An eye-opening experience.

It took almost 2 weeks for me to get some Chilean pesos at my bank in Edmonton, and shortly – too late – before I left, I realized I’d need some more money right away in Santiago after paying my first month’s rent. I knew exchanges at airports tend to charge a lot, so I decided to take out my cash in Canada, bring it with me, and exchange it when I got into the city.

I found – no joke – dozens of cambios on Compañia street, and they were all packed. It seemed unlikely they were ALL tourists. I could find only one place that would change Canadian money, so I got a ticket, and waited almost an hour for my turn.

In the meantime, a very nice man from Santiago and his co-worker, a lady from Bolivia, let me practice my Spanish on them – I learned they were both waiters. And that’s when I started to clue in: almost all of the people in there were black, and the ones who were Latino were in their regular clothes, some with little children. They were all changing American money to Chilean. I saw two more dressed-up Chilean people – they were the only ones changing Chilean pesos to American dollars.

Almost all of those cambio customers are working in Chile at service jobs, and likely getting paid under the table and in tips. They have to change all of their earnings into pesos, and probably lose quite a bit of money every time. The people changing to American must have been either tourists about to visit the US, or (given what I discovered in China) maybe they bringing their money out of the country.

Meanwhile, I’m a white girl with the choice to be in Latin America for a year before going home. I am a very lucky bunny.

First thoughts on #Chile

Taxi drivers going after tourists are even crazier here than China!
Petrobras (Brazilian company) gas stations.
Palm trees again! But leafy, deciduous trees, too!
Big blue Costco equivalent
I’ve grown up with red cross meaning medical/first aid, but here’s it’s the green cross, like in France!
Graffiti here!
Bonkers traffic (it IS Saturday)
Parque en la Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins (good Irish boy?)
Different colour license plates depending on vehicle! (car, taxi, bus…)
I guess 2 guys got tired of the traffic and just got out of their taxi in the middle of the street!
Niño a bordo – Baby on Board
The Nissan Tiida – same as in China!!
Mussels in a CAN, like tuna!!
Ketchup in a pouch, like tomato sauce is sometimes in Canada.
I’m using my EU adaptor to plug in!
Lots of stray dogs…they’re all big ones, like Labs. All pet dogs are small ones.

Vancouver, British Columbia

To get my work visa for Chile, I had to visit one of the country’s consulates in Canada…and there isn’t one in Alberta. The nearest one is in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I have two cousins, neither of whom I’ve seen in years (because I’ve been in China, they live in Vancouver and Toronto, and I’ve never been home at the same time as either of them!). There’s also a Chilean consulate in Toronto, so I’d get to visit one of my cousins no matter where I got my visa. And it made the most sense, logically, to get it in Toronto, because all flights from Canada to South America go through Pearson airport. However, my cousin there is very busy…he’s an engineer, and he’s planning his wedding…and, really, I wanted to visit Vancouver more.

I’ve been there a number of times now, and I absolutely love it. The stories about the cost of living there are outrageous, and also true. On the cab ride to my cousin’s place, I passed a new condo development on Granville Street, apparently geared towards families…they started at $2 million. There’ve been efforts to control land prices, and taxes for absentee owners who buy property in Vancouver but then don’t live there — many of those investors are of course from China, and are desperate to get any money they have out of that country. But Vancouver has always been expensive, because everyone wants to be there, because it’s beautiful.

Another story about Vancouver is you can go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon, and in winter that is true. It has the Pacific Ocean on one side, and mountains right there on the other! It has Stanley Park, with one of the best aquariums in the world, totem poles, dozens of kinds of wild birds, roses and TREES, on an amazing coastline. Downtown Vancouver has (expensive) buildings right on the water which are all glass, so they reflect the water and the hundreds of boats docked there. They have outrageously good sushi, and the coffee culture is so pervasive I wonder if their blood is half caffeine; I say that having been to three excellent coffee houses in two days. They have salmon, and amazing fruit. There are so many beautiful (expensive) neighbourhoods with phenomenal houses and huge trees. The university of British Columbia sticks out into the ocean, and has its own forest, Japanese garden, and the legendary (notorious) Wreck Beach.

I know that when many people outside of Canada think of Canada, they’re thinking of Vancouver. I love that I got to spend my last few days in Canada there.

