Urbex: The Little Ghost Town of Insinger, Saskatchewan

I was driving to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (say that 10 times fast) to visit some friends. As I traveled down Highway 16, about 55 km on the other side of Yorkton (from Manitoba) when a domed roof of an old Ukrainian Orthodox church peek out on the right side just over the horizon. It was fairly noticeable because as I’ve come to see, the prairie landscape is pretty flat.

Being an urbexer and not having done as much as I would have liked of it, I decided to pull over quickly and explore. As I turned, the rest of the little town Insinger appeared.

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Insinger now has a population of just 20.  

This church is called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ghost, a fitting name for a now ghost town church.

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Surprisingly it’s not brick … it’s rectangles of asphalt shingles designed to look like brick.  

It’s not that old either, it was built in 1942 when Insigner was still a town.

Some of the square blue ceiling tiles have fallen, revealing squares of brown lathe behind them.

The robins egg ceiling dome is beautiful and the ceiling is covered in gold stars

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There were plenty of other abandoned buildings to explore in this town, but, because I had a destination to get to, I wasn’t able to explore the whole town, which I would have loved to.

I have plans to go back next month as I’m traveling through again to head out on a road trip to British Columbia.

On Travel: Churchill Good Eats

There were few staples in Churchill that I stuck to in addition to eating in, mainly because they were conveniently located close to my B&B … and they were open.  It could also be that they were the only available restaurants in Churchill (lol).  It’s a small town, things close early.  

So without further ado, let’s check out the Churchill eats.  


1 – Tundra Inn

As seen on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here with John Catucci, The Tundra Inn Dining Room & Pub is a favourite local and tourist hangout. 

They serve up home-cooked meals with a regional arctic twist.  It is also home to the famous Beyond The Borealis Veggie Burger made with Quinoa & Black Bean Patty, Havarti Cheese, Lemon & Coriander Mayonnaise, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Toasted Brioche Bun, House Cut Fries – which I had. 

The other meal I had was the Spinach Dip – Cream Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke Dip Topped with Mozzarella Cheese Served with Toasted Flatbreads & Vegetable Sticks  I also added some hummus. Yum!

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Beer deals to be had, check the board behind the bar for beer specials. The deal while  was there was a bottle of Labatt Light for $4.00.

The vibe is good, laid back, just as you’d expect in a small town. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an evening after a full day of exploring Churchill’s wonders. 

Dining room on one side, pub on the other.  


2 – Seaport Hotel

Whether you’ve come to Churchill as part of a tour group or you are here by yourself, like me, the Seaport Restaurant and Coffee Shop has you covered. The restaurant is fully licensed, the dining room has a seating capacity of 72 while the coffee shop can accommodate another 36.  

The food was decent.  I ate there three times during my stay.  I had the crispy chicken burger which was good but salty, as was the chipotle type sauce for my yam fries – which were good. The second and third times I visited, I had the club sandwich.  It was actually really good.  I had yam fries again the 2nd time and then I had a poutine the third time.  

Overall the food is decent pub style food.  I wanted to try the Jack Daniels ribs but they weren’t served until after 5:00 pm, I went for a late lunch. 

The bonus to the Seaport, and the reason it’s my fave, is that they have a patio – perfect for enjoying a burger and a beer on a gorgeous, sunny Churchill day.  

While I was there, it was patio dining only due to COVID (not sure why since The Tundra Inn had dine-in eating) and I was 100% ok with that …. the weather was stellar the whole week I was there!

Note: The patio only has 4-5 tables available, so you may have to wait for a table or go elsewhere.


“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.”

– Giada De Laurentiis


Churchill Chinese Food

New to town as of August 2021, Churchill Chinese Food are using the kitchen at the Dancing Bear to offer delicious, authentic Chinese food to locals and tourists alike.  

They currently only offer take out, there is no dine in option.  

I ordered from here once during my visit.  I had pre-arranged a pick-up for 7:00 pm after my beluga whale kayak.  It’s not your Canadianized Chinese food, so expect more authentic dishes.  It was really good.  Definite recommend.  


Caribou Café

Dining out can get expensive, especially if you’re visiting for more than 3-4 days.  If you’re into saving money and less into ambience then, the café at the Churchill Health Centre in the Town Centre provides a budget friendly option.  

I had breakfast there, and for $5.25 I got 2 eggs, 2 toasts and 3 meats (choice of bacon or sausage). Other options such as bagels or muffins are available, as are a selection of juices and coffee.  

Prices are very reasonable!  A friend went for lunch and got a steak, homemade mashed potato and corn on the cob for $12.95!   


Related Blogs to Help Plan Your Trip to Churchill

How to Get to Churchill

Where I Stayed, Is a Must Stay

Exploring the Wonders of Churchill

Lazy Bear Café

I wasn’t able to enjoy this café, the 2 days that I went they were closed.  However from what I heard from others staying at my B&B … if you’re looking for the restaurant with the best ambiance in town, look no further than the Lazy Bear Cafe. The log-cabin style interior looks beautiful, and I’m sure the central stone fireplace makes you feel right at home. The restaurant serves Indigenous foods such as Braised Peppered Elk, Arctic Char and Manitoba Bison grace. They are also farm to table – they have their own local greenhouse.  

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(photos from the Lazy Bear Café website)

Note: the Café does not serve alcohol.

Note: It is the only place in town to get espresso.


Alternate Options

If you’re staying at a B&B or some place that has some basic amenities for you to make use of, you may want to consider buying a few things for your room or to make at your B&B.  

Set your expectations … this is a northern town, on the edge of the arctic with no road access – items are brought in my train or plane.  Prices are not going to be what you’re accustomed to.  I found that some things were wayyyyyyyy more expensive and others were more in line with what I was accustomed to paying.  For example a 24 case of Nestle water was $24.95! 

 – The Northern Store

The Northern Sore is the town’s all purpose store.  Fresh/Frozen Food.  General Merchandise. Clothing.  Electronics. Housewares and Liquor.  You get it all here.  

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While I was there, I stocked up on a loaf of rye bread $3.09, a package of lunch meat $5.49 and a Pho Instant Noodles $3.49.  I made a few sandwiches for lunch and for dinner one eve when I wasn’t feeling as hungry I had my Pho bowl.  

 – Tamarack Foods

Tamarack is a smaller local store further down on Kelsey Blvd beside Tamarack Car Rentals. They are usually open daily from 11:30 am – 6:00 pm. Prices are similar to The Northern, a few items had better prices.  

So there you have it folks, the places I ate while visiting Churchill. Overall dining prices weren’t extraordinarily more than I would pay where I live in South Western Ontario, given the cost of shipping goods up. The portion sizes were large, wear your leggings ladies. Alcoholic beverages also within reason to what I would pay where I live.

Urbex: The Ongoing Story of the Eccentric Pastor Lee House

*** check back often, this is a living blog and will be updated regularly with new info ***

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted … I’ve been embroiled in a landlord/tenant matter, wherein I repossessed my home from crappy tenants and have spent the better part of the last 6 weeks renovating it – they left it in such a shambles (ugh) … I’ll post on that separately, they completely ruined the house.   

However, while I’m in here, in Dauphin, Manitoba renovating the house, getting it ready to sell, I wanted to pick up the story of the Lee’s.  If you haven’t read the blog on the oddity of the Pastor Lee House in Haldimand County, Ontario or watched the YouTube video click here (blog) and here (video), for some background of relatedness.  It’s such an interesting story, they were such an eccentric family or maybe Gordon more-so. 

While exploring their abandoned house, my urbex partner, Thomas randomly found a photo of Gordon in Dauphin, as a child.   I took it to be a sign that I needed to continue researching this family.  I mean what are the odds that in an abandoned house with tons of stuff strewn all over the place, thousands of photos and slides messed about the 2 story home, that had been abandoned for years, that he would come across a photo taken in Dauphin and take a snapshot of it?  He wasn’t aware that I had lived in Dauphin from 2015 to 2017, nor that I was heading back to town to repossess my home.  Honestly, I didn’t even know he had found the photo until he sent me his shots and videos from the explore to create the content!  Ironic?  Serendipitous?   Coincidence?  I’ll let you decide … 

Here’s what we know so far …

From visiting their home and our previous research, we know that Esther obtained her diploma from the Moody Blue Institute in Chicago. Arthur was in the military and then became a Pastor. They purchased the house in Haldimand County, Ontario, which is now abandoned.  They had 3 children.  And, at one point in/about 1943 they were either living in or visiting Dauphin, Manitoba … but why?  

That’s what I’m going to try and find out while I’m here.

Here’s what I was able to newly locate … 

This information should get us started in figuring out why the Lee’s were in Dauphin, of all places.  

In or about 1925 Esther departed for Africa as part of a missionary group, I have a newspaper lead that they were doing missionary work in Nigeria – unfortunately, the article is too small to be legible. However, I was able to confirm this by locating the Caronia‘s ship manifest, which confirms the 32 year old was a missionary, heading to Minna, Nigeria.

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I was unable to locate Arthur on the ship’s manifest or any other manifest as of yet.

Apparently Arthur and Esther married there in 1927 (I have been unable to confirm this for myself).

At some point they returned to North America.   I have yet to determine when exactly, but according to the newspaper articles below, they were at least back in the U.S. by 7 Aug 1930.

I was also able to locate on Ancestry.ca information that Arthur and Esther in fact had another son, Walter who passed away in 1938 at the age of 5 of spinal meningitis (18 Nov 1932 – 19 Apr 1938). It’s said that he passed away in Africa, this part I am unable to confirm for myself.

I understand from another blogger that throughout the 1960’s Rev. Lee worked as a Teacher in Slave Lake, Alberta and retired in 1965. However, we have it confirmed that in 1948 the Lee’s had purchased their home in Haldimand County, Ontario.  So, how does all of this fit together? I have no confirmation that he taught in Slave Lake as of yet.

I also read a blog that said that Rev. Lee was a Pastor of Baptist churches in both Manitoba and Ontario.

We also have this to go on … the  photo that Thomas found during our explore of the Pastor Lee house.  

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Before we delve into this further  … Dauphin facts:

  • Dauphin has a population of 8,457 as of the 2016 Canadian Census, with an additional 2,388 living in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Dauphin, for a total of 10,845 in the RM and City combined. Dauphin is Manitoba’s 9th largest community and serves as a hub to the province’s Parkland Region.
  • You can get anywhere in town in about 5-7 minutes, unless the train comes through. 
  • It is actually situated on the 100th meridian, for anyone who finds that as fascinating as I do.
  • It’s known as the “City of Sunshine”
  • Norwex’s Canadian Head Office is located here.
  • It’s home to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival and Dauphin’s Countryfest, Canada’s longest-running country music festival.
  • It lies along the Vermilion River just west of Dauphin Lake, and is 323 kms northwest of Winnipeg. 
  • Dauphin is near Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Riding Mountain National Park, just west of Lake Manitoba and Dauphin Lake and south of Lake Winnipegosis.
  • The French trader and explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye named the nearby lake, Dauphin, in 1741 in honour of the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France (Prince of Wales)
  • The province was founded on parts of the traditional territories of the Assiniboine, Dakota, Cree, Dene, Anishinaabeg and Oji-Cree peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. 
  • As of the 2016 census, Manitoba had 1,278,365 residents, making it the fifth most populous province or territory in Canada (I came here from Toronto, the GTA alone has 6,254,571).
  • Dauphin was incorporated as a city in 1998.

