Category Archives: adventures

Santiago – funky, gritty and beautiful

My first couple of days here have been spent wandering the streets of Santiago.  Taking in the vibes of the city.  Learning about the area I am staying in.  It is a beautiful city, with some European feel to it.


Santiago has a funky edge to it.  Barrio Bellavista is definitely a part of it.  A barrio at the base of Cerro San Cristobal, it is teeming with bars, restaurants, cool shops, and graffiti-filled buildings.  Some people are put off by graffiti but I think it gives the neighbourhood part of its vibrancy and coolness.  Lots of young people walking about, lots of families headed to Cerro San Cristobal and the zoo.


I decided to walk up San Cristobal, as it was a beautiful day and I was told it was about an hour and a half walk.  The walk did not disappoint!  The views – incredible.  The peacefulness of the walk.  Seeing the bicyclists and hearing them grunt as they made their way up the steep slopes.  It was an incredible way to go.  I ended my walk at the cable car and took the cable car the rest of the way.  I was proud to have made  it up 2/3 of the way!!  At the top – the incredible beauty.



Another part of Santiago I have walked to is the Plaza de Armas area.  It is filled with people, and while there were restaurants and bars around, I found it more crowded than I wanted.  Perhaps I will go back later this week, and see if it is always like that.  I did go into a church I passed along the way, and as it was Sunday morning, a church service was going on.  I decided to sit down, say a prayer of thanks for the incredible journey I am on, and watch the service.  It was a very passionate sermon, and while I could not understand what the priest was saying, I could feel the intensity in his voice.  A great way to start my time in South America.


After seeing the church service, I walked up another hill (lots of hills here!), Cerro Saint Lucia.  I am presuming because it was Sunday was the reason for so many people around.  Families having picnics, despite the cloudy cool day.  Teenagers having some fun.


I love the feel I am getting already from South America.  The language, the food (yes I have had an empanada already – first of many I am sure!!!), the vibes.  Very different from China ~ I am loving Santiago!!!


Finally, South America!!

I have arrived in Santiago Chile!!  After many gruelling days of flights, long layovers, and general exhaustion – I arrived in Santiago yesterday (August 12).  I am very confused as to what day it is, and the time!  I will get used to it in a day or two I am sure!



My flights took me to Tianjin China, Seoul South Korea, Los Angeles California, and Santiago.  Tianjin was the first night and I slept in the airport with probably 50 other people.  It’s not the best sleep I got, but at least I had about 4 hours of sleep there.  On to Seoul! 

Seoul airport is the most beautiful airport I have ever seen in all my travels!  So many things to do.  The airport and the city of Seoul offer free city tours, and since I had a layover of 9 hours, I took advantage of two of them.  I saw two temples, and the Korean war memorial.  And then, probably the best part (which is a little sad for me to admit haha) was the free showers in the airport!!   Yes, after sleeping in an airport and knowing that I had two VERY LONG flights to come, I took advantage of the free shower facilities.  I would love to spend more time in Seoul when it was extremely hot and humid, and see more of the city.  It looks very beautiful!!


Next stop ~ LAX – aboard a Korean Air flight.  A very impressive airline – comfortable, decent food and very friendly and helpful staff.  This was an 11 hour flight – but it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.  I was so tired and probably slept for about 7 hours of it.


LAX is just a big American airport, with lots of guards walking around.  I was not impressed with the airport OR the prices there.  So expensive!!!  And the line ups to get through security and customs – the customs guy was very nice but it took a long time.  I was glad to get out of there.


LATAM was my final flight to Santiago.  Service was good, food was good (stuffed cheese pasta AND cheesecake – yeah I was happy to have cheese again!! ), AND a LOT of turbulence.  Of course that is no fault of the airline.  There was little sleep for me that last flight, probably due to a combination of anticipation, excitement, turbulence and being tired of being in planes.  About an hour, maybe 2 – and it was a 13 hour flight.  I was happy to hear that we were descending into Santiago!!


So I have made it.  I am set up in a nice studio apartment for the first leg of this trip.  I have had a very good night’s sleep and am ready to see the city!!! I am excited to get out and explore this intriguing city that I have chosen as my first stop!!


I still feel like it’s a dream that I am actually in South America.


List making

Lists. I don’t mean top 10 lists of this or that.  I mean actual lists of things to do, things to pack, grocery lists, those kinds of lists.


