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Archive for March, 2011

Bumble

After months of roaming and pondering in this adventure, we have finally decided to go back home, for good – well, for a while at least – to be reunited with Budgie, but more importantly with family, friends, Bumble the dog, and good old Blighty.

We’ve taken this decision for various reasons and we’re really happy about it now. It’s funny how you try really hard to make something work and when you stop struggling and you finally surrender, liberation follows. Up to one week ago, we were still quite sad to see the Canadian experience end, but now we are really excited to leave. Our life is no longer here.

We came to admit also that we might not have been able to enjoy it eternally. Something is missing: another dimension. I felt the same in California. A sense of emptiness. It took me a lot of time to realise what was bothering me. It’s so much easier to react against things that are ever too present, jarring or downright irritating, but this particular vacuity is trickier to capture with thoughts. It’s a vague, lingering sensation. California felt like living on a movie set, and it’s not that much different here.

Crow

Our friend Graham who is also going back to England soon, discussed it with Ed the other day, and it was the little epiphany I needed about this place. It is so beautiful that you would feel really ungrateful to resent its flaws. Beauty in that respect can be incredibly intimidating. Doesn’t one feel a bit more shy when they meet a really good looking person? You almost hope you belong to their club somehow. It’s absurd but it’s a common impulse.

The same happened for us in Vancouver, it’s so beautiful that you want to be a part of it. However this has a price, the real estate is unaffordable, the general cost of life is prohibitive, and the job situation is scarily unstable. Testament to its charms, people are still ready to make the sacrifice, for the sake of enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the ever-changing unbeatable scenery.

Well, we sure will miss a lot of things here, but there are so many people and things that we’re happy to find again in Europe two weeks from now. Among other things, and in no particular order: cheese, bread, being able to afford most things and food, pubs, the English countryside, the Atlantic coast, picnics in the park, sunshine, charity shops and boot sales, Habitat, having a vehicle, the museums, the fashion, Waitrose, the wittiness, English gardens, Neil’s Yard Remedies, Hampstead, Portugal, our tagine dish, jam, ham, etc.

View from Royal Crescent by Rachel Milne

It’s all been a great adventure and we’ve learnt so much from it, and we will come back to Europe with a fresh perspective, and then lose it again, and then find other ways to entertain our restlessness. Abraham Lincoln said “and in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

We’re full of life and as Frank Costanza says in Seinfeld: ‘I’m Back, Baby!’

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I’ve been meaning to draft this list for a while, but somehow I’ve been cautious and superstitious. I didn’t want to make my ‘like’ declaration to Vancouver and then a week later announce that we had to leave her, because things were no longer sustainable. It would have added to the heartbreak.

Now that we are used to this semi-permanent state of uncertainty, it is as safe as any other time to make this inventory. In any case, it will be good to have it somewhere in order to reminisce.

Also, it seems more mature to write a list of favourite things here after 4 months. The first month of expat life somewhere all is glitter and feathers, dazzling and exciting. Some things one might like at the beginning might change soon, but with time things settle and only the more relevant likings persist.

  • The French is rubbish: this makes me laugh a lot. It’s not about our Québécois cousins. By law everything has to be bilingual, all products come with English and French instructions. The thing is you feel that a lot of companies take this constraint half-heartedly and seem to be using google translator. This deliberate ill-will to respect the nation’s bilingualism on the part of companies cracks me up each time I flip a jar or a box and read labels. Then there is also the Québécois terms like ‘debarbouillettes’ (baby wipes), which are rather exotic.
  • wild things: we haven’t seen bears, we know they are out there in the mountains, but no furry encounter of that type yet for us. We are particularly fan of the bird life here. There’s the heron, whom I see from my window any cold and dry day. We used to see eagles quite often when we lived in Point Grey and now we catch sight of them enjoying the view from the height of the totem pole in front of the Maritime Museum. To see bigger wild things, we went to the Vancouver Aquarium where my yoga buddy Hilary works. My favourite sight there is their couple of otters which hold paws and swim together. We also do see the occasional skunk’s bushy tail, and the stiff moustache of a seal rise to the surface of the ocean from time to time.
  • it’s the 70s again: speaking of skunk, this rodent with a smelly bad rap has to compete with its vegetal counterpart: this city smells of weed, dude. Alcohol is expensive and grass has become a small industry. This is one of the reasons for the laid back attitude. In Kits, where we live the West Coast hippy spirit has survived and one sees all kinds of characters in the streets, thrift stores and at yoga. Last Saturday, we had a workshop with a woman dressed entirely in white, wearing a turban who told us that to save ourselves from the doom and gloom of the age of Aquarius, we needed to learn how to create fields of energy.  I felt quite lonely when I realised that I was maybe the only sceptical one in the room.
  • coffee shops: Vancouver has a well-known addiction to coffee. Although I’m a tea person, I do enjoy the coffee shops around Kits, some like Bennie’s on Broadway are nice and cosy and are great for a chat around the fireplace, hugging a cup of chai. Another of my favourites is the Arbutus coffee, it’s very much in the San Francisco style.
  • constant change of scenery: as they say a the tourist office, Vancouver is spectacular. The scenery is exceptional indeed, and we only have to walk for 5 minutes (or open a window) to see the ocean and the mountains. Whenever we can, we go for walks by the seaside. When I say “can”  I mean; whenever it’s not raining. The price to pay for the natural beauty here is rain, a lot of it. It’s hard to believe, but in winter it rains twice as much as in London and when it’s not raining, it can be overcast for days. Cloudy days can sometimes make you forget about the mountains. Then, one day, the sun comes out and the jewel that this place is shines again. You instantly forgive and forget the days of wet misery. Last Wednesday, with Ashley, we took Mac for a walk on ‘doggie beach’, and the weather was changing every 5 minutes, the light mutated constantly and the colours belonged to an illustrated story book. It’s great as well to stroll on the beach on the occasional snowy day. It snowed on my birthday and after brunch, we put on our hiking boots, to trample the fresh layer of powder on the sand. We stumbled upon the eeriest sight. A big rose bouquet, abandoned in a cardboard box on the beach, like a baby in a 19th century French  novel. It would make a good subject for a short-story contest and it still haunts me somehow.
  • yoga: I’m a big Semperviva fan. This is where I’m doing my teacher training until beginning of April and it’s quite an incredible place. 5 studios in Kitsilano, 150 classes a week, all kind of teachers and styles. Since we are in Kits, we check the Semperviva schedule like we would the movie listings. I doubt there is anything similar to Vancouver when it comes to its yoga community.
  • food: going out for food here is never boring. The variety of Asian food in particular is outstanding from Korean barbecues to Vietnamese pho or sandwiches, but above all the fast food here is sushi. It looks like there is a Japanese restaurant and a coffee shop on each block. Obviously also with all the hippyness and yoganess there are some very good vegetarian and vegan places, The Naam being everyone’s favourite.

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