My Experience on Immigrating to Quebec and Preparing for TEFAQ Exam

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The last seven months have been one of the most difficult phase in my life, mentally speaking, even more than when I decided to quit medical school several years back. This is due to the pressure I have to proof my ability and the high stakes game I played to extend my working permit in Quebec, Canada. The beautiful summer days in Montreal slowly turned into a cold winter, pushing me toward a cycle of hope and despair as my frustration grew day-by-day.

About a year ago, on May 2018, I graduated from a 1-year Master’s program from McGill University after a one year study period. I was a top student in the class, clearing 4.0 GPA, graduated in the fastest time possible (9 months), and had been securing full-time job offer three months earlier. At the time, I didn’t know that later I would regret my decision to not extend my study period for another six months. On the graduation day and throughout the Summer, I was one happy graduate student ready to face the world, until the truth slapped me hard on the face in two months later.

As a graduate student, the most rational path to secure a temporary work permit is through the Post Graduate Working Permit (PGWP) program, allowing graduates to work in Canada for the same length of their study program and up to three years maximum. For me, this means that instead of receiving a three years working permit as most of my friends did, I only got a one year permit. One year is not an enough time to apply for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) that commonly takes over 1.5 years.

Feared of losing my well-paying job and getting kicked out of the country, I was left with three choices that allow me to work in Canada: find another job in Toronto and apply for express entry there, ask my employer to apply for an LMIA, or take the French exam and apply for the Programme Experience Quebecoise (PEQ). I tried the last two. My boss and employer in general are very nice to me that when I asked them to apply an LMIA for me, they contacted their lawyer and initiate the process quickly after. But that was a “Plan B”, since there is no guarantee that a positive LMIA will be given and the process may took so much time that my current working permit might expire before I get a new one. I did take an A1 French course one year before, but practically I forgot everything since I did not use it during my study period.

So I took the hard way as my “Plan A”, to succeed the TEFAQ exam with B2 levels or above, as required by the Quebec government for immigrants. The catch? To do it before my current work permit expires. Assuming that It took 1 month for my CSQ to be processed and another 1 month for applying a bridging working permit and permanent residence application, I knew that at the latest, I had to pass the French exam in the middle of April. Pass that deadline and I will find myself unemployed and back in my home country (it is not something terrible, but Canada offers me an opportunity that is unavailable in my home country).

I learned all of that in early August, after consulting one of the immigration lawyer that cost me a big dent on my budget. Determined not to give up without a fight, I made my battle plan for the year. My friend and I took a private course with an experienced French teacher, whose hourly rate could buy a nice dinner, and I took up the online program offered by Quebec government called “Francisation En Ligne”. The later has helped me a lot in improving my grammar and listening, I recommend anyone that has access to the program to supplement their studies with it. In the program there are 16 chapters, each of them containing 6 sub-chapters that feels like forever to finish when you are tired. But the good thing is that once you finished the lessons properly, you have a good grasp of the basic French grammar and are able to extract information from a conversation.

In order to succeed, I had to drop everything and grind myself to be discipline. No hanging out in the weekend, going straight home to study after work and limiting my entertainment time to 4-6 hours a week. It also means studying on the online platform for three hours a day, one hour in the morning before work and another two after, usually completing one to two sub-chapters in a day. On the weekend, I spent about 6 hours a day, completing two to three sub-chapters. And I did complete all the 16 basic-intermediate chapters in the middle of December, with a count of 338 hours of study and 70-80% understanding of the materials.

And every week from August to January, me and my friend took the private classes to brush up our grammar and speaking skills, totaling 32 hours of study. In addition to that, I also took a private speaking and listening courses to improve my pronunciations and vocabulary, totaling 7.5 hours since November. For the desert and final blow, I took a TEFAQ preparation course at McGill University, which provides me with exactly what I need: speaking practice with French natives, tons of listening mock exam, and tips on improving those skills. At the end of the course, I felt much more confident in my speaking skills and were getting consistent 75-85 score on the listening mocks.

