Thursday, April 5, 2012


I'm taking a little break from the theme portion of the A-Z Challenge (my health, fitness, weight loss journey) because I committed previously to a book review and guest post.

I did choose an 'E' letter for today based on the book--EXCURSION- because it is about an excursion. Of sorts. A personal, self-discovery type excursion. As well as an excursion of Canada.

The book, WEST OF WAWA by Lisa de Nikolits, was an easy read which I really like when I don't have a lot of time and thought to give a book. As a matter of fact, this would be a great beach read for the summer.

Benny, the main character, works through some life obstacles that left her reeling as she travels through Canada. In a couple of places there are some cliches that were a bit annoying BUT the author uses Benny to address that fact that she's aware of them as cliches thus creating the point that, sometimes, a cliche is just what we need to accurately describe a situation or how we feel.

While there are some descriptive scenes of the Canadian landscape on her excursion, I got all caught up in Benny's personal excursion. Why? Well, maybe she walks around in a cloud of destruction; maybe she doesn't. Maybe she makes some dangerous choices; maybe she doesn't. Maybe she wakes up and smells the coffee; maybe she doesn't. Maybe she has a storybook ending; maybe she doesn't.    

Am I being vague? Maybe. Want to know what happens? Well, you can always buy a copy of the book! OR you can enter to win a FREE copy! Just let me know in the comment section that you want a chance to win and I'll put your name in the pot!

Now, a guest post from Lisa herself!!!
Skipping the Tourist Traps and Finding the Heart of a Place

I never know in advance if I’m going to write about a place in a work of fiction or not but one thing’s for sure; I always ditch the guidebook until the very end of my trip.

I like to pretend that I’m an explorer, an adventurer, a fearless female pioneer. I like my observations to be my own, and not swayed by encouragement to walk the roads much travelled; instead, I like to find the hidden gems.

An excellent example of this would be my recent trip to Beijing. I was returning from a family visit to see my family in Sydney, to see how much my beautiful little two-year-old niece had grown and meet my incredibly adorable new nephew (and best I don’t start dwelling on him or this post could end up being about nothing else!)

I always try to see a new part of the world when I head Down Under; I’ve flown back via Hong Kong (fantastic), Singapore (tropical, lush and verdant), Tokyo (cherry blossoms) and this time the return journey was via Beijing.

True to form, I didn’t read up in advance, I booked a hostel close to the Forbidden City and figured I’d take it from there.

A quick note aside, given my predilection for self-discovery, there have also been those awful occasions when I’ve been horribly lost. But I’ve learned from my mistakes and these days I take a map with the hotel circled on it, a business card with the hotel phone number and in this instance, instructions on how to find my hostel written in both English and Chinese. I was therefore safe as houses to head out in the hutong, looking for adventure and what else came my way!

I knew I had to see the Great Wall. That’s pretty much on everyone’s bucket list, right? So I booked my tour and headed off in a tiny minivan, enthusiastically snapping pictures through the window. A couple of hours later we arrived at the Great Wall which was memorable for three things: the Great Wall itself, a horrifyingly terrifying chair lift ride to the top and the awesome gem of a hidden rock cave that I found all by myself.

One could toboggan down from the top of the Great Wall but I chose to walk down instead; I did a lovely meditative walk contemplating the really great greatness of the Wall (how did they do that??), as well as congratulating myself for not having lost my mind due to fear on the ride up, coupled with the joy of never having to ride the chair lift again. Yes, I found it that scary! I’m just not used to dangling several kilometres off the ground in a rickety steel bucket without safety harnesses of any kind…

On the way down, right near the foot of the mountain, vendors were shouting and thrusting their wares and I decided to duck away from the frenzy and see what lay behind a small entrance that was for the most part being ignored. The guide hadn’t mentioned anything to us apart from the ‘small ride up’ (masterfully understating) and encouraging us all to toboggan down. She certainly didn’t mention a rock garden filled with ancient treasures, or a path that led deeper and deeper into the stony wonderland, a wonderland that finally pointed to the entrance of a small cave.

Now, I’m not one for heights and I’m even less enthused about caves. But I had to go in, the cave had invited me, I couldn’t be rude. And when I tentatively eked my way inside, I was, for want of a better word, gobsmacked with awe. Stalactites and stalagmites from outer space, carved by wind, water and millennia. When I got home, I googled ‘ancient rocks of china’ and found some descriptions of the wonders I found: soda straws, chandeliers, frostwork, moonmilk, pillars, boneyards, boxwork, draperies, cave popcorn, cave pearls – rock poetry!

The cave had been lit in with various colored lights and I rather wish it hadn’t – it would have been just as fantastic without the aid of gimmickry.

I stayed in the cave for a while, delighted by my discovery and now, whenever I think of my trip to Beijing, I think of my cave with fondness and joy – and of course I also remember the Wall and that harrowing ride up!

With two days left in Beijing, I consulted the guide book; I still had time for other must-sees, but I’d given myself the opportunity to be an adventurer and an explorer and who knows what character might in appear future books in a cave at foot of the Great Wall of China! 

This is the fifth day of the A-Z April Challenge. I thought I might try a theme this year and focus on my personal journey to health and fitness, including weight loss- but took a break today to honor a previous commitment.

Today's letter is E and my word for the day is EXCURSION.

BTW- the winners of copies of CARING LESSONS are:

 Mama Zen at  The Zen of Motherhood
skoots mom at my hands His Glory 

I've emailed both winners and have heard back from both! Enjoy the book ladies and congrats!


  1. Sounds like a great read! I love the term 'personal excursion'.

  2. Agreeing with Laura..."personal excursion" it!...:)JP

  3. What a great philosophy--so many places to go, both in the world and within ourselves!

  4. Laura-Thanks! I wish I had saved it for a beach day. LOL

    Corner- Thanks! It was easy to get all caught up in both of her excursions!

    Betty- How are you?! It's good to 'see' you! True, there are so many places which is good because it keeps us busy!

  5. I agree with the two first commenters, that term really spoke to me. Personal excursion, brilliant!

  6. thats great thinking on the go!
    thats one thing i look forward to when my kids grad, travel =)

  7. Maren- Thanks! Doubt I would have come up with it without the A-Z Challenge!

    Tara-No travel for us. I'm not fun in a car and am a bit terrified of planes and trains. LOL

  8. i love excursions. love the guest post too.


  9. Could have been the letter W! Looking for summer reads--this sounds good!

  10. nutshell-Thanks!

    Galen- Sure, if the day for the letter 'W' fell on April 5th. LOL I had agree to post the review and guest post today. Commitment you know. :)

  11. Me Pam, I would love a copy of this book. Great guest post and a great letter post too.
    Keep up the great work. Take care my friend. Blessings!!

  12. Julie- If nobody else wants to enter by midnight tonight, it's YOURS! I'll let you know!

  13. Mama Zen- I was surprised at how quickly I got caught up in it!


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