Chinese New Year in Singapore

When I started vet school I made a lot of new friends. Out of all the international students in my class the majority are from Canada and then Singapore. So naturally a lot of my new friends are from Singapore. This year I managed to find cheap flights (while I was procrastinating studying during final exams) and decided to go visit some of my friends in their home country. It was a quick vacation but jam packed of activities and celebrating Chinese New Year!

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Some of the MANY Chinese New Year treats we tried 

Something I have wanted to do for years was visit the Singapore Aquarium. Its on a little island called Sentosa which is full of tourist attractions. Our first day in the country included touring the aquarium and navigating the crowds around the rest of Sentosa.

Our friends have been raving about the food in Singapore since I first met them so this trip was definitely intended to be a bit of a foodie adventure. That being said…. We ate way too much! But there was so little time! A few of my favourites included the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, fruit stalls in Geylang (jackfruit, mangosteen, jambun, and rata, and experiencing hawker food centers. Sanitation and food safety in Singapore is very important so the government inhibits street food vendors like you might see in other Asian countries. Instead, all the food vendors have been moved inside into ‘hawker centers’ where there is tables and chairs, sinks, inspections, and regular cleaning of facilities.

…I told you there was a lot of food….

We toured through both Chinatown and Little India. I really loved the murals and statues in Little India. We also walked along/through several shopping streets and districts. There is multiple shops of very high end brands everywhere! Tourism/shopping is one of Singapore’s main industries! I did not buy anything….

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Year of the rooster! Happy New Year! 

One day involved a big walk from Marina Barrage (with views across the water to Indonesia) all the way to Gardens by the Bay. At GBTB we visited the Flower Dome to see the displays. It was extremely busy inside, but very beautiful. Once the sun went down we stayed for a very impressive light show in the Supertree Grove. The tree structures are completely self sufficient as they have solar panels on them that collect sunlight energy during the day to power the night-time lights!

Another cool thing we did was a quick stop in at the Central Perk café (from Friends). It was very expensive so we didn’t order much but we hung out on the couch and watched a few episodes and took a lot of cool pictures.

I wanted to go to the zoo but we just didn’t have time. We walked all along the Singapore river and saw spectacular views of the Singa skyline and impressive buildings.

One of my favorite things we did was actually just before we left was called lou hei. It is a tradition you usually do on the first day of Chinese New Year. Everyone tosses the food into the air with chopsticks and shouts sayings of good luck for the new year. Whoever tosses the food the highest will be the best off.

Anyways, thats a few of the highlights (it barely covers everything we saw/did/ate in our week)! Thank you so much to my friends who took me into their houses, introduced me to their families, and included me in their busy CNY celebrations. I appreciate it so much and loved the experience. Thank you 🙂

Road Trip: Melbourne to Brissy to Melb

After my parents spent a week with me in Melbourne we left on a road trip up the coast. We drove in my roommate and I’s car. Since we bought the car a few months ago, it has changed our lives in Australia—made everything so much easier and nicer! I love it.

If I tried to write about all the places we went on our trip this blog post would turn into a 3-part novel series. So, I’ll summarize:

Places we stopped:

Wilsons Promontory, VIC

We did a hike and explored Squeaky Beach—its called Squeaky Beach because the sand squeaks when you step on it. Also, its absolutely beautiful and I love it there.

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The parents taking pictures of the waves going in and out

Seaspray/Ninety Mile Beach, VIC

Perfect unspoiled brilliant white beach for as far as your eyes can possibly see in both directions. We were so disappointed when we were here because it was too cold and raining to swim and we so badly wanted to spend a lot of time enjoying the area.

Lakes Entrance, VIC

Gorgeous location, full of boats and great sunsets! We went fishing one day and pulled in a few puffer fish. Also, ate a lot of great seafood.

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There is something incredibly interesting going on here

Raymond Island, VIC

Drove here and took a 5 minute ferry ride to the small island known for koala sightings. And we saw koalas, tons of them (and kangaroos)! No matter how many times I see these guys curled up in trees—they will always be adorable.

Buchan Caves, VIC

Took a guided tour through one of the caves and saw very sparkly rocks and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Different than other caving experiences I’ve had.

Eden, NSW

This is where my family spent new years eve. Its a small town with a huge whaling history. One day we did the ‘Killer Whale Trail’ and drove around to different locations to learn about the colorful whaling history in the area. I was way more into it than I expected and really enjoyed this stop!

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Quite the party animals these two are!

Tilba Tilba & Central Tilba, NSW

Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere. Accidentally spent too much time here cause there is great cheese and tons of fun little shops to explore.

Huskisson/Jervis Bay, NSW

A bit of a party location. The beaches are unbelievable. Still a bit rainy for enjoyable swimming but we got some snorkeling in and explored Booderee National Park (Cape St George Lighthouse/Moe’s Rock/Stoney Creek/Murray Beach/Botanical Gardens). Hyams Beach is in the Guinness World Record book for being the beach with the whitest sand. It is brilliant and so soft! But looks just as white as a lot of the other beaches we’ve stopped at?

