July 18, 2014

MH17 Shot Down

Friday, July 18, 2014 Posted by Mary , , , No comments

I can't believe it! Just months after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanishes without a trace, another Malaysian jet is down. MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is shot down by a surface-to-air missile in pro-Russian controlled eastern Ukraine.

I'm so heart-broken. And angry. How dare they take the lives of 298 innocent people? I blame Russia, and Putin, and his ultra-nationalist greed. If Russia had just left Ukraine alone, this would not have happened.

How sad for Malaysia and the challenges their flag carrier is facing. How sad especially for the families and friends of the people on board. My heart goes out to them. I hope that in the some way, they get comfort from the fact that the whole world mourns with them.

July 15, 2014

Enamored with Waterton Lakes National Park

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 Posted by Mary , , , 4 comments

There has been one thing that's influencing my travel decisions for the past few years: the item on my bucket list that requires me to visit 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This interest started around 10 years ago when I was an exchange student in Japan. We'd visited a number of these sites then, and I was intrigued by their how special they were. Thankfully, my husband fully supports me in this quest, and because of it, I have discovered a new favorite--Waterton Lakes National Park.

Waterton is a Canadian national park in the southwest corner of Alberta, just a few kilometers from the US border. In fact, along with Glacier National Park in Montana, USA it forms the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 1995 because of its distinctive climate, physiographic setting, mountain-prairie interface, and tri-ocean hydrographical divide. It is an area of significant scenic values with abundant and diverse flora and fauna.

Waterton is quite a long drive from Red Deer. Four and a half hours, to be exact, so we spent the night at Pincher Creek before going to Waterton. It is its closest city, just around 40 minutes from the park. In hindsight, that might have been a bad decision. We should have just driven directly to Waterton and spent the night there. It would have given us more time to enjoy the place. Still, the day that we spent at the park was nothing short of amazing.

There are many breathtaking parks in Alberta, but Waterton is special because its centerpiece, the magnificent Upper Waterton Lake is right there--right by Waterton village. You don't have to drive away from the town to enjoy its splendour. And because of the park's distance to the big cities, it is also not as busy as the other parks in the province. You can enjoy the area in relative peace.

Another highlight of the park is the Prince of Wales Hotel. It was constructed between 1926 and 1927, and named after the Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII. It is a massive Swiss-chalet style building, oozing with charm and character. The best part: it has a parlour with an amazing view of the lake.

We were also able to visit Red Rock Canyon while at Waterton. A 16-km drive from the town, it is a must-see because of it's gorgeous red and green bedrock layers. If you like hiking, or wildlife, this is the place to be. We didn't see any bears that time, but there are many of them around this area.

We capped our tour of Waterton with a meal at the posh Bayshore Lakeside Chophouse. It was wonderful to be able to dine and relax right beside the lake. I had Braised Short Ribs. It was tender, succulent, and perfect.

It is not very often that I want to go back to a place I've only very recently visited. But I do wanna go back to Waterton. It is truly breathtaking. I could probably live there forever. For a self-described city girl like me, that's saying something.

July 9, 2014


Wednesday, July 09, 2014 Posted by Mary , 1 comment

Last night, I found out that the daughter of a former colleague of mine in the Philippines passed away. She was only 17 years old.

It is devastating. I watched this girl grow up. She would often come to the office, a smile always on her face. She would be at our Christmas parties, and other special events. It always felt like we were all family at the College of Computer Studies in Silliman University, so hearing what happened is just unbelievable. I can't even fathom how devastated her mother must be.

I don't have the complete details but the doctors say it was congenital brain aneurysm. She was out with her classmates on Monday night when she suddenly fainted. She went into a coma and never woke up. Around two days later, she'd passed away.

Events like this make you realize how fleeting and bittersweet life can be. In fact, it can be downright scary. But I guess it is also moments like this that motivate us to treasure our loved ones and live life to the fullest.

In a Viber conversation, my friend Charina said it best: "We are so fragile. God is our only strength."

Rest in peace, Rouellyn.

June 27, 2014

This Is Where I Belong

Friday, June 27, 2014 Posted by Mary , No comments

Last week, I passed my 6-month probation at work. I'm relieved. This job has been really good for me, and I'm glad that my supervisor is extremely happy with all the work I've done so far.

I remember when I was in high school. I was debating between taking up Political Science (to go into law school) or Information Technology. I chose the later. I wanted to be a Systems Analyst. I figured that moving forward, computers would make the world go round. I was right, and I can't believe that here I am, in my first IT job in Canada, and I am a Systems Analyst. I've got a lot to be thankful for.