I have lists made for everything. What I am bringing with me to South America. What I am leaving behind. What I need to buy. Where I am staying. What I am doing.  It’s become a bit of an obsession over the past couple of days!!


I even have excel spreadsheets set up for my lists.  List making is a serious thing for me!  This is where the addiction of notebooks has come in handy.  Of course, because I have so many notebooks, I also have duplicate lists in different notebooks.  When I can’t find the original list, I just make another one!!


As I am about to leave for South America, I have lists everywhere.  I also have piles of stuff with a note on top of them of what to do with them. This includes clothes and shoes.


Am I going crazy with my list making?  I would like to emphatically say NO but today I realized that I think I am.  I went for lunch, with a notebook in hand (one that already had lists in it!), and as I ate my lunch and updated my list – I thought what the heck am I doing??  I really just need to learn to go with the flow.  I really want to do that while traveling through Chile, but my mind is saying NO YOU NEED TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING EVERY DAY!  Ugh – my mind makes me crazy some days.


Maybe one day the obsessive list making will stop. In fact, I made myself stop this afternoon so I could blog about list making (hahaha!!).  (I would share pictures of the list making, but I am slightly embarrassed at the amount of them I have…)


Lessons I have learned in China

In less than a month, I will be leaving China.  Am I excited?  Yes!  I cannot wait to explore more of the world, and to be honest, I am excited to leave China.  I have learned a lot about myself while here, and I know I will be taking with me some newfound knowledge of China and of myself.

So what have I learned?  And what have I not learned?  I have not learned Mandarin, or at least not very much of it.  It is a very difficult language to learn.  I have learned to count. I can understand, if they speak very slowly, how much things cost.  I can say hello (ni hao), and I can say good bye – this is the easiest because they all say Bye Bye!  (ha – easiest Chinese lesson ever!).

I have learned that authentic Chinese food is amazing!!  So many dishes – chicken dishes, jiao zi (dumplings), bao zi (which is a steamed bun with a little bit of meat inside it), tofu (dof), noodles, rice.  So many delicious foods, so many names I don’t know how to pronounce or write.  I have had a few dishes that I have not enjoyed, but I would say 95% of what I have tried here has been so good.  I have even enjoyed the cauliflower concoction (for lack of a better word) that they served at the school.  With hot peppers in it.  Hot peppers and cauliflower together – two things I would never eat in Canada – and yet here, so good!!

I have learned that the Chinese people, where I live, are some of the most generous people that I have ever met.  From helping me find somewhere (actually taking me there, even if it is a 15 minute walk out of their way), offering me drives (people I know have done this), buying me meals, and just being patient with me while I try to understand what they are saying.  I will never forget the generous nature of the people in Changchun.

I have learned patience.  Not just from my teaching either.  This country has tried my patience on many occasions.  Between miscommunication and non-communication about work matters.  About salary issues.  About times for meetings.  I have learned that being patient is the only way to deal with it.
I have learned to live in the moment.  This relates to the patience as well.  Does it matter that I am early and the others are late?  No not really.  Does it matter that it starts to rain while I am out with groceries in hand and no umbrella?  No – it’s just rain.  I will dry off when I get home (this happened yesterday haha).  Does it matter if the bus is overcrowded? No – I can wait for another one or take a cab.  Patience, living in the moment – it all works together.  I am now at a place in my mind that getting upset over some things really isn’t worth my time or energy.  I just now go with the flow as much as I can.
I have learned to overcome my fears.  My fear of eating in a restaurant where I don’t know how to read the menu.  Fears of unknown food and how I will react to it.  Fears of being lost in a foreign city.  Fears of not being understood.  I understand now how it must feel for foreigners and immigrants coming to Canada for the first time, trying to read signs or menus, or just trying to communicate on how to get somewhere.  It is daunting and, as a solo traveler, it can be scary.  Overcoming my fears has been my biggest challenge here.  When I first arrived in Changchun, I was scared.  I was looking at the signs, and only seeing Mandarin, I thought – my God what have I done?  I can’t read anything, I have no idea where I am – it was the scariest moment in my life.  But I overcame that – and for that I am very proud of myself.

