Category Archives: Canada & Other Outer Realms

A China-free Summer Reading List

Recently I’ve really been enjoying two Canadian literary blogs, Seen Reading and the Quillblog. Seen Reading is about what one writers sees Canadians reading while the other is from a respected Canadian literary journal. All the books they discuss sound so great that I just want to go out and buy as many Canadian authors as possible. But Shanghai isn’t known for having much CanLit. Plus even if it did, books are expensive and I would just spend all my money on them I already have too many books on my shelves. So it got me looking at what’s there and making a book list for the next month or so. Here it is:

  1. Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctorine
  2. Ian McEwan’s Atonement
  3. John Updike’s Terrorist
  4. Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem
  5. Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys

You’ll notice that there’s only one China book there. I’ve kind of had my fill of China topics for now. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I deal with different aspects of the country everyday at my job or the fact that I spent most of my day writing an editorial for our company newsletter on the Olympics, but I need a break from it for awhile. Right now, I’m going to finish up some projects I’ve got in the pipeline (a book review of the memoir A Year Without Made in China for Lost Laowai and one on Jan Wong’s Beijing Confidential for That’s Beijing) then I am going to take a rest from China for a week or so. After that I should be ready to come back and tackle it again.



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Happy (Late) Canada Day

Since I can’t be at home for Canada Day I pay attention to a lot of the articles that are written about Canada in Canadian newspapers. David Burwick, former CEO of Pepsi-QTG Canada was an American living in Canada for two years. And as he wrote in the National Post he loved it there. Here is his top 10 reasons why you should live in Canada and I can’t agree with him more.

1 Tim’s: What more can I say? It’s 110% Canadian (even if it’s owned by Americans now). Real coffee for real people, started by a real hockey player.

2 The sheer beauty and diverse geography of the country. From St. John’s to Vancouver, with a long stopover in Banff.

3 Sweeter ketchup — and sweeter Diet Pepsi.

4 Terminal one at Pearson International Airport in Toronto: Nothing’s more civilized.

5 The National Anthem: How can you beat the lyrics, “The true north strong and free”?

6 Hockey Night in Canada: One of the last communal TV events left anywhere.

7 Eating a peameal sandwich every Saturday at 7 a. m. during my son’s hockey practice. That ritual became Pavlovian.

8 Raising a family right in the middle of the city, and knowing they’re safe.

9 Surviving a minus-30-degree day in downtown Winnipeg, and how it made me feel more alive.

10 CBC’s coverage of international news. You just can’t get that in the U. S.
Happy Canada Day


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Back in China and Things are Returning to Normal…for the Better

Well we made it home yesterday safe and sound without any problems. Jetlag is still a little bit present — I am writing this post at 10:55pm after all, but generally we’re recovering pretty well. There are a couple things that are different however, all for the better:

  • We can’t stop talking and thinking about our time in Canada. Winnie and I both really enjoyed our time there. That just shows how good our trip was. We’re seriously considering moving there. I think it would be a good move for the both of us. Now the only thing to really think about is when. We’ll have to workout a few items first such as what sort of visa is the best one for Winnie to apply for (we’re thinking it might be a good idea for her to go back to school for a year to get a Canadian degree on her resume. I may return to school for a master’s degree as well).  Our trip home has really brought us closer together as well, which can only be a good thing.
  • I feel refreshed enough to handle things at work. It helps a lot that the summer period has set in and things are beginning to quiet down as well. My stress level dropped a lot today and I was really able to get my work done. I finished all my tasks and was out of the office by 6pm. I also wasn’t dreading returning to my desk tomorrow like I was before the trip.
  • Roger got his hair cut shaved yesterday. It’ll keep him cooler for the summer and help his summer coat grow in properly. Unfortunately right now he looks like a totally different dog than the one I fell in love with, but I’m getting used to it. He grew pretty big over the 11 days we were gone — we can really notice the change anyway — but I can see from the way he acts that he is still the same lovable funny energetic dog I purchased and that’s what matters.
  • On a technical note, I’ve made the complete switch over to a Mac and am now even am to write posts for this blog here. It’s much faster and feels much more satisfying to type it on my lap on a keyboard that is really designed to be used in a small area instead of my old HP’s keyboard that felt like a miniature version of a full-scale desktop version.