Vote. You have to VOTE. Part 4, Party membership.

Woe. As of now, there won’t be as many people voting for the leader of the Conservative Party as way back when Stephen Harper won in 2004. Let’s change that, shall we?

My best friend briefly joined the PC Party of Alberta when Alison Redford ran for their leadership. She’s NOT remotely conservative (she’s voted NDP all her life!), but she wanted to make sure the only woman running, in years, to be our premier was elected. I was shocked: it didn’t seem worth it to me to join the most arrogant, entrenched group of cronies to vote for their leader.

I have changed my mind. Right now, Canada is undergoing its own xenophobic crisis folowing the Brexit vote and the US election. There are like-minded candidates running to lead a major political federal party here — people who have publicly said that immigrants should prove they hold “Canadian values” and have grabbed a woman on TV— want to be prime minister of this country.

And they are DESPERATE for us to vote for them.

If, like me, you feel icky about joining the Conservative Party just to vote for its leader, just know you’re not alone. I’m calling it $15 well spent.

Here is the link to join and decide WHO YOU WANT to run for prime minister in the next election.

(Previous thoughts in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

LAST photos from China.

Here are the last of the photos from my 18-month-stint in Zhongshan, Guangdong, China. NEXT: Chile!

VOTE. You have to Vote. Part 3 – media

Quebec City mosque shooting victims include businessman, professor and fathers of young children
6 men were shot in the back as they gathered for evening prayer, mosque’s vice-president says



I wanted to know who did it. I was so anxious to know I was on Twitter all day. Which, we should know, is a BAD place to get up-to-date news.

I realized yesterday afternoon I was contributing to the bile by even looking at it, and made myself log out.

In the end, one person was arrested.

From now on, BE PATIENT. Police have a job to do, LET THEM do it.

STOP getting your news off Twitter. STOP. I know that’s hard, given the possible forced deportations which no one can find out anything about. BUT, this happened in CANADA. For right now, we do still have some reliable media outlets. Here they are.

Vote with your money: Start PAYING for news again. We have to. News has gone downhill, and Part of the reason is likely because ad revenue has cratered, so they feel compelled to take “native advertising” and pander to customers instead of sticking to journalistic integrity. PAY FOR reliable news so they can pay reporters and researchers to do the work.

VOTE. You have to Vote. Part 2 #Canada #voting #nomuslimban #refugeeswelcome


My goodness. That went well!

But it’s not remotely over yet. Next: the “hard” part.

Immediately after the inauguration, The Village Voice published a series of mini-interviews done with attendees. The very first interviewee said that the new president’s words were being parsed by the media, and he didn’t believe that all of things the president said were in fact going to happen, that it was his, very good, way of saying he was simply putting the US’s interests first. When asked if he had in fact voted for Trump, this man answered:

“No, I’m a Canadian citizen.”

I’m not linking to that article, because I don’t want to contribute to that person being tracked down and bile thrown at him over the internet — if you want to read it yourself, you’ll have no trouble finding it.

The fact that Canada has not one but two proponents of the new president’s ideology running for the PC leadership (you know who I mean — I’m not furthering the indignity they’ve heaped on other people), and that this ideology has support in Canada, might make clear-headed Canadians panic and say “no, we DON’T have time! It’s inevitable.”

It’s NOT inevitable. If you believe that, you’ve said you’re going to do nothing. Which is what happened before and during WWII. THAT’S were we are now. That is NOT inevitable in Canada, we CAN stop it.

And it’s, again, very simple, BUT. Turnout for the 2015 federal election was the highest in ages, yet over 30% of voters still didn’t show up. The only way to prove to the right-wing that the majority does not agree with them IS to utterly prove the majority is against them…that is, to VOTE AGAINST THEM.

The only way to not let either of those potential PCs have power, is to NOT let them have that power. If the majority of Canadians don’t vote for a party, they don’t get the power to enact what they want to do.

See? Simple.

Yes, we have first-past-the-post, we’ve had minority governments in recent history, blah blah. We somehow allowed Harper in power for 10 years, and finally, enough Canadians got sick of him to hand him a resounding Defeat. We can, and we must, keep fascism out of the Canadian parliament. And we can. By voting.

So do it.