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Writer's Block is a quarterly publication of Online English Stage 1-2. Funded by the Government of Saskatchewan.

Activity

My Favourite Activity

Author: Binh H.
Level: 4
Instructor: Moninder G.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Before I came to Canada, I used to be very active in my home country, Vietnam. In Vietnam, I used to go swimming at 6:00 am every day. You might be wondering why I swam so much and why it was part of my daily morning routine. It wasn't just to stay fit and healthy for myself. I swam because I wanted to apply for jobs working in an area with many ships, so I swam for my safety. I knew if I got a job on one of the ships, my swimming skills would be very useful in case of emergency. Unfortunately, I can't go swimming anymore in Canada because it's too cold for me to step out of the house every day and go and come back. Also, I don't have enough time to go anymore because I'm so busy working. I really hope I can make time to go swimming again one day and make my dream of working on a ship come true!

 


Canada

A Family Trip in the Winter

Author: Eunyoung P.
Level: 4
Instructor: Ashley J.
Photo Credit: creativemarc / 123RF Stock Photo

My family went to the Prince Albert National Park for a trip with my friend's family on Remembrance Day. It took 3 hours from my house to get there by car. I was worried the roads were going to be slippery with snow and ice.  Fortunately, the road to Prince Albert National Park was safe and not slippery.

We actually visited Prince Albert National Park last year, but I wanted to go there again because I was really happy to be able to feel the real scenery of Canada. Therefore, we decided to visit the Prince Albert National Park this year again.

My accommodation was a cabin in the Elk Lodge Resort just outside of the park which I stayed at last year as well. The cabin, which consists of two rooms, a living room and a kitchen, was so comfortable and warm. There was a gas fireplace in the living room as well as a variety of equipment in the kitchen. Everything was convenient.

There were various activities such as swimming, campfires, eating marshmallows, wine tasting and sledding.  I enjoyed swimming the most. The water was warm in the swimming pool and there was a small hot spring where I relaxed.  In addition, it was gorgeous to swim while looking at the snow outside the window. My children enjoyed swimming too. I thought it was too cold to enjoy outdoor activities for a long time.

Prince Albert National Park, which took 10 minutes from Elk Lodge Resort, was absolutely beautiful.  The lake, the trees and the fresh air made me relaxed even though the temperature was - 22 degrees.  I felt I was able to see the truly beautiful scenery of Canada this time.  I visited here twice in winter only, so I would like to visit here in the summer season next year.  Also, I would recommend a trip to Prince Albert National Park to anyone who wants to feel the beauty of nature in Canada.

 


Celebration

Christmas in Ukraine

Author: Oksana S.
Level: 6
Instructor: Nodira I.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

As it is known, Christmas is celebrated all around the world. I would like to share how we celebrate it in Ukraine. There are 2 days for Christmas in Ukraine: 25th of December for Catholics and 7th of January for Orthodox.

On Christmas Eve, families get together for a festive dinner. In the Ukraine, the dinner should consist of 12 dishes. Because the Christmas Eve corresponds to the last day of the Christmas fasting, people usually cook 12 vegetarian and fish-based dishes. The 12 dishes are served to honor 12 disciples of the Christ. Traditionally, the first dish that is eaten is kutia. Kutia is one of the main dishes, cooked of wheat and seasoned with grated poppy seeds, nuts, raisins and honey or sugar. There is also a special bread – kolach. Then you can try other dishes and drink  uzvar, a beverage prepared with dried fruits and berries.

When it starts to get dark and the first star appears in the sky, the owner of the house makes the symbol of the harvest called didukh, a Ukrainian Christmas decoration made of rye, wheat, barley or oatmeal sheaf. Then the master of the house puts didukh under the images of Saints.

Another very important tradition of this evening is when children bring kutia and kolach to their close relatives, and godparents and sing Christmas carols, wishing well-being and prosperity. Usually children go caroling as a group wearing national outfits and shaggy animals. There might also be someone who can carry a pole topped with a star which symbolizes the star of Bethlehem. People, in turn, give children sweets and money, which, according to the belief, bring good luck during the whole next year. Undoubtedly, Christmas in Ukraine is the most joyous celebration throughout the year!

