best university in the world and has been the home of many of history’s important individuals, from US presidents to the founder of Facebook. To go back to university, specifically the idea of studying among the intellectual elite of the world, is something I very much desire. Unfortunately, for many of us, Harvard is but a dream.
A few months ago, I moved to Canada to do an internship for an organisation called Big Brothers Big Sisters. Many people have asked me what BBBS is about, and my answer usually was `We provide children with a positive role-model. ` However, I wasn`t fully aware of either the meaning or importance of this at the time nor of the actual role of a mentor. What does `being a Big Brother or Sister` entail? How do they make a difference? Over time, I have learned a lot about the positive effects our volunteers have on the children in our programmes. Mentoring not only helps children, but helps their parents as well. Additionally, many volunteers feel that they benefit from the experience themselves too. Let me tell you more about the insights I have gained from my time at BBBS.
Today was quite possibly the most beautiful day of my life in terms of natural scenery. My boyfriend and I visited the Montmorency Falls just outside of Old Quebec City to get a taste of the Indian Summer. Not all the trees had turned red yet, however, it was the perfect time to see the transition in colours between the seasons. The forest was filled with different shades of green, yellow, orange and red. This blog is full of pictures, my favorite one being the one above… as green fades into yellow fades into red.
My brother is visiting me in Montréal. He told me beforehand that I shouldn’t plan any activities on the first Friday of him being here, as he had a surprise in mind. Turns out, he arranged for us to go bungee jumping and zip lining! This was his birthday present to me, as it has sort of become a tradition for us to do something for our birthdays that we can tick off of our bucket list. In the past we’ve been skydiving, go-karting and water-skiing, but this has been by far the scariest activity yet!
The first morning waking up in Canada, we were told by our park guards that there were seven ‘active’ bears on site. This meant that we had to be extra careful with regards to hiding all of our food in a bear proof manner. Storing your food ‘bear proof’ is done by placing all of it in a cool box, covering the cool box with a jacket and storing the cool box with the jacket in a car. This is necessary because bears are clever enough to recognize a cool box and break into the car to get to the food. Surprisingly, we were also told to hide all of our cosmetics such as shampoo, because the bears are attracted to the smell. Cheyen heard about this right after he had put on his perfume and feared he would be the first to be taken by a bear…
“This was indeed an extraordinary and bizarre day!”, I wrote in my diary on the 8th of August. Diane, a half-native Canadian woman we befriended four years ago, had taken us to our first ever Pow Wow. A Pow Wow is a ceremony of North America’s Native people to repeat the traditional rituals of their ancestors, and is a festivity to celebrate their liberty to do so. The fact that this ceremony was taking place was not indicated in any of the touristic booklets, and without Diane we would never have had the opportunity to experience this unique and incredibly interesting happening.
‘Just because you can put something in your mouth, chew it, swallow it, and then poop it out doesn’t mean it’s food. It just means you can chew it, swallow it, and poop it out.’ (Cameron Diaz, 2013)
Today, I would like to introduce to you: the Body Book. My new bible when it comes to health and nutrition. I know that this blog is supposed to be a ‘travel tribute’, and that discussing fitness doesn’t really fall into that category… However, I have an absolute need to share and recommend this book to you, so I’ll make an exception here. Also, to be able to enjoy travelling and to discover more and more about the world, we need energy. Energy, which we obtain through good nutrition. (Hope I can get away with that!)
To be honest, this summer has been the worst for me when it comes to healthy foods and exercise, with lots and lots of cheat days. Greece introduced me to Souvlaki, in Brussels I couldn’t resist the famous Belgian waffles, and in England I had scones almost every other day. Moreover, I didn’t move my butt at all.
Even though I had an amazing time in every single one of these places, something was off. I didn’t feel connected to my body. I felt worn down, tired, and the days at home in between those trips I was just lying down, feeling unmotivated to do anything. Moreover, feeling unable to physically move influenced my overall mood and happiness.
I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. After all, only a month ago I felt on top of my game, despite the stress about my final year exams and dissertation.
Why was I feeling this way in summertime? Free, sunny, relaxing summer?
During a spontaneous last-minute holiday to Nice, France, my boyfriend and I came across an advertisement of ‘Marine-land’, which pictured the image of a giant Orca. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt about seeing real-life ‘Killer Whales’. From watching the movie Free Willy for the first time, I was sold: I considered these predators to be the most beautiful creatures on earth.
I did then, as I do now. And so it was that when we drove past the poster, I quickly turned to my boyfriend and squeaked: “Did you see that?!”.
We couldn’t believe that there might be actual orcas in water parks in Europe. I am extremely sea-sick, so if this turned out to be true, it would put an end to all the failed attempts of spotting them in America or Canada, during which I would just see the inside of a plastic bag…
Thus, when we got back to our holiday home, we checked it out immediately and indeed, orca-shows were held just 20 minutes away from our place! And even better, there was a deal on sale, 2 parks for the price of one: Marine-land and Aquasplash.
On the 31st of August, 1885, the Dutch celebrated their first ‘princess day’, in honour of the birthday of the young Princess Wilhelmina. This was organized with the aim of national unity. When Wilhelmina’s father William III of the Netherlands passed away, princess-day became Queensday. Wilhelmina was only 5 years of age when she became queen, but her mother Emma was regent of the Kingdom until Wilhelmina turned 18. Queensday has been celebrated every year since, but with the inauguration of our new king the name changed to ‘Kingsday’.
The event itself has changed a bit over the years as well. Wilhelmina never personally took part in the festivities, whereas her successor Juliana invited ordinary citizens to visit her in the palace gardens. Beatrix, our queen until last year, did things differently and personally went to visit a different municipality each year, as does our king today.
This year, on the 26th of April 2014, our ever first Kingsday was celebrated, which I obviously couldn’t miss. I stayed in Holland specifically to be able to attend these festivities.
As promised, this is a sequel to my story about camping in Canada. During our second week in Canada we moved to another campsite in Alconquin Park, where we met a Canadian family with whom we spent most of our final week with. In general, I find that Canadian people are probably thé nicest people in the world. Very open, very welcoming and enthusiastic to have a chat. For example, one evening, a couple sitting by a campfire invited us over. They gave us some corncobs which we heated above the fire and talked to us all about Canada and their adventures whilst camping. When it turned dark, the lady even started singing a few songs for us.
Not long afterwards we met the Green family. My mum and I were swimming in the lake by the campsite, wondering out loud if there were many leeches and what we would have to do if one would bite us, when Bill came swimming towards us to offer some advise. He had been camping at Alconquin for many years and knew all about the animals around. His son in particular was fascinated by the local wildlife and could spot animals from a remarkable distance.
So it was that one day his son spotted a moose on the other side of the lake, that to us looked like perhaps a little rock. Bill invited us to join him in his canoe to go see the animal from up close. It was indescribably beautiful to be on the lake and to have the impressive animal so nearby and silence all around us. We stayed on the lake till sunset, the nature shone bright green and the sky was coloured red. Otters sometimes appeared to show their little heads. Bill told us that if we wanted to, we could borrow his canoe any time and for example make a fishing trip. Continue reading “Adventures in Canada”