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Hi All, So, in slightly less than ten days I will have been here for a full year. It feels great saying things like: "My first time skiing was in February last year..." to people who ask. At work, I'm not the new guy anymore. I don't need a GPS to get around downtown Vancouver, or most cities around here. I'm not cold all the time... I remember feeling like I'm getting frostnip the moment I walked out the airport last year. Unlike the locals though, I still appreciate the rain. And Raccoons. Snow is amazing. The silence around when hiking through snow is something else. I probably like winter more than summer, driving to work in the dark is fun. I had my fair share of Lower Mainland traffic enforcement being way more efficient than what I was used to. Turkeys are way bigger than I expected. Canadian Christmas dinners involve multiple families and more food than I've ever seen on one table. Biking in freezing cold for multiple days over hundreds of km ended up being the best thing to happen to me. This country is amazing, especially nature wise, but also the fact that you can bike like that without fearing you might be mugged. Early season skiing is fun, but don't take your brand new skis... Also, don't trust the liftees loading skis in Whistler. They do NOT care about your insanely expensive skis, and will scratch the crap out of them. A chicken korma pie in Whistler, had actual chicken korma in it.... It was so good. I'm going back for more soon. I've hiked more in one spring/summer/fall than I have ever done before. I made many random friends while hiking. Pretty much all my good friends here, besides the few made while apartment hunting. Worth talking to everyone, never know who you have things in common with. For some reason, caring about the environment has taken on a new meaning here. I'm not sure the same thing is happening back in SA. I hope so. I've gotten things done that I thought was out of reach in SA, like PRK. Biking/skiing/hiking in the rain, without glasses, is next level. Stocks actually go in a direction other than down...or maybe I have just been bad at it in SA haha. Of course, I have had many a day missing family, pets. The farm I grew up on. I have a playlist on Spotify I aptly named "Homesick Songs". It's basically my favourite songs by Spoegwolf. I find listening to Afrikaans music helps. First Christmas/new year away from family in ... 29 years, it was painful, but on the other hand I had a great time with my new 'families' here. Built multiple gingerbread houses. I've come to realize I wouldn't be able to willingly go back to SA. There are so many reasons to stay here, despite the US being stupid, the government doing questionable things, or housing being insane. It doesn't affect my health and safety (yet ). I can go lie down and have a nap in a park without being afraid of something being stolen. Was never a big thing, until I did it and realized why I've never done it outside our farm. I've been forced to cook. Ugh. Food options here are great, but I miss the ready to eat stuff that Woolworths sells. It was so easy to eat kinda healthy haha. People still don't get that it's Afrikaans, not African. My colleagues are my friends. I feel lucky.
Hi all, So after submitting my EOI on 22 May 2017, I landed in Vancouver on 20 January 2018. About 8 months from submitting to landing. It feels like such a short period of time. No wonder my family was struggling to accept it. Well, most of them. I departed Cape Town International on Friday 19 January, at 6:15am. Flew Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. About 4 hours layover in both OR Tambo and Hong Kong. Landed in Vancouver at 6:40am. Met up with an old friend from Finland in Hong Kong after randomly finding out he was headed for Taipei on the same day. That was great! By the way, 5 days later and my sleeping pattern is still kind of out of wack. Landing at Vancouver International was a breeze. Self declaration was quick. The early morning queue was non-existent. Had to wait for my luggage before going to immigration, and that took forever! I guess the flight was full. Waited for about 30 minutes before I spotted my bags. Removed them from the carousel and proceeded to immigration... I was the first in a queue of 2 people haha. The process was so quick and painless, I was sure she missed something. All in all it was under 5 minutes, and that includes walking back to my luggage. I had a lift waiting for me at the airport, which was nice. We went for my first Canadian (North American) breakfast at White Spot in Richmond. It was good. The taste of adventure. Aka I'm not really sure whether it was really good or I was sleepy, excited, and generally easily impressed at this stage. Anyway. After breakfast, went to ICBC in Richmond (yep, open Saturdays) to do my knowledge test. When I booked it the lady didn't even ask for my RMTC letter, as I had my expired license card with me too, and together they