The main thing overall right now is that I feel content and happy with Winnie, with my job and with my life and that is all thanks to this vacation.


P.S. Happy Canada Day to all Canadian readers of this blog whether you’re in our home and native land or overseas tomorrow, have a good one!

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Last Day in Canada

Well today is our last day in Canada, tomorrow we get back on a plane and return to China. This trip is just what Winnie and I need. We’ve had a lot of fun together visiting Niagara Falls, my aunt’s farm and the CN Tower.

Last night we also went out to one of China’s larger Chinatowns in Markham and had a big banquet dinner with a friend of Winnie’s uncle. It was great to introduce my parents to a Chinese banquet and for Winnie to see people from home. We’re looking to move back to Canada in a year or two and Markham is one of the areas that we’re looking at settling because of its large Chinatown. So showing Winnie the area was one of my goals for the trip.  

But one of the things that I really got out of all this traveling around was a chance for me to reevaluate how I viewed Canada. I really was feed up with this country when I left five years ago and the last couple times I came back I really didn’t really leave the area around my home, so I wasn’t able to evaluate the country and whether it had changed for the better. This time I was able to do that. I’ve fallen in love with CBC Radio again. I’ve always listened to it even when I’ve been in China, but being back here this time has made me appreciate it even more. 

What I really appreciate about the CBC though is its efforts to promote Canadian indie music through its digital/online station CBC Radio 3. I’m now subscribed to its Radio 3 superfeed which has every single podcast/program that the station offers and purchased Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer and Forest City Lover’s Haunting Moon Sinking because of their programs. Both albums are really good.

I’ve also been doing some serious reading again. I finished Chinese novelist Mo Yan’s Life and Death are Wearing Me Out  and am now devouring Douglas Coupland’s The Gum Thief. The two novels are different in terms of scope, but I really do enjoy Gum Thief more than Life and Death. It just deals with things that I can relate to more — the ideas of not really knowing where you’re going in life and trying to make something out of that life — than Mo Yan’s ideas on reincarnation mixed with Chinese history.

There is something about Coupland’s novel that is just very Canadian and I’m not just saying that because Coupland is Canadian and his book is set in Vancouver and its suburbs. The small scope, small cast of characters and short chapters and less than 300-page length just parallel Canada’s small population. That’s going out on a limb, but if you’re Canadian and you read the novel I think you’ll agree with me. 

I’d better bring this post to an end as there’s a bit still to be done. Winnie is making her famous chicken wings and a thank you to my parents and one of my friends is coming over to enjoy the dinner with us. Then there will be packing so that we can enjoy our last morning with our parents before jumping on the plane for our 14-hour ride back to Shanghai.

Write more soon.




Filed under Canada & Other Outer Realms, Personal

Canada So Far!

We’ve been here almost five full days now and things are going really really well, My brother’s wedding went perfectly. He and his wife got exactly what they wanted and everyone had a great time. Winnie also had a blast. She is loving every minute of our time here and every one of my family members is enjoying our time with her too. She’s won them over with her charm.

For me, I’m really enjoying seeing my hometown and Canada through her eyes. Places that I used to visit almost every year on field trips look really fresh and fun in her eyes.

We spent the day at Niagara Falls today and she loved every second of it. That’s a place that she’s really dreamed of going there since her English teacher showed her a video of it during her first year at university. So for her to go today was the fulfillment of a dream and that meant a lot to me that we were able to fulfill that today. Having her here has made this the best vacation ever. I am having a blast. I hope that every vacation we go on is this fun.

Tomorrow, we’re heading off to my aunt’s farm.


P.S. I wrote this on my new MacBook and am loving that too!

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The Struggle Obtaining A Canadian Visa And Other General Life Stress

If you want to know where I’ve been for most of the last month, I’d say “in front of my computer”. But instead of blogging, I’ve been wrestling with some important real-life issues.

First Winnie and I have spent the last three or four months planning our trip to Canada for my brother’s wedding. That has taken up a lot of our time particularly the visa process. I’ve been answering visa questions in the comments of my China Visa Update post almost daily. Well, if you thought it was hard to get a visa for foreigners to go to China getting one to go to Canada is also difficult. Not really because of the information they ask you to provide (there are a lot of documents but nothing that is really unusual) but the processing time. Canada has a backlog of 1 million applications at any one time. That means you really have to plan months ahead and have all your documents ready (we actually started collecting the relevant information — some which had to be sent from my parents last fall). Well in the end we succeeded, Winnie got her visa and we’ve arrived at my parents place for a well needed vacation and 10 days of family fun and visiting in Southern Ontario.

