I’m Moving to Peru on Thursday: Join Me in Exploring a New City!

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was mulling over the idea of moving to Lima, Peru to work at a youth development project. Tomorrow – which marks 6 months since I applied for the job – I’m actually going forward with it! Lima is a cultural hub, boasting a vibrant arts scene, world-renowned foods, and stunning beaches (see below). Google tells me Lima is home to roughly 11 million people – I wonder how different that will feel compared to Toronto’s 2.7 million. It’ll certainly be a welcome change of scenery!

Have you been to Lima? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below. 🙂

A few Lima-based members of the project that I’ll be working at, EQWIP HUBs, were able to find accommodations for myself and another Canadian staff member/volunteer. Our third roommate, who already works at EQWIP HUBs, has been living in the furnished three-bedroom apartment in the San Isidro neighbourhood with two other staff members. Their contracts ended recently, but she’ll be working there until this November. We connected via Facebook recently and she’s been kind enough to answer all of my burning questions about the lifestyle there and which necessities I should bring from home. I’ll meet her on Thursday night; the project has arranged for each of us Canadians (8 in total) to be taken to our accommodations in taxis when we arrive in Lima at 11 PM. The same taxi will pick us up at 8:30 AM on Friday to drop us off at the office for orientation and training, and then we’ll have the weekend free to rest and explore the city.

I’ll make sure to post regular updates, so feel free to subscribe and join me on this new adventure. Ciao for now!

lima peru

Beautiful Lima. Source: Fotos593/Shutterstock

In Honour of Canada Day: 15 Crazy Facts About Canada You Didn’t Know

Happy 150th, Canada! This year marks a big anniversary for our great nation, and while not all Canadians will be celebrating, the majority of us will be sticking Canadian flags on every bare surface we can find and admiring the fireworks with our friends and families. I’ve compiled a list of 15 fascinating facts about (I mean, ‘aboot’) Canada – feel free to use these tidbits to impress your fellow Canucks this weekend.

  1. Our national motto is “A Mari usque ad Mare”, meaning “From Sea to Sea”.
  2. Canada is the second-largest country in the world, second only to Russia. Many Canadians insist that it’s also the second coldest country in the world, second only to Russia.
  3. The coldest temperature ever recorded here was -63C (-81.4F) in the Yukon. See what I mean? Brrr!
  4. We’ve created overpasses for wildlife. In Alberta’s Banff National Park, there are a number of curved highways and tunnels covered in greenery which allow animals such as bears, moose, deer, wolves, and cougars to safely cross highways instead of wandering onto the road and causing collisions. Neat, eh? Read more here.
  5. The North American beaver is our national animal.
  6. About 75% of the world’s pure maple syrup supply is produced in Canada. Yum!
  7. During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, our athletes set two records: most gold medals won by a country during a Winter Olympics and most golds won by a host country during a Winter Olympics. That’s definitely something to brag about!
  8. Canada has about 1400 airports, the largest and busiest of which is Toronto Pearson International.
  9. In Saskatchewan, hoodies are called “bunnyhugs”. Aww.
  10. About 30% of Canada’s land mass is covered in forests.
  11. Canada is home to nearly 60% of the world’s polar bear population.
  12. The name “Canada” is said to come from the Iroquioan word kanata, meaning “village”.
  13. British author A. A. Milne fashioned the beloved Winnie the Pooh after a black bear cub he frequently visited at the London Zoo, who was named “Winnipeg” by the Canadian soldier who donated her. The soldier’s hometown was, of course, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  14. Montreal is the the fourth largest French-speaking city in the world. Ooh la la.
  15. Residents in Churchill, Manitoba often leave their cars unlocked during the winter to provide shelter for pedestrians who might encounter polar bears.

Happy Canada Day!

Holiday Gift Guide For Everyone on Your List

We’ve all been there: it’s less than a week until Christmas Day and you haven’t even started to buy gifts for your friends, family and/or colleagues. You want to find presents specific to their hobbies and needs that are also within your budget, but you don’t have any idea where to start. Well, today’s your lucky day! Below is a list of affordable items that will make everyone on your list happy, whether they’re a techie, a beauty junkie or a foodie. Happy shopping!

Gift Cards

Restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, clothing stores, electronics stores, drugstores and more will have gift cards for purchase, which is why they make a great gift for people who frequent those places. Alternatively, a prepaid Visa card or amazon.ca gift card will give the recipient the freedom to purchase whatever they like.

