Monday, October 19, 2015

I Voted!

I live in China and I voted. I'm two years away from being #Harpered*, and I voted. It started by printing the application, filling out the application, scanning and printing a copy of my passport, faxing it all to Canada, calling and finding out they didn't get it, finding out from Amanda that I can apply online, applying online, getting a special ballot in the mail 5 days later, casting my vote, giving it to the Vice Principal so she can deliver it to the embassy, and done! 

If I can do that 3 week process, you can take 20 minutes out of your day to vote! Please take the time today to have your voice heard. VOTE! Do the thing that many people around the world don't have the right to do. VOTE! If you don't know who to vote for, check out this website: Strategic Voting. VOTE! I'm a firm believer in "if you don't vote, you don't get an opinion!" VOTE! 


I'm not trying to be all "look at me and what I did to vote, I'm amazing!" Because I'm not. I just want to motivate everyone to get out there to the polls today and vote! 

*Stephen Harper has made it impossible for people who have lived outside of the country for 5 years to vote. Many of my colleagues and friends here in China don't have a choice - they can't vote. You do! VOTE!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015.

This year's Thanksgiving was a bit different than my past Thanksgiving's in China. Usually, it's surrounded by a number of people, involving a potluck, and getting to try all kinds of different foods that people associate with their traditional Thanksgiving dinners. This year, I was kind of sad at thinking I wouldn't get to take part in that tradition in my third year living in Beijing. In fact, up until the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend, I had zero plans to celebrate Thanksgiving. I told Amanda how I felt about it, and in an instant we had plans to celebrate Thanksgiving that coming Saturday!

We called a local restaurant and ordered a turkey (which may or may not have cost $123) that they would cook for us, including the gravy. We decided we'd cook potatoes, green beans, squash, and potato dressing. There would be pickles, and cheese, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert. Wine would be poured and games would be played, and we would go around the table and tell each other what we were thankful for. We decided we would just have a small dinner for four to make it more intimate and family-like. So it was me, Ken, and the Zhang's. They were gracious enough to host us! 

It was a great Thanksgiving in Beijing! We laughed and reminisced and shared stories. It made me so excited for Christmas time and getting to go home. All I could think about (besides how fortunate I am to have such amazing friends in Beijing to celebrate this Canadian holiday with) was my family and how much they mean to me. I have said it time and time again on this blog, but I am so thankful and blessed to come from such an amazing, rock-solid family. We are so close and love each other unconditionally. They are the greatest support system and I am filled with so much excitement to think that after 2 years away for the holidays, this year I'll get to sit around that table on Christmas day sharing in the joys of being together and and the warmth that comes with the Christmas season.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for my family and my friends that feel like family (Amanda said this at our Thanksgiving dinner, and it sums up perfectly how I feel about my friends), my students, getting to travel and see the world, FaceTime & Skype, good food, and where I come from.

I know it's a couple of days late, but Happy Thanksgiving!

PS - Read about what my students are thankful for and my Thanksgiving getaway to Vancouver in 2012. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Summer Recap.

This summer was a WHIRLWIND. And that's kind of an understatement. I just don't know any other word that can convey what this summer was. But before I continue, let me back up a bit. 

Last summer (my first summer back in Canada after living in China for year) was also a bit busy. I visited friends and family, went on two trips to PEI, and spent time running the roads of New Brunswick. I remember reflecting on the summer after returning to Beijing and thinking to myself (and also saying out loud) how "Next summer I'm going to spend much more time RELAXING!" HA! HA! HA! But, in my defence, I didn't exactly know 100% that I'd be transferring schools at the end of that school year which drastically changed the length of my summer vacation this year. Transferring from my prior school of two years, BCCSC, to its sister school in the city, CISB, meant that my school calendars changed. My old school wrapped up around the 10th-ish of July and started up again at the beginning of September of each year. My new school wraps up around mid-June and opens it's doors to a new school year mid-August. This means that my summer was cut in half. Instead of having the normal 7-8 weeks off, I was down to 4. I know some people out there probably are thinking "OH, poor Melissa. 4 weeks off from work and boohoo-ing about it!" But teaching is a unique job (and I'll open that can of worms another day) and when you've been living on the other side of the world for a full year, the more time at home the better! So 4 weeks was exciting because I was going home, but also a bit sad because I knew it would go by in a flash and that I wouldn't have time to truly relax and take in the gloriousness that is summer vacation! 

