Life's too short... Travel the World!

Life's too short... Travel the World!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

I'm switching blogging platforms!

Oi!

I've decided to move to a new blogging platform; Jux, because it looks so much cooler.

I'm gonna try and keep that one up to date as I travel, so if you'd like to follow it, check it out here:

https://ryder.jux.com/

Cheers!

I swear I'm gonna update this thing more.

Really, I do. I'm deleting facebook in a few days to put me in travel mode, and learn other languages except English mode, so that will be good, but I'll keep blogging on here.

These are my plans:

May 18th - Leave Hong Kong for Thailand

May 21st - Leave Thailand for Egypt
     - Cairo
     - Luxor
     - Aswan
     - Maybe Sinai

Head over to Jordan (Date Unknown, probably after a week)

Head over to Israel (After about 4-5 days in Jordan)

Flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul: June 10th

Train to Bulgaria

Flight from Burgas to London: June 15th

Flight to Stockholm: June 19th

Flight to Budapest: June 24th

Then until July 19th, work my way through:
Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium.

Then my exchange in France! And eventually, Iceland and Canada.

How much is this costing me? Shut up, I don't want to talk about it.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Sunburnt in a city with no sun...

Yesterday instead of coming to terms with my academic responsibilities, I decided to jump on a boat with 80 other exchange students and sail out to Lamma island.

In retrospect, it was a really awesome day, but I'm regretting it now for the sole fact that I can't move my extremities without pain.

We started the day with an early wakeup, running to catch the group as we were late (as always) and buying mountains of junk food and beer at the grocery store. At 9:30, 80 pirate dressed Gweilos headed off to TST pier number 3 to meet our boats.

We got to the peer, and the first boat holding 40 people was loaded and off. We waited about 10 minutes for the second one (which was much better) and started following them out to Lamma island. The ride out was quick, as we were all in good sprits and couldn't stand because of the rocking.

After about a 1.5 hour journey, we finally caught up to the other boat, and everyone started taking off their clothes to go swim... but when we looked down, we discovered the water was boiling with jellyfish - some with 2M long tentacles.

The entire day was spent avoiding them, though I'd say most people got a sting.

We climbed up on the highest point of our boat, and people started to jump. After I realized the water was safe from being stung (for now) I grabbed my friend Francesca, and we jumped. I remember thinking halfway down (wow, this is higher than I thought, I thought we'd have hit the water by now).

The water was actually incredibly nice - cool and refreshing, and the day was hot and humid.

The rest of the day was spent with random pirate themed adventures, like noodle fighting, dancing in the pouring rain, penguin dives and trying to surf a rescue board.

Among my favorite moments were:

  • Swimming out to a rock far away from the boat, dodging jellyfish with Alexis the whole time
  • Getting revenge on those who pushed me in
  • Watching the face of the girl who pushed me in when I lied and said "my cell phone is in my pocket"
  • Celebrating 420 with good friends
  • Running off the un-covered boat to avoid the rain, running back onto it to join those dancing in it
It was a really fantastic day, and I now have the worst sunburn I've ever had in my life. It hurts to do anything, even smile. We just went out and bought some Aloe vera, so hopefully I'll start coping soon, but dear lord do I ever want to be put into a chemical coma right now...

Friday, 19 April 2013

ORA Scholarship

Hey Bloggers!

So a few days ago, I found out that I was accepted to participate in my third exchange - the Ontario-Rhône-Alpes exchange. This is where a handful of students from Ontario universities all head over to a few different places in France where they live and learn the language for a month.

Needless to say, I'm incredibly excited and very much looking forward to it. I was planning on traveling around France this summer anyways on my way home, so instead it looks like I'll be living in Saint Étienne for a little while (a city a little bit away from Lyon) from Mid-July to Mid-August.

Immediately after I'll need to head home for RLS training (and I do mean immediately, like, the day it finishes). So I'll be nice and jet lagged, but in Canada none-the-less. It almost seems like I'm planning my summer backwards.

Summer Plans
Aside from the month in France, I'm in desperate need to plan my summer - and am still struggling between learning Mandarin and traveling.

If I went traveling, there are a few places that I definitely want to visit; Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Israel and the Netherlands - a strange list I know, but it's what I'd like to see. Though some of those places aren't necessarily "safe" or well-backpacked, which concerns me a little. That (and the price) is my main con against going traveling over the summer. My other option would be living in Taiwan for a little while, and then catching a flight over to Europe. 

Health Insurance
Much like the time I discovered I was driving my car for a month without insurance (thanks to a miscommunication with my parents), I've also just realized that I have no health insurance in Hong Kong, aside from the minimal coverage by my University and my mother's health plan. I'm gonna need to get some travel insurance I think if I want to move around to lots of places with infectious disease this summer.

Exams
Unfortunately, I'm right now in the middle of exams and finals, which means that those 6 courses I've been ignoring are catching up for me, and I'm needing to do an insane amount of work - something I'm working on today.