Ok, so now that you have some tidbits of info on the “city” itself, you get that it’s small and it would have been much smaller in 1943 when the photo was taken. I was unable to locate the population of Dauphin back in the 1940’s but Manitoba’s entire population was only 921,686 in 1961.

The search for the house in the photo …. 

The handwriting at the back of the photo says this … “Donald Lee in centre with girls at Mrs Chase’s (not in view) house on first street north of railroad, across street from station. Dauphin, Manitoba about 1943. Looking west towards Vermillion River”

Ok, so let’s look at this map I created … 

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Locate the relevant points that she mentions:

  • The train station (on map as Dauphin Rail Museum) 
  • Vermillion River (on map as Vermillion Park & Campground and Vermillion River)
  • 1st Street – she doesn’t specify NW, but it’s implied by her saying “north of railroad, across street from (train) station” and also by her saying “looking west towards Vermillion River”.  Plus, it’s the only 1st St., the other is 1st Ave. 
  • Based on that information, I feel the house has to be located near the star I put near the Watson Art Centre.

I live only 3 blocks from where the photo was apparently taken.  Literally …. just down 2nd Ave SW (follow arrow on map) til I hit 1st Ave SW and turn right to get to the train station, the 1st right directly in front of the train station is 1st St NW.  Vermillion Park is directly at the end of 2nd Ave SW.  So, that’s where I’m going to start my search, I’m going to try and track down this particular house.  I’m going to check out the houses in the block of 1st Ave SW and 1st Ave NW AND 2nd Ave SW and 2nd St NW (looking Westward toward the River).  I know the area well,  I feel it’s doubtful that the house still exists or perhaps it’s been modified to look differently than it did back then.   

Ok, so here are some photos I took for point of view and real life perspective.

This is the Dauphin Train Station, it was built in 1912, and was standing while the Lee’s were here in 1943.  

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Immediately in front of the train station – 1st Ave SW and 1st St NW

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Below you can see The Watson Art Centre which is directly in front of the train station, it was established in 1905 and was the old fire hall, so that building existed when the Lee’s would have been here. Photo was taken standing in front of the train station looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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I looked at the houses to see if they resembled the house in the photo OR if there was any possibility that the house could have been updated or added onto.  I paid particular attention to  the east side of 1st St NW because the photo says that the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River. However, upon further reflection it’s not immediately clear if the children or the photographer is looking west.   

This house has the most resemblance.  I initially took the photo as if the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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Then I took the photo from the east side as if the photographer was looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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After side by side comparison – it does not appear to be the house in the 1943 photo even accounting for upgrades and improvements.  The window placements are off.

Now, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for prairie houses to be similar and side by side, especially if family owned – so I thought “what if it had a next door twin at some point?”  With that, I went back to double check and BINGO there’s a vacant lot where a house would have once stood immediately beside that house!  Could the house we’re looking for have stood there at one point?

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Immediately across the street from the train station is a white building which is definitely not the house in the in picture. Maybe the house was situated there prior?

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It is not stated how far down the street the house it, just that it’s north of the tracks, across the street from the station, so I was assuming relatively close to the station … however, just to be certain  I went down to the end, until I hit River Rd. and only found 1 possibility but I don’t think it’s it, it was further down than I expected it to be and it doesn’t seem to match.   

There were also 2-3 vacant plots and a new building where Ashcroft Vision Care is now and the newer built Baptist church (from the 1 that was on Main St) which was built on 1st St SW and 3rd Ave NW in 1960 (below 1st photo).

Maybe the house was on 1 of these lands?  So, that’s a dead end folks … for now.  I’ll keep digging.

The (re)search goes on and on and on …

Ok, I’m back to doing more research …. using my ancestry.ca account and doing some general Google searches to see what I can come up with.  

I was able to locate an account that has some interesting information linked to Esther herself, but encapsulates both she and Rev. Lee (the reason being is that the person who was doing the research was investigating Esther’s time at Moody Bible College).  

 I found a few newspaper clippings to be of interest: 

7 Aug 7 1930 – Albany, Misouri 

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20 Dec 1934Albany, Missouri

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20 Dec 1934 – Albany, Missouri

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Note: Albany is a city and county seat of Gentry County, Missouri, USA. The population was 1,730 at the 2010 census.  Esther was born in Gentry, Missouri. I’m guessing that Albany was her hometown, the reason being is that they consistently refer to her as “formerly Miss Esther Gladstone”, likely so those reading the newspaper would recognize her by her maiden name and come out to hear them speak.

Trying to fill in the gap …

Those newspaper clippings were still a full 9 years before the photo in Dauphin was taken … what did they do in those 9 years?  Did they return to Africa for another mission as one of the clippings  would suggest?

I decided to check to see if Dauphin had a Baptist Church back in 1943 and run on the basis that the other blogger’s notation was fact … that Rev. Lee preached in Manitoba.  I’m running into a bunch of dead ends so, no harm in trying.   I know there’s a church now on 3rd Ave NW but did one exist then?  The answer is yes it did, but it was in a different location, on Main Street.  Dauphin has had a Baptist church for that last 120 years.  

Maybe I can contact the church to see if they have a list of all the Pastors?  

Mrs. Chase, who and where are you? …

I decided to try and see if I could track down the Mrs. Chase as was documented and not in view on the back of the photo.  All I knew was that her name was Mrs. Chase.  I knew she was married because if the Mrs. and that her last name was Chase and nothing else.  I was able to find 2 male Chases with wives in the 1940 Canada Voters list for Dauphin … a Mrs. Earle Chase and a Mrs. Darwin Chase, but no addresses.   

Maybe I can hit up the land registry office?

Does anyone know anything? …. 

I have a neighbour, Amy, she’s been around town for many years – maybe she know something about Pastor Lee, Esther or of a Mrs. Chase?  Let’s ask Amy and see.  Stay tuned!

Ok, so, as of today (31 Jul 2021) that’s what I’ve been able to dig up on the Lees.  As I mentioned above, this is going to be an ongoing updated blog, so be sure to check back often.

HELP — Also, I’m open to help, if anyone knows how I can dig further into this or has any clues or tips — comment below.  

I find the story of the Lees fascinating for some reason, and I feel compelled to know more about them.

Rh- Alien Blood,Royal Blue Bloods and My Linage to King John I

Before getting into the meat of this post, it’s important to understand blood typing. Interestingly, 85% of the world’s population are Rh+ and only 15% are Rh-. Most of us don’t know our blood type (if you don’t, I strongly encourage you to find out, it’s so important, especially if you require a blood transfusion). I’ve known for many years, as it affected my pregnancies, I’m O-, I’ll explain why this is important a few paragraphs down.  

In 1937, Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Weiner discovered the Rh factor. Rh or rhesus protein is named for the rhesus monkey, which also carries the gene, and is a protein that lives on the surface of red blood cells. Their discovery thus changed the blood types from the four we knew A, B, AB, and O, to the eight we know today. They discovered the Rh protein while researching solutions for a medical mystery that killed dozens of babies each day. Their discovery led to the development of the RhoGAM® injection in 1968, which is used to prevent an immune response in mothers who are Rh-. If a pregnant woman who is Rh- does not receive RhoGAM, and is carrying an Rh-positive baby (which I was), she risks the health of future pregnancies because she has been exposed to the positive blood from her current unborn baby.  When a woman receives the RhoGAM shot, it protects her immune system from the exposure to the current baby’s Rh+ blood. If she does not receive the injection, her body will develop antibodies that could attack the positive red blood cells of babies in subsequent pregnancies.

Many months ago, I saw some posts come across my timeline proposing a theory that people with Rh- blood possess “alien DNA” since studies found that Rh- blood types do not have the key evolutionary gene from rhesus monkeys that most other humans do. This begs the question: if we evolved from monkeys, why would some people not have the rhesus monkey gene?

Looking back about 35,000 years, scientists believe that the blood type is linked to specific tribes/groups in France and northern Spain, mainly the Basque Region of France, who have the greatest incidents of this blood type at 35%.

The other day I was watching Kendall Rae’s YouTube channel (I’m addicted) and in came an episode about Rh Negative Blood Being Alien. She and her boyfriend, Josh, explained that most of the US Presidents possess Rh- blood and that it’s also a characteristic of the British Royal Family.  What’s interesting here is that all are distant cousins can be traced back a common ancestor, same for the US Presidents (except for one) – they’re all related to King John I.  As soon as I heard the name Plantagenet, I stopped the video and went back to my family tree on ancestry.ca. I had heard that name before, and then I found it in my relation to Louis VIII of France, click here to read that blog, I had just written a blog about him not too long ago.

Back in 2012 a 12 year old girl named BridgeAnne d’Avignon discovered that all U.S. presidents but for Martin van Buren are blood related. They are descendants of the same English king, John Lackland Plantagenet who is perhaps best known as Robin Hood’s enemy, and was the King who signed the Magna Carta in 1215.  Now if you’re not familiar with the Plantagenet’s, they are a dynasty that ruled England from 1154 to 1485. The dynasty was founded by Geoffrey Plantagenet (d: 1151), Count of Anjou. Approximately 190 seventeenth-century North American colonists were from the Plantagenet dynasty.  

I find this all wildly fascinating!  First the whole theory on Rh- blood, although far fetched, is quite intriguing. Then the fact that all, except for 1 US President is a descendent of King John I.  More so the whole fascination that truly boggles my mind is that I am Rh- and that I also have lineage going back to King John I (he’s my 25th great-grand uncle), which means in some way, shape or form, I’m related to the majority of the US Presidents (I’d already discovered that I am the 6th cousin 5x removed of President Abraham Lincoln).

What I find even more astounding is the connection between the Rh- factor and the lineage to this royal line (which to some degree, even if by lineage seems to be still in power).  Scientists cannot determine the root of the Rh- blood type, citing a random genetic mutation (which is possible). I do query (even in the Gaia scope) if some of humanity (myself included) are the product of an ancient and advanced alien civilization. I mean, if the theory of evolution is valid in that each and every one of us is descended from ancient primates, shouldn’t we all be Rh+?

Some speculation surrounding alien DNA is that the Sumerians believed in an ancient extra terrestrial race, the Anunnaki, who genetically engineered humans who were here at that time.  Over 6,000 years ago, the world’s first civilization was recording stories of strange celestial Gods whom they believed came from the heavens to create mankind. 

The Sumerians were highly intelligent, amongst other things, they essentially “invented” time by dividing day and night into 12-hour periods, hours into 60 minutes, and minutes into 60 seconds. If they were responsible for many of the most important innovations, inventions, and concepts of present day, why would they imagine or invent stories surrounding the Anunnaki?

Most historians leave this to mythology, the same way they do the Greek Gods. Some researchers believe the Anunnaki may have been actual beings. So it’s possible that Rh- people are direct relatives of the Anunnaki.

