I would like to say I had trouble sleeping last night, but I didn't. The trip through Asia has been incredible; I have seen so many places, met so many inspirational people, learned so much, and tried so many new things, but my heart missed my friends and family back home.
People say Canadians are friendly, but that's true about Japanese and Hong Kong people as well. Everywhere I went, from Osaka (where a man helped me find my hotel in the rain by showing me his iPhone) to Kyoto(where a stranger gave me a ride to Nintendo HQ) to all the many people in Hong Kong who helped me find my way through the dizzying streets, the people were kind and friendly, and never let language boundaries get in their way.
Sitting on the plane, being just below Alaska and heading to Vancouver, I can't help but think about all the different things I did. There are so many things I forgot to mention! There's so many things I will forget, but also so many things I already forgot. I wonder where all my travel mates are now. I wonder what they're doing, what they're thinking. I wonder what Steve and Alison are doing. I wonder what our tour guide is doing. I wonder what my family is doing...
I woke up early today, at 4 AM. I showered, cleaned up, and left. Skipping breakfast, I was out the door by 5. While I was getting my stuff all together I looked over and saw the umbrella I bought in Hiroshima. I thought about taking it with me, but then I remembered how awkward it was taking it through customs in Tokyo the first time, so I left it in my room propped against the wall. I wonder whatever happened to it.
I got down to the lobby and hopped into a taxi waiting outside. I arrived at Kowloon Station, paid my way and got on the train. It was just just after 6:30 so it was just me and two other people.
I arrived at the airport, got through security and eventually got onto my plane to Tokyo. I was flying with ANA, and each time I flew with them I've been impressed. The flight to Tokyo is only a couple of hours, but the seats are huge, and staff are very friendly and the food is wonderful. It was a huge difference from taking Air Canada, where a window seat means you end up having a stiff neck by the end of your flight.
Switching planes was also a breeze. The only downside to this flight was that my headphone-jack on my seat didn't work. I was told before I left that if something doesn't work on a Japanese flight, you can complain and get free flights for a year. I don't know if it's true or not, but I really had no reason to fly back to Asia anytime in the future, so I didn't report the broken jack.
32 minutes after I left Tokyo, I arrived in Regina. You read that right. Due to the time change, I had arrived just about the same time I left Tokyo. My family was waiting for me, and it was so great to see them again. I was glad I was able to talk to them via Skype throughout my trip so it wasn't complete silence for two weeks like when I went to Europe. I had so many gifts, and so many different foods, and so many papers and knick knacks and souvenirs to show them! I had so many stories! But none of these things can show or explain what Japan and Hong Kong were like. The breathtaking view of the Peak from Hong Kong, the powerful shadow of the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, the elegance of Kyoto's temples, the massiveness of Tokyo's Municipal building, even the canals surrounding Osaka Castle are indescribable. Pictures cannot capture them, words can't describe them, stories cannot explain them. The only way to see the world, I suppose, is to see it.
And so, my trip through Asia ends. Where I'll go next, I don't know. I have some wild ideas, like Chernobyl or Antarctica or Peru or Cuba... but for now, those are only ideas.
But until then, goodbye. And thank you for joining me on my Asian Adventure!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.