showed 10 years of driving. She booked my test and gave me back my license cards. $15 later. Sat in the waiting area for a few minutes, and was called to take the test on the touch screen kiosks. It was soooo easy. If you feel unsure of a question, you are able to skip it and move it to the back of the queue, so I got full marks on the test. Booked my drivers license test for 29 January. This was the earliest one. After ICBC, I went to a mall to get a SIM card. Went with Fido, as they seemed like a goodish deal and it's month to month so I could move should I want to. Mobile data costs are insane here though...but atm I'm paying $45 excluding GST for 1GB, unlimited Ca wide calls off peak, 500 peak, and unlimited international texts. And some other kinda useless things. Went to RBC to try activate my account, but they were busy and I could only get an appointment at 15:30 that Saturday. Decided to leave it for Monday. I then proceeded to my B&B in Mount Pleasant where I was going to stay for 4 nights until I could move to the Airbnb place in North Vancouver. It was a really good location. under 10 minute walk to the Broadway Skytrain station, and RBC bank, and Service Canada was a 20 minute walk. I walked a lot. It was fun. Finally got used to not being too paranoid about crossing streets when the pedestrian light is white too. Sunday was spent lazing about and sleeping. Or trying too. Jet lag is a pain. My schedule is slowly recovering. On Monday, first thing, I went to RBC at 9ish am. The consultant was not yet in, so I was asked to wait for her for a few minutes. About 5 minutes later she came in and took me to her office. Started to activate my account etc, but then realised that, since I created my account through the Ontario branch, she wasn't able to simply activate my account. The solution was for her to open a new account on the RBC West region, but this only took effect over night it seems, so she booked me to come back at 12:00 the next day. Subsequently went to Service Canada to register for my SIN. Got there, the lady at reception was friendly...actually I have yet to meet anyone that wasn't friendly...and she told me her kids want to visit SA! Anyway, I was asked to sit and wait for my name to be called. I sat for about 15 minutes, before being called. The lady helping me was intrigued by my surname, and was a lover of puns. Had a good laugh with her. Anyway, the SIN took less than 5 minutes total. Left Service Canada and walked to Best Buy/ Canadian Tire to find an adapter that I have been struggling to find, even in SA. And then I saw my first Canadian sunshine! And also the last, so far. Best Buy was cool, but didn't find what I wanted. Canadian Tire had an adapter though, for $15. And so I also used self checkout for the first time. Interesting. The next day, I went back to RBC at 12, the consultant was on time, and she started activated credit cards and mobile banking etc. So efficient. She even transferred the money in the RBC Central region to this new account, and closed the old one. All of this took about 35 minutes. I'll get my cards in about 2 weeks, in the mail. Really impressed by RBC. Especially the Broadway branch. Walked to Avis to get a rental I booked online earlier the morning. Again, a 10 or so minute walk. Walking is good, even in the rain. Glad I brought my Stellenbosch umbrella. Anyway, I booked the second cheapest option on their website, since I needed a car with a boot for my luggage. As the guy was getting keys and stuff ready, he picked up a key, looked at it, then at me...put it down again...and proceeded to ask me: "Would you like to drive a Charger"... What? As in, a car that was on my desktop wallpaper for years? My young boy dream car? You serious? So yea, he was serious. I am driving a 2018 Dodge Charger V6 as a rental, for the price of the second cheapest option. The cynic in my wonders what the catch is. But, damn. I love this car. It's so fast (to 50, or 70, or 110...whatever the limit is...) and comfortable. One day I will drive my own. Been driving since then, as much as possible to get experience for the test on the 29th. Have a lesson tonight with an instructor, just to fine tune. I am getting pretty used to the driving environment. Driving in downtown wasn't as horrifying as I had anticipated either. Been meeting up with people now and then too. Somehow, all the people I meet up with are immigrants, although settled already. Really enjoying Vancouver at the moment. Sometimes I worry that it's going too easily and that I am missing something obvious...? Also, Feta is ridiculously expensive here.... And went to Save On Foods in Lower Lonsdale yesterday. I was standing at the fresh cut fruits section when the lady next to me starts telling me which ones are most popular and which ones she prefers. SOOO FRIENDLY. I need to get used to this. Well, that is a quick and maybe incomplete summary of my experience here so far. I have to go move the car, as the parking situation North Vancouver is terrible, and I don't want a parking ticket on my license before I actually get said license haha. Edit: I also embraced the North American culture and subscribed to Netflix... haha
