Enter the Dragon’s Lair: Part 3 – Halloween in China

I am sure that over the years much has changed in China when Halloween comes swooping in. Unfortunately I believe it is most likely not for the good. Western celebrations, if we count Halloween as a celebration, do tend to be carried out to a level of craziness I have not seen at home. The following is the story of why I will never offer to do anything for the day unless I am either paid exceedingly well or have helpers chained to me to do my bidding – preferably both.

My daughter likes Halloween so I did a bit of decorating

The day was October 31, 2001, Xin Cun, Guangdong, China. Halloween 🎃. I have a vague memory of a white pumpkin, or possibly it was green. The following are from the crypt archives. Cue the spooky music – I think I played Monster Bash first. Sadly, no pictures were taken. I hope everyone has a marvellously crazy Halloween! Time to read the Monkey’s Paw again.

It was indeed a Monster Bash!  500 students is a lot. 
We set up three stations with apples hanging from
poles to have apple bobbing which meant everyone was sitting in
a large three deep circle.   I put candles at each station, we had some “scary” music, turned out the lights and told a scary story.  This meant reading by candlelight. To this day I am surprised there was not a fire!After each sentence, read slowly and with what I hope was a relatively spooky voice, another teacher translated. Like the mists of October much most likely went over their heads but the translations had enough of the creepiness that students listened.  
I walked around the room – a good size auditorium- and would approach a student to
emphasize things. My two younger daughters wandered behind the students and
would say BOOOO! every now and then.  Great spooky effects.After that things were a bit crazy!  My junior students were the ones most interested in doing apple bobbing. My youngest would try to pick students from
different classes but they were mostly unwilling.  We had about 200 students try bobbing for apples then I handed out the remaining apples. It is no small feat to tie up a couple hundred apples!
Unfortunately none of the teachers “helping” actually helped!  This meant I had to keep telling the students to sit down before I would give them anything.  The candy was another story!!!  One of my daughters was so incensed at how rude, in her view, everyone was and lost her voice from yelling at them! One would think these kids did not get fed. I swore that if I ever do anything like that again I will insist on having more time in the one day and doing each class separately. 
I already knew that was possible after putting on a great Halloween party I with other English teachers at a different school a year or so earlier. We even had a moving, talking mummy! (We wrapped my youngest up in toilet paper, she was laid out on a table and would rise when given the cue. As each class came in separately through one door then out the other end there was no chance of warning other students. That was a major success.
Originally I was going to do things in each classroom but that would have meant two or three days of Halloween!  I had 7 classes, each 40 mins. I really didn’t want to take that long for what is supposed to be a one day activity and setting it up would have been a logistical nightmare.

Back to Work Bright Spots

It seems writing pieces of my epic Atlantic trip are not flowing off the pen as easily (or flying across the keyboard) ad my past trips. Rather than force anything I am taking a break – sort of. I am working again. Lots of feelings on that note. Which is why I started taking photos of things that were my bright spots of the day. Here are my discoveries at the College campus where I work.

The college had its 50th anniversary a week ago. A recognition ceremony, and unveiling of a House Post, took place. I could not leave to watch from outside with all the guests – capturing this photo was far more moving to me. The young man and I chatted a bit before he danced. I asked about the cement outside. He said they do make sure everything is cleared to prevent injuries.
The Cycle of Knowledge House Post.

“The design incorporates three cedar elements: the sun, the blue heron and the salmon, floating on aluminum waves.” Carved by Tsawout artist and alum Douglas (Bear) Horne.

We provided the coffee and tea. The organizers brought cupcakes. One of the Trades students brought me one. Nice to know they are learning all sorts of skills.
I had worked for a week passing by this magnificent beast at least three times a day before I noticed him! (Barely two weeks earlier I encountered my very first real moose on one of the trails on the Cape Breton Trail barely 15 feet in front of me – I was walking with my daughter!)
In keeping with Canadian tradition there was also a train engine, one car and a caboose hiding with the moose! I love trains. Sadly, the rails on Vancouver Island shut down several years ago. I still dream of when rail travel will once again take me through the forests, across deep gullies and to small towns.
The tail end of mid-autumn festival. The moon tucking itself into the branches of the pines for a well deserved rest before rising again. I never did get a mooncake.
There are two great trails thatI have discovered so far. This one leads to a little bridge that I have not had an opportunity to cross. It entices me to go just little bit farther. Perhaps one day I will explore some more when finished work. For now I am satisfied to go for a quick daily 20 walk.

I have also discovered towering sunflowers, an edible garden that I always stop at on my way to work to smell the rosemary, and working in a space on my own. These are a few of my bright spots.

Atlantic Provinces: the food

I found it was far too difficult to keep up a Blog when moving from one place to another every day or so. Rather than take away from enjoying the trip in real time I decided to attempt to capture the memories in chapters, or categories. Naturally an important part of travel is the food. The following is a sampling.