Beauty/Skincare Sets

You can find awesome $12 stocking stuffers (for both girls and guys) or $25 makeup kits at Sephora. If there isn’t one located near you, local drugstores or beauty supply stores will also have value sets for face, skin, nails, and body care.

Small Tech Accessories

This portable phone charger would make a very useful gift, as would these stylish earbuds, this iPhone charging dock and this portable Bluetooth speaker. Continue reading

Remembrance Day 2016: In Flanders Fields

Each year, Remembrance Day (Nov. 11th) honours the sacrifice brave men and women have made in order to secure peace and freedom in Canada. 

“Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.” Source: greatwar.co.uk

“In Flanders Fields” is undoubtedly our most popular war poem. Penned on the World War I battlefield (in 1915) by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, it has become the unofficial “anthem” of Remembrance Day. The somewhat official symbol of commemorating our veterans is the poppy, which millions of Canadians wear on the left side of our coats in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. 

I’m no poetry expert, but I think these words are as powerful as any picture: 
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead: Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you, from failing hands, we throw 

The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.” 

Thank you to all our veterans and current members of the armed forces. 🇨🇦

An Autumn Hike in Northumberland Forest & Scenic Drive Through Cobourg, Ontario

Last Sunday, my parents and I went on a pre-Thanksgiving hike to get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful colours of autumn here in Ontario. We decided to check out Northumberland County Forest, situated near the town of Cobourg, which is about an hour’s drive from Toronto. Northumberland Forest offers over 45km of hiking trails as well as routes for snowshoeing, horseback riding, hunting and ATVing. Having never been there before, we weren’t sure where to find the hiking trails; vague road signs led us to Morris Trailhead, a series of trails located in Northumberland County (which is about 15km north of Cobourg). The first thing we saw was a massive warning sign for black bear sightings in the area! This freaked me out more than I’d like to admit, though you can’t really blame me given this terrifying Leonardo DiCaprio VS Bear fight scene from The Revenant that was recently burned into my brain.

Surprisingly, we hiked about two hours (7km) without running into a single creature, bear or otherwise. Two ATVs whizzed passed us and we heard the occasional hunting rifle go off, but apart from that we saw no one else on the trail. I strongly believe in safety in numbers, so little wonder I was so jumpy with the three of us walking through a secluded forest in the middle of nowhere! My heart skipped a beat every time a twig snapped, but eventually I realized that the recurring sounds of dirt bikes and hunting rifles would likely keep bears away from the trail during the day.

I really enjoyed the relative quietness of that trail. We’ve hiked many a time up north in Algonquin Park, and although the scenery and colours were always unreal, the trails could get a little crowded. There was something special about the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle of Toronto while we walked through Northumberland Forest. The colours weren’t too shabby, either:

Continue reading

Thanksgiving 2016: What Are You Thankful For? 

As its name suggests, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family and give thanks for what we have. It’s also a time for turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie, though unfortunately the excitement over these seasonal foods often overshadows the real purpose of this holiday!

My family’s tradition is a simple one: we either cook a turkey dinner from scratch or order one from Summerhill Market in Toronto and spend the day talking and laughing as we share a delicious meal together. Today’s dinner from Summerhill was, as always, very tasty; dessert was a creamy cheesecake baked by yours truly (recipe courtesy of my aunt). I took pictures but was salivating (okay, drooling) in a most unladylike fashion at the sight of the meal and couldn’t spare the time to snap better ones. Continue reading

My Ultimate Travel Bucket List!

In my opinion, there are few things more exciting than exploring a new place. Everything is totally new, from the people you meet and the sights you see to the foods you eat. Of course, not all travel experiences are worth repeating, but hopefully we can learn from any unpleasant situations we may encounter in other countries. Your experiences while travelling are totally your own and you’ll never forget what you saw, heard or did that made a certain place so special. Here’s the bottom line: if you get an opportunity to travel, take it! Thanks to my parents, I’ve been able to travel to 23 countries in my 23 years. Whether it’s a cruise around the Galápagos Islands, a sunrise hike up to Machu Picchu or dinner on a Dhow in Zanzibar, those two are always up for an adventure and I’m so lucky to have accompanied them on some of their jaunts around the world. We’re hoping to visit Dubai and India this summer, which should be a real treat – as you can see below, those are two of the places on my current travel bucket list.

Here are another 23 places I’d absolutely love to visit, in no particular order. Feel free to comment on which ones you’ve been to and which ones you think I should include! Continue reading