So, there's the back story. 

I had many goals for summer vacation that I wrote up here. Let's recap! 

+seeing my family and us all being together in one place.
This was a success on SO many levels! We gathered to celebrate my Grammy Dickinson's 80th birthday and even had family photos done. My cousin Michelle and I made comment on how we don't remember a time with ALL of us being in one photo together. It was a milestone birthday for Grammy and it was captured in photos which I am so glad we have now! 

My Uncle David also came to visit from Vancouver this summer! I was so excited about this - I love catching up and visiting with this man. The final weekend I spent in NB before departing for China was spent in Saint John. We gathered as a Farwell clan and had such an amazing day/night. We did a scavengar hunt of downtown Saint John then had a Mexican feast for dinner back at my Uncle Mark and Aunt Carolin's. The dancing and laughter that happened induced by some fine tequila was gut-busting funny and a memory I won't soon forget. 

Seeing my family and us all being together in one place = CHECK! 

+ hugs from my parents. They give the most amazing hugs!
The hugs that I got from both my Mom and Dad at the airport when I arrived super late (or super early, depending on how you look at it) were THE BEST! I cried, of course! I just love them so much and feel so grateful to come from such a rock-solid, beautiful family. 

Hugs from my parents = CHECK!

+ sitting on our back deck, sippin' a Dooryard, breathing in the fresh summer air, listening to the sounds of my quiet town.

While I didn't have much down time at home this summer on my back deck, I was able to relax and enjoy a Dooryard or two back there. No photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it! Instead, I'll show you a photo of my view when I was sipping those glorious, citrus-filled, Dooryards.

Sitting on our back deck, sippin' a Dooryard, breathing in the fresh summer air, listening to the sounds of my quiet town = CHECK!

+ bonfires with neighbours and good friends.
One of my all-time favourite summer activities is camp fires. Partly because of the s'mores, but mostly because of the people who are there and the conversations we have around the fire. Every summer, the Johnston's (my second family) and the Dickinson's take a scoot across the border to Maine and go to this absurdly oversized serving "diner-type" restaurant called Grammie's in Linius. We eat ungodly amounts of food and then gorge on ice cream and head back home for a bonfire in our backyard. It's become a summertime tradition that I always look forward to and we always make time for. I've grown up with this family, and (Little) Brad and Nicky are like two more younger brothers to me. Rob and Tracey treat me and (Big) Brad like their own. I love them!

Bonfires with neighbours and good friends = CHECK! 

+ traveling to Fredericton every chance I get to spend time with the best friends in the world.
While I would have liked to get there more often, I did get to Fredericton a couple of times. I got to celebrate my best friends 27th birthday with her and her friends. We even had a couple classic sleepovers! And saw Magic Mike XXL together on the whim (and was pleasantly, AND HAPPILY, surprised by the quality!) I got to take part in another best friends wedding (more on that in a minute). I visited with friends at the market and in downtown Fredericton. Sometimes it was when I passing through from one city back to Florenceville, other times it was to stay a couple of days. I'm just so happy I got the chance to see them! My friends mean the world to me, and I am so thankful that we can be apart for so long and still manage to keep in touch and pick up exactly where we left off! 

Traveling to Fredericton every chance I get to spend time with the best friends in the world = CHECK!

+ Amanda and Tony's wedding!
This was a much anticipated event this summer! Amanda asked me to be one of her bridesmaids in her wedding and I was happy and excited to accept the honour. Kudos to her for planning a wedding from China that would happen in Canada. I spent an evening or two with her planning and helping her to make some phone calls to businesses at home and while sometimes we laughed and broke out in to hysterics, there was also an equal amount of frustrations and annoyances. Regardless of all that, the day of was magical, beautiful, and unique. 

It happened in Fredericton at O'Dell Park. The day of was a bit chilly, but it didn't rain as forecasted so that was a big YAY! It was a very small wedding with family and close friends. It was intimate and special, and I shed quite a few tears when they exchanged their vows. What an honour to watch them say "I Do!" Happiness and love were exuding from both of them. I already knew that they loved each other, but watching them that day I could tell just how deep their love really is. I could tell you so much more about the wedding, but you should read it from the bride's mouth/blog herself (and here, here, and here!