Second my work schedule has been hectic and this has put me into a bit of depression. I feel — though I am not sure this is true — as though I have been able to come up for air for the last month. Maybe it’s the grind of work and personal life crashing together uncontrollably that has kept me feeling this way. I am ready for a break. I have the weekend where I will be doing a little bit of work and then Monday and Tuesday and then no more.

For these 10 days, I am going to concentrate on having fun and taking some time to reflect. You probably won’t catch me on Twitter, but I will be updating this space. I’m going to blog about a couple of the stories that are sure to come up and I will also try to post more photos something I don’t do that often. My mom has been bugging me to post more pictures of Roger so I am will try to fit a few more posts in “A Dog’s Life” as well.

That’s it. Just wanted to say I’m back and more new content will come soon.


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Thoughts on 9/11

I wasn’t thinking about writing about 9/11 in this space. It’s not really a China-focused issue — Chinese people died on 9/11 but the country hasn’t participated in Afghanistan or Iraq — and the personal connection it has for me is a very tenuous one. The reason I am writing about 9/11 is because I just finished reading Chris Adrian’s Promise Breaker.

Adrian is a pediatrician and a Divinity student who frequently writes about the events of 9/11. Promise Breaker combines all of those parts of Adrian’s personality into one great piece — it’s about a child who is possessed by the souls of the dead from 9/11 and the child is treated by a pediatric psychologist in the story.

When I read the piece it brought me back to that day. I was a 22-year-old, fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University and I was having my first class in community newspaper journalism (the paper is called Centretown News). I remember the class had just started and one of our teaching assistants came in and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our professor jokingly asked him if he was on drugs and the class began. It wasn’t until we took a break that we realized the TA wasn’t joking and we spent about an hour watching the towers — and effectively the world as we knew it at that time — come down.

By that time, I’d been chosen Editor of the paper for the first three issues. And all that I remember from the rest of that day — besides talking about it with everyone — was sitting in our newsroom with my professor and trying to map out the first issue with the news editor and deciding how we were going to deal with this. The personal significance of this day to me isn’t the fact that I was there when 9/11 happened but the fact that it was the first time I had to make a decision not to cover something.

We decided not to do a 9/11 issue because well it wasn’t in our scope. The paper came out every two weeks and even though people would still feel the impact the news impact would be gone. It was also outside our scope. We knew that people who died in the towers or on the planes or in the Pentagon may have been from downtown Ottawa, but we knew the major papers would have covered them by the time we published. As we were talking about this, CBC Radio was on in the background and it was repeating the events of the day over and over from so many different angles. As a journalism student, I understood why we were doing this. It was logically, we’d lose out to the majors who could get all the up-to-the-minute news out there and the public would frankly be sick of it by the time we published, but I felt disgusted anyway. These were human beings — some of whom were sure to be Canadian and we needed to acknowledge that.

9/11 faded into the background after that. It would come up a few times again in my life. I remember the sense of disgust mixed with understanding that I felt when I heard that some Chinese were happy that the towers fell. They saw it as revenge for the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia. I can understand their anger, but for them to wish death on another people is never justified in my eyes.

9/11 appeared again this year and really struck home. I keep hearing it referenced to Iraq — a war I find unjustified and one I’m happy that Canada and China did not choose to participate in — and also in talk of a possible war with Iran. That day is starting to appear in fiction too. Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (I’m taking this with me on my Spring Festival vacation) and John Updike’s Terrorist. It’s with this that it really became evident to me that 9/11 and its aftermath are defining events for my generation. For my grandparents it was World War II, for my parents it was Vietnam but for me it’s 9/11.

There’s one more personal connection to 9/11 that I forgot to mention. I was living off campus that year in my first apartment. It was a bachelor. It was small but it was home and a place I was really proud of — it was mine. That apartment’s number was 911. I remember when I moved in, someone made a comment that oh I must be safe there. But now I associate that number with the world coming crashing down.


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