country

Photos: Farming at University of Saskatchewan by Jessica Lee


I decided to take a walk around the university one day and discovered the farm.

Yes. University of Saskatchewan has its own farm.

You can actually smell it before you see it.


The university has an agricultural school and it's really neat because students get to experience real farming instead of just theory.



I previously studied at University of Toronto and University of Sydney, which are both schools in big metropolis areas. There were no cows on campus there.


In a way, I'm glad I ended up in Saskatoon because it's definitely a unique experience. Besides the locals, not many people can say they lived in Saskatoon. There's just no solid reason to be here. Unless you're studying mining or agriculture.


With the exciting discovery of the cows, I grabbed my friend Julia, and we decided to have a country photo shoot. I hope you enjoy the photos!









A cow licked me.




Wine tasting the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario by Jessica Lee


Wine tastes the way it does because of the climate and the soil it's grown in.

And because of the moderating effects of the lake surrounding the Niagara Escarpment, it is a great place to grow grapes.

I spent Sunday on a work-sponsored field-trip down south near St. Catharines, Ontario, tasting wines and learning more about them.

Here is a photo of my co-workers packed in a school bus:


I've only been with the company for about a month, but I really like how everyone is so welcoming and friendly. Or that they give off that image at least. There was a great camaraderie on the bus ride to and from Toronto.

The last wine tasting I did was back in Australia, in Adelaide. It was with a bunch of strangers, so the feeling was quite different, though I enjoyed it very much. I find that alcohol generally tends to go better with people you know, however.


Cave Springs Cellars was gorgeous. It made me wonder what it would be like to work at a winery, picking grapes. Of course in my head, I envision waking up every day in a distinguished stone house and prancing bare feet in the grass, through the vineyards to work in a lovely, flowing white summer dress.

The reality probably looks something like muddy rain boots, ratty jeans and a farmer's shirt- which I suppose is something I could deal with as well... (oh the sacrifices!)


We spent the day touring the place and learning about what affects the taste of wines. What really interested me the most was that the owner knew so much about the soil- what it's made of (limestone mostly), and it's history (the field used to be a cow pasture so there's lots of organic matter in it). I mean, thinking about it now it's really obvious that he would have to since it affects so much of his crop, but being from the city, I obviously know nothing about soil except that you grow things in it. Soil is a whole new field of knowledge I'd be interested in learning about (haha get the pun?).


I learned from one of my co-workers that when you swirl the wine glass, you can see the tannins (the flavour in wine which comes from the grape skins) dripping down. They look like thin, clear lines. The more tannins you see, the dryer the wine will taste; and the dryer the wine is, the more alcohol it will likely have.

Afterwards, we ate lunch on a hill and had prosciutto sandwiches, cheese, almonds, fruit preserves, couscous salad, chickpea salad and a raspberry custard tart. I think all of this was supposed to go with the wine we drank.


Then, it was time for our second tasting, but this time with specific food pairings.

I found that there was no right or wrong answer when it came to pairings, as everyone has a different palate.


We were all given a plate with smoked cheese, Italian Cacciatore sausage, honey soy-glazed shrimp, chocolate salt tart and a gherkin. We sampled these foods with Cave Spring's 2010 Estate Riesling, which is a fresh-tasting white wine that had a citrus/lime scent.

Personally, my favourite pairing was with the cheese and the shrimp and not so much with the chocolate tart- though it tasted great on its own. My co-worker echoed this opinion, but someone else found they liked the tart with the wine.

The next tasting we had is what is called a "vertical tasting" because we sampled the same estate wine, but made from different years.


It was incredible because I could actually taste the differences between them though they are made from the same grape, from the same winery using the same process.

We sampled years 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005. My favourite was the 2009, which was the coldest year, which means there is more residual sweetness in the wine.


It was a wonderful day of co-worker bonding and learning about wine. I'm extremely fortunate I'm with a company that encourages drunkenness wine knowledge in its staff.


Now if anyone asks me about say tank fermenting versus fermenting in bottles, I can say with confidence that tank fermenting produces coarser bubbles in the wine because the bubbles are bigger.

Honestly though, that is one of the few impressive things I know about wine, and it's all for show. I really am still in the beginning stages of learning. I can't wait to taste more though.



George of the jungle/ things North Americans do for fun by Jessica Lee


After watching James Cameron's Avatar (2009), I had always wanted to live in a tree.

I didn't get to live in a tree this weekend, BUT I got to walk among the tops of them, which is similar. Being that it was the Canadian Thanksgiving, my family drove up north to the cottage for the long weekend. Along the way, we stopped at Tree Top Trekking near Barrie, Ontario.


Tree Top Trekking is a company that lets people conquer their fear of heights through rope courses and ziplines in the dense Canadian forest.

It was absolutely beautiful being between trees and seeing parts of the forest you wouldn't have seen if you were on the ground. I didn't bring my camera for the black course because it had started to rain and hail but it was gorgeous and reminded me of what I'd imagine Avatar to be like in real life- wood log steps and wooden stepping bridges high off of the ground.


The weather could have been improved, but not everything in life can be perfect.


I think rope courses are a North American thing (correct me if I'm wrong). If you've never seen one, I'll give you a short introduction.


High ropes courses are typically used to encourage "self-development" in an individual. Ie. They're believed to escalate your self-esteem and confidence once you complete one. They are quite popular with school groups and summer camps because many are not particularly physically challenging but they still boost morale.


