Winter Break 2017 Part 1

I was writing this in the Boston Logan International Airport after a hectic day of travel awaiting my next flight to Ottawa, not directly, but to Toronto then to Ottawa…

Having at least two hours of layover for each flight, I thought I’d make it in time for all my flights – I was wrong. I left Hamburg for Reykjavik with a delayed flight, super worried that I wouldn’t make my next flight to Boston but it unfortunately, was delayed by two hours… One might think, “Oh, at least the delay gave you time to not miss your next flight,” that wasn’t the case. My direct flight from Boston to Ottawa was on-time, hence, I missed it and was forced to stay the night in Boston…

tired

I’ve been in transit for about 24 hours, and I didn’t think it’d take this long… I was supposed to arrive in Ottawa the night before at about nine p.m.. but because the of the “weather bomb,” that didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, this isn’t supposed about me complaining about my flight delays but I thought I’d get it out.

I had a great winter break and I really am grateful for that. I managed to go home, see and travel with family, then travel to Scotland and for the first time, land on the European continent and travel around a small part of Northern Germany. It was a break filled with great memories and experiences. It was tiring as well but I’d say worth it.
The three country I travelled to were: Japan, Scotland, and Germany. Each had their flair and “mehness.” I will be dividing my journey into three parts and there will be links at the bottom of this post leading you to them.

I wish I could say that I visited every corner of each country but I didn’t. I was only in Ishigaki Island in Japan, Edinburgh for the most part and tiny bit of the highlands in Scotland, and portions of northern Germany. One thing for sure is that despite only visiting a small chunk of these countries, I’m having a hard time compressing all the information I want to share.

First Stop: Ishigaki, Japan.

I’ve personally never heard of Ishigaki until my family and I decided that we’d be spending our time in Club Med, which is an all-inclusive resort hotel, for a family vacation.

Where is Ishigaki?

Ishigaki is an island part of the Okinawa prefecture, located about 300 km east of Taiwan and about 1,022 km southwest of Japan’s mainland.

The diet and agriculture in Ishigaki is relatively different than the rest of Japan due to its isolated location and warmer climate. The island has plenty of sugar cane plantations, lots of cattle for Ishigaki Beef, and salt.

What is Club Med?

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Club Med Kabira from our hotel rooms. Photo credit to Swan Yoke Lim.

Club Med is a holiday resort provides a list of services and activities in a single package for one price. This means you pay a flat-rate for everything in the resort, from food, drinks (including most alcoholic drinks), activities, and events. There were somethings like scuba diving, massage and city tour packages that you had to pay extra if you wanted to experience it.

Club Med has various locations all around the world that cater to different interests, i.e.: a bunch of skiing resorts in the French Alps to a beach vacation like in Ishigaki or in Cherating, Malaysia.

We spent most of our time in the resort relaxing and took advantage of the activities available to us. It was a good time as we snorkelled, learned to wind surf on land, and ate lots of food.

There were some activities that we wanted to do but couldn’t because of the weather – it was ridiculously windy for the majority of our time there – and wind surfing on really choppy waves was not safe for beginners. The water was also a tad bit cold so we had to rent wetsuits (inclusive of the flat-rate) for snorkelling.

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Learning to Wind Surf. Photo credit to Swan Yoke Lim.

Just so you know, putting on a wetsuit is a chore because it’s so tight! It’s totally worth it because once you wear it, your whole body that’s covered by the wetsuit is completely warm.

Besides the activities, there were really cool Gentils Organisateurs (GOs) who were great at entertaining and attending to your requests. Most GOs in this location were Japanese and Indonesians but Club Med usually tries to gather a variety of people for each location. I even met a Korean GO who was super friendly and happy to speak to me in Korean.

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This is a really bad photo of me but this is of me and the Korean G.O.

I think it’s amazing how their jobs are to make us (aka Gentils Members/GMs) feel at home every day. I can’t imagine how much energy and emotional strength you’ve got to have. Each GM usually doesn’t stay for more than five days and so as a GO, you’ll have to get to know them in a short amount of time, which can be draining, then say bye to them so fast. I’m just thinking that if you’ve made such a good connection with your GMs, how often is it that you have to find yourself not being emotionally attached. But I assume that if it happens really quickly over the course of your career as a GO, you’d get used to it and avoid having to strong of a connection with your GMs. I also think that they get training on how to manage this. Anyway, I digressed.

