Tag Archives: Canada


To say this installment of Friday Fictioneers is late is somewhat of an understatement. It’s so late, it’s almost early for next week. I will apologize for being busy, but next week is not much better, since I leave for a 4-day trip on Wednesday afternoon. Thanks to those who continue to read my work when I post it. I appreciate you all.

copyright Kent Bonham

copyright Kent Bonham


Kent sat silently, surrounded by racks of string bikinis, more air than there. Outside, the snow lay slathered over the landscape like sunscreen applied liberally by an inexpert hand. It even mockingly covered the TRAK Beachware: Yellowknife Branch sign. The red “A” still glowed optimistically pink through the snow.

He was going to be a pioneer, but it was June 15 and he had taken a snowmobile to work. He morosely picked up the reply to his angry letter to Environment Canada.

“Actually, Mr. Bonham, we prefer the term climate change these days. Global warming is somewhat of a misnomer.”

Why Korea Feels Colder than Canada

In general, I like cold. I grew up in Newfoundland, in northeastern Canada, where the daytime temperature during the winter is around -10 Celsius, dropping down to about -20 at night. At times, it can get down to around -40. It’s no fun waiting for the school bus in that, let me tell you.

In Newfoundland, we call this May. [Source]

In Newfoundland, we call this May. [Photo]

In Korea, it’s not nearly as cold. Wikipedia shows the average temperature in January to be between 4 and -6 degrees. Cold, but not crazy cold. Houses here are heated by a system of under floor heating called ondol. It’s wonderful to walk around on, or just lie on, although you have to remember not to leave any chocolate or meltables on the floor.

Public buildings, including schools, however, are not heated that way. Some are not heated at all. Many small schools use nothing but space heaters to heat the classrooms. The students and teachers both where their coats all day long.

The bathrooms also are not heated and most don’t have hot water. Also, the hallways aren’t heated and usually the doors of the school are open all day long.

Korean school door

This is the front door of my main school. Most schools keep their doors open like this all year long.

Why on earth would you keep the door open all day in winter? It’s not masochism, I swear. The reason is ventilation. Koreans love ventilation more than heat, it seems. I had a class once in the library, which was in the back building and didn’t get any sunlight anyway. The principal would come in in the mornings and open all the windows in the middle of winter. It took about 3 hours to get it back to a liveable temperature.

When I was growing up, I never really felt cold, unless I was outside for hours and hours and my gloves got wet. But in Korea, I’m cold most of the day in the winter. I used to like winter a lot more too. I realized that cold is only fun if you can get warm afterwards. Nobody wants to go from cold outside to cold inside. And that is why Korea feels colder than Canada.

(P.S. One unexpected thing that Korea does have a lot of is heated toilet seats. That at least mitigates things a bit when you have to wash your hands with cold water.)

Dearest Melissa: A Letter While Stuck in a Tree

Dearest Melissa,

I am currently stuck in the top of a tall pine tree, after having been chased here by wolves. It is quite lonesome, and so I am writing this letter to you that so you can share, at least partially, in my discomfort. I have no pen or paper to use, so I am writing this letter on the currents of the air with the hope that it will find you at last, wherever you are.

Incidentally, I hope this reaches you and not another Melissa, since that would be quite awkward.

It all began, I must confess, with a dream. A dream such as you could only imagine. I was walking along the banks of the Nile, when twelve crocodiles danced past me, most of them doing the foxtrot. I had initially thought they were alligators, but the littlest one, doing the hornpipe, disabused me of this idea.

Then I saw it, standing on top of the Great Pyramid: a great, grey wolf. It was such a noble animal (much nobler than the pug that I had when last we met) that I immediately began yearning to have it as a pet—no, more than a pet: a companion, an ally, perhaps even a steed.

I awoke from the dream with the idea of taming a wolf firmly in my brain. Still, I felt I needed guidance. I consulted my horoscope and under October 14: Cancer, it read, “You are about to embark on a great quest. Get rid of the things of the past and face your future with nothing but great force of will.”

It was as if the writer had been looking into my soul. I immediately put an ad in the newspaper to sell my pug and boarded the next flight to Yellowknife, in northern Canada. And so, here I am.

It did not take me long to encounter wolves. There were some lurking around the airport, but they looked too commercialized and I walked past them. Then I saw some at the supermarket, but they looked like town wolves. You might as well have a dog as a town wolf, so again, I let them be.