An Art Installation in Montreal promoting sharing while staying socially distant.
Saint John, New Brunswick. I really wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. Ethel & Mary’s “somewhat refined nostalgia” did not disappoint.
Saint John, NB has some stunning murals dotted around downtown.
They do seafood salad right in the Atlantic! Lily’s, also in Saint John, is a lakeside eatery that serves outstanding five star fare at a reasonable price for hungry patrons. They also raise funds from a portion of their profits for various organizations in the city. By the time we headed back to Ontario we were hard pressed to decide our favourite place.
Why only a photo of painted lobsters scuttling across the floor? After waiting nearly 45 minutes to order our meal, then wait for our number to buzz we were famished! What could be coined a lobster shack if it had not been expanded, was our first meal on PEI. The lobster burger was delectable, piled on, purely lobster held in by a garlic butter bun. The scallops were divine. The salad, perfection. Price, extremely reasonable.We nearly repeated what other patrons had done, return the next night – however, other areas were calling.
Picnic on one of red beaches. Victoria, PEI. We were the only ones there, a hop, skip, & jump from where we parked – for free. The tide was out, the water was fine, the company lovely (my bears & I watched my daughter splash about) our makeshift charcuterie a perfect lunch. By this time we were very good at balancing meals out with healthy meals we prepared for meals out and about.
After an extra day playing in PEI we boarded the ferry to head to Nova Scotia. On the way we stopped at The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market at the Whycocomagh crossroads. By the time we were nestled into the Lighthouse Suite at Auberge Bay Wind Suites in Chéticamp, with its stunning view, we were ravenous for our Seafood Chowder and cheese biscuits. The best biscuits I have ever eaten! Also, Atlantic cooks know how to do chowder – chock full with salmon, scallops, lobster and only a small amount of potato – we were impatient to heat our chowder up before scooping it into mugs. My water with strawberries & lemon gave that extra special touch of fine, ocean view dining without the hassle of dressing up for dinner and the cost.
Sam’s Bistro at Chateau Frontenac in Old Quebec. Although the hotel was far beyond our price range I had put this eatery in as a possible stop. We did not have reservations which meant no view overlooking the river. (Which was fine because we were staying in Levis – a ferry ride to the other side) Dinner was wonderful, great ambience & service. The piece de resistance though was the Chateau Fabula Black Chocolate Filled Cylinder. The chocolate is made specifically for the hotel (possibly from France – I did not catch all of what was said). I only had a very little bit plus the kumquat. Fabula indeed! A wonderful way to end our trip before heading to Ontario – a few days early.

My favourite meals ended up being our picnics. Whether on the beach, in a stopover, a park, or even in one of our rooms, these were opportunities to enjoy spending time together mostly unplugged (although our phones were with us for taking photos my daughter and I managed to ignore them unless messages from a very limited list). My only hoped for stop will be to my favourite coffee shop, Crave, in Kingston. I have no idea if we can sit inside, or if there is a patio. The plan is to go with my grandson. Then I fly home a couple of days later. Next chapter: lighthouses (probably).

Atlantic Provinces: countdown

Whoever said ’getting there is half the fun’ did not travel during a pandemic! It appears my great planning to get to the airport in plenty of time flew out the window. There are not any city buses to get me there in time. Shuttles remain shutdown. I did seriously consider getting a hotel room in Sidney the night before then a morning taxi. Pricey.

“Please arrive at the airport a minimum of 2 hours prior to your scheduled departure to account for additional processing times. Find up-to-the moment safety information, COVID testing updates and more at westjet.com/safety.”

Look at what was in my email today. 2 hours! My flight is only 4 1/2 hours. It takes about 35 minutes from where I live to the airport depending on traffic. All I can do is hope everyone does not head out at the same time. I changed my taxi from home for earlier.

Seems my silly daughter decided I should be a lady of leisure, and navigator – she did not put me on the car lease. She said it will cost an extra $10.00 per day. She knows I am perfectly capable of long and windy roads but maybe my very recently diagnosed moderate to severe carpal tunnel syndrome played a factor in that decision.

First stop: Ottawa. I doubt I will actually get downtown as we will head straight for Montréal

Atlantic provinces here I come! Prep time

In exactly one week I will be on the city bus heading to the airport to wing my way to Ottawa where I will meet my eldest daughter to drive to Montréal where we will stay for two nights before wending our way to New Brunswick. (NB) This is my first trip off the island, or even beyond my area for two years. I am excited, anxious, and worried. I have also been making lots and lots of lists.

Why now and why the Atlantic? Especially now? First, my daughter and her husband have been posted to England. I have not seen them, nor my grandson, nor her sister and my other SIL, since this time in 2019. Which, as we all know has been an issue for so many people. When it finally became possible to travel, and finally having dates that worked for everyone I waited with bated breath before finally getting flights booked.

Second, New Brunswick is where my third daughter lives, in her sister and BIL’s house while they are in England. We decided to make this an epic trip. Nearly three weeks of visiting family and friends and places we would otherwise possibly not see for even longer. NB, PEI and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (NS) are in our plans.

Back to excited, anxious and worried. Excited to see everyone. Anxious because I will be flying – not an unusual feeling even without a pandemic. (I know many people try to avoid mentioning the whole thing but it’s part of life as we know it right now so meet it head one in order to mitigate any problems) we have to fill out forms, go through inspections, maybe even testing for PEI, and NS. Finally, yes, I am worried. Infections are rising again despite high (81%+) first vaccine and second (close to 70%) in my province. Also in other areas. Everything can pivot from one day to the next. Everything can pivot for many reasons. My hope is that if nothing else I will see my daughters. Meanwhile, I am ready.

My bags are packed…

It’s the Little Things #5: Flora and monsters

I haven’t ventured too far lately which has meant few opportunities for discoveries of any kind. Rain was one reason. Lack of incentive beyond just walking was the other. I did go to a bookstore with my daughter the other day. I think we may have a problem. A good way to while away those rainy day blues when not out discovering new growth and idling monsters. Better than running across bears.

the Wild roses are out in full bloom
With huckleberries sneaking up behind.
when I first came upon this little monster there were people in the seats. Upon my return it was empty. Is that a satisfied grin?