In summary, here is the effort I took to learn French in 7 months:

  • Francisation En Ligne, provided for free by the Quebec government, useful for understanding basic structure of French and increase my vocabulary. Spent 338 hours, CAD$ 0. Best thing ever for Quebec immigrants.
  • Private courses with my friend, with an experienced French teacher, useful for polishing the grammar I learned from the FEL program and practice my speaking skills. Spent 33 hours, around CAD$ 1500.
  • Private courses alone for speaking and listening, useful for learning the phrases and practice. Spent 7.5 hours, around CAD$ 300.
  • TEFAQ preparation course, at McGill, useful for learning the tips on the exam and practice both speaking and listening. Spent 36 hours, around CAD$ 450.
  • Prepmyfutures website, useful for training on oral comprehension. Spent 10 hours.
  • Read two books in French and translate the difficult vocabulary. Spent 32 hours, CAD$ 24.
  • Listen to Radio Canada every morning on the walk to office. Spent 15 hours.

Overall, I spent about 470 hours learning French, which cost me around CAD$ 2300 in 7 months. I knew that there were learning center that offers 100 hours courses to prepare for the exam, but in my opinion this is hardly enough to attain the real B2 level.

What would I improved if I had more time? First, I would take a weekly class at night or weekend, since there would be more friends to connect and practice with on the off-hours. Second, I would reduce my target to finish 1 chapter on the FEL course each week instead of 2 to 3, which would reduce my stress level and improve retention. Third, I would buy a French grammar practice book to get used to passé composé of more verbs, and also to train converting verbs into its subjonctif and conditionnel form. Fourth, I would find more time to practice French off-hours with my peers. Some even suggest me to find a French-speaking girlfriend! I estimated that with these adjustment and learning at a more relaxed pace, I would completed the whole thing I did in 15 months instead of 7 months.

And what mistakes did most people often fall into? I observed that many of those in the same TEFAQ class as I am were too passive in their learning. Rather than following teacher-centered learning, we should try student-centered learning where the progression of our skills is based on the effort we put into learning the language and use French classes as a supplement rather than the primary source of learning. Had I followed a traditional courses as my primary learning source, it would take me 27 months to attain B2 level (A1-B2, 3 months for every level).

In the end, I did took the TEFAQ exam earlier than my original plan, on February 15th. And to my relieve, I got C1 for the oral comprehension and B2 for the oral expression. All the hard work paid off! Despite all the pressure and frustration, I believe that I have become a stronger person mentally after enduring the stresses in the past year. It was not a pleasant experience, but nevertheless it allows me to push beyond what I knew was possible. So, if anyone ask me if it is possible to pass the TEFAQ exam in 7 months (while working full time or studying), my answer would be: Si on veut, on peut.

 

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Western Canada Trip D6-10: Le Canadien Train Ride

Day 6 to 10

If there was ever a plot on my trip, today is the first chapter of the climax, because it is a part of the trip that I have been most excited about, even more than seeing the aurora borealis in Yukon. I’m a fan of doing things in the old school way because sometimes that is the best way of doing things in life, like going to barbershop for my haircut and travelling with an actual paper map instead of using google map. Heck. I even still wear a mechanical watch and dress conservatively. And yes, it also means that I like to travel in the old school way, not by horse and carriage, but by train. This way, I could enjoy the scenery along the rail track and enjoy some telephone services along the way.

PSX_20181221_151722Granville Street in the Morning, Vancouver

PSX_20181221_151811Vancouver’s Chinatown in the Morning

PSX_20181221_151847Vancouver’s Chinatown in the Morning

On Friday, I’m embarking on a 5 days train ride from Vancouver to Toronto, a route that spans 4466 Km and passes through 5 Canadian provinces and popular cities such as Jasper, Edmonton and Saskatoon before finally arriving in Toronto. The train departs at 12.00 from Vancouver’s Pacific Railway Station, located at the Eastern part of downtown Vancouver.

PSX_20181221_152129Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

PSX_20181221_152205Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

Before going to the train station in the afternoon, I went to Chinatown to have a dim sum for breakfast, expecting that the food on board will be less appetizing, an assumption that was proven to be wrong.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0842.JPG

Pacific Railway Station in Vancouver

PSX_20181223_113402The Red Line Marks “Le Canadien” Route from Vancouver to Toronto

I arrived at the station one hour before the departure, all of the attendants were busy serving the guests and the seats on the lounge were packed. I queued on the service desk in front of the lounge and waited for the attendant to scan my ticket and give me the meal voucher for lunch. Since the route from Vancouver to Jasper is a crowded one, the lunch was divided into 3 sections (at 12 pm, 1 pm and 2 pm). I chose the first session despite already having a big breakfast just an hour earlier.

