It's probably a little baised to say, but Saskatchewan is my favourite province. The people, the culture, the atmosphere and the weather help make this province unlike any other place in Canada. But, being as Saskatchewan is so big and so beautiful, it can be a challenge to know what to go see and do.
Enter the 2017 Saskatchewanderer.
Since I started my blog, I've tried to interview the Saskatchewanderer every year. I couldn't last year due to the provincial election putting a temporary freeze on the program, but this year I could. Last March I called up Andrew Hiltz, the 2017 Saskatchewanderer, and learned about him, his thoughts of the program and his experiences so far.
Andrew grew up in Coronach, Saskatchewan, a small town near the towering Castle Butte and the Big Muddy badlands. As he got older, he moved to Moose Jaw to attend SIAST and received a diploma in Marketing. After graduating, he experienced life in the big city and went to visit his friend in Vancouver. Andrew loved Vancouver so much that that four-month trip quickly transformed into two years. While in Vancouver he was formally introduced to mixed cultures, different foods, unique tastes and a world unlike that of his hometown.
But, Andrew missed his family and eventually moved back to Saskatchewan. When he returned he really began noticing all the different cultural restaurants and festivals that happen throughout the province. It wasn't that these had appeared in his absence, but instead it was that he was seeing them with fresh eyes.
For about a year he practised filmography as a hobby. His videos got better, and he became more and more comfortable around the camera. He had been following the previous Saskatchewanderers and when the job became available, his friends and family encouraged him to apply. He took their advice and entered his name into the pool of scores of other talented people. Leading up to the decision Andrew felt confident he had gotten the job, but the day the call was supposed to come in, that confidence vanished. When the phone finally rang, he said it was "the biggest relief ever" and was a "dream come true".
His most memorable experience so far was at the Canadian Citizenship Ceremony in Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a multi-millennium old area a few kilometres north of Saskatoon. While a citizenship ceremony isn't something most people would consider the most exciting thing to attend in Saskatchewan, Andrew said it was one of the most powerful things he had ever experienced. He saw over 40 soon-to-be Canadians gave up citizenship of their home country for a chance to start anew. One lady Andrew spoke to left her home country five years ago and can finally bring her children overseas. Five years is a long time to be apart from your children, but it's worth it to know they're growing up in Canada. Andrew said while he didn't have time to talk to everybody there, the ones he did had stories and experiences that were incredibly touching.
Another part of being the Saskatchewanderer that Andrew loves is all the different food he encounters. In my own experiences, I found the amount of food I received while travelling can sometimes be overwhelming, but that isn't the case with Andrew. Instead, he loves all the different food and is constantly excited to taste the next dish.
Many people believe being the Saskatchewanderer is the easiest job in the world, but Andrew has already learned that it isn't. For every 1 hour he spends on the road, he'll spend 3 hours in front of the computer, on social media or making travel plans. The job is full of long days and long nights, but it's also one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Although it's challenging, Andrew loves it.
The first 3 months have been full of food, laughs and adventure, and Andrew is excited to see what the spring and summer have in store. In April, he's heading out to Cypress Hills, but beyond that, he has pages and pages of notes for places he wants to visit. When I interviewed Andrew, he had just finished being on CBC Radio's Blue Sky and was recommended a list of places to visit, so I know he has a lot of travelling to do.
Once he's done being the Saskatchewanderer, Andrew isn't sure what he'll do with his life. He's always wanted to be a radio personality, but time will tell if that ends up being the direction he takes. Until then, he's our 2017 Saskatchewanderer and we wouldn't have him any other way!
Are there any places you want the Saskatchewanderer to visit this year? Let me know in the comments below.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
About a year and a half ago I visited Kyiv, Ukraine. As I walked down the millennium old streets and gawked at the towering cathedrals, I saw the beginnings of a new country, one that was slowly rebuilding from a much darker time. The process of what I was seeing had a name. It was called decommunization.
Decommunization includes renaming architecture, changing laws and protocols, and even tearing down monuments. People's Friendship Arch in Kyiv, for example, which symbolised the friendship between the Communist East and the Capitalist West, was torn down. Some statues, like war memorials, are exempt, but there is still talk of making modifications to them. Anywhere you go throughout the former Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle are being removed – not from history, but from modern society.