I wanted to mention that this island is really beautiful and I’m glad my family and I spent one day driving around the island. I’d agree with my dad saying that’d this trip would be incomplete if we didn’t explore the island. We saw two lighthouses, a sea cave, and some amazing landscapes. I’ll let the pictures speak for itself.

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Euglena Mall
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Eating Hokkaido Melon Soft Serve
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Having Ishigaki Beef and other meats for lunch in the city
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Hirakubo Lighthouse
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Embracing the photoshoot spot

It’s a beautiful island and I felt that my visit to the city was lacking. I felt that besides the beaches and sea, the city is 100 per cent worth checking out. The businesses in the city are very quaint and there are a lot of things to eat there.

Winter Break 2017 Part 2 is coming up!

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Winter Break 2017 Part 1

Quebec City: As close to Europe as I’m going to get

I’ve finally gotten myself to sit down and write about my favourite city in Canada, Quebec City. Without further ado, let’s begin!

For the past year, I have not gone to anywhere for a proper vacation (unless you count going home as one) and absolutely longed for one. Having heard the city’s resemblance to many western European countries such as France and England, I knew I had to visit Quebéc over the summer. It had all the old buildings and #ootd spots I ever wanted, wasn’t too far from Ottawa, and wasn’t extremely expensive (except for eating out).

Esther and I on one Parks Canada Outdoors Club trip. 😉

Esther and I planned this trip few months before July. I happily did all the logistics because I was way too excited to be going to Quebéc and was very specific on what I wanted to. Thankfully, Esther went along with it.

Day One

L-R: Our train from Ottawa to Quebec City; Quebec City’s Train Station

From day one of arriving into the city, everything “shook” us. Immediately after arriving and exiting the train station, we so how European or at least 17th century the city was. Everything look beautiful, including the train station, and was so aesthetically pleasing.We immediately checked into the hotel after a long 6-hour train ride and quickly hunted for places to eat. We didn’t really have many options, and somehow noticed the large amount of Irish pubs and Italian restaurants everywhere. Clearly not interested in any of those options, we opted to cook dinner and so we did before crashing to our beds.

Day Two

Having planned the entirety of the trip, we started our first official touristy adventure, bright and early, with the National Assembly of Quebéc/Hotel du Parlement. We had a lovely guided tour led by the charming Alexandre – Esther and I low-key fangirled because of his good looks great tour guiding skills.

L-R: Legislative Council Chamber; ceiling painting in Legislative Council Chamber; The National Assembly

Nevertheless, the tour was informational and well done. The building’s interior was more remarkable than the Parliament in Ottawa, except for its library. Among the little highlights we had during the tour was when Alexandre seemed impressed that I knew the name of Quebéc’s premier. Haha!

Le Parlementaire, the restaurant inside the building

After the Parliament, we walked around the area until we go to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (Château Frontenac, for short). It was a key destination for me because of the castle-like exterior and of course, our first stop to one of the Korean drama Goblin’s film site. Huehuehue! The Château is incredibly magnificent and walking along its terrace was so relaxing, especially with such a beautiful day. I took tons of photos, and taught Esther how to take nicer photos because I perfectionist and extra like that.

Views from the Terrace and a photo of us with the Château behind us

We frolicked around some more while looking for food before bumping into La Boutique de Noel (another Goblin film site). It was a very quaint and pretty Christmas store. So for all those for are obsessed with Christmas no matter the time of the year, I’d say check it out. I saw a few Koreans in there making reference to Goblin as well.

Mandatory photo outside of a Goblin film site, La Boutique de Noel

Basilique Cathedral Notra Dame was next door so we entered our first cathedral of the trip. It was for the most part, under construction, but somehow Esther didn’t realize that and asked me “What do you mean it’s under construction?”

“What do you mean it’s under construction?” – Esther Vininsky-Oakes, July 2017.

Hunting for lunch was definitely a struggle – there was little to no vegetarian options available. We tried Cafe Baude because it had a vege burger – the food sucked so bad. I was feeling so Gordon Ramsay-like that I’d wanted to cuss at everything. Esther of course, felt a lot more pissed than me. We were truly disappointed by the food although the waiter was really nice. Imo, just don’t go there.

Avoid at all cost!

To cleanse our souls palette, we returned to the Château’s terrace and had the ice cream Esther was massively craving. She specifically wanted ice cream from that store next to the Château because 10 years ago, she visited the exact same store and had amazing ice cream. It was nice and our moods were lifted.

Ice cream!
Me infront of the door that Ji Eun-Tak followed Kim Shin through (A Goblin filmsite)

Unsure of where to head next, we somehow stumbled upon our favourite street of all time – Rue Petit-du-Champlain (Goblin film site #3).

