All posts by stephanusoptimus

Another late post but alive and well in Beijing

Just posting to keep things going. I’ve moved back to Beijing and took up a job with another company. Don’t feel too bad about leaving the last place as I’ve just heard that the lady in charge has (again) replaced her assistant. Sounds like it wasn’t a bad thing to leave that place after all.

Anyway, lots of travel and moving around with this new job which, sadly, I’m not really supposed to talk about, so you’ll have to be content with the idea that I’m simply in China doing some language assessment. The perks are nice but I’ve yet to find an apartment (being a little picky) so I’m still in living limbo. I’m sure I’ll find something soon.

Although I’m aware of the changes that have happened in Beijing since my departure last January, I have to be honest and say that I haven’t really experienced much of a difference, mainly because I’m living on the other side of town now and most of those big changes happened in the central hutongs (neighbourhoods). We’ll see what other changes this city has in store. There are a few more APPs that I use now (Didi is now in English, Sherpa’s food delivery, a few airline APPs and Ziroom for apartment hunting) and I’m trying to build up the motivation to keep learning Mandarin Chinese. I will need to learn a few more phrases specific to air travel as that’s what I’ll do quite often.

Anyway, it’s good to be back and working again despite not being entirely settled. My uncle visited while on a business trip from Canada so that was a nice segue into this new life I’ve got going on here.

And I’m looking at the calendar of how many posts I’ve made over the years and it looks like this site has been going for seven years already. SEVEN! On my way to eight. I wish I could post more but I think this blog is going to change a little bit over the next while to fit my new travel-but-not-too-much lifestyle.

I guess I owe a few posts about what all went down this year and how I came to be in my current position. Not only that, I finally got my old laptop back so I now have access to some posts I was working on before I left. Imagine your life without your computer and only a cell phone, that’s kinda what happened to me this year. Anyway, I’ll try to get those going by the end of the year so you’ll have some holiday reading and entertainment.

Got a GoPro, too, so I hope to post some vids and photos from the different places I’ll visit.

I hope all is well!


In other words, this here website is not dead just yet but rather this year has been incredibly busy with all sorts of things not related to web publishing.

In brief:

-Transferring a massive number of MiniDV tapes

-new Chinese work permit and visa is in. Looks like I start next week!

-went up to the farm for a bit and did a few more weeks of work

-writing for a few other websites which has basically consumed my time

-thinking of breaking up this website into a few others in order to facilitate focus.

That’s all for now!

End of Summer and a return to China?

So it’s the Labour Day weekend and that officially marks the end of summer.  It was also supposed to mean a return to China for a different job. However, due to the lengthy time it takes to complete all of the paperwork, I’m still in Canada. Anyway, I’ve been busy writing up a few things and hope to have them out soon, hence the lack of posting here on this website.

Happy 150th Canada Day!

The folks up here north of the 49th parallel have been saying “Happy Canada Day” for the last 150 years. Well, okay, maybe they didn’t say much in the first few years, but it has become more of a celebration over the last couple of decades. Kinda like the realization that, hey, we’re an actual country! And recently it’s become all about those social media posts and hashtagging #Canada150. My, how the times are changing.

Anyway, I’m actually in Canada for Canada Day this year and thought I’d write up a little bit of a post of what it’s like to be one of those Canadians whose usually overseas for this day.

First, our passport is one of the most valued passports in the world. We currently sit at a power rank of 5 out of the whole world (according to Passport Index) with a score of 155, which simply means that quite a few countries let us in pretty easily, but not as many that let in the Germans or Singaporeans. I also recall Laos charging Canadians the most which might have something to do with the absence of diplomatic relations.

But that doesn’t make our passport the most in demand on the black market either, as prices have been plummeting as of late, according to the Huffington Post’s article on the subject. Only a mere $2,600 for a Canadian passport? $173 for a SIN card? Geeez, you’d think they’d be worth more than that. We barely even register on Money Talk’s list of contraband available through the black market. You see, despite our passport being a good one to have, it’s kinda tough to get to our country (which is where most of these people want to come. It’s not like they want to flit about the world as a Canadian backpacker!) seeing as though there is an ocean on either coast, a frigid north (good luck with that one), and a rather gun-ho neighbour to the south soooo… you may be able to get a Canadian passport, but you still have to get here.

But in a more sincere form of flattery aside from the benefits of the Canadian passport (which can often be confused with the USA or Australian passport), is our reputation. Being a white Canadian backpacking the world often lands me into the conversation of “Are you American?” To which I reply, “No, Canadian.” And that lightens the mood considerably. But let’s not skip over the reason why this occurs.

First, the USA spends a lot on military power, you might recall that the country was founded after a few wars and then were blindsided by the Japanese in World War 2. None of that happened to Canada. Canada, in a way, was founded as a “not American” country. We didn’t actually have our own constitution until 1982!

Second, it’s US companies that you see overseas which can translate into “US interests”. Be it military or corporate, the British used to have a similar empire, so did the Danish, the Dutch, the Spanish, and the list goes on. Canada, we’re not so prominent in the international business scene.