A Systems Analyst practically means problem solver, and the job is not without stresses. Working with archaic systems would be the first issue. Then you have your users. Patient though they might be, it's still concerning when your main purpose in the workplace is to solve their problems. But I feel right at home. This is what I spent years in school for. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Recently, I've been regretting not wanting to go to med school when I was younger. After all, my horoscope says I would do best as a surgeon. Unfortunately, the thought only occurred to me about a couple of years ago. It's definitely too late. But it's okay. I'm content. On almost every single day, I'm in the mindset that I would rather not be doing anything else. 

April 7, 2014

Smells Fishy

Monday, April 07, 2014 Posted by Mary , No comments
I love fish, especially fish heads! My husband thinks this is super gross, but when fresh from salt water and cooked properly, they are actually very tasty. When I was in the Philippines, I took fish for granted. In fact, I would sometimes sulk, because my parents are huge fish eaters, and it seemed all we ate was fish fish fish. Now, living in Alberta, I actually miss having good, fresh fish.

I'm sorry to say that the fish available in Alberta suck. It's quite understandable because it's a land-locked province in a country with the second largest land area in the world. I now completely understand why most Albertans dislike eating fish. Because by golly, I can barely stand eating fish here. Only salmon and haddock taste like they're supposed to. The rest are just gross.

I remember last year when we went to T&T Supermarket in Edmonton. T&T is an Asian food store and I was so happy because they had fish heads for sale. I bought one and when it was time for me to cook it, it was the grossest smelling thing ever! I think it might have already gone bad. To make it worse, because of the pungent odor, we suddenly had a whole bunch of flies trying to get into our place. Despite the bug screen, some of them got in. While there's only flies here for a couple of months a year, they're big and nasty. I think it took days before we finally got rid of the stink from the apartment and longer to get rid of a couple of flies lurking around. Needless to say, it was my most horrifying fish-cooking experience to date.

 Recently, I've been craving milkfish...

Milkfish is the national fish of the Philippines, and it's very abundant in the country because of aquaculture. I love milkfish--not the cultured ones, but the ones from the ocean. Again, I was overjoyed when I found milkfish for sale at the Real Canadian Superstore. Fresh, er... frozen from Taiwan, I thought it would taste as good as I remember.

Durrr. This particular stock was obviously cultured, and it made me remember why I didn't like cultured milkfish in the first place. It stunk up our place again. It wasn't nearly as bad as the previous fiasco, but enough to put a grimace on my face. I really need to learn, and stop buying fish in this province.

I guess what I've realized is, there is definitely a reason why different people in different parts of the world like to eat different things. Fish might not be desirable in Alberta, but beef is, and it's the exact opposite in the Philippines. I'm hoping others realize this too, and not limit themselves to what they are used to in their part of the world.

Maybe, just maybe, I will miss good fish so much and it would make me want to vacation in the Philippines. It hasn't happened yet, though. Now lechon, on the other hand... that might just be another story.

March 3, 2014

Best Oscars Ever

Monday, March 03, 2014 Posted by Mary , No comments
I don't normally like watching awards ceremonies. They usually bore me. Last night was different. It was probably the best Oscars ever! I love that they had Ellen DeGeneres host it again. She was just unbelievably brilliant. She's truly awesome, and no one--no one, can host the Academy Awards better than she can.

The nominated movies seem to be really good. I'm excited to watch them. I know I should have watched them already, but I'm not too big a fan of movie theaters so I've waited for them to come out on home video. I'm so psyched that I have a ton of good movies to watch in the coming weeks!

The speeches last night were also phenomenal. Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor for Dallas Buyers Club) and the newcomer Lupita Nyong'o (Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave) especially, gave incredibly inspiring speeches. It was Hollywood on a different level.

Star power and fashion last night were also awesome. Cate Blanchett was astonishing, as usual. Lupita Nyong'o, again, as with all previous awards ceremonies this season, wowed with amazing class and sophistication. And even though I didn't like what my favorite Julia Roberts wore, I still love her. My bet for best dressed would have to be Jennifer Lawrence in her red Dior Haute Couture gown.

But there were two things that really made my night last night: Ellen ordering pizza for the celebrities (poor pizza delivery guy, he had no clue!), and this selfie--

Ellen wanted everyone to retweet it to try to break retweet records. All the traffic broke Twitter for a few minutes instead. Awesome, just awesome.