 


Driving

Driving Advice

Author: Seung Y.
Level: 7
Instructor: Jacqueline A.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Hello all students of Online English,

As of late, it snows very often here in Tisdale, SK, where I live. In the winter season, it is very important that we have to focus on driving. Technically, it's not only important in winter season, but also every time you drive.

When I started driving in Canada, it was in winter and it was snowing. I was confident in driving even though it was snowing and the roads were icy because I have more than 15 years of experience driving. It turns out, for driving in different environments, no matter how much experience you have, it is no longer useful. I would have gotten into a huge car accident if I wasn't very lucky.

I was driving a car at night. It wasn't snowing but the roads were icy as it had been snowing. I wasn't aware of the conditions of the road and I was just listening to the radio and driving.  All of a sudden, my car lost its direction and drifted into a different lane, where a semi-truck was coming right behind me. I was quite a bit scared and had no idea what to do at that moment. Fortunately, the truck just passed me in a moment and I finally got control back. I believe that the driver knew I had lost control of my vehicle and he tried to pass me quickly so that I could just keep driving toward where my vehicle was going.

Since it happened, I asked a lot of my friends what I should and shouldn't do when I drive on icy roads. First, do not get distracted when you drive. For example, do not use any electronic devices such as your cell phone or GPS maps while you are driving. Second, if you lose control of your vehicle, you'd better drive into the ditch rather than try to control the wheel or put on the break. It might cause your vehicle to spin on the road. Lastly, get some information about driving in winter conditions. Your friends in Canada, who are born and raised here, are probably better drivers especially in winter season as they have more experience. They could tell you what to do and what things not to do when you drive in winter.

I hope that all of you have a safe drive every time and enjoy this winter.

Stay warm my friends! 

 


Driving

Author: Sooeun L.
Level: 4
Instructor: Jacqueline A.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

I have never driven in Korea. I just got a driver's license and drove for the first time in Canada. Canada is good for a learner driver, because most people don't honk and learner drivers are comfortable. But, it's difficult to turn left. Many traffic lights don't have a left signal in my town. I hope that I am good at driving.

 


General

Visiting the Library in my New Canadian Hometown for the First Time

Author: Liping J.
Level: 5
Instructor: Moninder G.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

This is a personal story about my first visit to a Canadian library. I came to Canada from China. When I first came here, my husband's friend told me I could apply for a library card. He said I just needed to bring one piece of identification and fill out a form. If you have a library card, you can borrow books in different cities and then return them to different libraries too. That has worked out very well for me because I can borrow books or videos to learn English at home as long as I return them within three weeks and I can return them to the location that is nearest to me. In China, if you have a library card, you need to pay a deposit every time you borrow books. Each time you return your books, the staff will give you your money back. In Canada, the librarians always show you all the different stations you have available to use in the library, such as the computer station. The stations are very clean, quiet and comfortable. My local library even has a real piano available for people to play! I like going to the library with my children. I want them to read and play some of the games there and, if they don't know what to read or what to play, they can ask the librarian for suggestions. The library staff is always there to help them. The librarians are always nice to everyone. I have recommended checking out the library to my friends too. I like visiting the library in Canada!

 


An Introduction to my Fun (and Sometimes Annoying) Friend Named Saskatchewan

Author: Roksolana D.
Level: 5
Instructor: Moninder G.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Saskatchewan is home for my children but, for me, Saskatchewan feels like a new, really strange friend.  I love to take road trips with my friend.  I mean, I don't have a choice really.  If I need to buy new shoes or matching T-shirts for my kids to wear to school for twin day tomorrow, I have to do it right away because the closest store is about 100 km from my home.

This friend is really annoying during winter time.  Every evening he comes to my house and asks to take my family out.  That means, after a long day at work I have to dress  up (when I am really just ready to wear my pyjamas), help my kids find clothes that are  appropriate for -25 °C weather (and I don't mean just sweat pants and T-shirts).  Can't forget those snacks and water bottles (preferably with water inside)!  Forget trying to ask my husband why we need to go out when it's cold and dark out there and convince him to stay inside our warm house and watch something on Netflix.  And you know, I would love some help here from my dear buddy.  At least tell me the places we can go and have fun together at the same time, because the adults and children in my family have such different tastes and needs.  But I think my friend likes it when I surprise him because he never gives me any ideas.  I have to make the plans for family time by myself.  In my mind, these plans look so exciting and bright... and mostly they are.  We've spent so much time together doing fun stuff but, honestly, there have been so many times these plans have turned into big disasters with constant complaining, crying, and anger.   After a few plans that went south with unsatisfied children, I asked my weird friend, "What's the big deal if we spend evenings at home for 3 months in the winter?"

