A Travellerspoint blog

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Despite kind people, cold winters and Tim Hortons, people told me that a Canadian Christmas is something that makes this experience complete. What is it like for an international to celebrate this time in a different country with a different family?

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Christmas does not start on the 24th of December like in other countries. The 12th of November is the very first day that people get in the Christmas mood. Trees get bought and houses get decorated from that day on. People would replace their Halloween decorations with Christmas decorations the day after Halloween, but there is the unspoken rule that you can decorate your house with lights the day after Remembrance day. People literally lighted up their houses on the 12th of November at 00:01 in the morning. Just to show how important Christmas is to many families over here.

My own Christmas season had its kick-off on the 19th of November. The church in which both my host parents are highly involved, held a Fall-Fair that day. It was a lunch, provided by The Catholic Women’s League(CWL) a group of women who helps the church wherever they can. My host father was providing the music with and the lunch ended with the entrée of the one and only Santa Claus who the children could take a picture with. There’s of course no such thing as being too old to sit on Santa’s knee, so I took my chance and heard from Santa, while crushing his knee, that I was not on the naughty list this year. A personal victory.
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Christmas is of course not complete without a Christmas parade. The parade in Sydney, the city I live in, was on the second of December. I went out with two jackets and extra thick pants and around me were Canadian children in shorts and a summer jacket and all they said was, “Just wait for the real winter to kick in.” The parade itself was awesome. It was like the entire city took part in it by either walking in the parade, or standing on the side watching. People spent months preparing their cars, which resulted in a beautiful show of lights and music passing by. Again, as the big final, Santa was the last car in the parade in a sled with his elves, who were handing candy to children.
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The eight of December was the big day for us as a family. We had a day off from school and we bought and decorated our Christmas tree. After an hour of searching for the perfect tree, the four of us(my host parents, host brother and me) went all to the basement to grab each two boxes full with decorations. It took us about three hours to decorate the tree and the house and it was at that moment that I realised what decorating your house truly is about. With every decoration one of us grabbed out of the box, one of my host parents told me who gave that one to them and when. My host mother explained to me that every single piece of decoration has a special meaning. They even have decorations their great grandparents had, who passed them on to them. Decorating your house is partly about making your house look nice, but it is more about tradition and standing still by all the people you love. Those who are among us and those who are not anymore. Those you see on a daily basis and those who you saw for the last time 40 years ago. All these beautiful values come together during Christmas and all I can say is that I am really happy that I am able to share this with my host parents.
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The next Christmas highlight was two days later. The setting was my host parents’ church and I was about to hear some of Cape Breton’s(the island I live on) best quires and singers in one afternoon. It was a full afternoon program with nothing but beautiful Christmas songs. All the singers were absolutely brilliant and it brought me and everyone around me even more in the Christmas mood than we were before.
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Christmas is of course not a real Christmas if you did not decorate cookies and your personal stocking, so that is exactly what we did on the 15th of December. We came together with about 35 international students and we sat down with Christmas music in the background and started full of spirit decorating. It was something very relaxing and calm to do and even though it might not be the usual way to spend your Friday night, I can highly recommend everyone to do something like that. Because getting together and having a fun time with your friends and family is after all what Christmas is all about.
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The Christmas period on your high school is also one full of excitement. My high school started their Christmas season the fourth of December with having a special Christmas related activity every day. From ‘ugly Christmas sweater day’ till ‘green and red day’, there was always something that made every school day in December special. However, there were two days that stood out. International Christmas day and the Christmas coffee house.
International Christmas day was not during school time, but in the late afternoon and evening. All the fifty-two internationals and about fifteen Canadians came together to hear what Christmas is like in other countries, to have something to eat and to just be together and laugh with each other. All the sixty-seven people that were there had the chance to say what Christmas means to them and the amazing part was that literally nobody said the same. This shows the beauty of Christmas. Even though it is considered as a holiday celebrated everywhere in the world, everyone has their own traditions and habits that are related to Christmas. For the majority Christmas is about coming together with family, but for me Christmas is about going on a vacation with my parents and friends.
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The second high school Christmas highlight was on the last day of school before the Christmas break. Our school organised a so called coffee-house, basically a free concert with nothing but high school students performing in it. The acts did not necessarily had to be about Christmas, just whatever people wanted to perform. It was unreal to see all the talent my classmates have to offer. Each and every act was good enough to win shows like ‘The Voice’ or anything like that. The perfect way to start the holidays. I went to bed very early that night, because we had something planed the next day that would be, without any doubt, one of the milestones of my time in Canada.

