Sunday, 29 April 2018

A new whirl 2018.04 edition

Greetings! Back in March, I wrote my Give it a whirl post, and described my new whirl riding Santiago's airport bus and metro in Chile. I like the playfulness in the expression. Today, I'm writing about my new whirl in April and will be linking up with my blogger friend Leslie's Stepping Out of Comfort Zone series.

For those who have been reading my blog, you might know that I've been learning Spanish on my own by taking online lessons fifteen minutes daily. Initially, I started it for fun with no specific plan in mind as to when I'll be using Spanish. Then my travels took me to Costa Rica, Spain, and Chile where in each destination, I had plenty of opportunities to speak and read Spanish. I was able to converse with the local residents and even helped other travellers with transactions such as ordering meals in a restaurant, buying metro card and tickets, etc.

From these positive experiences, after my trips were over, I continue to practice Spanish daily. I don't know when I'll go to a Spanish-speaking country next but I know if I stop my lessons now, I'll lose what I've learned very quickly since there is no need for me to use Spanish where I live.

This spring, I started taking French lessons fifteen minutes daily. I had taken French courses in school so the language is not brand new to me but learning two foreign languages concurrently is. I have forgotten a lot of my French vocabulary which is now coming back. It's satisfying when I can remember a French word that I knew long ago and haven't used for a while.

Why did I choose French? Well, we're planning to visit French-speaking cities later this year. I'll have perfect opportunities to apply what I'm learning. Again, I don't know how long I'll keep taking French lessons after the trips but I know when I stop, it won't be long before I forget what I've learned.

In the mean time, the two foreign languages certainly give my brain a whirl every day, and I'm having fun learning both! No exam, no stress, simply learning for the joy of learning.

How about you? What's your new whirl? I'd love to read about it.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Taking stock: Seize the day

Monday April 23 started with a glorious spring morning. The sun was shining. The blue skies were postcard-perfect. I went for my daily walk, admiring nature and my surroundings. I took a few pictures, one of them was the beautiful pink flower above.

Monday April 23 afternoon was a sad and unsettling time for many people in my city. The sunny day turned to tragedy as a man drove a van, deliberately rammed into pedestrians, killing ten and injuring sixteen. He then had a tense standoff with a police officer before his arrest.

I know the streets and the intersections where the van attack happened. I walked that stretch before. Even though I was far from the site of the incident on Monday afternoon, the immediate increased security in the downtown core made me feel different.

Since Monday afternoon, I've read that a local resident created a memorial site at a park near where the attack happened for people to come and express their condolences. A local florist offered free flowers for people to take with them, to make them feel better. Thousands from around the world have shown their support. Acts of kindness and support to show we care. Yes, we care. #TorontoStrong

My thoughts are with all of those so deeply touched by this tragedy. Sadly, this is another reminder to hug our loved ones and seize the day today.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Spring fun list update #1

Greetings! Back on March 21, I wrote my spring fun list to use as a guide from March 21 to June 20, 2018. Today I'm sharing my progress update and linking up with a group of terrific bloggers who also maintain their seasonal lists.

My Spring Fun List Update #1:

1. View two art exhibitions: Done and enjoyed! I visited the Life in Flight art exhibition at the Sur Gallery, and the Kingston Prize 2017 Canada's Portrait Competition art exhibition at Harbourfront Centre. Both are free to the public.

The Sur Gallery is Toronto's first publicly funded gallery showcasing Latin American Canadian Art. Having recently returned from my trip to Chile, I was delighted to discover this new art gallery.

Welcome to Sur Gallery!

The Kingston Prize is a biennial national competition and touring exhibition for artists working in the media of painting and drawing. This exhibition presents the thirty finalists, chosen from a field of over 430 entries by Canadian artists active throughout the country and internationally. The 2017 Winner is Christienne Cuevas' Portrait of the Artist.

2. Attend eight music recitals: In progress with 50% done! I've attended two duet recitals (performed by Asher Armstrong and Emily Kruspe, Emily Chiang and Elizabeth Bang), and two solo piano recitals (performed by Jean-Luc Therrien, and Mary Kenedi). They're all very talented and accomplished musicians.

3. Watch ten movies: In progress with 50% done! I've watched five movies since March 21. Thumbs up for The Shape of Water, The Darkest Hour, Coco, I, Tonya, and thumbs down for Daddy's Home 2.