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My First Lunch On Board with an Australian Couple

Various Meal Served on Board During the 5 Days Trip

On the lounge I met Mark and Lisa, the Australian couple I met a day earlier on the city tour, who were heading to Jasper to spend their Christmas there. Half an hour before the scheduled departure time, we were allowed to board our train. The train comprised of 24 cars, including 3 locomotives that pull the whole set. There were also 3 domed-glass car where we could enjoy a higher point of view to enjoy the scenery, each car accommodates 24 people. During the trip from Vancouver to Jasper, the seats were always full, so you have to get there early in the morning to reserve the seat. I did exactly that after the 6.30 am breakfast the next day.

PSX_20181221_152554Landscape Nearby the Canada-U.S. Border in British Columbia

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That’s Me in The Observation Deck

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The second car was actually almost empty, as most people was not aware of its existence yet

I traveled on the sleeper class, more specifically on the upper berth due to my budget constraint. I knew that I don’t want to travel economy for 5 days (last year travel from Montreal to Halifax for 23 hours ride was not very comfortable, especially for sleeping), but I also do not want to blow my budget only for the train ride. Luckily I got my ticket discounted due to the Tuesday promotion VIA Rail has. Traveling on the sleeper class means that you got access to a single bed, bathroom, 3 meals each day and other free stuff on the canteen (tea, coffee, juice, biscuits, etc.).

PSX_20181222_072716Sunset Nearby the Canada-U.S. Border in British Columbia

PSX_20181222_072944Sunset Nearby Abbotsford, B.C.

Most of the day, I spent my time enjoying the scenery on the domed-glass car while listening to the music, then reading or writing this post at night. Before or after the lunch, usually passengers are gathering on the canteen while waiting for the lunch call. This is usually where the conversation happens among us.

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The Alley from My Upper Berth

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The Bed in Upper Berth

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The Bed in Upper Berth

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The Bed in Lower Berth (I got upgraded after Jasper)

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Window in the Lower Berth

I was traveling alone, making it easier for the attendant to assign me a seat for the lunch. Usually I was assigned to the table with a couple and another lone traveler. During the first four days, I was rotating between tables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I talked with few Australian couples, retirees, grandpa and grandma visiting their children for Christmas, and even a Jewish lady that moved to Canada after the Nazi prosecution in the 60s. Stories were told, history revisited and laughter roared across the room. I would say that the people traveling on the train made the ride more enjoyable, each of us sharing our own stories.

PSX_20181222_143410The Train Passing Through Alberta

PSX_20181222_143652The Morning View Passing Through Alberta

PSX_20181222_143745Frozen Lake and Trees, Alberta

PSX_20181222_143912Trees and Snow in Alberta

When I asked people why they took the train instead of flying, various reasons come up. The Jewish lady told me that she just got a brain surgery and was not fit for flying, a girl in her 30 who was suffering from cancer also quoted the same reason. Others said it was for the leisure, the same reason I had.

PSX_20181222_144010The Warmer Part of Canadian Rockies, Alberta

PSX_20181222_144128The View from the Observatory Deck in the Morning

PSX_20181222_144358The View from the Observatory Deck in the Morning

PSX_20181222_213314Frozen River in Canadian Rockies

My usual day would start with breakfast at 6.30 am, then going up to the domed-glass car and wait for the sunrise while listening to the music. Sometimes I would check my emails and other news if the signal on my phone is strong enough, which happened occasionally during the trip. I also bring a book with me, which I read before bed or whenever the sky was dark.

PSX_20181222_213543One Hour Stop in Jasper

PSX_20181222_213712Landscape from the Jasper’s Station

PSX_20181222_213849Jasper, Alberta

PSX_20181222_213938Jasper, Alberta

The trip from Vancouver to Jasper was much more crowded compared to the rest of the journey, so if you have not got the chance to sit on the domed-glass car so far, you will have the chance to do so after the stop in Jasper. It was said that the train is 300 people lighter after dropping off the Australian tourists in Jasper, including my friends Mark and Lisa. The food, arguably, was also better in terms of choices and servings after the stop in Jasper.