I think what I have learned most during my time in China is how strong I am.  And how brave I am.  It was not an easy decision to do this, and while it was very scary, I did it.  I know I can go anywhere now and survive.

Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things.  You will not be disappointed!


People of Changchun

People here love taking photos of foreigners, and they are very open about it. They don’t hide the fact that they are taking a picture of you eating, or talking, or just simply sitting down enjoying the day.
I also love taking photos, and recently started taking pictures of some of the people here in Changchun. The faces are from all walks of life, which makes it so interesting for me. Street vendors, shoppers, workers on a break, students ~ so many faces, different struggles, but all human like you and I.
No matter where we are in life, remember, we are all human, and we all go through struggles and through joys. 

Taxis and Tuk-tuks – the trials and tribulations of travel in China

love driving.  One of my favourite things to do on a sunny Sunday was to pack some snacks, get my kids and go for a long drive.  It didn’t matter where.  Just to drive was such an amazing feeling.  Seeing a different town, going to the lake, finding parks to play in, and just spending time with my kids.  It remains one of my most favourite memories of when my children were young.


Fast forward to 2017 and living in China.  First and foremost, I would NEVER rent a car in this country.  No way.  This country is definitely the scariest country for driving in.  As a pedestrian, I risk life and limb every day when I go out and try to cross a road – any road!  Okay, perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic, but I am serious when I say that the drivers have no regard for pedestrians.  Even if there is a crosswalk and it is very clear that there are people crossing, the cars will swerve around, or better yet, get as close as they possibly can while passing you, and then honk and give you a dirty look, like we are the ones to blame for their horrible driving skills.


I have used taxis here.   I would have rather walked as I felt safer walking then being held captive in the backseat by what could only be described as a wannabe Formula 1 driver.  I am pretty sure that there are speed limits here, as I have seen signs.  Taxi drivers are apparently blind to these signs.  They drive as fast as humanly possible, swerving in and out of traffic, but will stop if someone is waving down a cab. Yes, that’s right.  Even though there is already a passenger in their car, they will pick up more people.  And when I was dropped off at the train station, the other person was still in the cab, so I paid up to that point, and he restarted the meter. Doesn’t seem right to me but you can’t argue the fact when you cannot speak the language!   On the plus side, they are SO cheap!!!  I was in a taxi once for over 30 minutes, and it ended up only costing about $10 Canadian. 


Tuk-tuks – the funny looking 3-wheeled vehicles you have probably seen in various movies.  They look so cute, and being a foreigner, it is something you want to try out.  Be aware – they have no insurance, no license plate, no lights at night, and some don’t even have doors!! Thankfully they cannot go too fast. But they also, like taxis, follow no rules of the road.  They generally do not wait for a light to change – if they can go, they go.  They will pass on the right or the left of cars.  They will honk at anyone who appears to be slowing down.  They are not as cheap as taxis; however, they are able to go to places that taxis can’t get to (a sidewalk close to a building for example).  Should you try a tuk-tuk? Definitely once just to say you did and survived!


Being a pedestrian in China has been very exciting to say the least!  I will miss the heart racing rides through the streets of Changchun – or maybe not.   

A backpacker I have become!

After reading many many MANY blogs and reviews about traveling, and backpacks, and luggage, and looking at all the pros and cons, I have succumbed to living the life of a traveler, and have purchased a backpack.  A 55 litre backpack, with padded shoulder pads and a padded waistband, and so many other features it is mind boggling.  Some of the features I don’t even know what they are for!

I have fought off buying one. I thought that a suitcase would be more practical, I could carry more things, it has four wheels so its easy to push around.  But when it comes right down to it, I don’t need all the stuff I have.  I need clothes, my important papers, minimal footwear (boots and runners), and other small incidentals. The bigger the suitcase, the more you are going to bring. It’s all about minimalism.  

My life is so very different from 20 years ago, as I am sure most people’s lives are.  Back then, I had a house, a husband (haha) and so many things.  I was happy with all of that then, but as time went by, my mind shifted and I realized that things don’t make me happy ~ people and experiences make me happy.

I don’t need stuff. I need to travel. So a backpack is the way to go for me.  This does NOT mean I will backpack through countries (I still want to be comfortable!), but it does mean no baggage check in, and easier to get around the world with my possessions on my back rather than dragging along beside me.
So a backpacker I have become!!  A new era of Louise has begun!!