The Power of (S)NOW!

www.snowheart.com
www.snowheart.com

You know when you wake up and you glance out the window groggily as you make your way through your morning routine?  You’re barely half awake, yet you subconsciously need to confirm what the weather looks like before you start your…

…and then, BOOM!  White everywhere!  Welcome to beautiful Canadian winter, baby! It’s here!

Yes, yes, I know, it’s cold and your boots are heavy and it’s hard to hold anything when you’re wearing those goofy gloves. But man, is it beautiful, and clean and fresh and exciting…admit it.  You love snow. I know you do.

www.thestar.com
www.thestar.com

I like winter because it’s such a dramatic and refreshing change from the rest of the year.  A dramatic weather change like this helps you to remember where you are, and what you were doing when it happened. Also, I love winter because it brings people together, indoors, playing games and swapping stories (or apps) to help stay warm and cozy. That’s the power of snow.

For those of you experiencing this gorgeous Canadian precipitation, breathe it in and enjoy.  These are the memories that living in a foreign country are made of.  Stay warm and take lots of pictures, my friends!  I guarantee your friends back home won’t believe it.

Why do you love winter?  Leave a comment below and let us know!

www.ottawacitizen.com
www.ottawacitizen.com

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!

The weather is warmer, the grass is bright green, and we’ve all finished watching Breaking Bad.  Time to get outside and play some sports!

You can learn a lot about yourself by doing sports (like how good you look in shorts), and you can actually learn a lot of English, too.  Between high school and university I rowed for seven years, and learned a lot of language out on the water.  We used to chant, “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL” before every race.  It means we promised to work as a team, to do it for ourselves and every team member, equally.  Unfortunately the rest of the language we used out on the water isn’t appropriate for sharing, but I can show you some practical sports idioms! Check out this awesome video to help get your ‘head in the game’ (to focus on what’s important):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S A LITTLE LOONIE

www.canada.com
www.canada.com

My colleague Christina informed me this week that our “Loonie”, the Canadian dollar, is at its lowest value now since 2009.  “Isn’t that cool?” she exclaimed.  “Wouldn’t it make a neat blog post?”  “Yeah,” I laughed. “It’s a little loonie, but it’d work.”

Loonie is the slang name for the Canadian dollar.  We call it that because it has the image of a beautiful Canadian bird, the loon, on it.  Also, loonie (or loony) is another way of saying someone or something is ‘crazy’.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot of things in Canada that are pretty loonie!

So how is a lower dollar value a good thing for the Canadian economy.  I admit, I am no economist, so I had to do the research on this.  What I learned is rather cool.

1.  A lower Loonie will help our economy

www.akcanada.com
www.akcanada.com

Canada sells a lot of stuff to other countries (export).  This includes manufactured goods and services.  Canada’s tourism and services industry is big, too.  So with a lower dollar, suddenly our stuff isn’t so expensive compared to the rest of the world.  As a result, more countries will want to buy Canadian.

2.  A dip in the dollar will help employment

www.opencanada.org
Oil Field Worker in Alberta, Canada www.opencanada.org

Our lower dollar will make the U.S. exports more expensive.  This means that other countries won’t buy as much from the U.S., and American workers could lose their jobs.  Meanwhile in Canada our exports are busier than ever, which creates work for Canadians to keep up with the demand.

3.  A bargain buck means ‘buy Canadian’

www.monarchkitchenblog.com
www.monarchkitchenblog.com

A lot of Canadians shop ‘over the border’, or in the U.S. because their prices are usually cheaper than ours.  This is especially true for groceries and gas.  But with the Canadian buck (slang for dollar) low, it doesn’t make sense to buy in America.  Canadians will buy in Canada, and a higher volume of business is great for the economy.  Also, Americans will come to Canada to buy Canadian!  It’s a win win!

4.  Cut-rate cash is great for tourism

blog.newswire.ca
blog.newswire.ca

Canadian music and theatre festivals, ski resorts and summer resorts, will all benefit from a lower dollar.  Why?  Because other countries’ money is higher value, making Canada a great place to travel too.

There are drawbacks, of course.  People with Canadian investments and retirement savings won’t be earning as much.  Bank rates haven’t been lowered either, which means people are paying more on their credit cards while the dollar is technically worth less.  In the end however, this was a good lessen for me.  When people say the ‘dollar is low’, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.  It’s when people say your pants are low, or your marks are low – that’s pretty much always a bad thing.

5 Inventions You Probably Don’t Know Are Canadian

http://www.midnightpoutine.ca
http://www.midnightpoutine.ca

Our most famous foods are maple syrup and poutine.  Our biggest exports are lumber and comedians.  But how many of you knew that these 5 world famous inventions were born in Canada?