February 20, 2014

Beautiful Sylvan Lake

Thursday, February 20, 2014 Posted by Mary , , No comments
Every time I watch a movie or TV show that's set in a quaint little European-looking (but actually North American) town I always go, "I wanna live there!" I get even more excited when, in said fictional town, I see a body of water with a few small boats or yachts docked here and there. Unfortunately, I don't think such a place exists in this part of Canada. I'd probably have to go to Nova Scotia, or maybe Newfoundland and Labrador to find such a charming place. Or so I thought, until I visited Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake is a fast-growing town of around 11,000 people in Central Alberta. It is approximately 20 minutes west of Red Deer and is named after the 15 kilometer long freshwater lake in the area. Being in a land-locked province, Albertans get pretty excited about water. So you can imagine how Sylvan Lake becomes so popular in the summer. It is said that the lake gets over 1.5 million visitors each year. Because of its popularity, Sylvan Lake has been beautified and maintained. It has an esplanade with a marina, and quaint shops and restaurants lining the street. It apparently even has a lighthouse, that I have yet to see!

I love living in Red Deer. With its population of around 100,000 people, it is the perfect size for me. But visiting Sylvan Lake has put thoughts in my head. Wouldn't it be cool to live there? Maybe buy a small boat and turn the lake into my playground? When the time comes for us to buy our forever home, the question will definitely arise: Red Deer or Sylvan Lake? The good thing is, they're really close to each other.

Right now, the lake is frozen. I did take a few pictures when we visited the other day. It's beautiful, but I'm sure it will be more beautiful and super fun in the summer. And for that I cannot wait!

February 19, 2014

I Volunteer

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 Posted by Mary , , , , 2 comments
One thing I've always wanted to do and is an item on my bucket list is to volunteer for a non-profit organization. Strangely, and for reasons unknown to me, I was never able to do it in the Philippines. Recently, I was able to volunteer for a local animal rescue society.

Hope Lives Here Animal Rescue Society is an amazing rescue organization in Central Alberta. Over the holidays, they needed a graphic designer.  Having some designing capabilities, I jumped at the opportunity to help out. Here are some of the designs I came up with:

Designing does not come easy for me. I also know I'm not very good at it. I feel that my design process is forced and I have to squeeze out the results. Unlike my former classmate and colleague, Kat Michelle, who is an amazing graphic artist, I don't feel like I have the artistic talent at all, but is just someone who knows how to use the Adobe Creative Suite more than others. Nevertheless, designing makes me really happy. There's nothing like the joy you feel at having come up with something (somewhat) beautiful. To be able to use it for a greater good is even better.

February 18, 2014

The Blind Side

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 Posted by Mary , No comments

Today, I watched The Blind Side. I'd heard a lot of good things about the movie for the longest time but just never had the chance to watch it previously. All I can say is, wow. What an inspiring tale.

For those of you who have not yet seen it, The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher, an NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens. Oher used to be homeless, but a well-to-do family took him in, adopted him, and paved the way for him to become the pro-footballer that he is now.

The movie makes me wonder: "Who does that?" Who takes a random person off the street, to live in their home, not knowing what kind of person they've taken under their roof? It takes a pretty special person to do that, and obviously, Oher's adopted family are pretty special people.

To be honest, sometimes I feel like I've lost faith in humanity. You help people, they stab you in the back. You're nice to someone, they take advantage of you. The Blind Side lifts my heart. It shows me that there are still kind people out there, and most especially, that there are still people who don't take advantage of the kindness of others.

February 17, 2014


Monday, February 17, 2014 Posted by Mary , , No comments

I love it--the hashtag that has caught on for so many Canadians following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I never expected to be so caught up in the games either, but here I am.

In the Philippines, very few care about the Winter Olympics. We are followers of the Summer Olympics all the way. This year, we have our first Winter Olympian in the figure skater Michael Christian Martinez, and he has brought a huge sense of pride to Filipinos around the world, as well as increased the popularity of the Winter Games in Filipino homes. But this was never the case before Sochi. My husband therefore, found it quite understandable when I vehemently expressed that the Winter Games were lame and no one cared about them. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I now know the truth. The Winter Games are awesome. It's like watching one adrenaline-pumping extreme event after another. One week into the games, and I'm hooked. My husband is amazed that I now know more Winter Olympians than he does.

Canada has been doing really well in Sochi. And as I have adopted this land as my new home, I am extremely proud of how the Canadian athletes have been doing. I am so excited, you can see it through my Facebook profile and Twitter feed. In fact, I seem to be more excited by the Winter Olympics than your average Canadian.

Among all the Canadian athletes, figure skater Patrick Chan has amazed me the most. He is so good! His silver medal finish just a couple of days ago was almost devastating. He was so close to the gold! But despite finishing only second, he has won the hearts of so many Canadians all over the country

There are still a few days left in this year's Winter Olympics and the best is yet to come, with games such as Curling, and Ice Hockey still under way. Here's hoping that Canada will kick ass! #WeAreWinter, after all.