Hong Kong Apathy
The title isn't what it sounds like. There's this thing about living in Hong Kong (and it holds true with most of the exchange students) in that the city is constantly exhausting. I feel constantly out of energy, and drained of everything - it's sometimes difficult to do everything I'd like to do because of this. We can't tell if it's the pollution, or the water, or the sensory assault we constantly receive when going anywhere beyond Kowloon Tong, but it's making it very difficult to study for exams.

Junk Trip
Tomorrow I'll be heading out on a Yacht with 70 or so people (many of them my good friends) where we'll spend the day at Sea (or just outside the beaches) chilling, hanging out and having a good time. I'm hoping it doesn't rain, but even if it does I'm excited, because this is something I've wanted to do for a while now here.

Haunted House (Dragon Lodge)
A few days ago my friends and I snuck under a fence into an old abandoned haunted house on the top of victoria peak, and when I say house, I mean mansion. The entire place was terrifying, and we kept getting the feeling that someone was there. Though I don't believe in ghosts, or anything that's not scientifically provable, it still scared the hell out of me walking through that children's room and up to the attack. See this video:

https://vimeo.com/64009655

Okay! That's it for now! I'll try and post something a little later with how I'm dealing, but I need to study for French, Mandarin and my Cell Biology Lab course, all of which I have exams for next Tuesday... Fantastic. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

This Coming Summer

I have absolutely no idea what I want to do this summer.

Really, I don't. I have a bunch of things that I would maybe like to do, but I can't decide on which one that I'd like to do. Right now, I'm deciding between travel and work - despite applying for, and turning down multiple summer job interviews already.

I'm thinking this is my plan so far:

Language learning becomes difficult after your mid-twenties - if not already. I'd like to at least get reasonable in some of my second languages before that happens. I think I would like to move to, and live in Taiwan for a month / month and a half, and then move to France and live there for another month / month and a half.

I'm thinking these immersion opportunities will really help me in improving my Mandarin and French. If I do decide to go, I think I'll delete my Facebook once again, and only blog - speaking English as little as possible. I'm still not sure about this plan though.

Really, I'd like to go where the wind takes me, just buy flights and go - but I have to check on my finances - which aren't doing too well right about now.

Oh well, I'll let you know what I decide - seriously, I was supposed to decide this months ago.

Peace!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Frustrating Me!


Okay, I've just got to write about this, to get it out of my system.

A little while ago Brock University hosted a student driven referendum to "improve student life" on campus. Being abroad, I was naturally a little out of the loop, but due to the help of my friends was soon able to catch up.

Now before I say anything else, let me just state that the referendum successfully passed with just over 50 percent of the vote so it's going to happen; there's no changing that. I'm not writing this because I'm bitter about that - if 4000 students wanted it, great. I'm one of the ones who didn't, but that's okay too because we lost. I'm writing about it to express my frustrations with the process, and hopefully if we document history, it won't repeat itself.

The Referendum

Each student of Brock University on top of all their other ancillary and tuition fees, is now required to pay a 20 dollar per credit "student life" fee. For many undergraduate students, that's a 100 dollar per-year fee.

It is split into three categories: Athletics, Recreation and Mental Health. 

Each of these has three separate allocated percentages of the funding - almost 1.5 million Canadian dollars. These allocations are in fact bound by law; however the pro-campaign team provided us with a further (though no less vague) breakdown which they promise to enforce - despite having no legal authority to). 

My Problems with the Campaign Team

Never before have I felt like Brock University was a high school until this point. The amount of disrespect I and my fellow nay-sayers received from official campaign team members was baffling. My international exchange was brought up as a negative by several of my own friends, stating that I had "no right" to comment on the goings-on of the school, since I was now apparently not apart of it.

Let the record show that I've stayed intensively connected to my university through numerous volunteer projects and correspondence. 

This team refused to answer straight-forward questions about breakdown of prices, financial transparency, and basic mental health knowledge. Amongst my favourite responses to our questions were the following:

  • Being accused of not going to the gym, ergo not having a say

This team made the minimal amount of information available online - and repeatedly told students if they wanted information, they should come by the table and speak. At that point, I commented along the lines of "not all students are available to come down to the table" hoping to encompass exchange students, co-op students, those with accessibility difficulties or issues with being confronted. The response I got was a personal attack on how if I had time to "troll around on Facebook for hours" than I should have time to come back to the table. I let the poster know of my situation, and that many others were in a similar one than me. It was met with no response, not an apology or otherwise. 

Summary, because I'm getting frustrated even thinking about it:

Let's just skip everything, and come to the realization of what this referendum actually was: Money for Athletics and Recreation.
  • It's vocal supporters were students involved heavily in athletic programs, and recreation.
  • It's vocal oppressors were students involved heavily in on-campus mental health support mediums. 
The promise of increased mental health support on our campus was used to increase the amount of votes it got, and shame those who voted against it into somehow condemning mental health awareness. Yes promoters knew nothing of already-existing on campus mental health services, and knew of no direct ways to improve them. 