Vancouver. It’s the afternoon and you take a stroll downtown. You notice a certain smell. In fact it’s hard to avoid the sweet scent of marijuana. It drifts through the sunny streets like an unconscious cloud, eager to throttle addicts and adolescents. In many ways, the west coast (of Canada) is seen as a little more mellow, crammed with hippies, riddled with bohemians, gypsies and stoners...of course. You decide how rebellious you are at the end of the day. When I first heard I was moving to Vancouver and closer to consuming some high quality Mary Jane, my ‘inner rebel’ leapt up and gave the addict an invisible hi-five. It was similar to the feeling when you may win a prize of some kind, and you hear the announcement crackling over the intercom. Now I’m going on a tangent. Lemme fast forward to my first encounter with this cloud. I arrived in the blustery wind and rain. This was spring. The first night I booked myself into the cheapest hostel in Vancouver. Yes, you heard me. I get into this burnt out building. I walk up the staircase. The first thing that I notice is graffiti, along with a collection of gouges, scrapes and manic doodles. I get to the counter and pay for two nights. The rotund guy behind the counter doesn’t even ask for my ID, all he needs is a $10 deposit for the key to my room. I hand him the money and he gives me a brown sheet for my bed and an old, gross blanket to keep me warm. I never receive a pillow. Soon after arriving one thing has become apparent, nothing in this place is clean. My first night in Vancouver I was jet-lagged, in a grimy hostel and alone. (I flew in with my parents, but they had gone to live in another part of the city). I felt like a turtle who’d been flipped on his back. I was scared and bewildered with only about $100 to my name. Another thing...who do you trust? The don’t-talk-to-strangers mantra your parents banged into your head from birth, vanishes quickly. Anyway, in my nervous state evening approaches and the anxiety quivering inside me propels my legs forward. I search for a place to buy food. I remember this next part so clearly I can almost reach out and touch it. I walk around a local park downtown and green clouds hit me. It’s a tempting scent and my first idea is to follow the smell because ultimately every stoner gets the munchies. This plan fails because I end up at a coffee shop of sorts where everyone inside can bring their own product (i.e. marijuana, of course) and light up. Ultimately they order some cake and other sugary treats staring at the patrons behind glass doors. After exploring the place and talking to the stoned barista, I remember I’m hungry and leave. I end up asking people too many questions and I soon arrive at a grocery store. Days after this happened a bizarre thought crept over me - it was easier to buy pot than it was to find food. I kid you not. You have to walk past a pub to see people drinking, but smelling is for free. Most days you don’t have a choice. For those reading this, I can sense that unspoken question on your lips...have you tried it? Yup, I have. I might be more accurate if I said the weed smoked me. I prefer operating with a clear mind and I’ve stayed away from it for many months. I also find it interesting that there is a certain amount of denial that goes with every stoner. I’ll give you an example… There are many marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. Let me rephrase that, medical marijuana dispensaries. The deal is you first have to go the the doctor, complain about some ache or pain or symptom and receive a letter. You take that letter to certain dispensaries who will issue you with a plastic card with a picture of you and your mug on it. This becomes your golden ticket to bounce from dispensary to dispensary at your leisure. Now where does the denial part kick in? Well, medical marijuana...ahem, er, really? That’s like the doctor prescribing cigarettes because you have a cough. Okay, perhaps not the best analogy, I admit. There are tons or dispensaries, but I don’t see many sick people. Yes there may be some medical benefits that come from this plant, although the dispensary business I see largely as a “smokescreen” for recreational users to get a free pass. I don’t get it, maybe that means I’m not a stoner then? If there’s one thing I’d indulge in, that would be copious amounts of craft beer. Chances are it won’t offend the person I’m sitting next to, and I’m more likely to find new friends. But wait there’s more… After being in the country for a little more than a year, a new president came to power. I’m told this was a good thing because Stephen Harper - the previous guy - was an annoying sod. So the new party in power are called The Liberals (or Liberal Party, don’t quote me because I avoid politics like the plague). In addition to