Sneaking to the Empty One Bed Cabin at Night (while charging my phone)

The scenery across Alberta was mesmerizing, the lakes and trees were covered in white and there were few clear shots for photographers along the way. The foods were all amazing to me too, which look and taste more like a hotel’s restaurant than a kitchen on board of a train. I tried lots of foods I’ve never eaten before like a bison burger. The servers were all friendly and nice too, asking our preferences of meals and drinks on every sitting. Overall, I would give a five star rating to the quality of food and staff.

PSX_20181222_072627The Mountain at Night, Alberta

PSX_20181222_094835Winter Sunrise in Canadian Rockies, Alberta

At night, I got a good night sleep as well in my spacious bunk bed, contrary to complaints from few passengers. I have to admit though that sometimes when we were passing the prairies and tried to gain some time after delays, the ride could be a little bumpy. But nevertheless, I usually overslept until 9-10 am, skipping breakfast.

PSX_20181223_173933Haystacks in Saskatchewan

PSX_20181223_174043Cows in Saskatchewan

PSX_20181223_174230To the Sunset and Beyond

The attendant responsible for each car would transform the passenger seats into a bed around dinner time, and reverse it back during the breakfast time. They also provide amenities such as towels. Toilet and shower room were regularly cleaned, something I noticed during the 5 days journey.

PSX_20181223_174447Thirty Minutes Stop at Saskatoon Station

PSX_20181223_174547Saskatoon Station, Saskatchewan

My only complain is about the lack of electrical socket in the passenger seat for berth class. For those in cabin, you could charge your electronic device inside your room, but for berth passengers, you have to go to the canteen or bathroom to do so. For me, charging 2 cameras, an iPod and a smartphone mean that I spent quite some time in the canteen waiting for them to be fully charged every two days.

PSX_20181225_083350Winter in Ontario

PSX_20181225_083830Green and White in Ontario

PSX_20181225_122925Frozen River in Ontario

At the end of the trip, the two lady with whom I traveled from Vancouver from 5 days ago said goodbye to each other. Before debarking from the train she said to me, “initially we thought of it (the train ride) as a way to get from point A to B, but it turned out to be a journey on its own”.

PSX_20181225_123020End of the Road, Ontario

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*At our worst, we had 12 hours delay to Edmonton, but after that we constantly gain some time and arrived at Toronto Union Station with only 2-3 hours delay. So be advised to spare some time for delay in your itinerary. Look for Tuesday’s discount before buying the tickets and thank me later.

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Western Canada Trip D5: Vancouver

Day 5

To my surprise, I woke up naturally before the alarm rang at 7.15 am, two and a half hours before my pick up for the city tour. I was hungry, but luckily within two stores next to Ramada Hotel, there is a café selling croissant and tea. I had my breakfast there and waited for my guide to arrive. Her name is Megan, a chatty girl in her 20’s who is responsible for picking up all the guests.

PSX_20181221_144347View from the Eastern Part of Stanley Park

The next guest we picked up was Mark and Lisa, an Australian couple that I became quite close to in the following few days. After all the guests were present, we were transferred to a bigger bus and headed to Stanley Park, our first stop for the day. Tim, our new guide will accompany us throughout the day. Tim is even more chatty than Megan and is quite a funny guy.

PSX_20181221_144522View from the Northern Part of Stanley Park

It was a clear, bright day, although the wind was very strong in the morning. We passed through few sites downtown while Tim talked about the history of few sites such as the Terry Fox statue, Fairmont hotel downtown and the public library. At the eastern side of Stanley Park, you could see the cityscape during the sunrise and the Olympic stadium. There are also totem poles made by the First Nation people and a souvenir store nearby. Walking north from the totem poles, you could see the north Vancouver across the river.

PSX_20181221_144845Lions Gate Bridge Taken from Stanley Park

Our second stop at the Stanley Park was at the northern point of the park overlooking a bridge and the Londsdale Quay. There is a nice and warm café up on the hill, a place I could imagine spending hours in if I had the time.