My alarm went off at a decent 5:50 in the morning, I ran in the shower, ate a piece of toast, stopped at a Tim Hortons for a cup of coffee and drove to the church. It was still completely dark outside and there was no sign of any other people that were awake, but that was not true. A bunch of cars arrived at the parking lot, one by one. All with drivers with a Tims cup of coffee in one hand, and the other hand covered with a glove. You might wonder what we were doing at 7 in front of the church, so this is what we were up to: My host mother is a proud President of a society called the Sydney River Saint Vincent de Paul. A society that helps the poor and provides Christmas dinners and presents for over fifty families who are not able to afford that during the Christmas period. A job that takes months to prepare and that morning, Friday the 22nd of December was the big final. We first drove about half an hour to a groceries store where we would pick up all the food. After that, we went back to the church, where we divided all the food in 52 boxes, and drove to all these 52 families and brought them their food and presents. It sounds like something that would take a couple of days to do, but because of the amazing support of over 40 volunteers, the job was done in about 4 hours. It is difficult for an eighteen year old like me to already talk about life-changing moments, but seeing in what conditions a lot people have to live, even in a great country like Canada and seeing the happiness and thankfulness on the faces of those where I brought the groceries, is definitely something I will never forget and it encourages me to do more volunteering wherever I can. Whether it is handing groceries to poor people during Christmas, or something small as helping your parents empty the dishwasher.
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After a month and a half of preparing and getting hyped up the day finally arrived. Christmas Eve. It started with a mass at church and even though I don’t go to church very often, I really enjoyed it. Our priest, Father Devereaux, held a very moving talk about what his idea of Christmas is. The general idea was that the best gift to give, that is given by everyone, is the gift of self. What he meant by that is that Christmas is about getting together and spending a nice time with those you love. We carried that idea with us during the Christmas period, with almost not a single moment in which we were just with the four of us. After church, my host mother’s parents came over for supper and stayed for the night. We had a delicious soup and went to bed early again, because in the highly unlikely case of us all being good the last year, Santa would come by and bring us all presents. I gave away my double-bed to my host grandparents and I ended up on the couch, which was not ideal, but completely worth because it would make it possible for us to spend Christmas day with each other.
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12, the very end

We got woken up by Santa’s Christmas bells in the morning and when we walked in the living room, we saw bags full with presents. I guess we all did something right this year.
We unwrapped our presents and had our turkey dinner at lunch time. After a terrific lunch, we did something very unusual. Because of all the early mornings we had in the days before, we held a Spanish siesta and everyone had some time for themselves to do whatever they want. The majority decided to take a little nap.
We all were fresh and awake around 6 again and we drove to our host grandparents, where many other family members were and Santa dropped a couple of presents for us all there too. The next days were all like that. We either had family or friends coming over, or we went to family and friends.
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We all got a lot presents and I realised that Father Devereaux was fully accurate when he said that the best gift to give is the gift of self. Initially, I was not able to celebrate Christmas with my real family, but now that Christmas is behind us, I realise that I did celebrate Christmas with my real Canadian family, just not with my real biological family. My family here treated me like I was part of theirs and that is the best present they could possibly give to me.

-Ewout

Posted by NSISPFC 05:35 Archived in Canada Tagged #nsispfc #nsisp Comments (0)

Typical But Unusual Thoughts During A Night Walk In My City.

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Sometimes I just ask to my host mom to leave, alone. She is always kind, friendly and gentle in her replies: “of course”, she is used to say. She is so sensitive. She suddenly knows when I need some time for myself. After all, everybody needs some time to dedicate to themselves. That is an human need. And she recognizes them in a more than a magistral way.
Every word coming out of her mouth, and inside her mind, is filled and charged with an unbelievable amount of love and interest, that are in contrast with the sense of mechanical loneliness that my city assumes in a random winter evening.