Rue Petit-du-Champlain

It’s a beautiful alley that fulfilled our dreams of visiting somewhere with a Parisian atmosphere. We just hung around here until the day ended because it was really gorgeous.

Day Three

Another must-visit we managed to check out was Le Citadelle du Quebéc where you’ll learn about the province’s military history and its Royal 22e Régiment, the Canadian Forces’ only French-language regular force infantry regiment. This fortress was built between 1820 and 1850, and is the largest British fortress built in North America.

Inside the Citadelle

There’s a guided tour available, which Esther and I found very informative.

We also managed to witness the Changing of the Guards at 10am, which is pretty unique for it’s the only one that conducts it in French and has a Tibetan goat named Batiste as its mascot. I swear the goat is definitely worth seeing in real life.

Clockwise: View from one of the tour stops and down there was another place they filmed Goblin; Esther and I; Changing of the Guard ceremony begins; Batiste the Tibetan Goat (22nd Regiment’s mascot )

We returned to Rue Petit-du-Champlain for an early lunch at Le Lapin Saute. Man – that place is so Parisian and of course, touristy. 😛

Esther and I at Le Lapin Saute

The whole environment was so extra with its ambience and service – I loved it. They serve rabbit meat hence the name “Le Lapin Saute,” which is also a play on words according to Esther. I even gave the waiter, Maxime, the biggest tip I’d ever given cause he was A+. I

Esther’s vegetarian pasta and my beef stew

Once lunch was done, we continued to stroll back and forth on the street because we love the street so much. We eventually made our way down to a quay on Corridor du Littoral. Esther took a break by doing some yoga (and reapply sunblock/sunscreen lotion ) while I enjoyed the breeze on the quay.

L-R: The Quay; view from the quay where you can see the Château and maybe Esther doing some yoga.

Towards the end of the day, we went for a guided tour of the Fortification of Quebec. Our tour guide was Arnaudt, and he was pretty funny. The tour was definitely worth your money – it’s $4.90 for a 90-minute guided tour. We got to see and enter amazing archaeological sites taken care by Parks Canada, including the fortification walls that’s right next to the Citadelle.

L-R: Remains of an old building, the view from one of the tour stops, and inside the fortifications that isn’t part of the Citadelle.

We eventually made our way back to our hostel but stopped occasionally to shop on Rue St. Jean. I’m glad we did because we stumbled upon the most charming second-hand book store called La Rêverie. It’s run by an old man who is super friendly and cute. I 100% recommend anyone to visit the bookstore, talk to him, and buy something there. The old man’s the sweetest old man I’ve ever talked to.

L-R: La Reverie, off Ru St. Jean; inside the bookstore; the grandpa talking to Esther.

Day Four

A little different start to the day as we didn’t actually walk to our destination – Montmorency Falls – as it was too far. It’s a beautiful place to go for a little stroll or hike. It’s about a 40-minute bus ride and was quite worth it.

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Parc de la Chute-Montmorency

There’s not much for me to say about it besides that it’s a very easy hike. It’s a great place to get out to if you’re sick of being in downtown Quebéc. It’ll still be crowded but not as crowded as the Château in the afternoon.

After a really hearty breakfast at L’Accent, we checked out the two most British landmarks in Quebéc – Holy Trinity Cathedral and Morrin Centre.

Breakfast was really good and filling for both me and Esther

The cathedral was pretty cool as it was the first Anglican church found and built outside of England. You also get to see some old golden treasures, which looked so beautiful. There’s not much in it but when we were there, there was a little market in its courtyard.

Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

One of the most fascinating visits for the trip was the Morrin Centre. There you’ll learn about the English-speaking population of Quebéc.

Morrin Centre

The Morrin Centre has a long and interesting history dating back to the 18th century. It’s definitely worth a visit and I highly recommend it. From what I remember, it was first a military barrack, a reform jail and a school (Yes, a jail became a school). Now, it stands as an active library and a heritage site.

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The jail section of the Morrin Centre

My words won’t give it justice to the complex and rich history the tour will give. It was the city’s common jail from 1812-1868, and in 1862, it became the Morrin College, Quebec City’s first English-language institute of higher education. The Morrin College was one of the earliest institution to allow women for higher learning in Canada, and had affiliations to McGill University.

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Clockwise: Ballroom; chemistry lab; the library; books in the library.