He laughed, and then exclaimed, "Winter is only 3 months? I hadn't heard that.  Here, in Saskatchewan, it starts in November and, hopefully by the end of April, it gets warm again (if you're lucky).  So that's really 5 - 6 months, isn't it?  That's our winter and you don't want to just be hanging out at home for all that time, do you?"

So, here we go.  November.  Month #1.  Let's have some winter fun.

And, to all the moms and wives out there, good luck with your strange and weird friends with whom you have to deal to make your family happy!

 


Parenthood

The Complex and Entangling Parent-Child Relationship

Author: Peri M.
Level: 7
Instructor: Jacqueline A.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

What is the definition of a good parent-child relationship?  It is a difficult question to answer in my life.  I think all mothers in the world dream to be a good mother to their children.  However, there is no mother whose children have never complained about them, some children even struggle with them very fiercely.  What's the matter with the relationship?  Who should be mainly responsible for the parent-child relationship?  How can we improve the relationship?  I prepared to share a few words with you to discuss the relationship.

To begin with, I will share a set of words: "respect vs. spoil".  As parents, can you distinguish the difference between respect and spoil while treating your children?  This is the question I often ask myself, did my action respect or spoil my child.  For example, I prevented my child from eating too much candy and meat, which adults know is unhealthy since she was only two years old.  Kids' thoughts are quite unlike their parents' opinions and they usually cry or insist on.  You may say the answer is obvious, that parents should limit them from intaking more candy and meat even though they cry. This is not relevant to respect.  Ok, let us discuss further.  Your kid persists in wearing ripped jeans to school in the Canadian winter and you know it may result in arthrosis in their old age.  Kids always say," I am grown up, please respect my decision on what I should wear."  What is your response?  I think that there are more parents choosing to leave it alone than those restricting children from eating too much candy and meat. Do you agree that respecting sometimes leads to spoiling?  However, we have to "spoil" them because kids have their free will which we can't deprive them of when they grow up. They should learn to be responsible for their own choice.  I know sometimes it means painful and anxious moments for parents because we clearly know the results will be bad for them. 

The second group of words are "direct vs interfere".  Have you ever shared your experience with your teenage kids?  What are their responses?  Are they good at conversation?  From my experience, my child was usually impatient and said "Please don't interfere in my life even though I know your purpose is good.  However, this is my life."  Have you felt wronged?  I just expect to share my lessons in my life and let you know that this direction is a wrong way.  Why do children regard it as interference?  I can't help but make a wry smile when I recall my young age.  This is a repeated loop forever in human beings' history.

The third group is "take care vs develop children's independence".  Have you heard that children complain that their parents are not loving them so much because parents required them to do something by themselves?  They often say" I am too young to do that. Please help me."  They think they are grown up when they disagree with parents, but they are kids when they desire to depend on parents.  At the same time, there are double standards in parents' minds as well.  When we ask kids to obey, we often say you are kids which implies you should obey us, whereas when we let them do something independently, we tell them you are grown up enough to do it by yourself.

These three groups of words do not only influence the present parent-child relationship but also influence the children's mental health in the future.  Sometimes, one little thing which parents ignore may hurt them and have results for their mental health in the future.  For instance, some children come to have pleasant personalities and don't know how to say no in their lives because they are asked to obey their parents during their growth.  Some children think they are not good enough to deserve good things because they did not get unconditional love when they were kids.  The good parent-child relationship is indeed the solid foundation of mental health according to psychoanalysis. 