When nobody is interested in getting in contact with the outside world, for the weather, the time or an infinite amount of excuses and reasons, I love to discover a new feeling that I have never experienced before: walking down the illuminated, empty streets, with only the snow to keep me company.
Probably the Christmas period helps to keep my soul soft and cozy. My body is still cold. Every night I spend alone in my bed, with only my person to love, is an additional reason to find my warmth and my place elsewhere: the wreaths, the decorated trees and the flashing light hugging every house, every human repair tells me about a familial hangout, a reunion full of interest towards our most-loved people. I am afraid that I lost these sensations a long time ago. People feel so secure inside their brick houses. And I am still wonderIng why.

I personally find my internal peace in the solid, monotonous life of nature. The endless ripple of the sea, the gelid breath of the wind, the slow movement of the grass and the leaves falling down. But I can not complain. Every person is unique, in his or her own way. And I am glad for this. I thank our God for this. What a boring life with every person being the same. You can be different in many ways, just make sure to bring something to our hasty and fatigued world.

I found myself alone, in a slightly different world. Now I am here, at the waterfront, in silence. I can say I am waiting for something. And I will never be grateful enough. I had the chance to reflect a lot about myself, my life, my expectations, my ambitions, my future and my past, and how our society and the Globe is going to end, as well.

This environment is so beautiful and inspiring. It was all I needed to completely analyze my internal world, and discover a totally different side of my person. My most reflective and intimate part. And I can finally, and proudly say: “I am beautiful”.

The last thing I need is to get over the sadness and the misery that have grown inside my heart, during all this time. Yes, when I was completely absorbed and distracted by the urban, stressful and grey city life. I pray, and I hope I will not release this pain all at once.
I sincerely hope I will not release this pain all at once. Not because it could be harmful, but for the reason that is simply too much. I wish I could be carried by the ocean, once that my body will be lighter than sand. That is how I wish all my suffering would be finally gone. Lost in the sea.

Thank you Canada. You are still way more beautiful than me. But I will improve soon. I can guarantee.
-Lorenzo

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Posted by NSISPFC 17:13 Archived in Canada Tagged #canada #nsispfc #nsisp #novascotia #international #student Comments (0)

The first and the last victory.

Gaining the first banner of the new school.

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Something big happened few weeks ago. I still can not forget how happy and proud I was. Soccer was pretty much the most important club for me. I have loved playing soccer since I was very young. I used to be a professional soccer player when I was 12~13 in Korea. I wanted to be a soccer player when I was young, so I spent at least 5 hours a day to train and play soccer with some friends. However, I had an injury so I had to quit. I was very sad that I could not play soccer for a while. But Canada gave me one more opportunity to be a soccer player representing my school with my friends.

It was November fourth 2017. Bridgetown Regional Community School beat Halifax 3-2 won the provincials. Our soccer team got the first banner of the new school. At the beginning, I thought that we were not even going to get regional's banner because our team was not really good. Also, the team was not really organised. we lost the first game against Middleton with the score of 2-1. All of us in the team thought that we could beat Middleton easily. We were quite shook after the game and realized that we have to try to work more as a team. All members of the team started to work very hard. we won the next match against CK and beat them with 4-1. We started winning and winning and finally got regional's banner. We also became the host of the provincial games. Since our team had had lots of victories, we became more thirsty of victory. We wanted to win the provincials to show how much we have improved and how hard we worked together. Also we as the representatives of Bridgetown, wanted to show how great Bridgetown is.

First game of provincials, we had a really tough game. We played against Cape Breton. We still beat Cape Breton but we felt that provincial games are different. The other team was very well organised as a team and they worked really well with each other. After the game, I was a bit worried because I knew that It would be harder the next game. Furthermore, I was also so worried that I am always so nervous before huge contests and since of that, I make lots of mistakes. But I knew that my team is going to work and run as hard and much as I do so that kind of made me feel better.