Do these Royals and the rest of us Rh- blood possess alien blood? Genetic mutation or alien connection?

Hmmmm ….

COVID-19: Day 19 … How Long is this Gonna Last?

How are you fairing during the COVID-19 pandemic?  Have you ever seen anything like this? We’ve gone through SARS (2002-2003), the Swine Flu (2009-2010), Ebola (2014-2016), MERS (2012 – present) AND nothing of this proportion, this magnitude.

Have we ever witnessed anything quite like what we’re living through with this pandemic?

I’m now at day 19 of physical distancing and 24 days since I haven’t been able to leave for my year long adventure to South East Asia.  I’ve been fortunate that I was able to rescind my resignation from my employment and stay with my daughter for a short period (until the end of this month). Things are still feeling topsy turvy, no real stability and what I am able to do is roll with the punches — it’s just what’s so and I’m unable to control what’s happening nor the outcome. All I can do (like all of you) is make the best of the current situation.

As we all know by now, Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease which causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. I found myself with a sore throat and a cough a few days ago my mind quickly went to “is that you Rona?” –  nope just seasonal allergies – it’s amazing that my mind immediately jumped to coronavirus though – it’s been top of mind for weeks and it’s pretty much all we see plastered all over the news and social media outlets.  

These are most certainly unprecedented times. Things we have not experienced in our lifetime.  I’m a huge documentary nerd.  I’ve been watching docs on The Spanish Flu (which actually did not originate in Spain), the SARS outbreak and other really interesting pandemics. What I got present to, is that just as I am watching documentaries on the Third Plague and the Smallpox epidemic, some day future generations will be looking back on the COVID-19 pandemic and watching documentaries on precisely what we’re living – present day!

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In Canada and local communities these are some of the things that are making headlines.  This is not my list in totality, I added to and amended some.

-Gas prices are down to $0.64 in Kitchener, Ontario!
-All schools are cancelled until May 4 2020.   I don’t see kids going back till September
-Social distancing measures in place – STAY HOME!
-Tape on the floors at grocery stores and other essential service stores to help distance shoppers 6 ft from each other.  Cashiers are working with gloves, masks and behind plastic barriers.
-Limited number of people allowed inside stores, causing huge lineups outside the store.
-Non-essential stores and businesses mandated to be closed.
-Parks, trails, entire cities locked down. Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.  City of Kitchener is implementing $750 fines for those not obeying the laws.
-Entire sports seasons cancelled.
-Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
-Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
-No church services.  Pope delivered Good Friday service to an empty church.
-No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 5 or more.
-Mandate to not socialize with anyone outside of your home or let others in your home.
-Shortage of masks, gowns and gloves for our front-line workers.
-Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
-Panic buying sets in – people hoarding toilet paper, disinfecting supplies, paper towel, laundry soap, and hand sanitizer.
-Grocery shelves are bare when it comes to certain products.
-Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses retool so as to make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE for front line staff and essential workers.
-Government closes borders to all non-essential travel, calls Canadians home.  Makes it mandatory to self isolate for 14 days under the Quarantine Act.
-Fines are enforced for breaking the rules.
-Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of COVID-19 patients.
-Daily press conferences from Prime Minister Trudeau.  Says this is our new norm for the foreseeable future or until a vaccine is found!
-Chief Medical Officer, Dr Hinshaw, gives regular updates on new cases, recoveries, and death tolls
-Government incentives to stay home – emergency employment benefits for those who’ve lost their jobs or are asked to stay at home due to COVID-19.  Currently 5.08M people are receiving the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
-Barely anyone in the street or on the roads.
-People wearing masks and gloves as if it’s our new norm
-Essential service workers are terrified to go to work.
-Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020 (and started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China).

COVID-19: My 12 Month Trip of a Life Time Was Canceled, I Quit My Job, Sold My Car & Rented Out My Condo !

In the words of sexy hotness, Matthew McConaughey, “alright alright alright”.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted … so I just want to bring you all up to date on the current lay of the land -> the status of my year long adventure to South East Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic and the world of social distancing.

What a crazy time we are living in at the moment! COVID-19 has turned our world into 4 walls and a ceiling.  Hundreds of thousands are infected, thousands have died and the whole world is living in a circle of physical distancing and a certain degree of fear. We’ve started hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper!  Some of us are following the rules established by government and others continue to act like this is not the global pandemic that it is.

I live in Canada, the province of Ontario – I live in a community in South Western Ontario called the Region of Waterloo – which is comprised of the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge and the townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich.  Region of Waterloo Public Health has reported another 26 cases of COVID-19 in the region, bringing the total to 58.

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Canada is making unprecedented use of the federal Quarantine Act in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting tonight at midnight, all travellers returning to Canada are now legally required to go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply urged to do so.

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Emergency alert from the government sent to our phones

I’m currently held up at my youngest daughter’s house while I wait for coronavirus to become a thing of the past.  I was supposed to leave on my year long epic adventure all over South East Asia last Wednesday.  Not gonna lie, I was crushed.  I spent the better part of 12 months prepping, planning, plotting and organizing.  I had plans to travel to 12-14 different countries in 12 months — Vietnam – Phu Quoc and climbing Mount Bà Đen, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia – climbing Mount Bromo volcano (in Java) and relaxing with both of my kids in Bali.  I was going to spend the month of July in Japan and had plans to attend the Summer Olympics with my friends Linda and Mark (and their kids) – I was going to climb Mount Fuji. Northern Thailand was on my list prior to heading over the New Delhi and meeting up with my friend who is supposed to be flying over from Canada – we’re supposed to spend 4 days in New Delhi and then fly up to Nepal to climb Mount Everest Base Camp – from there I had more plans to spend time in India, head down to Sri Lanka and then I wasn’t quite sure.  I am hoping that I’m still able to do the last part of my adventure.  

I sold my car, rented out my condo, resigned from my job and put all of my worldly possessions in storage, ready to take off and live a year of a lifetime – only to have that all change 5 days before my departure date!  I was CRUSHED!   I went with it, I allowed myself to feel whatever it was I was feeling – upset, anger, fear, disappointment. I lived with it for a bit, didn’t make myself wrong about it and then I was ok.  It took 6 days.  I am able to stay with my youngest in her townhouse until the end of the month. I was able to rescind my resignation from my job and I was able to postpone my flight for a $69.00 fee and get reimbursed for my travel insurance.  

After I got complete with that,  I decided that if this was happening and it is out of my control, I’m going to come out the other side ready to set my world on fire.  I don’t have to sit here and mope.  I can do all of the things that I’ve been wanting to do – here, now.   My new favourite saying is a Buddhist saying, “Relax, everything is out of control”   

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SO ….. 

I enrolled into two courses 1) The Science of Well Being through Yale and 2) Leadership in 21st Century Organizations via the Copenhagen Business School.  If you’re looking to take some continuing education courses to further your career, your life, your well being – consider taking some courses, here’s the link to a bunch of Ivy League Schools Edx courses which are FREE!

I also decided to face one of my biggest phobias head on … finances, stocks and investments. Ask my financial planner how much the word “taxes” sends me into a downward spiral.  I never file my taxes on time, ever.  I’m decent with money, and that’s thanks to the trust and faith I put into my planner.  So, just like I’ve been tackling all of my fears head on this past year (remember when I jumped out of a plane in September? Or when I did the Polar Dip in January?).  Last November I took Phil Town’s Rule One Investing Course.  What’s Rule #1?  DON’T LOSE MONEY. The best investors in the world use this rule to invest with certainty. I learned how to not just invest in stocks, and rather invest in a wonderful business at an attractive price to generate consistent returns.

What did I do after I was so gung-ho post-course?  Nothing, I did nothing with it!  I did what I always did when something is out of my wheelhouse and frightens me, I ignored it.  Enter the novel coronavirus and event-driven investing, now is the time, markets are low, so I decided to tackle it once and for all (I mean I have nothing else to do than catch up on 5 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy – which is getting really awesome btw – I’m at Season 11 ep. 10).  I set up my brokerage account and talked to a couple of friends who invest and trade and off I went.  I’m trying to remember 2 things — 1) I don’t need to be an expert to invest like one and 2) Don’t lose money.  

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Photo by Lorenzo on Pexels.com

I’ve popped into some free concerts that musicians are hosting.  I’ve joined a Being In Communication: Time With a Landmark Forum leader call with Forum Leaders who are keeping the community connected.  I’ve had daily Facebook Messenger calls with my oldest, who lives in Vietnam, she wakes me every morning with a new song she’s learned on the ukulele, I love this!  I take extra long walks with the dog and binge watch my fave shows that I’ve long ignored.

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While we’ve been sequestered, the world continues to spin, people are living and sadly dying (this breaks my heart) and no matter, the sun comes up and the sun goes down. The earth is starting to heal itself – the canals in Venice are again running clear and there are minnows, dolphins have returned. Forrests and plants are regenerating. COVID-19 has decreased air pollution. The ozone layer is starting to repair itself. There’s an unlikely beneficiary of coronavirus: The planet.  Is this the earth’s way of dealing with what we’ve chosen to ignore?  

Many are binging pandemic like movies: Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s strikingly realistic portrayal of the modern world scrambling to contain the fictional virus MEV-1. Outbreak, inspired in part by the AIDS epidemic.  Stephen King’s “The Stand,” Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and Max Brooks’s World War Z, have proliferated on social media as of late. In a time of real crisis, many of us are spending our time watching fake crises.  Why?  We’re living in ONE RIGHT NOW.  I’m a documentary nerd. I prefer fact over fiction any day.  I’ve been watching documentaries on past pandemics, the plague, the Spanish Flu (which contrary to popular belief did not originate in Spain). The 1956-1958 Influenza Pandemic, the 1968 Flu Pandemic, SARS and H1N1.  What really lands for me is that as I’m researching these past pandemics, what we are living through right now, at this very moment, will form part of the future generations history.  Just as I’m watching and reading about pandemics in the last 100 years, future generations are going to be watching, reading and learning about the 2019-2020 novel coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic.  

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I tell you bizarre times …

Where in the world are you and practicing social distancing?  How are you occupying your time? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind!

There are people in the world who are not as fortunate as we are. They are plagued with instability, mental health issues and deserve to be treated with respect. They’re human.

I’m not sharing this story to highlight myself, just to show that one little thing can mean the world to someone.

I was at Shopper’s Drug Mart (a pharmacy) downtown in the city that I live. There was this man, he was struggling … talking to himself, was loud and screeching … people were starring at him and made faces when they walked by him. The lady who worked at the store wasn’t sure what to do, she was about to call security.

The gentleman walked up to me and asked me if I knew him to which I replied I didn’t. He went on to talk about how he had lost his muscles and he couldn’t find them, he was quite upset about this. I didn’t ridicule or tell him to go away. I talked to him as I would anyone else.

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I was in the milk section (looking for almond milk) and asked him if he wanted a chocolate milk as I heard it was good for muscles and he’d have his muscles back. He said “yeah, yeah that might help right?”. They were 2 for $5.00 I offered to buy him 2. He then asked “is it ok if I have 1 of these instead Miss?” point to a Top drink, I told him “of course” and we went to the register and I paid for his drink.