I reached the edge of town and plunged into the vast, uncharted wild. In a moment, I was lost, with no idea of my heading. I asked a passing lumberjack the way, but he ignored me in his haughty, Canadian fashion. Then, just ahead, I saw a great pack of wolves congregated around the carcass of a caribou. I was brave; I was calm; I channeled all my force of will, just as the Bumpkin Gazette’s horoscope writer had instructed me, and so I slowly walked to meet the wolves, and with them, my fate.


It is quite phenomenal how much force of will a pack of wild wolves possesses. I must have been out of practice, because a moment later, I found myself fleeing through the woods until I spied this very tree and climbed it, seconds before the leader of the pack leapt at me. I must now wait them out, it seems. Somehow, I have a feeling they will lose interest in me and wander away. I will continue writing later.

Several hours later

Dearest Melissa, the wolves have not left. It seems that instead, they are setting up a sort of camp underneath my tree. More wolves are arriving and they are building temporary shelters of branches and caribou skins. A spider’s web-building and a beaver’s dam-building are nothing in comparison to a wolf’s house construction, although I had hitherto been unaware of that fact. If I ever make it out alive, I must contact the National Geographic.

The wolves all look sleek and well-fed, so I can only imagine they are doing this out of spite. Why, I cannot imagine. It may be because of an unfortunate incident that occurred some time ago. I had to relieve myself (I am sorry to mention it, but it is vital to the story) and unfortunately, it hit the leader of the pack on the head. I yelled an apology in my best Canadian accent, but alas, it did no good. The dialect must be different in the North.

Several more hours later

I am thankful that wolves cannot climb trees, but still, they are trying very hard to overcome my vertical margin of safety. For a while, they were taking turns gnawing at the trunk with their teeth but luckily for me, the wood was too hard for them. I saw one try to enter into negotiations with a black bear that was lumbering by, but it seemed uninterested in climbing up to get me.

Dearest Melissa, I sincerely hope that you get this message, which I am assigning to the wind to carry straight to your ears. I brought no food or water, being under the impression that the Canadian wilderness was a second Garden of Eden. As well, it is getting dark and quite cold.

Call the Mounties, my dear. Otherwise, I fear that I am screwed.

Happy Thanksgiving! Who is thankful for you?

No, Americans, you didn’t read that wrong. Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. Of course, in Korea we don’t get the day off and since they don’t eat turkey here, we have to make up our own traditions. In our case, we went out for pizza and watched a creepy movie.

Canadian thanksgiving

I told my students about Thanksgiving today and asked them what they were thankful for. This is usually what we do on Thanksgiving: take a moment to reflect on the things that we are thankful for in our lives. This is a good practice, of course, and keeps us from taking blessings for granted. However, I realized that it is a passive, recipient-based question, so I decided to turn it around.

Who is thankful for you?

The point of thinking about the things we are thankful for is to count up the blessings we already have. However, the question “Who is thankful for you?” is much more active and has implications for the future as well. In other words, who can we make thankful for us? On a day like Thanksgiving, who can we inspire gratitude in by making their lives better, even in a small way? I don’t need to give you examples: we all know of lots of ways, big and small, to help people around us have a better day or a better life.

Go the extra mile. Try it. Just do it, right?

That is my goal for myself at least: to make others around me thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Canadian thanksgiving 2

P.S. Because I have a big Chinese test coming up next Sunday, I won’t be posting anything this week except the Wednesday Friday Fictioneers story. (现在我需要学习很多。) I’ll be back in full strength next week though.

Canadianized Bees – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Janet Webb

copyright Janet Webb

Canadianized Bees

“Mr. Prime Minister, I have disturbing reports from the Pickering Nuclear Plant. It’s bees, sir.”

“Dear God! You mean . . .”

“Yes, sir. Canadianized bees. They’re so huge they only drink maple sap, boring holes with their auger-like stingers.”

“Is there any good news?”

“They’re quite polite—they always ask before stinging someone. Almost no one says yes.”

“Should we warn the Americans?”

“The bees don’t really like heat. Some go to Florida for the winter, but most are heading north.”

*         *         *

Somewhere in Russia

“Sir, I’ve detected a mass of objects coming over the North Pole.”

“Is it the Americans?”

“Worse. Canadians.”

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