That’s not to say we’re not there for either of those things. Canadian troops are still in Afghanistan and we do export a lot of soybeans to China (like, basically everything we produce)… and bacon, too. So we do have “interests” as well, just nothing that looks like a big M to draw other people’s attention or whatever comes to mind when you say the word “cola”. (Though according to one recent commercial, Colonel Sanders of KFC fame actually lived in Canada for 15 years.)

Okay, so you get the point. We’re not a big presence on the international stage and our visa cost to Laos doesn’t make the headlines like the USA and Russia threatening each other, or the Brexit or whatever. No, but what do we have?

First, clean drinking water that comes from a tap. It’s odd to think just how strange this fact actually is: in most countries in the world you would be taking a bit of a risk drinking tap water for hydration (or even as a joke). Instead, it’s bottled water (or beer).

People speak English with a bunch of different accents yet these people are “Canadian”. Some countries, if you have an accent, you are a foreigner no matter how long you’ve been there. (And being born in Canada is a quick way to expedite your Canadian passport application. Read about that here.) All that is to say, we have quite the diverse range of people and cultures living here in Canada.

Again, our passport is welcomed broadly across the world.

We have good internet, and by that I mean utilities like electricity, water, waste disposal. When you flick a light on in Canada, it goes on. Turn the tap, water comes out. Shit in the toilet, it gets flushed away. These are things that don’t always happen in other parts of the world. Oh, and we have hot water that doesn’t scald you, which is just a side benefit.

We have police, firefighters and medics who don’t need to be bribed to get anything done. This is kinda something overlooked, though that’s not to say diplomacy and tact don’t go a long way when the going gets tough.

We have a space program; standards of work safety that might slow things down but actually help people live better lives; women are able and willing to work and have babies in the process without losing their job; the list goes on.

And, if you need some controversy, we came up the with Kyoto Protocol and then broke our commitment to it! Booya, politics at its finest. Who would’ve known that energy would play such an integral role in Canada’s economy? #oops

Finally, another controversy is the government’s battle with the First Nations people who are looking back at their history and saying that they were treated unfairly. This is a big issue because it’s not so simple because what you hear being talked about doesn’t often include both sides of the argument. So that’s something the country will have to deal with in the future.

Anyway, those are just a few of the things I’ve noticed being here in Canada for Canada Day. I’ll be honest, I’d rather be in Ottawa or Montreal for today’s celebration but I’ll have to content myself here in Winnipeg. Canada is a good country with good people and, though I see where we might need some work (border security, water-proof passports, international presence), it’s a good place to live.

Happy Canada Day! Here’s to another 150 years!

Back in the Peg and Looking Around

So farm work is done for now and it looks as though I may have another job overseas line up again starting in September. For the time being, however, I am in Canada for the summer. Should the job not work out, however, I think I may just fly down to the Caribbean and stay there for a while! haha!

Although it’s almost July already, this year has gone quickly especially for me. Having left Beijing in mid-January, I’ve literally been on the move for the last seven months and living out of a backpack. Even worse, all my big stuff is still in China! I hope to get that sorted out soon. The one small plus of this movement is that I look to be on track to do a complete “round the world” trip going Westwards, so it’s a small plus to an otherwise rather tiring journey.

Anyway, back in Winnipeg once again and having a look around. There are moderate changes, but nothing really big that I could see.

The rapid transit route is still not finished (I’m told there’s a second phase that needs to be implemented), but there are new bike paths all over the place, made notable by the amount of construction work they’re causing. I read an article that stated that Winnipeg was spending too much and taking too long to complete their bike paths while cities like Calgary and Edmonton did it in one summer and for a fraction of the cost. And it’s not like Winnipeg’s bike paths will be used for six months of the year. The bike paths are a good idea, but you need to wonder why it takes so long to get these things done. I know Winnipeg has a very conservative (or, to use a less political word, “cautious”) attitude towards progress, but sometimes the discussion just never seems to end.

I had a chance to go to the Red River Ex for the first time since my early twenties. I can’t say I really wanted to be flung around and nearly thrown out of my seat so I contented myself with going on the kid rides with my nieces, which was more than fine with me. I think we rode the Caterpillar roller coaster at least seven times, each time my youngest niece got off the ride she would scream “Again!” and then we’d go line up again. Despite the rain and wind, it was an enjoyable day.

Winnipeg’s Jazz fest also took place last week. I only managed to get out on Saturday after the rain stopped. Glancing through the line up for this year’s festival I didn’t see many names I could recognize. I’ll admit that I’m not as immersed in the music scene as I once was but nothing really stood out for me. I remember seeing some big names back ten years ago so maybe the scene and musical tastes have changed quite a bit.

Speaking of music, I have been dabbling yet again and should be posting something soon.

Next up would be the Fringe Festival, an event I used to participate in by way of helping local troupes get their act together (literally). I’ve never been a big “Fringer” but hopefully the weather will be nice enough to spend the day walking around the Exchange District.

If you’d like a visual representation of what I’ve been up to, I suggest you follow me on Instagram. You can find the link on my home page and go from there.

Winnipeg is seeing some good weather, though infestations of caterpillars make going out for a walk a rather sticky adventure. Hey, has anyone thought of using Winnipeg caterpillar webs for clothing material? The mosquitoes don’t seem too bad this year either, maybe that’s the biggest change I can see and feel in the city.

That’s all for now. Guess I should get some other updates done, too.

See ya!