It was the day. A lot of people came to watch. Yes, I was very nervous. The weather was a bit chilly and made me feel worse. "Bridgetown on 3 ! One Two Three Bridgetown!!" The game was started. I ran as much as I could. For 20 minutes, we were being overwhelmed by them because they were such a good team. But we got two goals in the first half. I felt we already won. I saw some players of them who already gave up. In the second half, we scored one more. At that time, I was sure that we won. However 10 minutes before the games finished, we gave them two goals because we were very loose. We had to wake up and start focusing on what we have to do. Everybody was very nervous and there were even few more chances that they could score. In the last minute, two players and I went to the other team's corner, kept the ball there and earned lots of time. That was a really good tactic because we earned more than 2~3 minutes there. The game was finally over and everybody started hugging each other. We were very happy. We thanked each other for hard working. After the game, we took lots of pictures and everybody got a medal. I am sure that Bridgetown will also have a really good team next year as well. I can say that this was one of my happiest moment in my entire life because I got to play soccer which I could not play anymore when I was young. Also I felt very proud that my teammates and I got the first banner of the new school. Not to mention, I was not really good but I am happy that I contributed a lot. The reason why I put " the First and the last victory" as my title is that, it was my first victory because I was in the soccer team last year but I could not get provincials and it is my last victory because I will graduate this year and will not be able to play soccer next year representing BRCS.

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I am really happy to share one of my best memories in Canada. I hope you enjoyed it and I will come back with another interesting memory. Thank you and have a good day. - Chan Yoon

Posted by NSISPFC 13:25 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Time flies when you're having fun

With December right around the corner, it is also the moment of realization that I am already past the halfway point of my stay. Here are the special moments of my amazing trip.

I had some ideas of what live in Canada would be like and there are moments that show what the life of an international student in Nova Scotia is like, both general moments that are for everyone and moments that make my trip special and unique.
As you maybe have read in my other blog “An unusual start of October”, I had two very exciting weeks with a highlight every day to start October. After a week like that, you might need a week in which you don’t do a lot and you are able to get some rest. However, this trip is not a vacation, it is the life of a normal Canadian that you follow and you can make is as full and interesting as you want.

The week in mid-October was very important for the high school soccer team. We fought ourselves in the play-offs which would end in one school becoming champions of our region. We had games on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and the final on Saturday. It was an exhausting week but we eventually came as winners out of a thrilling final. Our school became champions of our region!!! A personal highlight for me was that I had the honour to receive the championship banner, a sort of trophy, as the captain of the team. The first international captain of the Riverview mens soccer team ever.
Soccer champions

Soccer champions

Soccer is not the biggest sport in this beautiful country. That is without doubt ice hockey and my school happens to be pretty good at it. Our hockey team played their home opener the 16th of October, and I do not exaggerate if I tell you that the entire school plus more came to the hockey arena to watch the game. Our Redmen got a very well deserved lead after a great start. The opponents were almost able to tie the game, but the cheering school mates and the perseverance of the team prevented that from happening and the game ended in a 5-4 victory.
This hockey game was a moment that showed to me and all the other internationals how strong the school culture and school spirit is in Canada. Not only with the Canadians, but they do everything they can to let you as an international join in their fun. Multiple people asked me in the week before the game if I would go to the home opener and that I have to, and that it was going to be great. They were absolutely right. Even though I don’t know the ins and outs of the game, I really enjoyed it and the atmosphere was overwhelming.
Riverview Hockey home opener

Riverview Hockey home opener

The next week had four major things for me in store. The first thing was on Wednesday the 25th of October. With Halloween a week from then, there was a reason for the school to host a party. We had our dance and everyone, and I mean everyone, did everything they could to not just show up in amazing costumes, but also to make sure that everyone around them was having a fun time and that nobody was standing alone. All those things above are needed for a great party, but the thing that was the most special about this dance was that it was fully organized by students. If the home opener was not enough to show you how strong the school spirit is, then the fact that many students gave up their free time to organize a dance for the other students is.