PSX_20181221_144950North of Vancouver from Stanley Park

PSX_20181221_145049Lions Gate Bridge from the Observation Point in the Northern Side of Stanley Park

We continued our tour to Granville Island, where we had our lunch. Granville Island is triangle-shaped district that was used as an industrial site back in the day and is now converted into a local market. However, there is still an operational cement factory within the complex. Other buildings operate as a toy store, clothing stores, souvenir stores and art center. There is one big building acting as a market where locals buy cheese, fish, vegetables, etc. That same building also houses a small food court providing variety of meals such as Thai and Japanese among others. The weather was nice outside and there is a man singing French songs on the center of the patio, so I decided to have my lunch outside despite the seagulls flying around.

PSX_20181221_145211North of Vancouver

Soon after lunch, we drove back toward downtown, circling Gastown and Chinatown before stopping at the Vancouver Lookout to see the city from height. The tower allows 360 degrees view of the city and is a perfect place for photographers to capture the cityscape during both day and night. And the glass and lighting is designed such that it doesn’t reflect the lights inside the tower.

PSX_20181221_145325English Bay Beach, Vancouver

PSX_20181221_145931Rainbow Over Burrard Inlet, Vancouver

It was around 1 pm when we came down from the skyscraper and walked back to our bus. Our next destination was a salmon hatchery nearby Caspilano suspension bridge, north of Vancouver. A stream of river lies next to the hatchery, but there is not much things you could do in the hatchery itself. However, there is a bridge in front of the hatchery’s entrance; you could cross it and walk for another 3 minutes to see the dam on the eastern side of the forest.

PSX_20181221_150037North of Vancouver from the Lookout Tower

Around two thirty, when we completed our little hike to see the dam, Tim told us that Caspilano Bridge was closed for the whole day due to the strong wind throughout the day. We were disappointed, but we got refunded for the entrance fee, which is fair. Tim, cheery as always, asked us where we wanted to be dropped at and I asked to be dropped at the Lookout tower again to watch the sunset from there.

PSX_20181221_150452Cityscape from Vancouver Lookout

PSX_20181221_150724Cityscape from Vancouver Lookout at Night

The cityscape was even better during the dark, where red lights emitted from the cars moving down the street captured in my photographs. The city is very much alive at night, even on the river I could see the sea-bus moved back and forth to Londsdale Quay.
I spent a little more than an hour on the tower, before I decided to walk toward the West End to eat Marutama Ramen, a noodle chain store I used to eat back home in Jakarta. I knew it was totally worth the effort once I sipped on the broth of the soup. Alongside the road toward West End, I found many familiar stores that exist in Jakarta such as Muji, Miniso and other branded goods.

PSX_20181221_152049Downtown Vancouver During the Blue Hour

PSX_20181221_150807Gassy Jack Statue at Gastown, Vancouver

PSX_20181221_150917Gastown Steam Clock at Night, Vancouver

I visited some of the other stores, passing by Swarovski, Nordstrom and other luxury retailers. I wasn’t tired yet, but there was nothing that excite me that night so I walked back toward my hotel on the Southern part of Granville Street and slept.

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Western Canada Trip D4: Whitehorse to Vancouver

Day 4

Waking up this morning turned out to be easier than I had thought, despite the fact that I went to bed at 3.30 am last night. I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm rang at 8.15 am, checked my emails and then took a shower. I didn’t have much time left before the shuttle bus to the airport departed, so I had a quick breakfast at Starbucks located three blocks away from the hotel (Best Western Gold Rush Inn). On my way there, I saw the Mexican family I have spent time with in the last three days, so I wave them goodbye in the still dark sky. They waved back. Then I had a quick 10 minutes breakfast, sitting alone in the table for four person.

PSX_20181221_120953Whitehorse from the Air at Sunrise

The shuttle arrived on time at 10.30 and after picking me up, we stopped at few other hotels to pick up more passengers. I was quite surprised arriving at the airport. Although I arrived at the same airport three days ago, I barely recognized the airport I went through. The airport is a simple building, quite small for the scale of international airport (the only international flight was from Germany in the summer). The waiting lounge at the gate, however, was pleasant to sit in. There is a big window across the whole lounge facing the tarmac and mountains, through which I spent most of my time taking time-lapse video while listening to the music.

As far as I knew, there was only one dock for an airplane that connects directly to the airport terminal and I think it is reserved only for Air Canada, because I saw Air North flight passengers descended through the stairs and walked to the terminal. Air Canada airplane’s fuel, however, was supplied by a truck with Air North logo on it. During one hour of waiting in the lounge, I saw only three flights that were either departing or arriving at the airport.