How significant is to create a good parent-child relationship!  Who can tell us what is just right and how parents should cope with the trends of mental disorders increasing with the pressures and fast paced lifestyle at present?  It is back to our topic "complex and tangling relationship." There are not quantitative and explicit standards for us to follow because it involves two initiative parties and like any parties, they don't know their counterpart's action, like in a game.  The key point is that human beings are a kind of animal with free will, even God respects it and allows human beings to choose to disobey or follow his rules.  The only thing I can say is to love your children unconditionally, whether they agree or disagree with you.  Dealing with your painful feeling by yourself when you see your children are suffering, even though you knew it would happen to them in advance.  It is the way to grow up.  Nobody can be grown up without pain despite us trying our best to smooth their way as parents.  Sometimes I think this is our limitation as humans, which leads us to repeat the similar dilemma in hundreds of generations.  But anyhow, love is the master key for any relationship, not only a parent-child relationship.

 


Recipes

Samosas: An All Time Favourite Snack

Author: Jigisha P.
Level: 5
Instructor: Ashley J.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Samosa recipe: Makes 8-10 pieces

I am not a chef, but I am a great epicure and choosy about food selection even on a daily basis. Because of that, I'm trying to learn new recipes all the time! I learned how to make samosas from Maharaj who was hired for a family function at our home 10 years ago.   Sometimes the chef didn't want to share the secret ingredients, tricks and tips. However, I stuck with him while he was preparing the samosas for the evening celebration so that I could learn.   As a result, I can make this snack with a few modifications on my family's demand. It is time to share the secrets!

Ingredients:

For the stuffing:

  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 4 green chilies
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger
  • ½ bunch of fresh coriander
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 25 grams cooked green peas

Dry spices:

  • 1tsp red chili powder
  • ½ tsp cumin seed powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander seed powder
  • 1tsp sour dried mango powder (OR 5-6 drops of lemon juice)
  • 1tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • salt to taste.

For the shell:

  • 200 grams refined white wheat flour.
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp carom seeds
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

First, prepare the dough by mixing the flour, oil, carom seeds and salt to taste, then add water as required to make a medium to hard dough.  Cover with a wet piece of cloth and give a rest for half an hour.

Second, prepare the stuffing.  Boil the washed whole potatoes.  Peel them off and mash them roughly. Take a pan and add 2 tablespoons of oil on low heat.   Add chopped green chili, ginger paste and cook it for 30 seconds. Next add mashed potatoes, green peas and dry spices one by one and mix it well. This is not only to cook it to boost the flavour for 4-5 minutes, but we also cook for a moisture free mixture. At last add salt to your taste.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. After 30 minutes, garnish by adding finely chopped fresh mint and coriander leaves. You can add raisins and cashew nuts to give it a rich texture, but it's completely optional. 

Third and main part is to make a samosa in shape. Take the dough and cut into table tennis size ball pieces and roll into a ball shape.  Next, make an oblong tortilla shape about 6 inches and cut halfway down the middle into two pieces. Take one part and make a cone shape shell from it. Then, fill this shell with approximately 2 tablespoons of stuffing. Lastly, apply water to the edges for it to stick together well. Continue this process to make them all.

Finally, time to deep fry.  Put oil in the frying pan and fry 2-3 samosas at a time until golden brown in color. Serve with sauce and enjoy!

 


Seasonal

Winter Season with my Family

Author: Irene R
Level: 6
Instructor: Jacqueline A.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

There are four seasons in Canada. The winter season is the coldest season of the year. Usually, it can last between 5-6 months. My kids were excited when they saw the snowflakes falling from the sky. 

One day, my kids and my husband were playing in our backyard, making a snowman, making snow angels and they had a snowball fight as well. It was fun and satisfying to watch. 

One day, we went to Table Mountain in North Battleford.   At first, we needed to rent the ski equipment. My kids were enthusiastic, getting their ski boots and gear. Then, they took the beginner ski lessons. After the lesson, they started to do it by themselves, with my husband's help. I was so excited, I took pictures and videos. Having time with my family is worth every second. 


Settlement

Getting my PR Card

Author: Kostiantyn B.
Level: 6
Instructor name: Zareen R.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

This fall brought us some good news!  A few weeks ago, my family and I got our permanent residence (PR) in Canada. It was a long way with many difficulties, expenses and many stressful moments.

It is not a secret that Canada is one of the few countries that offers the best quality of life in the world. Fortunately, for all immigrants, this beautiful country has many immigration programs for all the different levels of skills. I took part in one of them as well. This program is called Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). I came here as a general farm worker and it took me almost 19 months to become a permanent resident. However, at this point, the easy part had ended.