The second landmark was the 16th birthday of my Spanish host brother David. We celebrated it on Thursday with family and friends coming over for supper. It was up to David what we would have for supper, and he came up with the brilliant idea to have steak from the BBQ with homemade fries and a fresh salad. It was our turn after supper to hand him his presents and to make sure that he would have a birthday that he will never forget.
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The third highlight that week was on the Friday. The NSISP, the organization that governs all the international students, had organized a dance similar to the one our school had. People came in costumes and we all had a great time. It was long party and at the moment that people got bored and wanted to go home, the NSISP fired their secret weapon to keep the party going. PIZZA. I had to leave the party a bit earlier to get some rest, because I had a vital day ahead of me. A soccer game that would decide if our season would last longer, or would end right away.

Our game was against a school from Halifax with over 3 times as many people as at our school. Our job was very simple. Win and we would go to Halifax for a weekend to fight for the championship of our province. After a very tough and rough game in which we were the better team, we broke in the final ten minutes and lost 3-2. This was a huge disappointment for us, but there was for me one tiny piece of positivity. The tournament would be in the next weekend and I already had something amazing waiting for me in that weekend, but more on that later. We had to hand in our shirts and the season was over. We achieved great things as a team, but most importantly, we were a real team and we enjoyed each second that we were together. Whether it was a practice, a game, or a drive to a tournament. We always found a way to make the best of it and that is after all what this game is all about.
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The next week was the week in which I would witness one of the most Canadian/American holidays thinkable. It is a day of giving and taking. Whether you give or take depends on your age. Parents give, children take. I am of course talking about Halloween. It started for the international students at my high school with a field trip to Hank’s Farm, famous for its corn an pumpkin field. We spent hours wandering around and getting lost in these fields. It was a great experience and we realized that we are a very close group of students. No one was walking alone.
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The thing that makes this day special is that it is one big contest between everyone. A contest between the families to decorate their house more than their neighbours, between the parents to give more candy than their neighbours, and between the children to get more candy than their friends. I went on the street too, but I thought that I was out of place sometimes. Not necessarily because of my age, but people asked me if I wasn’t too old to go trick or treating with my 192 cm/6’4’’. I explained to them that I am an international student, on which everyone responded with a short chat about where I’m from, what Halloween is like in my country and if I like it so far over here. That is what I’ll never forget about my Halloween. Not the garbage bag filled with candy and chips, not the pain in my stomach afterwards for eating too much, but the kindness of all the strangers I talked with and their enthusiasm about me being an international. Many of them even invited me to come inside and offered me a cup of tea or coffee. It showed me again how kind Canadian people are and why I like it so much over here.
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As I already mentioned, I would have had the provincial championship tournament this weekend, but we lost our qualifier and I already had something else huge planned that weekend. I was as one of the lucky few selected to go on a free 5-day trip through Nova Scotia to see all the universities so that we are able to decide whether we want to go to a university in Nova Scotia, and if so to which one we want to go. This meant that we had to visit eight universities in four days. We were on a very tight schedule and there was not much room to relax, with over 20 hours in a bus. These rides went by in a blink because of the amazing group we had. From a karaoke session, to very good conversations, everything was possible. I can write pages about the great time I had during this mini vacation, but the best way to show this to you all is with a video I made and posted on YouTube with the name “Edunova university trip-Ewout”.
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The 11th of November is a very special day in Canada. It is Remembrance day. A day devoted to the soldiers who paid the highest possible price for their country and the freedom of other countries. It happened to fall on a Saturday this year, so we had a ceremony at school on the day before. I’ve tried to write down what it was like, but the closest I can get is overwhelming, incredible and breath-taking. There were stories from soldiers who lost their friends, a story of someone who lost his husband and the numbers of the amount of people that went to battle and literally gave their everything. Most impressive is that it often was not for the freedom of Canada, but for the freedom of other countries. I saw a lot banners with Lets we forget during that period and that’s after all what this day is about. To make the sacrifices in the past unforgettable.
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Making moments and deeds unforgettable is also something that I try to achieve during my stay in Nova Scotia and the international group activity planned on the 26th of November helped a lot with that. We first went with all the 150 international students in this area to the movie Wonder, a great and very touching movie. After that, we went to the hockey game of our Screaming Eagles, that ended in a smashing 5-2 win for our Eagles. This was very good, because we had a meet and greet planned with the players after the game. We ate supper together and at the end had time to get autographs and pictures with the local warriors.
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What were my ideas about life on the other side of the big ocean? My ideas were mostly full with kind people, who are proud of what is theirs and who go big on holidays. I can say that my stay so far confirms all those ideas incarnate. Everyone is kind to you, even if they don’t know you at all. All the Canadian people are very proud of what they got. Proud of their school, proud of their country and proud of what they support, such as their hockey team. The way they celebrate Halloween and remember Remembrance day shows all of those aspects. It is hard to believe that I am already for more than three months part of this beautiful culture and it is even harder to realize that I just have two more months to go here. Time does fly when you’re having fun, but luckily we are able to hit the brake at the really important moments and take our time to realize how unforgettable they are.