If you are a photographer like me, you would want to book your flight seat next to a window because after taking off, the landscape in the next twenty minutes or so was really gorgeous. There are countless snowcapped mountains and lakes visible from the air. The landing on Vancouver wasn’t that bad either, although it was cloudy when the plane approached the city.

PSX_20181220_072346Vancouver at Night, Taken from Londsdale Quay

Unlike Whitehorse, the distance between the airport and downtown Vancouver is quite long and took about 20-30 minutes on a CAD 35 taxi ride. Apparently, Vancouver is the only major metro area in North America without ride hailing service, which is disappointing for the tourism industry.

PSX_20181220_072545Beach Chair Facing the City at Londsdale Quay

I checked in at the Ramada Hotel in Granville Street, a nice and comfortable hotel located in the downtown area, although it is a little bit farther from the center than Fairmont or Best Western. When I was checking in, the sky was getting dark and I was worried that I would miss the blue hours, so I rushed to the sea-bus terminal to go to Londsdale Quay, north of Vancouver, to photograph the cityscape at night from the other side. I missed catching the sea-bus by 1 minute, so I have to wait for another 15 minutes for the next one, hence missing the blue hour.

PSX_20181220_072616Lovelocks at Londsdale Quay

PSX_20181220_072643Lovelocks at Londsdale Quay

Nevertheless, the cityscape was great even at dark. At around 6 pm, I crossed the water again using the same sea-bus, then walked toward Gastown where all the chic restaurants are located. The architecture at Gastown is influenced by the old European style with its bricks and dark-colored paint, which reminds me of the Old Port in Montreal but with a slightly modern look.

PSX_20181220_072729Gastown at Night

Walking east through Gastown, a right turn (to the south) brings me to Chinatown. Unfortunately, I passed through a seedy part of the town known as DTES where all the drug addicts are congregating. I passed through three blocks walking quickly, avoiding eye contact with anyone. It was pretty clear to me that I need to get out of the neighborhood, but what intrigued me was the lack of interest they have in anyone passing by. Later I learned that they might have been preoccupied by their own things and are not hostile to passerby. My tour guide the next day told me that crime rate was rather low considering the situation, but be cautious nevertheless when walking around the area (or avoid going there altogether).

PSX_20181220_072906Olympic Village, Vancouver, at Night

After 15 minutes doing accelerated walk, I stopped at McDonalds to rest my feet and drank a lemon tea. About twenty minutes after I sat, girl in her 20s approached me, explaining that she was dropped in the city (don’t know by whom) and was a
drug addict, trying to call her dad to pick her up. She asked to use my phone. Of course I declined and left the place not long after.

PSX_20181220_073021Olympic Village at Night

I continued walking to the Olympic Village, where a nice jogging track/sidewalk is located next to the river. I set up my tripod and camera while listening to a semi-drunken musician singing Christmas songs, being in his own world. I spent a good one hour taking photos across the river. And in order to get back to the city, I had to walked through the track until I came across the closest bridge that connects to Yaletown.
I was too tired to do anything at around 11 pm, so I headed back to the hotel, passing through Granville Street where people are still jostling around. Knowing that I have to wake up early for city tour tomorrow morning, I took a quick hot shower and went to a very deep sleep.

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Western Canada Trip D3: Whitehorse

Day 3

After five hours of sleep, well below my normal hours, I was actually waking up refreshed and feeling ready for today’s activity. By waking up at 8 am, I have two hours for preparation, in which I spent 1.5 hours reading my emails and updating Instagram. The rest thirty minutes was spent on showering and getting ready.

PSX_20181218_194125S.S. Klondike National Historic Site in the Early Morning

I have a city tour on 10 am, guided by a Japanese guy in his 30’s. First, we went for a drive around the city while he explained the history of the city and its various buildings. He continued by taking a scenic highway route that leads back to the outer ring of the city, to a park where a ship named SS Klondike was located. The landscape surrounding Whitehorse is truly magnificent; the snowcapped mountain at every corner of the city, the soft winter sunlight diffused through the clouds and the fresh air that filled my lungs. I was lucky that during the last two days, the temperature was very mild, hovering around -4 to 0 degrees Celsius.