4. Review French fifteen minutes daily: In progress. I've been learning Spanish online fifteen minutes daily. I added French this spring since we're planning to go to French-speaking cities in the summer.

5. Plan a long weekend trip with my family: Done! At time of this post, we're on our way. We have a glorious stretch of sunny weather from Friday to Monday for the trip.

6. Meet up for coffee or lunch with my friends: In progress. I've enjoyed three coffee meet-ups so far. I have three dates next week, and hope to book a couple more dates by June 20.

7. Visit farmers' markets starting at the end of May: Pending.

8. Explore the Baltics: Pending. I mapped out my itinerary as shown in the snap shot below. My stops include Tallinn (point A), Riga (point B), Vilnius (point C), and Warsaw (point D). I'm reading up on each of the four cities. One exciting addition is meeting my Finnish friend in Tallinn.

In summary, I counted two completed, four in progress, and two pending items. I'm enjoying spring, and the activities that I planned on my fun list. Plus I have my wellness goals to work on as well.

How about you? How are things going with you? Please share.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Valparaiso street art

Greetings! In this post, I'm sharing my photos of some cool street art that I've seen in Valparaiso, Chile. I'll let you be the judge and decide if you like any of them.

You might also like Santiago street art.

What do you think of Valparaiso street art? Would you like to have more street art in your town or city? I'd love to read your comments.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Meeting my Finnish friend

I have a Finnish friend who lives in Helsinki, Finland. We started our friendship as pen friends when we were in high school many years ago. After graduating from university, I did a backpacking trip in Europe. One of the stops on my itinerary was Helsinki to meet my pen friend in person.

I was travelling by ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. I remember my anticipation of our meeting, and my hope that everything would be alright. Would I recognize her first, or would she recognize me first in the crowd? Would we get along in person as we have been by letters? Would there be any awkward moments? These were some of the questions in my mind. At the same time, after having been in touch for about five years, I felt confident that we would have a great experience.

My friend came to pick me up at the ferry terminal. I don't remember who recognized whom first. I remember that it felt natural right away. She took me home and introduced me to her mom, boyfriend, and neighbour. Everyone was so nice to me as if I was part of the family. We spent time exploring Helsinki for a couple of days, then my friend's mom drove us to their cottage, about three hours north of Helsinki. My friend's dad had built the cottage, with wooden stairs and a long pier all the way to the lake. I still remember the quietness and the beauty of the place. It was there that I experienced the authentic Finnish sauna ritual and cottage life with my Finnish friends.

We stay in touch all these years and share our life events now via email. This spring as I was planning my trip to Tallinn, Estonia, it occurred to me that since there is regular ferry service between Helsinki and Tallinn, perhaps we can meet in person during the weekend that I'm in Tallinn. I contacted my friend with my idea. The answer is Yes! She had been to Tallinn before, as recent as March this year.

I'm really looking forward to meeting my Finnish friend again. Would I recognize her first, or would she recognize me first in the crowd? We'll chat over coffee or a meal. We'll walk to see some sights together. We'll create new memories.

Many years have gone by, and here we are again, one of us is taking a ferry ride to a foreign country, to continue our long-lasting friendship. I feel grateful to have my Finnish friend in my life and the opportunities to meet her in person, more than once.

Your turn...I'd love to hear your friendship stories.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Wellness Wednesday Apr 11

Welcome to our fourth Wellness Wednesday monthly link up which started on January 10th this year! Today I'm providing a progress update on my March wellness goals, setting new goals for April, sharing my natural wellness suggestions, and linking up with several fabulous bloggers who are also on this wellness journey.

My progress update on my March wellness goals:

1. Meditate 15 minutes daily: Similar to February, I've been doing this daily because it works for me. I love the short duration and the focus during meditation. At night when I meditate with deep breathing, it helps me fall asleep.

2. Exercise one hour daily: In March, I walked 5K or more daily, except three Sundays when I ran 5K. I went to the gym nine times, and practiced yoga nineteen times. When I was in Chile, I did not have access to a gym. I modified my fitness routine by walking more and doing yoga.

My regular exercises certainly keep me fit to travel (see #4 below). I had no trouble moving around, getting in and out of buses and subway train stations in Santiago, walking in the Atacama desert, crawling briefly in the Salt Cave, and climbing hills in Valparaiso, etc.