Day Five

It was raining and thankfully, we didn’t have to do much that day since we had super hectic four days already. We checked out Le Musée de Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization) because TripAdvisor gave it good reviews.

L-R: Like Cat and Dog Exhibition; Esther so dead; Spot the Esther

Out of the museums I’ve been to in Canada, I’d say this is one of the more memorable ones. They said really enlightening and engaging exhibitions such as one on dogs and cats, optical illusions, and the First Nations and Inuit community. Truly amazing and truly beautiful.

L-R: Observe – More than Meets the Eyes part 1; Observe – More than Meets the Eyes part 2;Dress of Nations

They were also having a TinTin exhibition but because it costed a little bit extra, we didn’t bother checking it out. From what I’ve seen in photos, they look cute.

Super excited to check out the museum!

For lunch, we had crêpes at Le Casse-Crêpe Breton. In my opinion, the crépes tasted average and I don’t think it’s worth the wait. Their Granny’s Hot Chocolate was pretty good though.

Clockwise: Granny’s Hot Chocolate; some crêpes

We returned to the Château later that day where I sent post cards out inside the Château like Eun-Tak did in Goblin, and had our final ice cream in the city.

Sending postcards! 😀
Yum, yum!

We also entered one of the free museums (Free with the Parks Canada Pass) underneath the Terrace. It’s one where you’ll get to be up close and personal with archaeological artifacts and ruins. You’ll also get to dress up as people from the 17th century, which is super cute.

To summarize this trip, it was truly amazing but a bit more on the pricey side when it came to food. Would I visit again? 100% yes. Esther already told me quite a few times that she wants to visit in the winter… So we’ll have to see when I can visit Quebec again and wait until Esther gets back from her exchange in Edinburgh.

Quebec City: As close to Europe as I’m going to get

Looking back: Fall/Winter 2016/2017

Please believe me when I tell you that the Fall/Winter 2016/17 academic year has been the busiest and most rewarding year. It was one that challenged me in different ways and I’m forever grateful for it.

I was a part of three clubs – Carleton University Dance Crew (CUDC), Spoon University Carleton Chapter, and Parks Canada Outdoors Club of Carleton – and a student volunteer/student staff with three different university on-campus departments – a peer mentor at the Student Experience Office in the first semester, a peer helper with the Centre for Student Academic Support (CSAS), and a volunteer at the International Students Services Office (ISSO). I was terrified for myself at the beginning of Fall 2016 and was unsure whether I would be able to do it all while keeping myself sane.

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L-R: Lujie, me, Mana, Julia, Shaelyn, and Colleen
Volunteering for ISSO during Fall Orientation Week 2016
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Cloudy and wet day didn’t stop me from going hiking at Gatineau Park

There’s no other way to say it but I genuinely enjoyed the year despite my crazy schedule every day. I was so happy and as I packed my things to leave campus earlier this week, I was feeling sad and reluctant to move out of my room in Frontenac House. I was just sad to leave the year behind. I met so many amazing people, came across so many wonderful opportunities, and improved myself by gaining various skills.

To make it easier to read, I’m going to elaborate on each person and opportunity in different subheadings chronologically (if possible) to explain how my year went.

ISSO

While everyone was still enjoying their break towards the end of August, I returned to campus on August 30 to begin my training as a Fall Orientation Ambassador, an international student mentor, and a volunteer for the ISSO.

There I learned a little bit about different cultures and countries. I loved it and it was so rewarding. I was crazy energetic throughout Orientation week and extremely talkative – Wei Ni made fun of me when I told her how much of an extrovert I was being. Regardless, the feeling of being able to help these new students kept me so motivated that I felt that I had an unlimited amount of energy.

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Excited international students ready for the Parliament Hill Light Show

After orientation week ended, I took on the role as an international student peer mentor where I had to help new international students settle down and ensure they were well-adjusted to their new environment. I was honestly unsure of my position and ability to be a good mentor. As far as I knew, I was someone who had cultivated self-discipline and self-motivation on my own, at the same time, I wasn’t so sure whether I’d be able to convey a similar message to someone else. I was afraid that I wasn’t doing my role justice because I did check off all the criteria of what I imagined a mentor would be. I should’ve better prepare myself to adjust to different personalities, listened more, and so on. It was an interesting experience nonetheless but I could’ve done a lot better. I’ve learned my lesson and will be applying these considerations the next time I decide to become a peer mentor.