1.  IMAX

I recently saw Gravity on IMAX, and it was stunning.  How can you go wrong with 72 × 52.8 ft screens displaying the absolute best resolution on the world’s biggest cameras?  My wife and I couldn’t drive home right away because we both actually felt like we were in space.  Yes, IMAX is a Canadian company, established in 1970 (after years of trial and error), and is now in 679 countries.  Forget Netflix!

www.imax.com
www.imax.com
www.imax.com
www.imax.com

2. THE EGG CARTON

Ok, so you might not think this is anything to brag about.  But be honest.  How many unnecessary egg tragedies have been avoided because of this ingenious piece of cardboard engineering?  I imagine when  Joseph Coyle of Smithers British Columbia came up with the design in 1911, it was mainly because he was tired of eggs exploding in his pockets on the way back from the market.

talentegg.ca
talentegg.ca

3.  INSULIN

When medical insulin was created in 1922,  Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip revolutionized the medical world forever.  These Canadians made it possible to regulate dangerously low insulin levels in people, and therefore make diabetes a manageable disease.  Ok, so it’s no egg carton, but it’s not bad!

http://anthonycolpo.com
http://anthonycolpo.com

4.  FIVE-PIN BOWLING

As if 10 pin bowling isn’t fun enough!  Thomas F. Ryan from Toronto, created 5-pin bowling in 1909 to put a spin on the classic game.  With a smaller bowling ball and only 5 ‘pins’ at the end of the alley, some people feel this version is faster and more challenging than the regular game.  Personally I don’t really care.  I love bowling for the shoes.

http://brechinlanes.ca
http://brechinlanes.ca

5.  THE G-SUIT

The G-Suit is a flight suit worn by aviators and astronauts who are subject to high levels of acceleration force (g). It is designed to prevent a black-out and Loss Of Consciousness caused by the blood pooling in the lower part of the body when under acceleration, thus depriving the brain of blood. The first g-suits were developed by a team led by Wilbur R. Franks at the University of Toronto’s Banting and Best Medical Institute in 1941.  Not a bad contribution to the world, eh?

http://www.fslocal.com
http://www.fslocal.com

When you travel and/or study in Canada, you need to know information like this.  Why?  Because when you go home you’re expected to be an expert on the country, right?  You need to know how the culture works! Impress your friends!  Shock your neighbours! Impress your teachers at CultureWorks!

As Happy As A Clam ~ An Interview with CultureWorks Instructor, Man Tran!

Man Tran enjoying Ottawa's classic Beavertails!
Man Tran enjoying Ottawa’s classic Beavertails!

Name: Man Tran

Title: EAP Instructor on Ottawa Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian Travel Magazine: Verge

Q.  The idiom ‘happy as a clam’ is an appropriate one for you, Man.  Your smile is so big it makes everyone around you smile, too!  What kinds of things do you do in the classroom to keep students so happy? 

Clams http://media.cmgdigital.com
Clams
http://media.cmgdigital.com

A. I simply try to welcome my students with a smile and ask them how they are doing. It’s usually pretty easy because they’re already smiling at me and asking me how I’m doing!

Q. Do you like clams, by any chance?  Do you have other favourite foods?

A. Mmm…clams! 🙂 I usually crave sushi, onigiri, dim sum, Korean BBQ, kabsa, butter chicken, pad thai, kimbab, banh mi, ramen, red velvet cupcakes, chocolate and my mom’s cooking. Nonetheless, I’m always open to trying new dishes.

Q. Wow!  There goes my diet! Tell us a bit about your interest in travelling.  Where have you been?  Where would you like to go next?  What would you say is important about seeing the world?

A. I enjoy traveling because it gives me the opportunity to interact with different people from different cultures. It is also nice to visit relatives and/or friends who I rarely see. Over the years, I’ve been to Niagara Falls, Vancouver, Kingston, Montreal, Quebec City, Tokyo, Omiya, Sapporo, Hong Kong, Macau, Okinawa, Kyoto, Dortmund, Rheine, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, New York City, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Beijing, Lijiang, Kumming, Taipei, Kenting, Sendai, Nagoya, Seoul, Halifax, Charlottetown, Cape Breton, Hopewell Cape, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, and Bali. Next, I’ll be making my way through Mexico. Well, I think traveling opens one’s eyes, ears, mind and heart to infinite possibilities. So, the following quote from St. Augustine is fitting: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” So, get out there, explore and keep learning!

Q. You are preparing CultureWorks’ English as an Academic Language students who may want to study at Carleton University in Ottawa.  What skills are you teaching them to succeed?  What might attract a student to study at Carleton?