The one at Tree Top Trekking required you to balance on a tight line with wires you could hold onto. Other courses included various hurdles you had to walk on or climb into/over.


It was easy stuff, but I liked being able to just focus on one thing and not think about anything in particular.


If you happen to go, there is a black course which is the most difficult course there. You have to ask for it specifically and you only get to go on it after completing the purple course.

After that, they will still discourage you somewhat because they want to weed out people who won't be able to complete the course. They will ask you to do five chin-ups on the spot. Only 10 % of people who go to Tree Top Trekking go on this course. If you think you will make it, I definitely encourage you to go because the sights are gorgeous and I wish I brought my camera there to capture it.


I went on the black course solo with the head guide because it was rainy and cold and no one else wanted to go. It was a unique experience because I got to get into his mind. I don't meet many small town boys who haven't been to the city. To me, he was a novelty.


His thinking was limited, but he was also young (20). When I talked about travel, I meant international places like Europe or South America, whereas he assumed the Canadian west coast.

He also asked me lots of questions, wanting to know more about the places I had been. Maybe he was planning to explore as well. Whenever I talked of an international experience, he related by telling me of people he knew who had travelled but I don't think he had travelled much himself.
He'd grown up in Northern Ontario and enjoyed Canadian things like snowboarding in the winter and the great outdoors in the summer.

As much as I like international travel, meeting people like him pulls me back and makes me want to live in a cabin up north and enjoy the gorgeous scenes and moments I sometimes take for granted. I think there are so many possibilities waiting for me in Northern Ontario; if only I'd give it a chance.













Letters from a small town: Boonah by Jessica Lee



I got dropped off in a strange little town in Queensland called Boonah today. The boys wanted to go climbing at the nearby mountains and I just wasn’t up for it.

Growing up in a big metropolitan city such as Toronto, it feels quite different being here. I don't want to be cliche and say that the pace of life is slower in a rural town than in a big city, but it is quite true. People here have time to chat.

It is a little weird to be a stranger in a small town all by yourself. It's obvious I don't live here. 

I stick out from the locals quite easily being that I’m Asian and everyone else is white. Everyone is friendly though, asking me where I’m from and wishing me well on my travels. I get a few long stares from teenagers- maybe they haven’t seen many Asians being that Boonah wouldn’t really be a town Asian tour companies stop at with their huge tour buses; I’m sure you know the kind of tour buses I’m talking about - the ones with the tour guides who hold little flags while talking and explaining sites with flocks of Japanese, Korean or Chinese tourists following behind with cameras.

The fact that not many tourists stop here is great news for me. The people haven't developed a dislike for tourists (some tourists can be quite rude and not fun to serve) and the town isn't commercialized and catered to tourists; thus giving me a more authentic small town experience, which I quite like.

Boonah is a typical small town. The fashions of the men are flannel shirts and jeans and the teenagers wear hoodies. The women wear jumpers with long skirts or jeans. You don’t see sharply dressed business people with their briefcases or stick-thin fashionistas working their heels here when you look out the window. This could be a small town in rural Ontario or anywhere in North America.

It’s a charming little place. The population is just over 2,000 and there is one main street. Right now I am sitting in a cute café writing this and people watching from the window at the same time. I feel a little like a 21st century Kerouac, minus the moleskine but with the addition of a laptop. I had a mocha but now am drinking chai tea.


The coffee shop/ bookstore I am in is called The Story Tree. It is quite artsy with crochet throws, little plants, rustic wooden chairs, cookbooks displayed on the counter and acoustic music softly playing in the back. There is a small play area in the back and a lounge area with a table for new mothers to chat while their kids play. Sometimes I wonder if that is the life I would be living had I been born in a small country town and secondly would I enjoy it because from a glance it doesn’t seem too bad.




Canadiana by Jessica Lee

I love Sydney very much but sometimes I miss Canadian things like poutine and beaver tails.

I've been in Sydney for a month now and I have finally met enough Canadians to have a "Canadian night".

We're going to eat poutine and pancakes with Canadian maple syrup and possibly sing the national anthem.  We don't have Canadian beer unfortunately but I might make some apple cider with cinnamon.

Poutine is fries (or as they like to call them here 'chips') with gravy topped with cheese. A beavertail is not an actual beaver tail. It's a deep fried pastry sprinkled with brown sugar and topped with lemon juice. Or sometimes they add Nutella or maple butter to it. Beavertails are pretty much my favourite thing ever. I like them more than Cinnamon buns and cake and pie and cookies.

I'm pretty excited because I just made a Canadian playlist on my Zune to play tomorrow.

Some of the artists include:
Michael Buble, Broken Social Scene, Down with Webster, Justin Bieber, Drake, Our Lady Peace, Feist, Avril Lavigne, The Trews, Trebel Charger, The Stills, Soul Decision (yes they're Canadian), The Moffatts (The Canadian version of Hanson), Pilate, Sam Roberts, Sarah McLachlan, Mariana's Trench, Bryan Adams... And some indies like Jeremy Fisher and Paper Lions.

We have quite a lot of talent on our shores and I'm very proud of our country. Not only for our socialist views and peace keeping, but also because Toronto and Vancouver both make a lot of "best city to live in" lists. I am proud of our people because we're friendly and hardworking. We are multi-cultural and accepting.

And generally when I tell people here that I'm Canadian, they have a good reaction.