May Update

Experience spring in the south: It’s refreshing to experience spring in Ontario!* We had some unusual winter weather last month and even a terrible ice storm in the middle of April. The past two weeks, the leaves are finally coming out. It’s so nice to drive down the street and notice how green everything has become!

Updating teaching blog: I have not been focused on classroom teaching this year, which has been a nice break. I recently updated my teaching blog name from “A Sine of Madness” to “Math with Ms. Tong.” I was afraid that ‘madness’ might be a pejorative term. Oddly, in all the time that I’ve used that name, no one has suggested that to me, even when I asked on Twitter.

Not being vegan: I was eating fairly consistently eating as a vegan at the end of 2017, but when I started dating back in January, it all went out the window. I still don’t know have too many adult friends in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and ultimately want to fit in. Well, to be honest, I’m probably just being selfish. Groceries are still vegan but when I go out, I’m putting butter on my Tim Horton’s bagels (just not cream cheese).

Travel: I have a plane ticket to go to Portland, Oregon – which I first visited a few years ago – for four days! Will be there to see my cousin from Hong Kong. My sister will be meeting there too.

Substitute teaching and kids’ yoga: Going well. I’m still taking Wednesdays off to teach yoga at an elementary school. Two more session of yoga!

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*It was 6 year sago since I first moved up north


February Update

Trip to the US: Went to Alabama and Florida for 10 days. Flew to Mobile for $198.46 CAD, took a Greyhound ($85.50 USD) to Jacksonville and then hopped on a Megabus ($17.50 USD) about 2.5 hours away to Orlando. Flew back by Delta via Detroit ($220.24 CAD). No hotels or hostels as I stayed with friends the whole time. Had a great time; as the trip was primarily reconnecting with people I rarely see. It was also nice to play with some kiddies and have paper airplane competitions at 10 am in the morning!

As I get older, I’ve learned that some trips don’t have to be about hitting tourist stops* and be more focused on rebuilding long-distance connections that are often maintained through social media.


Substitute teaching: After two weeks without work, during the exam period, I was going bonkers from cabin fever. I tried to substitute teach as much as possible before I took off for my trip and was really happy to return to work afterwards. These things put it into perspective that I do enjoy my work!

Books: ARGH! I’m in one of those moods where I start different books and don’t finish any of them! I need to refocus on the following:

I also picked up a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  from J. while visiting Alabama, but trying to set that aside until I finish the others first!

Online Dating: Shut down my apps when I left and putting this on pause right now, because …

Courses: I’ve now devolved into either doing assignments for my YTT homework or my Teacher Librarian course homework. I handed in a couple of assignments late so I feel I need to buckle down and refocus. Just handed in Module 3 of my TL course on Wednesday and need to prep my YTT #5 assignment for this coming Sunday!

*I did spend a day at DisneyWorld’s Animal Kingdom to see Pandora. I missed it last time I visited. Enjoyed the beautiful 24 Celsius weather.

Winter Car Issues

Yesterday, my car wouldn’t start.

This sucked, considering I had stacked 5 full substitution jobs into my schedule this week, I had to call the school and make the cancellation at 7:30 am in the morning. Then I called CAA*.

Since I wasn’t on the road and just sitting at home, the wait was quite long. After 20 minutes, I hung up and went to do something else. Eventually I downloaded the CAA app. The initial wait time that was suggested was one hour, but as they can track your location and the type of job that you need (i.e. battery boost), they can prioritize you more efficiently. The wait time quickly dropped down to 20 minutes! Therefore, if you’re waiting for CAA, you should use the app! Don’t wait on the phone because there’s no way you can tell them what is happening. The app will get you help much more quickly.

The battery on the Honda CR-V is about 3 years old right now, but since it was used to having a block heater in Waskaganish, suddenly not having it plugged in this winter may be the reason it’s been struggling.

I ended up going to Canadian Tire after work and picking up NOCO’s Genius Boost Jump Starter ($125/USD or $155/CAD). This specific model is called the GB40 and delivers 1000 amps. NOCO products – a variety of them – have been popping up all over the shelves, since the technology for the battery jump starters have come a loooooong way. The old ones, which my ex had bought up north, were the size and weight of a large watermelon. You had to carry it with two arms and charge them every 3 months. If you forgot, too bad … now you have a paperweight!

The NOCO only needs to be charged, at minimum, once a year. The entire unit is about 2.5 pounds, fits into your purse or glove compartment. The jumper cables are beautiful quality and the whole package comes with a bag to hold it all. The unit even has an extremely strong double-headed flashlight on one side and can signal SOS.

Still don’t think it’s all that useful? You can even use it to charge your iPad or phone!

Overall, I’m really happy I picked this up. I’ll likely have to go in and get a battery check on the car** or perhaps a cable so that I can use the block heater in during cold mornings. And while I’m not much for Christmas presents these days, this would be a good one if you’ve got a friend or family member who’s on the road a lot.

*I have the Plus membership, which is approximately $141 a year.
**Canadian Tire does battery checks for free if you bring it into the store. If it’s the garage, they’ll charge.

Brief Visit to the North

Back in Waskaganish briefly, as J. has finished his 5 weeks of vacation and is back at work. Yesterday afternoon, when we pulled in, we dropped by the supermarket. One of the mothers whose son is graduating came and gave me a big hug. She said that the diploma just arrived in the mail and that she’s planning on framing it. It was heartwarming to hear that from her.

After dinner, J. and I broke into his new copper mugs ($24.40) from Bath, Bed & Beyond. I gave them as his birthday present last week and we tested them out by making Moscow Mules. We didn’t have any mint on hand, but they were still pretty tasty! I also bought him a black Columbia rain jacket (on sale for $60.95), since he needed a new one. The next year will be long distance, but we believe we will make the best of it.