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I don’t know if you could ask for a picnic lunch with a better view

Sydney, NSW

I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times now, but I do like going with different people and showing them some of my favorite views or exploring new areas together. I actually traveled to Sydney with my family when I was still in elementary school so it was fun to be back in the same place with them again. This time we spent an entire day at Cockatoo Island in the sun learning about convicts and industrial ship building in Australia.

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In the middle of our audio tour on Cockatoo Island

Another one of my favorites in Sydney is the fish markets. I made sure my parents stopped here before we drove on to the next place. We obviously ordered up a seafood lunch and ate it outside under the watchful eye of the seagulls. Read about my last trip to Sydney here.

Port Macquarie, NSW

We went to the Roto  house, Tacking Lighthouse and Lighthouse beach, but my favorite stop was the Koala Hospital. It is free to tour around and look at the koalas. A few of the patients are now permanent residents because they have been too sick or injured either due to bush fires, cars, or chlamydia infections (yes, surprise! All the koalas have chlamydia in Aus; look it up!)

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Just before we headed down to look at all the blue bottle jellies on the beach

Coffs Harbor, NSW

I wanted to stop and take a picture of the giant banana statue. (ask my mom why I never got the picture 😛 )

Byron Bay, NSW

I love Byron Bay, this is the Australia that everyone imagines when they think of ‘down under’. Its hot, its right on the ocean, everyone is tanned and beautiful, people wear swimsuits everywhere, no one wears shoes. Surfer dudes galore! Party town. I wished I could spend a whole summer here. We visited Main Beach, the lighthouse at night time, and The Farm.

Brisbane, QLD

We didn’t nearly have enough time in Brissy to explore it properly. But we did go to the Australia Zoo (and Wildlife Hospital)—possibly the best zoo I’ve ever been to! I loved all the exhibits and the fact that Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin are still heavily involved in promotion of wildlife and carrying on Steve Irwin’s work.

We stopped at the Glasshouse Mountains during sunset to eat fresh pineapple and watch the sun go down—absolutely breathtaking.

Lastly, we did a ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour in the CBD. My fav stop was Streets Beach—a man made beach right in the middle of the city because Brisbane is located slightly inland from the ocean and doesn’t have their own beach.

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Brisbane skyline overlooking the river

My parents left from Brisbane to fly back to Canada. We had a great trip together that I will remember forever. It was nice to be able to spend a lot of family time in my new home. Looking forward to the next trip when my brother might join us!

Then the drive home….

Tommie flew up to Brisbane that same morning to meet me and drive home to Melbourne with me!

Places we stopped:

Byron Bay, NSW

Since I loved Byron so much we decided to stop here again; we may have also bought a surfboard and spent an afternoon playing around in the waves at Main beach. We went to visit Stone & Wood Brewery for a tasting of one of Tom’s favorite beers.

Ballina, NSW

Picture of giant prawn statue obtained!

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What a beautiful thing

Coffs Harbor, NSW

Picture of giant banana statue (finally) obtained!

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#touristgame strong

Port Macquarie/City Beach, NSW

Tom and I had fantastic weather for our entire trip back down the coast, this meant that we could stop and swim whenever we wanted. And we loved it!

Taree, NSW

Picture of giant oyster statue obtained!

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This oyster ‘statue’ was oddly very hard to find

 

Sydney, NSW

If you’ve never been to Sydney and you’re driving past Sydney—you really need to stop! The harbor and Circular Quay is exactly like the movies and its very impressive. We did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to see 2 of the most popular beaches (and all the ones in between) before going for a quick swim and then continuing on!

Canberra, ACT

I hadn’t been to Canberra yet so I really wanted to stop here. Most people say there is nothing to see in Canberra—but I think I would come back to the capital city. It is a lot smaller and not as visually impressive as Sydney or Melbourne but there is a ton of history and museums to explore. And the area around is beautiful as well. Since we didn’t have a ton of time here, we randomly picked the Australian War Memorial Museum to take a tour at—huge!! Then we drove up to Black Mountain and went onto the viewing deck of Telstra Tower. I think this was a great option for us as it allowed us to see a lot of the important buildings and locations all around Canberra even though we didn’t have time to visit them.

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Poppies on the wall at the Australian War Memorial Museum

Melbourne, VIC

I actually loved driving inland on the way back to Melbourne. Likely because I had seen coastline for the last few weeks (And the coast is brilliant, don’t get me wrong) but the rolling hills and fields reminded me home. I like seeing the sun shining on straight roads and the open sky.

While we didn’t have many days to drive all the way home, we managed to see a lot of spots and experience a lot of cool things! We saw dolphins swimming in the ocean, goannas in our campground, learned to surf, and had a ton of fun!!

Pending: one more travel blog post before I get back to what this website is really about—vet student adventures!

Wilson’s Prom

I have been wanting to go to Wilsons Promontory National Park for a very long time now. When our classes were cancelled this past Monday it seemed like the perfect day to brave the 100% chances of rain and head out on a road trip!

We all piled in the car and headed out in the morning. The rain held up as we entered the park and we immediately starting seeing wildlife! The first animals we saw were some roos along the side of the road. The had been tagged and were likely involved in a long running research project in the park.