PSX_20181218_194304Me at the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site

At the SS Klondike site, we took our time in capturing the vista nearby the river while our guide explained the history of the boat and the city. He also shows me a jogging route circling the river that is about 5 Km long, telling me that usually it took him around an hour to jog through the whole track. The view around it was truly magnificent.

PSX_20181218_194559Landscape Nearby the Electric Dam

Next, we drove for another 10 minutes to the other side of the river and stopped at an electric dam and a salmon fishing center, at the end of the hill there was a marvellous panorama if you hike to the top. I became acquainted with a Brazilian family because the father of the family and I were the only one crazy enough to hiked the steep rocky terrain reaching the top. To me, the view was worth the effort. On the way down, we slide through the rock with our shoes and gloved hands, something that my mother wouldn’t approve if she was there.

PSX_20181218_194801Sunset from the Yukon River

Around 11.30 am, we were already within the city border again, headed toward the tourist information center. Inside the building there were many minerals being displayed and we watched a 15 minutes movie about Yukon in the summer, which was probably filmed in the 80-90’s. There, I learned there is a very cool train ride from Skagway to Carcross in the summer that is passing through the mountains, offering a magnificent view.

PSX_20181218_195120Frozen Part of the Yukon River

On the way back to our hotel, our guide showed us a deli that is selling bison and elk sausages in case some of us wanted to try roasting it at the fireplace later at night. It was still 12.30 when they dropped us at the Best Western Inn and I got plenty of time before the pickup later tonight at 10 pm for the aurora sightseeing. My idea? Have a quick lunch and go for a walk circling the Yukon river.

PSX_20181218_195353Yukon River and the Mountains

After weighing my options, I ended up in another Japanese restaurant called Tokyo Sushi that is located in the strip. I ordered a chirashi don and found that the sashimi was really fresh and served in cold, much better than the regular sashimi I had in Montreal. With my stomach full, I walked from downtown to the SS Klondike site for about about 15 minutes, passing through a less busy area in the southern part of the city.

PSX_20181218_195519View from the Jogging Track Circling the Yukon River

After crossing the bridge nearby the SS Klondike, turning right would lead you to the start of the jogging track. During the walk, I saw a beaver dam, few people jogging and walking, the frozen part of the river and several raven flying by. It was a truly pleasant walk after lunch, which took me three hours to finish due to the frequent stops I took to take photographs. For me, the landscape on the way back was much better than the first half because you have snowcapped mountains as the background of the river.

PSX_20181219_140907A Bench Facing the Yukon River

Tired, I crashed on the Starbucks again and worked on my photographs while sipping a cup of English breakfast tea. I watched local people passing by on the street, a group of teenagers making a mess and people working on their laptop. That is until Tamara, the Australian girl I met yesterday invited me for a dinner at the Gold Pan Saloon next to our hotel. We drank wine and I had my seafood platter while she had her bison meat burger.

After some due diligence, we learned that the chance of seeing aurora tonight was slimmer than yesterday, not due to weak magnetic fields, but rather due to the cloudy sky. We knew that spending 4 hours at the lookout doing nothing is not the kind of fun we were looking for, so she popped up the idea of buying two bottles of red wine to drink on the site. I agreed despite the fact that I have a flight to catch at 12pm tomorrow (to be fair she had a flight at 7 am the next morning, so she will be sleeping for only two hours).

PSX_20181219_141123The Majestic Landscape of Yukon River During the Sunset

We were proven to be right. The visibility was very low and it was cloudy the whole night because there was no wind. After two hours of congregating around the fireplace and chatted with two Australian families and the Brazilian family, I went to a vast open space with my bottle of wine and sat on a bench nearby. I was in a trance, staring at the dark landscape ahead of me, listening to my “chill” playlist on my Bose headphones while drinking a bottle of red wine. I could only remember listening to “I Dreamed a Dream” and “My Heart Will Go On” that night.

It was only when came back to the cabin that I realized I had drank four fifth of the bottle. Luckily, my higher reasoning capability was still intact and I started drinking a lot of water to dilute the alcohol. I didn’t even turn on my camera during the night. At 2 am we headed back to the hotel and then I took a hot shower before sleeping. I was pretty restless and concerned that I will have difficulty waking up tomorrow morning to catch the shuttle to airport at 10.30, so I set two alarms, one on my Timex travel
watch and the other one on my iPod.

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