Posted by NSISPFC 16:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Second month in Canada

Fantastic new experiences in Canada

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile" by William Cullen Bryant, and that is what I described my second month in Canada. Hi, guys is Tony here, my last month in Canada was great, I had a lot of joy and a lot of new interesting experiences. But, right now I'm in my second month, October, and is Autumn, which means it is time for the maple leafs to turn their famous color, red. The color that I heard about it many times and for the first time ever, I see a beautiful red maple leaf in my backyard trees, and after two and three weeks, their all turned to one color, and it was a chill experience to me to see all of the leafs, all red and red.
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In the time when me and my family when to Comeauville, the beautiful town beside the sea, I spend three days in there and it was fun. We're all go shopping and go eat lunch together, it was fun and I also enjoy my first Thanksgiving in Canada, it was wonderful, but it was more wonderful is that I was able to have two Thanksgiving, how fun is that.
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There is one special event that I forgot to tell you guys, is this event is full of spookiness and scariness. That's right, is Halloween, me and my friends are all pumped up for this event, for me it was my first Halloween, so I was so excited for it. At first, we had a Halloween dance at our school, the dance was wicked, everybody was dressing their favorite costume, that dance night was awesome.
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After that, I went to the Hockey game with my friends and other schools in CCRSB. The team that we cheered to is the Halifax Moosehead, they were awesome players, they played against the Charlottetown Islander. The game was intense, there were so many penalties and so many painful tackles, but in the end, the Moosehead won with the score of 6-2, they left with happy smiles, and the crowd was also happy too. It was so fun to watch the game with my friends and also have some fun at the rink.
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Finally, the Halloween day has come. My friends and I were volunteers to go asking people to donate food instead of candies. It was a fantastic night and also cold, we split off into two groups and compete whoever get many bags of food as full as possible, wins. So, the journey began, me and Anna, Domenico and Tommaso and Quang, all four of us went Trick or Eat in the neighborhoods, it was funny and also a great time too, everyone was laughing and talking and also have quite a few of snacks gave by the neighbors, seeing kids with their tiny cosstume with their adult go trick or treating, and also the experience to go trick or treat in the first Halloween night, it was scary to see all of the house we went through, decorated with lots of spooky things. After filling up our bags, we went to the Tim Hortons to meet the others, and so we went to the Food Bank and to donate all of it, the results were fantastic, we donated lots and lots of food, we're all happy and thank you for the people who donate their food to the Food Bank. Exhausted and also cold for a while, we enjoyed our hot chocolate in the kitchen behind the Food Bank where everyone goes there to relax after a long night to go Trick or Eat. After that, we're all went back to the place we met and say goodbye to each other and went home.
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All of those events was my wonderful time in the second month in Canada, it was great to participate in those activities and enjoy it with family and friends. October has been so far, was my favorite season, well almost. It brings me lots up life experiences and also a joyful time in here, the beautiful view of the maple leafs on trees, the special Thanksgiving time with family, and those great events with friends, all of that was awesome, and it also make myself lots of smiles. This is my life in Canada, and I will see you in next blog.

-Tony-

Posted by NSISPFC 16:50 Archived in Canada Tagged #nsispfc #nsisp #studyabroad Comments (0)

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