them being less like Harper, they also claim to legalize pot over the whole of Canada. This time they’re pushing for the recreational use of the drug. Part of me also thought “is the law really the thing stopping [the stoners] in the first place?” Some say it takes one to know one. Hmmm. Okay folks, it’s time to muscle up and find a conclusion of sorts. This post is looking more like an anti-marijuana rant every minute. Maybe it is? Perhaps the best way to end this is with a poem I wrote about that first filthy hostel I stayed in. Here’s it goes: clouds i turn the doorknob walk up old stairs bruised and worn down knuckles of a fighter “the cheapest hostel in Vancouver” the advert said i agreed out of ignorance i pay for two nights the man behind the counter slaps down a key hands me a pillowcase and a brown sheet he turns to leave but stops “you need a blanket?” i nod and receive something a dog slept in for days i walk into the tv room a cloud of marijuana cloaks me like bad weather five guys stare at the screen one darts a look at me then back to the screen he sips his beer and shrugs i wave briefly only one of them notices a young Chinese guy lights up a bong a thick cloud builds up in the glass chamber he inhales empties out the unconscious tunnel he coughs and moans his thick red hair too limp to dance he stands up fondles his bankie like an old photograph he wanders out the room looking for food Blog post: http://wp.me/p7AHk-ue
I arrived in a miserable, rain swept country. In the first four months I was stuck in a job I took out of sheer desperation. I woke up in the dark, left on the bus at dawn, and watched the lethargic sun rise out of the horizon. I worked in a hardware store all day. Often on my lunch hour I had to wade through the angry rain and the frigid air into the toasty Tim Hortons a block away. Sometimes a single slurp of coffee and the sugary bite of a doughnut can kindle a little more life in your eyes. After six months I began to realize the reason Canadians love their coffee. It feels like a weapon in the cold weather. A swig of magic potion to banish the evil spirits swirling in the wind. I quickly started to figure out that using coffee shops as landmarks helps you learn the layout of a city. Another thing I figured out...winter was miserable. Some say that hindsight is perfect sight. Looking back at myself in the first Vancouver winter, part of me thought “Oh sh*t, this is forever.” I'm now writing this in my second winter and the fondest memories I have were sitting outside in the sun on my lunch break. I remember my step mother sending invisible prayers into the sky, asking the sun to come back. Ok, she wasn't actually praying, although I could feel the urgency in her voice whenever she spoke of it. For some reason I denied missing the sun at first. Perhaps, I felt stress from too many other areas in my life. Now that the sea of stress is slowing down to a trickle, I can process more of the details that were so bewildering to me in the beginning. I can be a little more honest with myself at the same time. Ladies and Genitals, here it is...I crave the sun. Allow me to rewind the storyline a little... I'm from Durban, South Africa. For those unfamiliar with the place it has amazing weather. The sun is as plentiful there as the rain is in Vancouver. It's not the safest city in the country, but if you took away the crime it's very close to being a warm, balmy, idyllic one. You have very warm and wet summers, and cool dry winters. The summers were way too hot and humid for me, but one thing I now realize is the sun was always around. The sun (in South Africa) felt like an angry mother-in-law. In comparison the sun in British Columbia feels like an excitable nephew. In Durban if you stayed outside for too long in summer you'd often get burnt, maybe even garner a few blisters in the process. In Vancouver you stay out too long...the most you'll get is a bigger smile on your face. My advice to other immigrants can be summed up in three words...it gets better. It really does. In my second winter I no longer feel hopeless because I now have the radiant memories of summer swimming inside me. I have fantasies of lying in the sun, soaking it up again. While I write this and have multiple sun-fuelled braingasms, I'm reminded of a memory... It happened last summer. Having just arrived home from work I took the graphic novel I had been reading and took a short walk to the local park, about 5 minutes away. Once there I sat in the balmy sun and read for a bit. It turns out my brain was too weary to read a great deal, so I closed my book and lay down on the grass. I closed my eyes and began to listen to the fragments of chatter all around me. It seemed like I lost track of time after a while. It must've been about an hour I was lying there. What stuck me afterwards was that “half sleepy half calm” feeling that seeps down into your bones. Some memories are worth listening to, this is one of them. Blog post: http://wp.me/p7AHk-tF