CSAS

I honestly don’t remember what made me apply for the position of an Outreach Peer Helper. As far as I remember, I was only motivated by the fact that I could make myself more employable. I didn’t know what I was going into nor was I expecting anything amazing, I was solely focused on gaining new skills. It’s a cliché but I’m just going to say it, I am incredibly grateful for the experience, skills, connections and memories I’ve gained during my time as a peer helper.

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Journo-senpai and cutie pie, Alyssa
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Fellow Whovian and staff lounge buddy, Joanna
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Giant gingerly ginger, Connor

If there’s any place that made me felt safe, welcomed, happy, and motivated, it was working at CSAS, chilling or doing assignments in the staff lounges, located on the 4th floor of the library.

Every time I was there during its hours of operation, I’d be sure to find someone who’d be willing to talk or help me out. They really made the library my second home, it was somewhere I never wanted to leave. People would always check up on each other, ensuring we’re all taking care of each other, supporting each other, and giving helpful suggestions/advices on certain things.

Of course, I remembered the things I learned while I was there too – creating social media content and different promotional programs to generate more student engagement with the centre. It was a pun-tastic time of creating content. Going out tabling in the tunnel junctions with the Plinko board was also a fun and enlightening experience. By enlightening I mean, it put me in a position I’d never see myself being able to get comfortable with – I was constantly pushed to convince students to learn about CSAS by asking them to play with the Plinko board. Looking back, I realized I’ve grown.

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My almost-big sister, Jenny!
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Fabulous Alex!

When I first started with the Plinko alongside Rebecca, I was unsure what to say and always mimicked Rebecca but as the weeks went by, I slowly gained confidence in spewing out things to say to hype the students up to play the Plinko. It was a fun time and definitely one way to improve your public speaking skills.

CUDC
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Always smiling LJ ❤
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Awarded the “Most Improved OLD Member” by my fellow CUDC Execs and Advisor

If you knew me from last year, you’d know I was a part of CUDC since my first year. During my first year as a CUDC member, I was always unsure of where I stood in the crew and that still hasn’t changed. Unlike most clubs, this is where I felt the most closed-off from the whole group and I never felt truly home. If anyone ever wants to see me quiet among people I know, this would be where you’ll see me being quiet (besides the library). I know that’s kind of shocking to hear and it is shocking to me too! I don’t know why this is the way it is but I can only guess it’s because everyone else me is super loud and I don’t know how to respond to that or I just let other people to be loud and not challenge them? I don’t know.

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With Nareen and Shaelyn
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Vice-President Brenna
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Sassy Sarah!
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Lovely Colleen and Julia ❤
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Riri group: Jodi, Alex, me, and Sarah
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Amazing dance partner, Collen

But if there’s one thing that’s change this year, it’s that I gained more confidence in my dancing abilities – I even did a duet with my new friend, Colleen! I don’t think I’d be dancing at CUDC with confidence without the support of Colleen. Colleen is such an amazing and passionate dancer. I’m genuinely thankful I met Colleen because she gave me an opportunity to try out different dance genres – contemporary and modern – and it was an honour being her duet partner.

Esther

Where do I even start? I met her a cross-country skiing event organized by the Parks Canada Outdoors Club. It was a beautiful and warm cold February morning that day and someone (Esther) to her surprise, arrived at the meeting spot a little too early. Me being the person who arrives anywhere early, arrived a little later than her, and started chatting with her – she started the conversation. Lots of chatting went on that day and we found out we had so many similar interest like Yuri!!! On Ice. Heh! Anyways as we were chatting in the car on our way to the skiing place, I invited her to go to the gym with me after skiing – classic tip on making friends. Long story short, she agreed to gym with me.  Funny thing is when Esther was on the way to the gym, she forgot her running shoes and she went back to get it. By the time she got to the gym, it was 15 minutes to closing. Somehow we still got to know each other and planned our gym schedule for the week. Fast forward today, we’ve been gym buddies ever since and became food/travel buddies – we went to Quebec City and Montreal together.

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That’s Esther and I in front of the Chateau Frontenac!
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Rue du Petit Champlain

The year went by incredibly fast and I’m grateful for everything that’s happened. I’m excited for the new school year because I’ll be rooming with two amazing girls – Carleigh and Selene. I’m also terrified and worried because it’s going to be the toughest one yet – Third-year journalism is extra tiring. Bummed that Esther and I won’t be able to spend any more time with each other for the year because she’s going on exchange to Edinburgh. I’m hoping I can keep up with her and hoping she’d do the same because she really made my year a lot better although we just met. Heh.

Looking back: Fall/Winter 2016/2017