3. Smile or laugh daily: This was well achieved in March. I caught myself laughing out loud several times. I had plenty of fun meeting new people in Chile, too.

4. Explore Chile in March: Done and enjoyed! You might like to see my posts on:
5. Plan for spring travels: Yes! I booked accommodation for a family getaway coming up next weekend. I also booked my flights to the Baltics and accommodations in Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, and Warsaw.

My April wellness goals:

For April, I'll keep the first three daily wellness goals, and replace the two travel goals with two art and entertainment goals as listed below.
  1. Meditate 15 minutes daily.
  2. Exercise one hour daily.
  3. Smile or laugh daily.
  4. Read up on the four European capitals (Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, and Warsaw).
  5. Watch two new-to-me movies.
The Wellness theme this month is Natural Wellness Tips. When I hear natural wellness, I think of keeping well by natural or organic means. They prompt me to list the following suggestions.

Natural wellness suggestions: 
  1. For the mind: Practice meditation or yoga. There are lots of free online materials and tutorials to get started. Take a few minutes each day to calm down, reflect, and feel gratitude.
  2. For the body: Drink water daily in lieu of soft drinks. Tap water is safe to drink where I live. Low cost, no sugar, effective hydration, need I say more? Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits for natural nutrients and fibres. Enjoy seasonal fresh produce that may not be available in the winter. Find a physical activity that you enjoy and use the full range of movements that our body can do. Protect your hair, eyes, and skin from sun exposure by using natural products that work for you. A nice sun hat, sunglasses, and comfortable clothing give adequate protection while staying chic!
  3. For the spirit: If we take good care of our mind and body, it's natural that our spirit will stay positive. Keep in touch with friends, family, or neighbours, who support you. Do something fun on a regular basis.
That's my contribution for today.

How are you doing with your wellness goals? Any natural wellness tips to share?

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Wine tasting, Viña del Mar, and Valparaiso

Greetings! Chile is a long and narrow country knifed in between the Andes mountain range to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country's climate is quite suitable for wine production such that Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world after France, Italy, Spain, and Australia.

With this in mind, during my stay in Santiago, I took a full day excursion to visit a winery, then Viña del Mar, a coastal resort town, and Valparaiso, a port city on Chile's coast, about 120 km (75 miles) north west of Santiago.

First stop was at Casona Veramonte winery where red and white wines were available for tasting and purchase. The main building is nice with high ceiling and large windows. All around the building are grape vines, shining in the sunlight. I walked around the vineyards a bit and watched the staff loading wine barrels onto a truck, presumably to transport them to a store.

Grapes at Casona Veramonte

Vineyards basking in the Chilean sun

Red or white or both

Wine barrels

Second stop was at Viña del Mar beach front. The town looked very developed with many residential buildings and vacation rentals. We passed by a casino but did not go in. The beach was nice and mostly empty, probably because it was a weekday. We also visited the Flower Clock before heading to a local restaurant with ocean views for a delicious seafood lunch.

Ocean view, Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar beach

Viña del Mar flower clock

Viña del Mar promenade

The third and last stop was Valparaiso, the port city, known for its steep funiculars and colourful houses. I read that Valparaiso was built on forty two hills. Well, I walked seven of them before taking El Peral funicular, a historic monument built in 1902, to ground level to visit the busy port.

View of Valparaiso port

Hillside houses in Valparaiso

Colourful houses in Valparaiso

A pretty balcony, Valparaiso

Valparaiso, Chile

Downhill towards the sea, Valparaiso

El Peral funicular, Valparaiso

Valparaiso port, Chile

I enjoyed the excursion very much. I'd recommend visitors to Santiago to venture out of the city, either to the Pacific coast, and/ or to the Andes mountain range, for a variety of wonderful sights and experiences that Chile has to offer.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

March in a sentence a day

Greetings! Today I'm sharing how I spent my month of March in a sentence a day. I tried to keep my sentences short to have less to type, LOL.

Since the first quarter of the year is gone, I did a quick quarterly review as well. I'm on track and I'm having a lot of fun with my 18 FEASTs to enjoy in 2018.

Without a doubt, my trip to Chile was the highlight in March. The weather there was full on summer, high 28 to 30C every day. Everything went smoothly, and what an amazing adventure it was! After I returned home, even though the daily high temperature has been just a few Celsius degrees above freezing point, we've had many sunshiny days which make it easier to be out and about.