I asked him if he was going to be ok for the rest of the night and he said he would cause he could find his muscles now. It’s really that simple. We just need to be kind. He just needed to be heard and respected.

When we went up to the register to pay. I said to the lady “I’m going to buy this gentleman’s his drink”. He thanked me and left.

As he departed the store, the cashier said to me “that’s very kind of you to do that”, to which I replied “we should all be kinder and gentler to one another”.

Can we all make a deal to be kinder and gentler?  Kindness counts.

“Be kind, don’t judge, and have respect for others. If we can all do this, the world would be a better place”.
~ Jasmine Guinness

My Journey Through The World of Functional Medicine Pt 2

Today we venture into part deux of my journey to restoring good health. Since I last updated you, I’ve received the results of two things:

  1. the blood work that my medical doctor requested to investigate my level of fatigue i.e. I have had significant anemia in the past and he queried my thyroid function.  
  2. the results of my fecal test – my urinalysis results should be back next week.

I met with Dr. Binning earlier this week and I’ll update you on that in a moment.  

First, what I want to acknowledge first and foremost is that I genuinely believe that medical doctors all enter the profession with good intentions (to help people) and end up battling a system that doesn’t set them up for success. It’s not their fault that the system only allows for 11 minute appointments or that they only get paid for one concern so they only want to treat one concern per visit – which prevents a wholistic medicine approach.  1 issue per appointment isn’t conducive to treating someones HEALTH (in my humble, non medical opinion).  

I’m not against conventional forms of medicine – at all – I feel that there are things we absolutely need medical doctors – like acute/trauma care – that naturopathic or functional medicine cannot begin to address.  In this instance I’m addressing my non-acute, non trauma CHRONIC conditions.  

Ok, so now that I’ve addressed that, let’s delve into the results of my stool test shall we?   It feels rather personal sharing these results with you – and in doing so what I accomplishing is sharing not only the results – but also the information – because what I learned from these results essentially presents us with an opportunity – when we have information that we didn’t have previously we can create change – everything that I learn here is actually a positive (even if the results aren’t great) because that’s an opportunity for better health.

Results Of GI-MAP DNA Stool Analysis

Pathogens = none (yay!)

8 virulence factors for H Pylori = none (yay!)

Bacterial Flora:

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Most are low, one is high – indicating dysbiosis = so, there’s an imbalance in my gut.  So we want to look at can be driving that imbalance – which could be as simple as poor dietary diversity (vegetable fibre – which is odd because until last week I was vegetarian) or not enough or something can be suppressing the growth of healthy bacteria – these bugs all all live off these fibres and if they’re not getting them they can’t grow.  

Overview: insufficient levels of good bacteria and poor mucosal health – these bacteria are all there to protect us, they all serve a purpose, so important that these levels are improved — all of this leads to a healthy gut and healthy immune system.  My AKK MUCI (abbr) is just above the acceptable range.  Phyla Microbiota essentially again saying “Hello! Not bacterial enough growth!”  Is something suppressing that growth?  Is another bug coming in and screwing everything up and taking all the resources or are there really no resources to begin with?

Opportunistic Bacteria: 

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Streptococcus – remember that HUGE rash on my face that my MD diagnosed as peri-oral dermatitis and gave me an antibacterial cream and antibiotics for?  If you missed it – you can check out part 1 of this series here.  This makes a lot of sense!  This is something generally on skin and mouth – if there’s an overgrowth we need to start balancing this out.  

** I’ve left out some of the other results – which are within the normal range **

Intestinal Health:

These levels are look normal – and nothing can be further from the truth.  That’s where the benefit of knowing your patient inside and out, and basing it solely on them and not a “range” comes into play.  This I find interesting.

By way of background until last week, I ate a 95% vegetarian diet. So my steatocrit is at a 7 – the limit <15% – if someone is eating a lower fat diet – that number is high then – why would this be so elevated?  If they’re on a high fat diet that number might be ok – ideally we don’t want to see a number here – we want it as close to 0 as possible.  So what this is saying is that fat is leaking out of my digestive system, I’m not absorbing it and it’s showing up in my stool.  

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Elastase-1 – is at 261 – results show “normal” however it should be in the 400-500 range – even higher.  What this is telling us is that my pancreas isn’t making the things it should and releasing them well (insulin and digestive enzymes).  

B-gluconatodase level is at a 2042 – which indicates normal here – and this can’t be further from the truth.  When your body is exposed to toxins, even the waste of the bacteria that live within you or event the waste of the byproducts of my own metabolism (of every cell) creates waste – my body has to detoxify these things through the liver – not going to lie here – I need to revisit that Dr. Binning sent me on this — something about binding, neutralizing and that that enzyme cutting those two things from each other and frees that toxin to go back into circulation and cause more havoc.  We’ll talk more about this at my follow up appt once I get the results back from my urine test. 

Secretory IgA – 90% of your immune system exists in your gut — this # should ideally be at around 1000 – not high enough – the decrease in this number can be caused by chronic infections or chronic stress – they will just deplete this.  The anti-gliadine is at 55 showing some insensitivity to gluten.  
 
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Zonulin – marker for leaky gut — so I’m pretty close at 99.1 – definitely don’t want this number going up and higher that’s for sure!  
 
So, that’s a really great first step with Dr. Binning – I’m super happy about getting these results – because now I know where we can move forward in the betterment of my health.  We have an appt scheduled for December 27, 2019 to go over my urine results and then we can overlap all of the results to come up with a treatment plan that’ll be aimed at getting me back to good health and function.
 

Results Of Anemia and Thyroid Testing

My interim GP had requested blood work at my request last month as I had asked him to refer me because I was dragging my butt.  I have those results and my Hemoglobin and Hematocrit levels are low and my ferritin is at a 5 (which his the low end of normal reference range (5-272 — how is that even a realistic range??). My Thyroxine Free is at a 10 – and the “normal” reference range is from 9-19 – which again is at the low end of norm.  
 
 
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I have an follow up appointment scheduled with my interim GP to go over the results – he’ll likely recommend that I recommence iron tabs.  As an aside, have you ever taken iron pills?  When I was severely anemic a couple of years ago, I had to take 4 at a time and it wreaks havoc on your GI tract, if you know what I mean 😉  

As an aside, I had a brief conversation with a medical doctor I know, last week about these results, and his response was “you’re barely anemic!”.  This is what frustrates me about the medical profession at times.  That statement hit me in the gut.  I’m barely anemic?  That may well be based on these results – however, why am I dragging my arse?  Why can I hardly function?  Why can I hardly make it though a day without napping?  I know my body, I know what normal for me, I know how I’m feeling and I know where I’m struggling – I wish MDs would put more emphasis on their patients words (I know this is not true of all MDs, I’m just pointing out that this is a common theme I hear regularly throughout the course of my job as a disability claims specialist).  

 

Conclusion

I won’t be commencing anything until I get my final results back from Dr. Binning and together we come up with an appropriate plan.  My body is clearly deficient of other nutrients so I want to balance out my who body and gut biome.
 
All of these tests are starting to come together to give me a clearer picture of what’s going on in my body and why I’m feeling how I am.  
 
I can already start noticing little changes in how I feel just by eliminating gluten and dairy and reintroducing meat to my diet (organic).  Some days I don’t have the need to nap (although it is a bit of a struggle still). 
If you’re interested in reading my first blog in this series you 
can find it here:

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2019/12/01/on-health-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-1/

For the last post in the series, you can click here  —>

https://mybetterlifeca.com/2020/01/11/my-journey-through-the-world-of-functional-medicine-pt-3/

What’s The Connection Between INTEGRITY and LITTERING?

I spent last weekend in New York City (NYC), I was attending a leaders course in Manhattan with 350 of the eastern seaboard’s most brilliant, inspirational beings, like no kidding – this powerful group is up to big things!

While we were out and about enjoying our lunch break, we spent some time walking about Madison Square Garden, walked up to the Chelsea High-line and had a awesome chat about “getting your life” in front of The Vessel by Thomas Heatherwick.  During our strolls, however, I couldn’t help but to notice all of the refuse that littered the ground. Like, it was everywhere and I could’t help to think that all of this trash was caused by “civilized” human beings.  And, to be frank, it infuriated me.

And then I got to thinking about the different places I’ve had the pleasure of traveling and about the different cultures, the way we all live our lives.

I visited Japan 2 years ago and I tell you (if you haven’t been), it’s one of the cleanest, most organized, respectful places to visit, and live apparently.  I have two friends who live in Japan and the love it – they are both Canadian – and they both suggest we have a lot to learn about different issues of our Western societies.

This is what my friend Linda has to say – she lives in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo.

“Living in Tokyo Japan for over 2 years and it still surprises me that a city of over 35M is so clean with such a big focus on recycling. Similar to most residents, I often carry my recycling back home with me for proper disposal, and as a foreigner still learning the Japanese language, I have received notices from the recycling officers when my recycling doesn’t meet the proper standards. I am grateful to be living in this beautiful country”.

I don’t understand why people litter, honestly I don’t, it’s just not necessary.  And, I’m not making anyone wrong here, I’m looking more for what’s missing, rather than what’s wrong.

Could it be a lack of integrity?

So what is integrity?  The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition is:

  • in·teg·ri·ty : “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness: “he is known to be a man of integrity”

Could it be the level of integrity in which we operate in life?  Could that be out?  Of course it can be! And, what I’m really present to is that WITHOUT INTEGRITY NOTHING WORKS! Literally, nothing works!  Now, integrity is not morality nor is it ethical – they are not colapsable.

I started taking a hard look at the level of my integrity, I always viewed myself as a rather integrous person.  I always try keep my word and when I can’t keep it, I try to honour by letting the person know ASAP that I cannot keep it.  I’m never late (my philosophy is that if you’re on time, you’re late) and people have always said that they can count on me to be there.  I’ve always made that a priority in my life, then I started looking at what’s missing – where is my integrity out? And, I had to actually say to myself  “Self, admit it you have no integrity” and I was like boom – face slap!

I got real with myself, confronted myself with some real truths — for example, I am pro-environment yet I still continued to use plastic utensils and don’t use carry a reusable coffee cups = lack of integrity.  I had a terrible falling out with a friend, because I was a drunken twerp last year and took MY crap out on her and I never got complete with that.  I never called her to apologize, I sent her a quick text and then left the friendship slide, complete lack of integrity.  I had convinced myself that these things were fine, and that I was ok with it.

Everywhere I looked I came to see that I had things I needed to clean up with people in my life and what that allowed me to do was have true authentic conversations about where I was out of integrity and being really committed to cleaning up the “messes” the better I felt – like a weight had been lifted off of me.  I started by apologizing to people, by connecting with people I had lost contact with, by buying reusable bamboo cutlery and napkin and keeping them in my purse (I also gave a set to a friend of mine – and enrolled 2 other friends to start using bamboo or carrying their own metal cutler.  Another friend agreed to purchase bamboo toothbrushes).  I literally started restoring integrity with velocity.  Folks, I literally have never loved being so wrong (to be clear my actions were wrong, I wasn’t making myself wrong and holding onto it) LOL – it really was empowering to get complete with things.