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We hopped back in the car and drove around the corner—only to see a group of emus!! When I was a kid I was at a wildlife shelter holding some food. A large emu started chasing me around the communal pen and my dad had to save me. Ever since then their shifty eyes keep me on their toes—-however, these emus were nice and didn’t try to eat me for lunch.

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We did about half of the wildlife walk which was on a red dirt path, surrounded by shrubs. The ground was littered with tiny white seashells everywhere–the ocean must flood up to that point at certain times.

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As we continued our drive through the park we saw more roos, a couple of deer, parrots, kookaburra, and kept our eyes peeled for koalas.

After a quick lunch of fish and chips we ran into a rather tame wombat in the park. He had research tags on his ears as well and must have been very used to people because he hung around for a photo shoot.

At the far end of the park we did the Mt. Oberon hike, about 3.4km up one way. The rain was still holding off and it was nice cool weather for a walk. It was an easy hike up until the last bit when we realized we had actually hiked up into the clouds. It was very windy, foggy, and misty. There was stone steps that we had to climb up past some cell phone towers.  Coming around a corner you climb up over a rock and then the whole view opened up in front of our eyes. You could see the ocean and a couple of beaches and the hills all around. The clouds floated past underneath us and the wind almost knocked us off the top of the mountain!

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On the way back down the mountain it started pouring rain and we all got soaked. But we all needed to see Squeaky Beach before we headed back to the city. Squeaky Beach will sound squeaky when you walk on it in just the right way—its because of the silicon content in the sand (I think!). Its also very beautiful and there is a lot of large boulders on one side that have been smoothed out by the waves and tide.

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It was a really long day–but the best way to spend a day off class! I’ll definitely be going back to Wilson’s Prom to do more hiking.

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My Placement at an Elk Ranch

As part of the vet program we are required to complete 12 weeks of placements at different animal facilities before the end of our 2nd year. The placements can be at intensive or extensive farms, boarding facilities, zoos, wildlife centers, etc. I was lucky enough to get a plane ticket back home to Canada for my winter break in July. I decided to do some outside farm work while I was home because Albertan summer is so beautiful!!

My absolute favorite Canadian view

My absolute favorite Canadian view

I spent about two weeks working on an elk ranch with about 210 adults (expecting 75 calves at the end of the season). Starting out, I thought I had a decent knowledge about elk from just generally growing up in Canada and spending tons of time in the mountains growing up. Ranching and farming elk is totally different and so interesting! I learned so much from this placement.

 

Elk is commonly used for meat and EVA (elk velvet antler). The ranch I was on was raising elk for EVA which has been used for thousands of years as a part of traditional Chinese medicine.

A lot of people don’t actually know what velveting is… put simply: Velveting is cutting off the antlers at the velvet stage (when they are fuzzy and before they calcify and become hard antlers) and then freezing them in order to retain the blood and useful components before processing. The antlers are then made into pills/capsules or slices which can then be taken or used in teas. EVA is used to treat arthritis pain, enhance immune system, etc. etc. Farms that raise elk for EVA often send the animals for meat as well. During my placement I learned that Canadian produced EVA is in high demand in the international market as well and we are trying to increase our product in both China and Korea.

There has been research conducted on EVA that shows both positive and negative results of the effects. Here is one article which shows that EVA has antioxidative effects and presumed health benefits:

Kim, E., Lee, W., Moon, S., Jeon, Y., Ahn, C., Kim, B., . . . Jeon, B. (2009). FREE RADICAL SCAVENGING ACTIVITY BY ESR SPECTROSCOPY AND NEUROPROTECTIVE EFFECT ON H2O2-INDUCED DAMAGE IN PC-12 CELLS OF ENZYMATIC EXTRACTS FROM KOREAN ELK VELVET ANTLER. Journal of Food Biochemistry., 33(6), 895-912. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/docview/46467863?accountid=12372

And here is another article that shows that EVA had no beneficial effect on muscle growth and sports performance:

Syrotuik, D. G., MacFadyen, K. L., Harber, V. J., & Bell, G. J. (2005). Effect of elk velvet antler supplementation on the hormonal response to acute and chronic exercise in male and female rowers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism., 15(4), 366-385. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/docview/47718499?accountid=12372

I actually really enjoyed my time working on the elk farm and learning about another agriculture industry in Alberta; I hope to work with elk again one day and if I do I’ll be spending more time thumbing through research articles.

During placement I also helped with the moving of elk between fields, rounding up for velveting, and feeding (all on the quad). I was continually surprised how much calmer than cattle the elk appeared to be. I especially noticed this while we were running them through the chute and into the squeeze. An elk squeeze is designed different from a cattle squeeze because elk hold their heads up rather than down (like cows) and so the squeeze must be accommodating to both this and the large antlers they have.

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Towards the end of my time back in Canada I attended part of the 2015 Alberta Elk Expo. The most interesting part for me was helping to score the hard antlers. We measured the length of each tine, the circumference of the beam, assessed the symmetry, identified non-typical tines, and the overall quality of the hard antlers.

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So 2 weeks of placement down and it was great! I’m thinking dairy or pigs next 🙂

P.S.: To my dear Australian friends who I love very much…