March in a sentence a day:

1. Started March with a 5K walk, yoga, grocery runs, laundry, and home cooking.

2. Happy Friday with 5K walk, gym time, a piano recital performed by Melody Chan-Li, and an art exhibit by children and youths.

3. A gorgeous sunny Saturday, perfect for my 5K walk, yoga, grocery runs, and a haircut appointment.

4. Soaked in another gorgeous sunny day, ran 5K, did a few house chores, home cooking, and wrote my Exploring Chile post.

5. The sunny weather continued, so did my 5K walk, gym time, and time spent at the pier admiring the sparkling water under the sunlight.

6. 5K walk, yoga, ran a few errands, and packed for my trip to Chile, hoping to see some unique scenery in the Atacama desert (and I did!).

7. Enjoyed Wednesday with a 5K walk, gym time with a friend, and wrote my March Wellness post.

8. Did my 5K walk, yoga, had a long chat with a former colleague, made dinner, and checked in online for my flight to Santiago, Chile.

9. 5K walk and gym time this morning was a very good move to counter my overnight flight that was 10.5 hours long.

10. Arrived in Santiago on time to catch a domestic two-hour flight to Calama, and from there a one-hour van ride to San Pedro Village, while in awe of the aerial view of the mountain ranges, volcanoes, salt flats, and a vast desert in front of me.

11. A full and incredible Sunday exploring San Pedro Village in the morning, the spectacular Moon Valley in the afternoon until sunset, and stargazing at night.

12. Took it easy this morning with a leisure breakfast before joining an interesting walking tour around San Pedro Village in the afternoon.

13. Said goodbye to the warm people in San Pedro de Atacama, headed back to Calama to fly to Santiago, and upon arrival decided to ride the airport bus and subway to get to my hostel...Celebrated my success with Chilean wines and an unobstructed view of San Cristobal Hill from the roof top patio!

14. A full and wonderful day when I walked about 10 km, used the subway for a couple of short rides to explore Santiago's main sights and treated myself to a delicious ice cream in Lastarria neighbourhood before day's end.

15. Enjoyed a really nice breakfast, took a coach ride to a Chilean winery for wine tasting, arrived in Vina del Mar to walk along the beach before a yummy seafood lunch, and spent the rest of the day walking the hills in Valparaiso, admiring the colourful houses and some amazing street art before returning to Santiago late in the evening.

16. Savoured another beautiful morning and breakfast before riding the funicular to the top of San Cristobal Hill, walked to explore Santiago's Bellavista neighbourhood, its cafes, street art, Forestal park, and the Museum of Fine Arts before going to the airport for my overnight flight home.

17. Watched The Shape of Water movie on the plane before arriving home early this sunny morning with plenty of time to rest, unpack, and catch up.

18. Resumed my Sunday 5K run, cleaned up, relaxed at home, and published my Give it a whirl post on my blog, inspired by Alice Aycock's sculpture.

19. Loved this sunny Monday, enjoyed my 5K walk, gym exercises, and catching up with family and friends.

20. 5K walk, yoga, house chores, and home cooking.

21. 5K walk, gym time, and hello Spring fun list... Some tulips would be very welcome.

22. 5K walk, yoga, and enjoyed watching The Darkest Hour movie.

23. Happy sunny Friday with 5K walk, gym time, a piano-violin duet performed by Asher Armstrong and Emily Kruspe, and a nice chat with a friend.

24. A beautiful sunny Saturday for my 5K walk, yoga, grocery runs, reading, and writing.

25. Ran 5K, did house chores, home cooking, and blogging.

26. Another sunny day, did my 5K walk, gym time, and met up with a friend.

27. 5K walk, yoga, and had fun coffee time with another friend.

28. 5K walk, gym time, reading, and shared some Santiago street art photos on my blog.

29. 5K walk, yoga, enjoyed watching the movie Coco, and a long phone chat with my sister.

30. 5K walk, gym time, reading, and writing on this Good Friday.

31. Wrapped up March with a 5K walk, yoga, grocery runs, and stayed indoor on this rainy evening to plot my next adventure :)

All in all, I had a marvellous March. I'm linking up with a group of terrific bloggers who also document their month. Please visit their sites for more inspiration.

Your turn... How was your month of March?