And, you know what I got out of cleaning up this LACK OF INTEGRITY? I really got the impact on the other person, I really got to see what it was like over there with them. And when you really get to get what’s it’s like for someone else, it’s empowering and you start to change the way you want to behave.

“An important aspect of my word to myself is my word to others. For example, when I give my word to someone to meet them at a given time tomorrow, in effect I have also given my word to myself to be there tomorrow at the appointed time and place. Likewise with any time I give my word to others, I have also given my word to myself to be good for my word.
If I hold myself up as a person of integrity and do not honor my word to myself, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to be in integrity with others”.

~ Werner Erhard 

So, What Does Lack of Integrity Have to do With Littering?

Everything!  Integrity is what you do when no one’s watching.  It’s when you do what’s right, even when it’s difficult.  It’s in taking a stand for what you believe in. It’s throwing your trash in the litter bin.  It’s recycling your bottles, paper cups and newspapers. It’s in taking your trash home when there isn’t anywhere to properly dispose of them.  It’s in picking up the trash when you are able, tidying the public washrooms counter before leaving them and by leaving the people you talk to better than when you met them —  it’s about being an extra ordinary human being!

📷:  from last weekend in NYC

And, just like that, without even realizing it – I managed to intertwine two of the things I love and that I’m passionate about – integrity and the environment – and the ability to be fully self expressed! WOW!

What would your life look like in the space of living a life of more integrity?

How freaking powerful of a human being would you be?  

Who are you going to go clean up with right now?  

Oh, and PS:  as human beings, we’re never 100% in integrity – there’s always somewhere in our lives that integrity is out or missing. The difference is, we can always live life more integrously.

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What Does it mean to be Powerfully Single?

Hey everyone, how are you all doing today?  Thanks for reading, I really hope you’ve all been awesome and living your best lives!

I just got in not too long ago from dinner with one of my good friend’s who is home for a visit from Japan – she and her family moved there 2 years ago on a work assignment and I haven’t been able to see her since she was home last year (if you’ve been following my blog for a while,  I blogged about my visit to Japan in 2017 – to read that post, click HERE).  We had a great dinner and visit, and it was so amazing hearing everything that she and the family are up to, time really does fly and I really am learning not to take it for granted.

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Linda and I at Milestones for dinner 

No, I didn’t hop on here to talk about my catch up sesh with Linda (although it was great and def not long enough), I’m here to chat with you a bit about choosing to powerfully be single AND sometimes being lonely.  Why? Why now?  Cause I got home to my empty condo, poured myself a nice glass of pino grigio and sat down solo on the terrace and thought “hmmmm, it would have been nice if I had someone who was here when I got home to ask how seeing Linda was.  Someone to have that glass of wine on the terrace with, someone to proof read my blogs”.  

Although I know I have chosen to be unattached, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting sometimes,  the sting of loneliness, of wanting someone to have dinner with, to have a glass of wine on the terrace or to just hug me hard and kiss my forehead, to say goodnight or good morning to.  I realized that I can make that powerful choice and still have it sting sometimes and that’s ok.

Why Am I choosing to be Powerfully Single and What Does That Mean?

I get that question more often then I’d like sometimes.  Choosing to be “powerfully” single means that I have made the choice/decision to elect with full power the need to not be attached to anyone.  It means that I’m being fully present to what’s important to me and being fully self expressed and that makes me feel powerful.  And by choosing to be single “powerfully” I’m not just choosing to be single, I do it on my terms and in full control of my choice.  I make the choice with integrity and in authenticity to myself, that’s the distinction in choosing powerfully.

Being aware of your current thoughts, emotions and actions helps you distinguish where you are operating from.  Once you’re aware of how you are operating you can easily choose the way you want to be.  It’s my responsibility to myself to distinguish which parts of me are working and which parts are not working.  Once I’ve done that, I can powerfully choose who/what I want to be, simple.  And, that distinction is easily applicable to all areas of my life btw, each decision I make I make sure that I choose powerfully.

Why Do I Choose To Be Single?

Simple answer:  I’m a lobster, every get that? If I’m too old, it refers to the person of whom another is meant to be with forever.  It originated due to the fact that lobsters mate for life (at least, according to Phoebe Buffet)

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Honest answer: I won’t settle, I know what I have on offer, what I feel is important in a relationship.  I don’t have fairy tale dreams of some knight in shining armour like we were taught as young girls.  I don’t need rescuing or a sugar daddy.  I’m not even looking for someone who checks off fictitious check boxes in my mind.  I’m looking for someone with whom we have chemistry, respects me, has a great sense of adventure and is faithful.  And, I know he’s out there, and I know I’ll meet him, when the time is right and the Universe has conspired to create such awesomeness.

I go out and I have fun, and, I’ve chosen intentionally not just to be with someone for the sake of being with someone … that’s easy and it’s not who I am, never has been and never will be.  I’ve had 2 serious relationships in my life – one I married and the other I was engaged to.  Some women look at me with a sense of pity, and I clap back (nicely) “hunney, I’m all good,  I don’t feel sorry for me, nor should you.  Now get on out there and worry about stuff like climate change, animal abuse or human trafficking”  

I’m not here to preach that it’s so awesome that you should all ditch the BFs or GFs or both, and join me.   I’m just suggesting that when you choose to be or not to be in any relationship, choose POWERFULLY.  

Did this resonate with you? Are you choosing powerfully?  Could you be? What would that look like for you living in that possibility?  What could you create?  

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Product Review: Freshii Juice Cleanse

It’s Monday night – I just competed my coaching call, did some work, just finished some research on a new project I’m working on …. and about 5 days ago I finished a 3 day JUICE CLEANSE …

I’ve done juice cleanses in the past, but, honestly it’s been a hot minute since I did my last one – likely about 3 years – I know, I know right?

So, while I was grabbing my Buddha Bowl (yassss, OMG Buddha bowls are AMAZING!) at Freshii I saw their advert …

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I had put it off long enough and decided to GO FOR IT!

Right there I decided between one of their 3 plans.  1 Day, 3 day or 5 day.

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Prices are in Canadian dollars 

I didn’t want to chintz out out at 1 day, 5 day seemed a bit too long for a my first attempt in 3+ years, so I went with the 3 day!

What Did My Day Look Like?

Per their recommendation I commenced each morning with a glass of warm lemon water.

Then I started my day by drinking the following drinks in order, about 2.5 hours apart.

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They also encourage you to drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day in addition to the Freshii juices. Herbal teas are also allowed.

If you’re hungry during your cleanse, they suggest you try to increase the amount of water are drinking throughout the day, that includes herbal teas.  But, you also need to listen to your body.  If it’s telling you to eat something reach for raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies.  You can check out their FAQ sheet here.

Taste

To be very honest, I really enjoyed the Freshii juices. Of all the juice cleanses I’ve done, these were BY FAR the best.  I didn’t have to dread drinking them, or drink them slowly because I didn’t like the taste when it only prolonged the agony.  I enjoyed drinking them as a refreshing drink.

My faves were the

  • Charcoal Lemonade
  • Reset

Least fave

  • Recharge

Outcome

Day One:

As with any juice cleanse you will find day one the hardest, well I do anyway.  But, the more you can prepare your body for the cleanse, the easier your cleanse will be.  They suggest reducing caffeine intake and not eating processed foods.  I don’t typically eat processed foods, but I do drink coffee and mandarin green tea, and I did not prep for this SINCE my decision was spur of the moment, quite literally.

As expected, day one I had a headache, my stomach was rumbling and I was hangry!  I was able to stay true to my word and NOT eat food.  As much water as I drank, I couldn’t shake the headache and opted for an Advil and an early night’s sleep.

Day Two:

The following morning, I woke up feeling like a rockstar as I packed my juices in my free Freshii new cooler bag (see pic below) to take to work.  My hunger pangs were gone, no more headache and my stomach wasn’t aching for solid food.  Today was going to be a good day!

I took the first 5 juices to work, plus some herbal teas I had here and a large 72 oz bottle of water (reusable).  That day at work was pleasantly easy – despite the fact that one of the doctor’s we work with brought in a pack of Timbits (doh!).

 Was able to finish my juices at home but I was feeling hungry and did opt for a 1/4 of an English cucumber.

Day Three:

I was hoping day three would be a breeze when in fact I found it difficult.  Because I knew I could eat tomorrow …. I don’t remember finding it so hard to maintain my willpower – it seems to escape me more as I age.  I was super hungry this day.  But otherwise, I felt great.  I didn’t have a sweet tooth.  I wasn’t craving coffee anymore and I was drinking LOTS of water.

Overall

As far as juice cleanses go, I liked the Freshii one.  I really liked the taste of the juices, I actually grabbed two more just to drink as juice today.

I did feel that it helped me hit the reset button and super charge the nutrients going into my body.

I haven’t had any coffee since the detox,  I’m back to tea.  I haven’t had much of a sweet tooth at all actually.  It kickstarted me drinking ++ water again, which I definitely needed.

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So if you’re in the market for a juice cleanse I would definitely give Freshii a try, in my humble opinion.

Enjoy!

What Do You Do to Enhance Your Life?

⚠️ I am a ridiculously PASSIONATE person, I don’t think that anyone who knows me would disagree. That works to my advantage the majority of the time and at times to my disadvantage … sometimes I need to be dialled down or be more mindful in the way that I communicate 💬 my passion, and, it’s all part of who I am and what I am working on – on transforming my life into one that I love and that I’m passionate about and MOST OF ALL … THAT I CREATED for myself.

The things that I’m working on aren’t to change who I am or the life that I have – I love MY life and I am truly blessed, I’m grateful for that every day

I do these things to ENHANCE myself and my life, not because there’s anything WRONG with me or my life. I want to be clear, some people have suggested to me that I’m constantly “on the go” because I’m “always reaching for something”. While I hear that point of view on the outside looking in, it’s simply untrue,  because there’s nothing wrong with me to change, I’m perfectly awesome just the way that I am (WE ALL ARE). I believe that we all have room to transform ourselves and our lives into anything we truly want. That’s who I am and what I stand for

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One of the many things I have been dedicating my time to in the last few months is The David Suzuki Blue Dot Movement 🔵, in addition to passion projects I’m assisting with for Love Train ❤️🚂  and She Stands – End Bullying 🚫.

I love helping, I love seeing people succeed. I devote my time to people and projects that are important to me. I want a better world and love seeing that there are so many other passionate folks out there creating businesses, foundations, workshops, events, causes – people that I know and am personally aligned with MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN LIFE EVERY DAY. I’m so honoured to be part of their causes and dreams 💭 and for the stand they’re taking in making the world 🌎  a better place.

These are the things I’m working toward and that I’m working on — moving to SEAsia isn’t just about a year off to travel ✈️ for me – it’s to work on creating change – volunteering for programs there that help clean the environment, educate and getting to know them and their community – how I can help.

It’s to try to do my part in making a difference and taking a stand for things that truly matter to me.

What are you passionate about? What things to do stand for?