PS - the beautiful photos were done by Kandise Brown. Talented woman!

Amanda and Tony's wedding! = CHECK

+ Snooty Fox!
Snooty Fox is one of my favourite places to go in Fredericton. I spent many a Wednesday (and Tuesday, and Saturday) night at Snooty Fox during my university days. I always enjoy going back there when I visit Fredericton. The first time I went this summer was for Amanda and Tony's wedding. I had eaten at their reception and was too full to eat the spinach and artichoke dip I ordered. I had two bites and remember crying to my friends that I wasn't going to be able to finish it. I was able to go back again with Mom, Grandmom, Uncle David, and Sara for lunch and ordered the dip again and finished the whole thing washed down with a Dooryard. Success! 

Snooty Fox = CHECK! (And another photo cred to Kandise Brown!)

+ driving! I can't wait to be behind the wheel again.
The jamming I did by myself and with others road tripping around was epic! I love driving!

Driving! = CHECK!

+ PEI with the family - golfing, eating, and creating new memories.
I love that at 26 for me and 23 for Brad, we still go on family vacations. He and I are both in the beginning years of our careers, I live in China and he travels all over the province, but at some point in the summer we are still able to all get together, just the original four, and get away for a couple of days. This year we headed back to PEI and stayed at the same place in Cavendish that we did last summer. Brad and Dad went deep sea fishing again, Mom and I went and saw "Anne the Musical", we ate Cows Ice Cream, and dined at some "new-to-us" restaurants. We had a round of golf and I ended up laying down on the rough of the 18th hole sulking because I couldn't hit "the god-damn ball!" Mom and I explored Victoria by the Sea and talked about how next summer we want to try kayaking. We found us a lighthouse, and Brad got offered a new job on one of our drives. It was a great vacation away! 

PEI with the family - golfing, eating, and creating new memories = CHECK!

+ seeing my Mom for the first time with her new knee! I can't wait to see her walking around pain free for the first time in many years!
WOW! After Mom had her knee replacement surgery in the spring, I only heard about the progress and had to envision it in my mind. All I could see is how I had left her at the end of Summer 2014 - in pain, stiff, and struggling to get around. When I arrived home and watched her walk around the airport, I had to squint to see the slight limp she had (and she only had it because she'd been standing for quite some time). As the summer went on, I watched her climb stairs, get in and out of cars without any pain, and go for walks around the block! What a difference. I'm so happy for her!

Seeing my Mom for the first time with her new knee! = CHECK!

+ Road trip to Nova Scotia to visit A & C.
I worked with Andrew and Christina during my first year living in Beijing. We became good friends during the second half of the school year. Christina was an amazing friend, but also offered me some great advice when it came to teaching and the job. I was really sad when they decided to move home back to Nova Scotia permanently but super excited for their new chapter. So, this summer Ken and I made plans to spend a couple of days in Dartmouth visiting with them. We made the road trip and helped them move to their new HOUSE! So happy to have helped them, so happy we got to visit, and so happy to call them my friends!

Road trip to Nova Scotia to visit A & C = CHECK!

+ visits from Uncle David.
I was so excited when Grandmom told me that Uncle David was coming to New Brunswick this summer! He planned his trip so he'd be in New Brunswick while I was home too. I was able to spend 5 days in Saint John before going back to China visiting with him and the rest of the family. We got to explore a new part of New Brunswick (St. Martin's) to us, searched tirelessly for a lighthouse and FOUND ONE FINALLY, we had some yummy meals, we had some great conversations, reminisced, and laughed A LOT. From now on when I hear "Benny and the Jets", I will remember him dancing with Brad, Rebecca, Rachel, and I on the deck. What a night! 

Visits from Uncle David = CHECK!

It's hard to believe I jammed all of this in to 4 weeks. I didn't have a single day where I had NOTHING planned. I wish I could have visited with more people, I wish I could have gone to more places, I wish I could have had more spare time to myself and relax. However, you can't have your cake and eat it to (speaking of which, why the hell not!  This cliche, while I understand it (I think), still doesn't make sense to me. I eat cake all the time! That means I have it, right? Ouch! My head...).

I love my home. I love it so much! It's always amazing to go home again. And this year, I'm COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! Oh, I can't even begin to express how extremely excited I am for this. It's definitely it's own blogpost soon to come! 71 days, people! 71 days!