Carleton Campus http://www.ipdet.org
Carleton Campus
http://www.ipdet.org

A. We are teaching them how to get organized, think critically and cope with challenges. In addition to Carleton’s wide range of programs, I think the university’s underground tunnels are a huge draw. This network allows students to stay warm and dry as they travel across the campus to places like residence, their classes, the gym and our office. Oh, and of course its library expansion will make it that much cooler to study (both literally and figuratively)! Afterall, it’s a modern design with lots more space, a 3.5 Green Globe rating, exterior sun shades and screens, and a projected grand opening in the fall…now, that is cool!

Q. Lastly, for fun, what are your top three Ottawa restaurants you would recommend? 

I would recommend Art-is-in Bakery for their gourmet sandwiches and baked goods, Dolsot Café Korean Restaurant for their homestyle cooking and The Whalesbone Oyster House for their fresh seafood.

Thanks for your time Man, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!

Ramen http://www.rasamalaysia.com
Ramen
http://www.rasamalaysia.com
KImbab http://topchefkorea.files.wordpress.com
KImbab
http://topchefkorea.files.wordpress.com
Clams http://media.cmgdigital.com
Clams
http://media.cmgdigital.com
Pad Thai http://25.media.tumblr.com
Pad Thai
http://25.media.tumblr.com
Kabsa http://food.sndimg.com
Kabsa
http://food.sndimg.com
Korean BBQ http://1.bp.blogspot.com
Korean BBQ
http://1.bp.blogspot.com
Onigiri http://tx.english-ch.com
Onigiri
http://tx.english-ch.com
Red Velvet Cupcakes http://3.bp.blogspot.com
Red Velvet Cupcakes
http://3.bp.blogspot.com
Banh-Mi http://vanillabomb.files.wordpress.com
Banh-Mi
http://vanillabomb.files.wordpress.com
Butter Chicken http://shernis.com
Butter Chicken
http://shernis.com
http://library.thinkquest.org
http://library.thinkquest.org
http://www.todayifoundout.com
http://www.todayifoundout.com

Show Me the Money!

Courtesy of www.waterballoon.com
Courtesy of www.waterballoon.com

I’m not going to lie.  I love money.  I’ve collected money from every country I’ve ever visited. I’m not a miser or anything – I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world.  No, I mean I  love the way money looks.  It’s art, in my opinion, and a fascinating cultural representation.

Recently, the Canadian government issued a brand new twenty-dollar bill.

Courtesy of www.ebay.ca
Courtesy of www.ebay.ca

On the back there is a beautiful illustration of the Vimy Ridge memorial, which depicts one of our most famous, brutal wars fought for freedom during World War I. In the front of the bill you can see the Canadian maple leaf, which also has a security chip used to verify that the bill is real.  The Queen of England is in the middle, and you can see Canada’s parliament buildings on the bottom corner.  It is one of the newest materials ever used for money, a thin plastic, or polymer that is very difficult to rip or destroy.  Cool, eh? The $20.00 bill is the most widely used bank note, and soon new 5$ and 10$ notes will be issued later in 2013.

www.chfi.com
www.chfi.com

Here’s what the old $20.00 bill looks like:

Courtesy of http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com
Courtesy of http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Below is the version before that!:

Courtesy: www.flickr.com
Courtesy: www.flickr.com

I think this has been a nice upgrade to the old bills, as it represents how we value our history, our land, and of course the emblems that remain important.  Of course, change to Canada’s money  always comes at a cost.  (Pardon that double pun!)When the government got rid of the $1.00 and $2.00 bills to introduce their coin counterparts, it was a big government expense and many people opposed the idea.  Because the $1.00 coin showcased the Canadian bird, the ‘loon’, the coin quickly earned the nickname, ‘Loonie’, which is a cheeky misspelling of ‘looney’, meaning someone ‘crazy’, or ‘weird.’  Many people think the government was a little ‘looney’ for making us carry so much heavy coinage in our pockets and purses!

This was the old $1.00 bill:

Courtesy: http://johngushue.typepad.com
Courtesy: http://johngushue.typepad.com 

Here are the ‘Loonies!’:

Courtesy: www.coinsandcanada.com
Courtesy: www.coinsandcanada.com

So what do indestructible bills and crazy coins say about Canadian culture?  It’s a curious question, isn’t it?  For me I believe our nation is strong, both geographically and in attitude.  The many colours of our money show our culture’s vibrancy and our positive outlook on life.  And there’s no question we’re a funny bunch.  What do you think? What does your countries’ money say about your culture?

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Craving Canada?

What makes you want to travel? Why did you decide to study abroad? What’s the spark that ignites your passion for seeing the world?

For me, it boils down to one simple reason.  I crave new things.

New nature, new culture, and new fun!