10 days of gratitude: day 5 – MY MENTORS!

I’m 1/2 way through my 10 days of gratitude with this post!  It hasn’t been hard at all finding things to be grateful for …

Post #5 is about the people in my life who have had an impact, in ways some people have no idea that they even have.  Some people are just so amazing, that to be around them makes me better or feel better.

(coincidently this is my 100th post! – woo hoo – I’m grateful for that)

This post is about MY MENTORS … 

Some are family, others friends, a couple of teachers, and even a few bosses.  

I’m grateful for those individuals who took time out of their lives to help me and give me guidance. Who made me feel more competent, recognized my skillsets and acknowledged my value.  To those who showed me that I am loved and how to love.  To those of you taught me the value of integrity and the strength of my word.  To you fine folks who believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself – who pushed me to be bigger, better, brighter!  TO THOSE OF YOU WHO SHARED WITH ME THE CHEAT SHEET TO LIFE … my life is greater and grander because of YOU and I’m so blessed and grateful!

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Conversely, I’m also grateful for the people who came in and out of my life.  Who were there for a reason, a season, and the experience wasn’t so pleasant — this goes to the same – family, friends, teachers and bosses.  My experience with you too,  even if not through mentorship, has taught me so many valuable lessons – how to be a better friend, to be a better colleague, do be better in spite of my past with you.  The real gratefulness here for me that that I was wise enough to lose the person but not necessarily the lesson.

Not everyone in your life is meant to come and stay forever – some people come into your life at the exact moment you need them to, to show you something, to help you grow and then they move on – vice versa – sometimes people come into your LIFE so that you can show them, teach them and then you’re on your way.

 

ARE YOU UP FOR A CHALLENGE?

Identify 3 people who had a significant and positive experience on your life.

These can be coaches, mentors, professors, bosses, family members, or anyone else. Call those people and thank them for the difference they made in your life.

I did this and it felt so good, I’m still going 🙂


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A recent Facebook post by my friend Kimberley Smith

On Travel: Vietnam – What I Loved and Didn’t Love

I’ve been back from Vietnam for about 2 weeks now.  I have to admit it’s been tough being back – to the cold, the snow, back to working 9-5, not traveling …

Today I want to share a little about my overall experience in Vietnam.  What I loved, things I wished I had done and things that perhaps I wasn’t overly fond of.

If you’ve been following along with my blog and my journey through Vietnam, you’ll quickly remember how much I love this country.  Every one should get to Vietnam given the chance, it truly is spectacular (well I think so anyway) … I’m envious of my daughter for making this country her home.

As with any other country, Vietnam has a glowing list of fantabulous things to see and do, its natural beauty, its history, culture, kind and giving people whom I met and made my experience in Vietnam one for the record books.  But, it also has things that need to be improved upon and aren’t so glamorous, I’ll highlight some of those things in this blog.

I encourage you to go back and read my last few blog posts if you haven’t, just to catch up on the amazingness of Vietnam prior to reading this post.


🎶 Let’s Talk About Food Baby 🎶

The food 😋 was one of the absolute best parts of Vietnam, so many yummy choices, which vary from region to region.  For example, some of the foods I loved in the north (Ha Noi) weren’t necessarily available in the south (HCMC).  But, it’s great to be able to experience each region’s specialty dishes.

Eating street food in Vietnam is a rite of passage for every visitor, and I’m all about throwing myself into the local culture so I was prepared to give most foods a go. In every doorway, on every street corner, and down every alley, food is being prepared literally on the street.  Many a time I pulled up a tiny plastic stool to a tiny plastic table and ate.

Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, complementary textures, and reliance on LOTS fresh herbs and vegetables. Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and always combines fragrance, taste, and colour.

Below are just SOME of the foods I ate over my month long visit.


👍🏻  Fan Faves:

(1) Bún chả  –  served with grilled fatty pork (chả) over a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce.  I ate this twice while in Vietnam.  Definitely worth trying guys! It was super good!

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Bunch in Ha Noi (not yet assembled)

(2) Bún Rieu – LOVED this, I first tried this in Ha Noi –  it was incredible.  See below for the types of Bún Rieu I wasn’t so fond of.  Freshwater crab flavours this soup which is made with rice vermicelli and topped with pounded crabmeat and deep-fried tofu.  Chilies, lime and fresh herbs add the finishing touches.

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Bún Rieu in Da Nang

(3) Bánh khọt – if you love crispy savoury pancakes, you’re going to love Vietnamese bánh khọt – it’s usually provided with lettuce, tons of herbs and dipping sauce – really good. Equally as yummy in the pancake department is bánh xèo.

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Bánh khọt, a specialty of Vũng Tàu

(4) Bun Bo Nam Bo – could be the best street food in Ha Noi – the broth at the bottom of the deep bowl is made of fish sauce, sugar, lemon and chilli and has deliciously light sweet and sour undertones. The sauce is topped with marinated beef, vegetables, noodles, onion crisps and crushed nuts.

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Ate this yummy dish in Ha Noi

5) Cơm tấm – broken rice and pork chop – very basic meal – but reliable, inexpensive and yummy.  Usually served with pickled veggies and a side soup for about 20K – about $1.15 CDN.

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A staple for me in Saigon

I could GO ON … I had sooooooo …. many amazing meals whist in Vietnam, but, I’ll limit it to my top 5 —- Honorable Mention to rau muong xao you- morning glory with garlic.

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👎🏻 Not So Fussy On:

(1) Chicken Feet – I just didn’t enjoy them at all – no meat on them.  They were crispy, like chicken wings, but with NO meat. Imagine just eating chicken skin on bone – that’s what I can best compare it to.  I didn’t hate them, but I could definitely do without them.  Don’t quite get the appeal.  Is it your thing?

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(2) Bún riêu with congealed pig’s blood – bún riêu is a truly sensational Vietnamese street food — if you forgo the blood cubes.  I realized that in different areas of Vietnam – there are differing varieties of bún riêu.  For example I DID NOT like the bún riêu in HCMC at all, I liked the one in Da Nang and loved the one in Ha Noi – all a little bit unique with their own regional touches.  But , the main thing I realized is that I did not like it at all with the congealed pig’s blood. So, now I know to always order my bún riêu “không huyết” — with no congealed pig’s blood.

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The bún riêu in HCMC that I was not fond of

(3) Mixed Rice Paper in a Bag – this wasn’t a salad – I’ve heard of Rice Paper Salad – this was more like a seasoned rice paper snack in a bag – which was essentially rice paper strips as well as chilli powder and other seasoning.  I had seen it on many vlogs and YouTube videos on Vietnamese street food, and I was disappointed.  It was hard, the texture was weird and only got soft after you chewed it for a bit – I guess I would liken it to chewing rice paper 😂.

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Did not enjoy the rice paper snack while in Cần Thơ at the Night Market

(4) Rượu rắn – Cobra Snake Wine – an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The snakes, preferably venomous ones, are not usually preserved for their meat but to have their “essence” and snake venom dissolved in the liquor. The snake venom poses no threat to the drinker. It is denatured by the ethanol – its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive and would be denatured by stomach acid anyway.  It was good just to say I’ve tried it, but I just couldn’t imagine sipping on this  – it tasted more like tequila than wine to me (and I loathe tequila).

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Tried rượu rắn during our trip to the Mekong Delta

(5) Sweet Snails with Lemongrass – oc huong hap xa – not a dish I was particularly fond of.  They say half the fun is extracting the hot cooked snails from their shells (who actually says that?) – I did not find it fun nor tasty.  I’ve had snails here in Canada  – but we cook them with lots of garlic and butter and out of the shell.  Even here, I don’t LOVE them, but I liked them less in Vietnam.  They were chewy in texture – especially the head and had little to no taste.  It was decent enough to try, but I won’t order them – thankfully, I was offered one by a girl I met who ordered an entire plate – she loves them 🤢

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Tried these at Bến Thành Market in Saigon


Things I Really Enjoyed/Liked:

PLACES TO VISIT

I can’t pick just 2 places I loved to visit — I really enjoyed every place I chose to visit for different reasons.  Some were for beauty, some for historical importance or significance, and others for simple relaxation.  There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t enjoy being in Vietnam.  The sights, the sounds, the culture, the people and the food ♥️.

For things to do I would suggest the following as they were my top places, but truly, I loved every place I went, so you can’t go wrong:

  • Hoi An – all of the silk lanterns at night were gorgeous and the ancient town is a fabulous place to visit.   See my blog on Hoi An here for more details on things to do  and see.
  • Cu Chi Tunnels – outside of HCMC – you’ll learn about its important role in the Vietnam War, the daily struggles of its inhabitants, as well as the ingenious strategies and weapons that were used. Click my blog here for more about the tunnels.
  • The War Remnants Museum – HCMC – sad and heart breaking at times, but I would 10000% going to this while you’re in Saigon – it really gives you pause for thought
  • Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City – WOW!  Spectacular views, scenic, breathtaking – I only did a day trip – but next time I go I’d like to do an overnight trip and sleep on the ship.  Click here to see more about my trip to Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City.
  • Mekong Delta – this is what I think of when I think of Vietnam – this trip was priced right 550K for 2 days, 1 night – hotel breakfast and lunch included as well as English speaking guide and A/C Bus, for more click my blog here.


COST OF LIVING

As a foreigner, the cost of living is ridiculously low for us.  The exchange rate when I was there was $1.00 CND Dollar to 17,000 VDN.

Most basic every day things are super inexpensive for us as Westerners.

Here are some approximates:

Beer was between 11K and 20K on average, depending where you purchased and the type of beer – Larue was usually the cheapest (and luckily my favourite common beer), and then 333, Saigon and Tiger.  My absolute fave was Tiger Crystal in a bottle (I could def use one of those now).

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Most street foods ranged between 10K and 70K – bánh mì was always on the low end at about 10-20K as was cơm tấm at about 15-20K

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1.5L of water was approx 10-20K, again depending on where you purchase it.

Grab taxis are super cheap compared to Canada – I think the sitting rate just to enter a taxi is now up to $3.80 where I live – in Vietnam that could literally be my whole trip (by Grab).  Taxi’s are more expensive and not always reliable for pricing.

Fresh fruit was always well priced – I picked up pineapple for 10K, jackfruit and a 1/4 watermelon both for 50K.  There are fruit cart ladies on each street corner, sometimes more than one.

Ice coffee was anywhere between 10-25K (depending where you went – chain coffee houses are more expensive).

Even hotels – my most expensive hotel on the trip was $17.00 CDN – and it was a very nice hotel.

Some days, I was living off less than $20.00 CDN and that included my hotel rate!

Below are some of the every day items that we would buy back home and their associated VDN price — remember $1.00 CND is 17K VDN!


Things I Wish Were Different:

HONKING

What I could have done without perhaps is all of the HONKING! They honk at and for everything.  Unlike us back in North American – we honk when we are trying to relay something important or semi important “hey, you’re crossing over into my lane”, “Come on man, the light is green!” or even “I’m at your house, let’s go.”

