All posts by stephanusoptimus

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!

Still up here on the farm

Still busy as ever up here on the farm. We’re done the major work with the seeding program so that’s good to be finished, now it’s time to spray the seedlings for insects and weeds. For me, my days start at 9 am and don’t finish until 8 pm or so. “Wow, late start!” you might say if you have experience with farm work. Yes, but if you’re starting any earlier it’s because you probably already have a list of things to do. I don’t get mine until the boss has a look around to see what needs to be done.

In case you’re wondering if I’ll be going overseas again, nothing is planned at the moment but I do have a few ideas in mind. It might be China again or it may be somewhere else.

I haven’t had the chance to update my Instagram feed in a bit mainly because of the internet connections out here but also because we’ve been pretty busy. I have posted a few videos on Facebook that I hope have helped to explain a little about what we’re doing over here. I hope to post those YouTube soon.

Other than that, it looks like Canada is home for a bit before things in Beijing get sorted out. Never thought I’d work the seeding program here in Canada but here I am. Who knows what will happen six months from now. And for those of you who wonder how I can’t settle down, let’s just say, China was very much a settling down for me and I didn’t want to budge, but circumstances changed. All of this I’ll have to explain a little bit later.


One of the newer things I learned here on the farm was how to fly a drone. My Uncle purchased a couple of drones (one crashed pretty badly) and so I’ve been trying my hand at that. I’ll be posting some of that footage soon. In case you’re wondering, it’s a Yuneec Q500 4K quadcopter. It’s taken a bit to learn how to fly but I’ve only crashed once.

That’s all for now. I haven’t been able to update very often because we’ve been busy but once I’m done here I hope to put up a slew of posts that I’ve been working on for a while.

Hope all is well wherever you are.

Up here on the farm and the SEVEN-YEAR blogoversary

Just a quick update as I haven’t published in a while.

As you’ll notice, I’m no longer in China, a situation I will explain in a later email.

Currently I’ve moved up to my Uncle’s farm once again (first time in FIVE YEARS) to drive some tractors for the Canadian seeding season. Last time I did this was in Australia some four years ago! To tell the truth, it was pretty natural to get back into the tractor.

I’m not done with Asia just yet as Japan has shown some interest in having me come over for a few months. We’ll see what comes of that.

And, finally, April marked the SEVENTH YEAR I’ve been blogging about all things me and my adventures overseas. I’m looking to continue despite the fact that I’ve been rather slow in posting. I do have some excuses and I have several posts in the queue. The latest complication to my publishing schedule is that, quite literally, all of my stuff is still in China! Yea… again, I’ll explain in a bit.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hope your Spring is turning out nicely.