One would think that once you get your PR card, you are free to go and life goes on nice and smooth. Unfortunately, that is not true and reality hits you hard! You feel so scared about the changes and it paralyzes you for the next steps. However, if you do not try something new, how would you know what would work for you? Everybody says that it was not a problem to get a PR card; the problem is to find out what to do after that. You are now responsible for your life and your future. I know that it is not going to be easy. Changes are difficult to start, until you begin actions. There are going to be so many challenges as such as search of new job, housing, school, etc. I will need to finish some courses, to aim for a better salary and eventually try to get a mortgage. I am going to have to start from point zero. I would not say that it not going to be stressful but on other hand, it is also going to be exciting. I believe, it is worth a shot, because at the end of the day, we have just one life to live, so we have to do our best to succeed.

I am going to try my best and work hard as I have a strong desire to succeed and make my life better. And, why shouldn't I? Canada has privileged me with an opportunity to do that and I am going to make the best of it!

 


Travel

Sanya: China's Hawaii

Author: Furong Z.
Level: 6
Instructor: Moninder G.
Liu Fuyu / Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

Sanya is the southernmost city of Hainan, in China.  It is known as "The Oriental Hawaii" and "Sunshine City" because of its tropical climate as well as its attractive nature.  I saw some wonderful pictures and programs about Sanya on TV when I was young but I never had a chance to visit.  I lived in a city located in the North of China.  Sanya's climate, fruits, beaches, forests, animals, customs and hot springs are totally different from the ones in my hometown.  I dreamed of going there one day.

When my younger son was two years old, my husband and I planned our first family vacation to Sanya.  We were not going to travel with a group even though it saves money and effort.  We wanted to have a real vacation to relax.  I heard that everything is expensive in Sanya in winter, because people all over the country like to visit Sanya to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  We decided to go there in spring.

I read many travel diaries on the Internet written by people who had came back from Sanya.  I got a lot of useful information from these diaries.  Based on this information, I booked a hotel, purchased tickets and ordered a vehicle to pick us up from the airport.  Sanya has been a famous resort for many years.  This city has so many options for tourists.  For example, you can choose from a variety of accommodations, from homestay to a five star hotel.  You can also choose to eat at a roadside stall or go to a fancy restaurant.   We could find almost any services we wanted.

Our family was looking forward to this trip.  After a three and a half hours flight, my husband and I, with our two sons, finally arrived at Sanya airport.  We were sent to Wanli Hotel on time.  As soon as we got to the hotel, my older son got so excited; everything was new to him.  A huge outdoor swimming pool, a beautiful garden and many unknown tropical plants caught his attention.  Owing to the fact that we only stayed at Sanya for five days and spring is a slow season in Sanya, I was able to book a nice hotel with a very good price.  Wanli Hotel has more than five hundred rooms; we spent twenty minutes looking for our room!  We changed into our swimwear as quickly as we could.  All of us rushed to the pool and completely forgot how tired we were from the journey.  Wanli Hotel has its own beach, so the beach is clean and quiet.  We walked on the beach hand-in-hand after supper.  There were four strings of footprints behind us.   I felt peaceful and happy at that moment.  I thought, "Life should be like this every day."

 


Unforgettable Vacation

Author: Melba C.
Level: 7
Instructor: Nodira I.
tupungato / Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

It has been four years since we left our native land, the Philippines. Recently, we had a chance to visit our country again. We were all extremely excited! After a long-haul flight we were tired, yet happy when we landed in the airport. Our extended family members were patiently waiting for us outside the airport. Finally, after one hour, we saw our loved ones. My mother was crying when she saw us. She was over the moon to see us again. Then, we decided to go to a famous restaurant in the city, called "Jollibee". My children have been craving this food for so many years. After we were done with our scrumptious breakfast, we headed to the condo that we rented to get a shower and unpack all the luggage. There we also had some rest, and then went to the nearby mall. In the mall we had a delicious lunch, played arcade games, strolled around the department stores and just enjoyed our time. Needless to say, but by that time my family and I were all exhausted because of the lack of sleep. However, we felt so overjoyed and fortunate that we were finally home. And that was only Day 1 – ahead there were 32 unforgettable days and moments filled with joy, bliss and excitement!

 


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