But in Vietnam they honk to signal EVERYTHING …  I’m here watch out, I’m behind you, move over, get out of my way, I said get out of my way 😜, I’m not stopping, go already, I’m turning … 

Honking is so loud and so regular in the country that people just seem to accept it, I’d be scared, in fact, of asking them not to honk … somewhere along the way, it has become habitual and a major cause of noise pollution. It can really get on your nerves when drivers keep pressing on their horns for no apparent reason.

I was fairly decent at blocking it out most days, however, the one day I was about to scream out “please, for the love of God, stop effin honking” … I mediated when I got back to the hotel and the moment passed 😂


LACK OF RULES OF THE ROAD

In certain parts of Vietnam there weren’t any traffic lights or signs – it just seemed like a free for all – some type of organized chaos that I wasn’t privy to – but somehow works, I don’t know how but it does!

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Crazy traffic in Saigon as we were heading home on our motorcycle

I’ve literally seen people drive on sidewalks rather than waiting in congestion.

The Vietnamese don’t often obey the traffic lights or signs when there are any – they seem more like suggestions than an actual legal traffic requirement.

Traffic moves in all possible directions, no matter if it’s a sidewalk, a pedestrian street, an alley obviously too narrow for a motorbike – I’ve also seen on many occasions traffic flowing in the WRONG direction – YEP – coming at you when it’s clearly a one way street!

Pedestrians:  Forget all the standard rules of crossing the street, the Vietnamese don’t seem to have the culture of respecting pedestrians. Pedestrian cross walks are rare and if they do exist, they are ignored. Crossing the street for a pedestrian is like a game of chicken each time! You learn to have faith. You start to walk and hope that the motorcycles and cars that run in both directions will avoid you. I became a pro at it very quickly – I look, I go and I watch – they will usually manoeuvre around me.

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Also, they park on the sidewalks (which is customary there).  So walking can be a pain from time to time as you’re constantly switching from road to sidewalk, back to road etc …


LITTERING

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I was struck by its beauty.  However, as I started exploring I came across a lot of litter on the ground in Ha Noi.  I thought it was initially just Ha Noi but as I explored I noticed that even in remote regions, I always came across large areas that were inexplicably strewn with trash. The litter consisted mostly of plastic bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, leftover food containers/items and plain old garbage. I didn’t get it!  The trash wasn’t piled up, awaiting collection at the side of the road; it was spread around, over large areas and in natural beauty areas such as river beds, beaches etc. Thousands of locations all over the country are now utterly ruined by trash. It’s sad, disappointing and infuriating.

These are just SOME of the pics I took – I only started taking photos of this my last few days in the country. I could have taken dozens more.

Very few people bothered to clean up after themselves – I would see people open items and then just toss the wrappers on the sidewalk. I was told by my tour guide to just put my litter in the gutter while I was in HCMC (which I absolutely did not) and a local once brought it to my attention that I had “garbage” in my back pocket – I put the wrappers there because I could not bring myself to just toss them on the ground – it just goes against everything we’re taught here in Canada and most certainly for me as an environmentalist.

I can’t even recall seeing trash bins, if there were any, they certainly weren’t prominent enough to stand out, given I was carrying my personal trash with me.  If they were more available, would people even use them?  Click here to read an article by Forbes Magazine on Vietnam’s littering epidemic.

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Taken on a river bed in the Mekong Delta

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I took this as I randomly walked down a street in Vung Tau


Things I’d Still Like to Do

  • Head to Sapa to discover the spectacular scenery of the Tonkinese Alps where Montagnard hill tribes have lived for centuries.
  • Ninh Binh is a good base for exploring quintessentially Vietnamese limestone
  • Ha Giang is a beautiful destination located in the Northwest Highlands. scenery.
  • Ban Gioc Waterfall – the most famous place in Cao Bang province, the landscape is dominated by limestone hills.
  • I hear you can opt to skip out on Halong Bay (which is touristy) and head over to Bai Tu Long instead. Located North East of Halong Bay, this area can stretch up to 100 km to the Chinese border.
  • Co To is an island located in the middle of the sea in Quang Ninh Province, a beautiful island with fine white sand and blue water
  • Nam Du is one of the islands in the Nam Du archipelagoes. It’s about 60 km from the mainland. Nam Du is beautiful, pristine and peaceful with beaches.
  • Kon Tum province of the Central Highlands has a border crossing with Laos and Cambodia, also known as the Indochina Fork.

These are just some of the MANY MANY places I’d still like to visit in Vietnam – I chose most of these places specifically because they were less touristy and would allow me to truly explore the country and all that it has to offer.


Conclusion

Overall, while Vietnam has its quirks that it’s still trying to iron out, I still very much like the country.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences there.  I’ve heard others have mixed reviews and others nothing but negatives.  I suppose part of it can be attributed to the way you prepare for your trip and how you’ve set your expectations … and the way you choose to look at the experience.  True,  you may get scammed – then try not to put yourself in a situation where you may be – book only with reputable companies, ones that come recommended to you by others.  You may get pick pocketed – well, that can happen any where in the world, not just Vietnam.  Yes, they will try to overcharge you on items – they’re trying to make a living – do you how much they make and live on? What’s an extra 50 cents or a dollar to me in the grand scheme of things?

It’s not a country without its share of faults, but it is an emerging country trying to change its past global footprint. They are now posting anti-littering signs and I hear that police are trying to enforce non littering (that I have yet to see).

Some ex-pats and locals who are passionate about the cause gather groups and clean beaches, neighbourhoods and streets.

Certain restaurants are now committed to recycling – when I saw this at one café in Saigon, I wanted to hug the owner.

At an ex-pat green market I attended (in D2 Saigon) they were focussing on the sale of reusable items – such as water bottles (it’s not common there to use reusable water bottles as we do in most other places in the world).  They also focussed on eliminating the need for single use masks by creating cloth ones.  There were also reusable cloth coffee holders for your motorcycle.  I know this is probably hard to understand to us, but, because everyone travels by motorbike, they actually sell you your coffee and put it in a plastic bag or plastic cup carrier (single use) so people can hook it onto their bikes when they drive – more plastic waste.  EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag.  They looked shocked when I would tell them “no bag” cause I had my Herschel knapsack with me.

Think of what changes could be made IF every person, used a reusable bag, had a cloth mask, used a reusable cloth coffee carrier and water bottle!

On Travel: 24-hour Transit Into Guangzhou, China Without Visa

As I write this, I’m home, in bed, it’s 3:00 AM and I cannot sleep.  My body still thinks it’s 3:00 PM, jet lag sucks!  So I thought, what better time than to start my layover in China 🇨🇳 blog.

The process was a lot easier than I imagined, so I thought I’d share in case it’s something you were stressing about or just wanted to know in the event that you too have a layover in China.

24-hour Transit Into China Without Visa

I’m flying back to Canada from my monthly long adventure to Vietnam (please be sure to check out my posts on that amazing trip).

When I landed in Guangzhou, China, at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, the temporary immigration process to enter China was much simpler than I expected it to be.

If your layover in China is less than 1 day, you can possibly enjoy a 24-hour transit without a visa (24-hour TWOV). It is available to passengers of most nationalities at most ports of entry.

If your layover is more than 24 hours, you can consider 72-hour TWOV or 144-hour TWOV.

Most countries are eligible for the 24-hour TWOV except those listed below: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

When I deplaned, I went over the area for the Visa (the sign is easily displayed – you’ll be heading to the right).  I filled out the necessary application form and handed it to the kind lady at the counter.  After providing her with my passport, boarding pass from my current flight, and for my flight onto Toronto, I was asked to take a seat as they reviewed my application to enter the country. The process was smooth and quick – I hardly had enough time to vlog that I was waiting for a response before she provided me with the answer – YES!

From there I went through to Customs and then made my way to Gate 50 (it’s downstair on the first floor – you’ll be walking to the right), the China Southern Airline counter for my FREE hotel accommodation. I found that gate a little hard to find, but once I found it, the rest of the process was fairly simple.  I showed the counter agent my boarding pass and passport and was then asked to review a selection of hotels from an iPad and select one.

Free Hotel Provided By China Southern Airlines

I chose the W.Y. Lera Hotel based on the looks of the hotel alone, I didn’t read the whole summary of each hotel because there was a line up behind me.  It looked like something I might see in Vegas – tall, flashy lights, had a tower, and it looked as if there was be something “happening” near by.  That wasn’t the case so much.  The hotel is located in the Huadu District of Guangzhou in the far northern suburbs of the city, quite the distance from any sightseeing in the city centre.  But, it was provided for FREE and I am definitely grateful for that and am not in a position to complain.

I noticed online that China Southern Airlines also offered FREE sightseeing tours. I asked at the desk, they do, however, it ended at 1:00 PM and my flight was at 2:30 PM,  I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the tour, get to the airport, through security and make my flight – so that was not an option for me.

After selecting my hotel, I was provided with a sticker with the hotel name and asked to wait in the designated area until the airport shuttle could take us to the hotel.

When I arrived at the hotel I asked at the front desk how long it would take by metro to get to the city centre – by subway 1.5 hours each way — having to grab my shuttle at 11:00 AM the next morning, this was not going to work either, so I would have NO sightseeing during my time in China 😞.

I really applaud China Southern Airlines for providing this service to their passengers, I was happy to sleep in a (hard) bed rather than on an airport floor.  This is a 3-star hotel, has 178 rooms.  The  room was “nice”, it wasn’t outstanding.  The room was tired and dated.  The carpet was worn and dirty, the decor tired.  Also, the WiFi did not work in my hotel room at all, it barely worked in the lobby.  The rest of the hotel however, was quite nice.

Breakfast was provided a NO COST, the buffet style selection was endless and was quite yummy.

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Enjoying some egg, fruit, beignet, fried fish cake, gyozas, a nada, ramen soup and a coffee

The best part was the view from the 22nd floor revolving restaurant (it did not revolve while I was eating breakfast). It was an overcast day and was overlooking the tops of other buildings,  but, I still found the views quite nice.

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View from the 22nd floor restaurant

The next morning, I decided to go for a walk around the hotel to check out the neighbourhood.

It was pure suburbia, mostly stores, banks and car dealerships. I found it interesting nonetheless simply because of the language of the signs.

It would have been nice to see some of the things I wanted to during my brief stay in Guangzhou. The city features avant-garde architecture such as Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House; the carved box-shaped Guangdong Museum; and the iconic Canton TV Tower skyscraper, resembling a thin hourglass. The Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, a temple complex from 1894.

At 11:00 AM the airport shuttle did exactly that – shuttled us the 20 minute drive to Baiyun International Airport.  We arrived rather early.  Having already received our boarding passes in Vietnam, we just needed to clear security and customs, which was a breeze.  Although they did confiscate my fave hot sauce from Vietnam – it was over 100 ml 😢. (I only traveled with  a carry on and a Herschel knapsack, no checked luggage / best way to travel 🧳).

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While I waited for my flight to board, I sat, had coffee and chatted a bit with my new friend Petr, whom I met the night prior as we both waited for our shuttle to the hotel.  That helped pass the time quickly.  Then, off I went to departure Gate A160 to board and be on my way back to Canada.