I actually felt bullied by members of the yes side. At this point I almost fear returning to my university because of the recognizability of my name, and how vocal I was oppressing it. 

Anyways, I just wanted to get my feelings out there. I hope that something good comes out of this referendum, I really do, but I doubt it's going to be the things that some people promised. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

中国 Travels - Part 3!


Blog Entry 3! 

Well, Pamela and I are off to see the great wall, and are currently sitting on the floor of the train to Badaling station. For the day, we decided to split up with the rest of the group after getting an early start to the morning. We're on our way to see the great wall of China, and it's starting to rain - but who cares, because this opportunity is amazing.

The Great Wall

The great wall at Badaling is humbling, and even amongst the 5 degree weather, pouring rain and hoards of people, it still was an awesome experience - costing only 25 Yuan - who would have thought! We did accidentally by a 40 Yuan ticket to a 360 degree theatre playing movies about the wall in Mandarin though… Oops!

It took about 30 minutes, but ew climbed the wall to the highest point. With huge slopes and near-vertical stairs, this thing was not designed with trans-wall mobility in mind. What I was surprised about was how much it curved back on itself, slithering across the mountains with more S shapes than a sidewinder. All in all, it was a good day, finishing it off by trying to get a look at Tianamen square, but being unable to because of it's "closing". 

***

I'm currently sitting on a flight from Beijing to Shenzhen where we'll cross the land border into Hong Kong. To spend 5 more minutes in the air (I can see the Hong Kong airport now…) and land at HK international would have costed us about $200 canadian more… I don't think I'll ever understand airline prices.

Our last full day in China, we got a mid-early start and headed first to Tian'amen square. I explained the story of the '89 protests to everyone and the censorships imposed by the chinese government, while trying to understand and pay respect to those who lost their lives to a country which slaughtered it's own people.

After that, we went across the road to the forbidden city and entered the gates under a large picture of Mao Zedong. The amount of detail painted in tot he roof of the buildings was astonishing. After having enough of the crowds, we made a group decision not to wait in the (kid you not) 500+ people ticket line to get into the inner temple. 

The outer forbidden city was still very beautiful! But being fed up with the crowds, we elected to go to an area of the city with less people - the temple of heaven. Walking around the massive beautiful grounds I felt a cool sense of peace.

Splitting up for a little bit, Pamela and I went to a traditional chinese antique market, while Miranda and Sanne went to a clothing market. We unfortunately got there right as it was closing, but Pamela managed to blow a ridiculous amount of money at the extensive, expansive expensive market. I on the other hand was on the lookout for a specific item - so I didn't purchase anything. I was looking for a Kung Fu bamboo flute - the kind David Carradine played in Kill Bill, only without the killing people and autoerotic asphyxiation. Not too sure when I because such a flute aficionado - I should look into that. 

When we were finished with the market, we took the Beijing Subway back to our hostel - except it was a bit busier than normal. At our station, we tried to get off, but found that people wouldn't move out of the way. I was a few feet in the crowded car from the door, and watched people start to board despite seeing us trying to exit the car. All of a sudden the door close sound started to play…

Now I'm normally not a violent person, and I'm not entirely sure what came over me, but when I heard that sound I actually though to myself "f*ck no, this is not happening". So with all my strength (which is more than I imagined it was) I pushed myself towards the door, including pushing 4 people (who had just boarded) off the train all together.

Pamela wasn't so luck, as the door closed right behind me. She got trapped on the car, and the train pulled away as I flipped everyone off who had not let us past. 
I was rattled.

All turned out to be well though. Pamela came back ten minutes later on the next train, and we got some fried chicken and spent the night chatting to other globe trotters in the hostel.

We also happened to run into two other exchange students from our university in Hong Kong - which was totally unexpected, but awesome. 

***

We slept in the next day, caught our flight and are now on the shenzhen metro on our way to LoWu, where the air is "clean" and the internet uncensored. 

There have been things I've loved, liked, disliked and hated about this trip - the latter two more than normal, but I think that comes hand in hand with going to a country so far different from ones you've been before.

I also recently came to the realization of how much money I spent on this trip - about $600 including everything. That's twice the amount I intended to spend - but traveling is the only thing you can spend money on to make you more rich… or something like that!

It's also given me a lot of time to think about what I'd like to do this summer. I'm not quite sure what that entails yet, but I know it's going to have to be cheap because I'm bleeding cash. All in all, the trip was definitely worth it though.

So for those who'd like to travel, you should. And for those who are worried about the money, these are my thoughts.

I'd rather drive myself into a little bit of debt traveling today, so I can work tomorrow rather than working my life away and possibly missing out on things that can make me genuinely happy.

To all those reading, thank you, stay sweet, live like you're dying (because you are) and as always, Happy Travels!