Today, J. has gone to work and I am just packing a few more boxes up, stuff that didn’t make it to moving truck. Tomorrow, headed back south towards Montreal to visit a few more friends.


Road Trip to Waterloo

Earlier this week, J. and I stayed overnight in Kitchener. I drove in to take a class at the yoga studio that I may be potentially doing my Yoga Teacher Training at, just to reconnect with the studio owner, as well as check out the rental unit for September.

I also started walking around in my new Vibram FiveFingers ($115), which I picked up at Mountain Equipment Co-op on Tuesday (more on this in another post). We* tested them out with a short hike at Elora Gorge, just half an hour northeast of Waterloo.

My last month’s rent been sent off and I’m feeling good about my YTT application. It was a pretty product trip, so we rewarded ourselves with a dinner at the local Golden Turtle Restaurant. J. got a big bowl of rare beef phở and my tom yum bún was memorable. We finished it off with pineapple and soursop shakes!

*J. hates how weird Five Fingers look, but he has a pair of zero-drop minimalist shoes from Merrell.

Places I’ve Traveled In the Past 5 Years

I love traveling, I won’t deny it. I was bitten with the travel bug early on and my parents took my sister and I traveling regularly as we were growing up. I remember that there were periods of our lives where we were going overseas every 2-3 years and taking car trips in between. It wasn’t until I went to university that I was grounded for 4 years … it sucked and I hated it.

Over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve been grateful for being able to afford travel, since being fully employed. Here are the other places I’ve been to in the past 5 years:


  • Portland, Oregon
  • Hawai’i, HI


  • Turkey
  • Mumbai and Rajasthan, India
  • London, England (layover)


  • Chicago, IL


  • Disneyworld, FL
  • Albany and New York City, NY
  • Jordan
  • Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel
  • Palestinian Territories

Checking out one of the tombs in Petra, Jordan

Having said that, I know next year might be different. I might not be going oversea and due to the current political situation, going to the United States doesn’t even seem like such a good idea anymore (although that won’t stop me).

I’ve been happy that I can do trips without budgeting much (really, I don’t budget at all), but if I am going to save for a house, I will have to tighten the belt a bit more and figure out how to be a better budget traveler.

Yes, I might be downgrading a little, but I love my freedom and I love being able to see people, spend time with them and learn about the world. I’ll never give that up!

Day 7 in the Middle East

Yesterday, we had a lovely time exploring the desert of Wadi Rum. This morning, we woke up in the beautiful sunrise over the sandstone mountains. Left our host camp at 6:30 am with the smell of wood smoke still in our hair. We traversed up the Dead Sea coast again on the Jordanian side.

Immigration through the West Bank was definitely a unique experience. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but it was business as usual for many. Approximately 400 km later, we settled in downtown Jerusalem. Running multiple loads of laundry at the rented apartment and catching up with social media.

Now enjoying the street singing as we are getting close to the countdown towards 2017.

Happy new year, wherever you are celebrating (or not)!


On Holiday: Floating in the Dead Sea

Merhaba from Jordan!

It was a lot of work figuring out this trip and the first three days were quite rough, as two of us managed to get sick right off the bat. There were several moments where I wished we were simply at home with our respective families. Yet despite three days of bitter, hard rain, in both in Israel and Jordan, and our little trip ups, the sun finally came out today and day 4 of our trip was just really wonderful!

This morning, we enjoyed a lovely stroll around the Roman amphitheatre in Amman, walked around Mt. Nebo and floated in the Dead Sea. In the evening, we enjoyed a Turkish-style hamman to wash off the salt and filled up on a traditional Jordinian style dinner of spiced rice, potatoes, carrots and onions.

The internet access has been spotty and some of our clothes feel perpetually wet, but we are really glad to see such a special and unique part of the world. Looking forward to seeing Petra tomorrow!



Travel Planning: Jordan and Israel

It’s been months in the making.

What started off as a daydream to see more the Middle East, seeded by the fact that B. and I visited Turkey ever so briefly just a few years ago, is now finally coming together. Originally, only the two of us were traveling together; now, it will be a 10-day trip to Israel and Jordan with my sister, my cousin and my best friend!

Our flights to Tel Aviv were booked a few months ago, but we’d been taking our sweet time in planning. With December looming near, we spent the month of November researching, booking and finalizing, occasionally conferencing on the phone to pin down our needs and wants were. This weekend, a lot of our hotels and ground tours were finalized; I’m happy to say that this brings a great sense of relief. Now I can do the “real” planning and start looking for yummy vegan* restaurants!

Earlier this week, I finally started pinning down sites on Google My Maps. This is a great tool to have on your mobile device, even if you travel around with a data plan. I’ve had My Maps work successfully off triangulation while in India and Turkey.


One of my goals in December will be revisiting my Lonely Planet. It had been collecting dust on the shelf as I had foolishly bought more books – how I managed to get two Caitlin Moran books in November and not finish either of them is symptomatic of the book-hoarding problem I have – and it’s time to dig into it. For a long time, I was extremely ignorant of the history and culture and politics of Israel** and Jordan, so I really need to brush up on my politics!

*Apparently, Israel is going through a huge transformation towards veganism.

**Strangely, Toronto has an extremely large Jewish population. However, they are clustered in extremely tight-knit communities, and many people growing up in Toronto do not know Jewish people until much later in their lives. I didn’t know any Jews until I went to university . At the moment, I cannot recall if I know any Jordanians.