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The flight was long – I don’t know how else to make 15 hours pass fast – most of my flight was during the “day” – so I watched a lot of movies, read, did word search (I clearly made a typo in my Insta story above lol).  

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Upon landing at Pearson International, I was greeted with a blanket of white snow and a balmy temp of -11, a huge difference from the 31 degrees I had become accustomed to.

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Welcome Home!

I’m suffering from jet lag, my sleep is off and I have no motivation for the time being. Thankfully I took 2 work days off at the end of my trip to deal with the time difference.

Next blog will cover my fave moments, foods and things about Vietnam and well as some things I wasn’t so fond of.  Tune in shortly.  

On Travel: Mekong Delta, Vietnam 🇻🇳

tạm biệt Việt Nam

Today, I left Vietnam.  The country I have come to love over the last 3.5 weeks  It’s a mix of emotions having to go back to Canada.  I’ll miss it there, I’ll miss exploring, the food,  the culture, the adventuring and of course, my eldest daughter.  

On the other hand, I’m anxious to get back to my own bed and not having to live out of a suitcase and of course seeing Ellie (my dog), my family and friends.  But, I’m not looking forward to the weather – which I hear was absolutely atrocious while I was away – massive snow storms, blizzards, wind storms and freezing rain. 

As I say farewell to Vietnam and shortly say HELLO to Guangzhou, China for an 18 hour layover.  Let me take you back to the last couple of days of my vacation as Cassandra and I explored the Mekong Delta.

MEKONG DELTA

The Mekong Delta is a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road.

The Mekong River itself starts in the Himalayas and passes through China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam, which partly explains why the waters are so murky. More than half of Vietnam’s rice and fish comes from the delta region.

Day One:

Firstly, we booked our tour of the Mekong Delta via Khải Hoàn Travel in HCMC. With many options available, we booked a 2 day, 1 night excursion which included stops in Mỹ Tho, Bến Tre, Cần Thơ and Cái Răng. The entire trip cost 550K (only $31.00 CDN).

We departed at 7:45 AM to pick up the rest of the folks on our tour and left HCMC at approximately 8:15 AM for Mỹ Tho on our air conditioned bus.  Over the 2 hour ride, we passed rice fields before eventually arriving at our pre-determined rest stop/tourist trap 😆.

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From there we departed for Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda, Vietnam’s gorgeous Buddhist gardens. A happy place with Buddhas, beautifully maintained gardens and fruit trees.  Originally built in 1850 it has survived colonial wars, neglect and tropical storms.  It’s located approximately 3 km from the centre of Mỹ Tho city.

The Vĩnh Tràng pagoda features three enormous Buddha statues.

  • The standing Buddha represents Amitabha Buddha, who symbolizes ultimate bliss and compassion.
  • The Laughing Buddha symbolizes happiness and good luck and has become a deity for good fortune around the world.
  • The reclining Buddha represents Gautama Buddha before he enters parinirvana, the death of one who has attained nirvana during his lifetime and has been released from the painful cycle of samsara, or rebirth.

Our bus eventually stopped at the pier where we boarded a wooden boat to cruise the Mekong River in order to further discover the 4 islands:  Tortoise, Dragon, Phoenix and Unicorn.  

We were afforded the opportunity to visit a honey farm and try different honey and pollen products.  We were served a very sweet honey tea (which I and others found to be a bit too sweet) and given that it was 34 degrees out, the hot tea would have been better served cold.  I purchased lip balm (for those who know me I’m a lip chap addict (lol) – I bargained for 2 at 80K ($4.58 CDN) – she was selling then for 50K each, I didn’t want to bargain down too much, it is their way of making a living and the price was decent as far as I was concerned.  I’d have paid way more back home and these are all natural.  

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Hot sweet tea, candied ginger and banana (not sure what the little round balls were)

We had the chance to visit a coconut workshop, to see how they make the coconut candy from beginning to the end.  How they first break apart the coconut, then mulch it up, and watch it go through the rest of the process until it ends up with the lady at the other side- who puts in into molds, adds rice paper (which is edible), cuts it up,  and passes it onto the few who manually (and very fast I might add) wrap it and package it for selling.  We were given the chance to taste test each of the different flavours of candy which were also for purchase – we didn’t buy any, but it was good!  

Forget eating the worm after downing your tequila, we drank Cobra Snake Wine! Cassandra and I tried something I never thought in a million years we’d ever try or get the chance to try.  Actually, I didn’t even know it was a thing — Snake Wine (rượu rắn), yes, that’s right folks — wine made with a real venomous cobra.  It’s an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The snake venom poses no threat to the drinker. It is denatured by the ethanol—its proteins are unfolded and therefore inactive.  It did NOT taste like wine – it tasted like Tequila in my opinion – I cannot see any pleasure in sipping on this on a nice night in.

As an FYI – dating back centuries, snake and scorpion wines are known as a natural medicine used to treat different health problems such as back pain, rheumatism, lumbago and other health conditions.

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Shot of Snake Wine
Not the best shot, it was a video – but you get the idea

Coming to Turtle Island, we were provided the opportunity to taste fresh fruits, and listen to traditional folk Vietnamese music. The fruit included: papaya, dragon fruit, Vietnamese apple and longan.

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The most amazing part of the trip followed – we cruised along a small canal on a traditional wooden boat with two rowers at the front and back.  This was exactly what I was thinking when I thought Mekong – traditional way of life and transportation and the  traditional conical hats (nón lá). 

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We had a Vietnamese lunch on the island (honestly, I’m sorry I don’t remember which island) – it was basically cơm tấm.  This meal was included with our booking. We then had a little free time to explore the island – which was a semi amusement area with kids playing in play areas, balloon balls on the water, an alligator pen (they’re also on the menu, sooo put 2 and 2 together).  

After lunch we departed for the 3 hour bus ride to Cần Thơ which is the fourth largest city in Vietnam, and the largest city in the Mekong Delta.  It is noted for its floating market, rice paper-making village, and picturesque rural canals. It has population of 1,520,000 as of June 2018 and is located on the south bank of the Hau River, a tributary of the Mekong River.

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Bus ride to Cần Thơ

Our booking included an overnight stay at a 2* hotel.  We stayed at An Hotel.  I have to say this was more than a 2* as far as I’m concerned.  Looking at the cost for the standard room – 350K – that means the rest of our trip – 200K – was for bus, guide, lunch, samples of food and the experience – well worth it to me.  Some of the folks on our tour paid about $25.00 CDN more than we did for basically the same tour (except they had a 3* hotel and were given a fish and rice wraps at lunch).  

Once we checked in and freshened up – we went down to the Night Market in search of some dinner.  We were both exhausted from our day of travel and getting up at 6:30 AM.  The market included shopping, but, we immediately bypassed all of that and headed for the food stalls. 

Eager to find some tasty street food, we made our way around and came across bánh tráng nướng – which they call Vietnamese pizza.  The line up for this stall was bumpin’ so we knew it had to be the place to eat – and boy was it! Cassandra always wanted to try this dish so we ordered 1 each — we both loved it so much that we ordered another one, at a stall further up the way.  They were ONLY 10K each $0.57 CDN!  What they are is dried small shrimps, saute/chili paste, quail egg/chicken egg, spring onion, fried ground pork on rice paper, cooked over an open flame – I still cannot stop drooling when thinking about it.  I  may have to make these at home one night for dinner.

I also tried another dish I had seen on vlogs – rice paper bag salad (also 10K) – it wasn’t what I expected and to be quite honest, I wasn’t too fond if it.  It tasted like tough rice paper in spices. Now I know and can happily cross that one off my list of foods to try.  I also wanted to try bắp xào, a popular street food snack in Vietnam (corn) – but I was too full from the bánh tráng nướng to even consider tying it … next time for sure. 

Cassandra also had an order of fresh spring rolls – 2 for 10K and  I grabbed my fave Nước Mía – freshly pressed sugarcane juice – for 20K – these prices are outrageously cheap aren’t they?

With full bellies, we ordered a Grab car and headed back the hotel – our next day’s adventure started bright and early at 6:00 A.M.

Breakfast was included in our fee – it was basic and consisted of 2 eggs, a French baguette and a mini banana – as well as juice, water and coffee (boo – they had no milk – fresh or condensed – just sugar – and I need milk in my coffee).  Two people woke up feeling unwell – likely from something they ate the night prior.  One did not continue on the trip and he and his GF opted to stay behind in Cần Thơ and other other girl (and her friend) got off at the next stop to stay behind.  I honestly felt for both of them – I had a bout of food poisoning about the 3rd-4th day in Ha Noi.  It is not a good feeling, especially if you’re on a traveling tour and have no immediate washroom access.

We cruised along the small picturesque tributaries and trolled by the Cái Răng Floating Market – I found this amazing.  This is the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta, Cái Răng is just 6 km from Cần Thơ.  People actually LIVE and SELL on the river. This is a wholesale market, so look at what’s tied to the long pole above the boat to figure out what they’re selling to smaller traders.

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We took in the scenery and the daily living of the local people.  We also toured a rice paper factory and witnessed how they make rice noodles – another very interesting process.  I should mention that this process as well as the process of making coconut candy is all done by hand – this is not an automated process – they are hands on with the entire process.  With our free time Cassandra and I made our way down to the village open market – which offered a variety of fresh fruit, fish, meat, eel and cafés.  We grabbed an entire pineapple for 10K, a pancake like yummy goodness for 5K and an ice coffee with mild 10K — are you catching that?  We got all of that for a mere 25K — $1.41 CDN.

We pressed on to visit a homestead ecofarm (ecofarms aim to increase agricultural sustainability & farmers’ resilience to climate change) where we visited their personal catfish farm, durian and dragon fruit plantation/orchards and livestock. 

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To round out our trip, we disembarked the boat in Cái Vồn where we set off for our 5 hour trek back to Saigon (there was one stop at the 2.5 hour mark).  

Once back in HCMC we relaxed for a bit and then went out for dinner to our favourite restaurant in Cassandra’s neighbourhood (I have to ask her to get the name because I would def recommend it) – we get the same thing to eat each time (except for the time we accidentally ordered chicken feet 🤣) — morning glory, chicken wings and Singapore Noodles. 

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This order was from our very first visit to the restaurant

Then it was time to hit the hay – we were both totally zonked.  She had to teach in the morning and I had to get up and pack for my departure.  

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Flying to Guangzhou, China For My Layover

I’m on my flight to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (China) as I write this blog.  I have an 18 hour layover there. 

I’ve done some research online prior to my departure and saw that China offers citizens of certain qualifying countries 72 -144 hour entry Visas.  And, through China Southern Airlines – I read that I can be eligible for a free overnight hotel and free Guangzhou tour in the morning prior to my departure back to Toronto. 

So, I’ll ask when we land and hopefully that is the case.  I’d really not prefer to have to spend that time in the airport.  I’d rather sleep in a cozy bed and do a bit of sightseeing prior to my 15 hour flight back home. 

I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out in my next blog … 

NOTE: I wrote this on my flight to China, but the wifi was horrible at my hotel so I wasn’t able to post it.  I had to wait til I got back to Canada and had some time to adjust to the jet lag.

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T xo

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Stilted houses on the river

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