Care of www.gotransit.com
Care of www.gotransit.com

Niagara Ontario offers a lot of  ‘newness’.  It is a vibrant tourist destination after all, and for very good reason.  The air is clean there, with vast acres of beautiful fruit farmland surrounding the region.  I’ve eaten more fresh peaches than you could ever dream of…it makes my mouth water thinking about it!  And then there’s the thrill of Niagara Falls of course, whether it is the mighty waterfalls themselves, or the many options for amusement on Clifton Hill.  I’ve been to Ripley’s Believe it or Not countless times, and believe me, you won’t believe it!  Cycling paths and hiking trails, world-class theatre venues, and some of the best jazz music in the country are all amazing features and I highly recommend you visit the area.

Courtesy of www.niagarafallscourtsidein.com
Courtesy of www.niagarafallscourtsidein.com

Niagara is super close to Toronto!  Ontario’s capital city at once became my number one destination for culture. My Canadian, ‘cultural Mecca’, if you will. As Canada’s largest city with nearly 3 million in the city’s core (and almost 6 million in the surrounding areas), there is no limit to the fun to be had.  And at the CultureWorks Summer Experience this year, you’ll adventure across both Niagara and Toronto!  You’ll have a blast!

FESTIVALS!

Food festivals, music festivals, cultural parades and art shows fill the streets at different times throughout the summer. Guaranteed, anytime you go into Toronto between April to September, you’ll stumble upon some variety of festival.  And what’s even better, is that most of them are free!  Here’s a couple that I enjoy:

Courtesy of www.blog.corporatestays.com
Courtesy of www.blog.corporatestays.com

LuminatoThis is an annual multi-disciplinary celebration of theatre, dance, music, literature, food, visual arts, fashion, film, magic and more.  www.luminato.com

Summerlicious: 150 of Toronto’s favourite restaurants open their doors for tastings of cuisine ranging from Indian to Japanese and everything in between. Summerlicious

Buskerfest:  At the St.Lawrence market downtown, the streets come alive with every performer imaginable!  Great fun! www.torontobuskerfest.com

Courtesty of www.gocanada.about.com
Courtesty of www.gocanada.about.com

SPORTS!

Love a good game?  Grab your shades and watch top-notch athletes battle for the win.

The Toronto Blue Jays (baseball) http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/

The Toronto FC (Football Club)  http://www.torontofc.ca/

The Toronto Rock, (Lacrosse team ) http://www.torontorock.com/

Courtesy of www.dailydealtips.com
Courtesy of www.dailydealtips.com

Not to mention Toronto Island, The Exhibition, or the Grand Prix! I’m telling you, you will not have enough hours in the day to do it all.

Courtesy of www.carmk.net
Courtesy of www.carmk.net

Whatever your reason for travelling, quench your craving, fellow explorers! Don’t waste your time trying to explain why you do it…just do it!

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Don’t Forget Your LIFE!

Courtesy of www.psyche-your-mind.blogspot.ca
Courtesy of www.psyche-your-mind.blogspot.ca

My family travelled a lot when I was growing up.  Africa, Malaysia, Pakistan, China and across Canada.  Don’t get the wrong idea ~ it’s not like the police were chasing us or anything.  My parents valued travelling as an important part of life, an important part of learning.  We had amazing experiences!  If you ever need convincing about travelling or living abroad, let me know.  I can give you a thousand reasons.

Anyway, one piece of advice my father always used to say to us was: ‘When you travel, don’t forget to bring your LIFE!’  I thought that was a silly thing to say.  How can a person forget to bring their life?  Of course, I was a kid then, and I used to think everything my parents said was pretty weird, so I didn’t really pay much attention to the advice.

What my father meant by LIFE, however, was all of the extremely vital documents that you travel with that could SAVE YOUR LIFE when you are away from home.  Including:

  • passport
  • visa
  • birth certificate
  • driver’s license
  • immunization, vaccination, dental and health records
  • marriage certificate or proof of common-law status
  • official school records or academic transcripts
  • documents required for entry into other countries you plan to visit
canada-passport
Credit: www.crowfootplates.com

Whether you are already here at CultureWorks, or planning to come soon, we highly recommend that you bring original copies of all these documents.  Keep them in a safe place.  Also, it is important you tell someone you trust where they are just in case of an emergency.

Credit: www.fongvisioncentre.com
Credit: www.fongvisioncentre.com
Credit: www.bccdc.ca
Credit: www.bccdc.ca

I learned this the hard way once.  2004. Thailand.  I lost my passport.  To make a long story short, it took panic, police, buses, two odd, bearded Swedish backpackers, motorbikes, the Canadian consulate, too much money, sweat, some tears, a missed plane, and loads of luck to find it again.  I was outrageously lucky, but the experience took about five years off my life!

So take it from me.  Do yourself the favour, and DON’T FORGET YOUR LIFE!

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Credit: www.zazzle.com
Credit: www.zazzle.com