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Archive for the ‘Yoga Blogs and Journals’ Category

We have now moved to our new flat and it is almost fully furnished, for free. We only had a 30 dollars bill at IKEA for 2 lamps, pillows and a toilet brush – not the kind of thing one would buy second-hand – and bit and bobs in thrift stores. We found a table next to our building’s dumpster and 2 chairs further down the road, so now we can have proper dinners. Two more chairs and we can have guests.

Some people from Craig’s list have been incredibly nice. A German anthropologist gave us her really nice futon bed and also a leather type storage box, that serves us as coffee table. She gave us a lift with both, and was sorry she didn’t have anything else for us for the time being.

Her husband was English and he had arrived in North America – San Francisco first – in the 70s. We told them our story and he asked ‘do you like it here?’, we nodded, so he replied ‘if you like it you will make it work’. I loved his conviction, and I think that he’s right.

We moved our stuff – and there’s always more than one thinks – in suitcases and bags up that hill and by bus. Little wonder then after all that lifting, carrying, cleaning, and upholstering; when teacher training started on Friday evening I was very sleepy. I spent the whole weekend in an incredible workshop with a master teacher, Michael Stone, psychotherapist, Buddhist and writer, who captivated us entirely with inspiring thoughts, quotes and facts about the body.

When I meet incredibly charismatic people, I understand how cults are born. Some people have that energy and intelligence, and they say just what you want to hear, with expertise and wit. Michael Stone’s latest book is called Yoga for a World out of Balance, in which he explains – and I oversimplify -that our society is behaving like an addict to certain set of narratives (consumerism, capitalism, etc.) and that like any addict it is taking more and more risks to get its supplies, driving countries to unsustainable extremes (poverty, mental illness, environment, etc.).

He offers two simple remedies: ethics and community. Restoring values is an individual task – changing intentions and actions – but creating a community isn’t.

Two mornings ago, I woke up and opened the windows and I saw how a heron was standing by a chimney pipe to get a bit of warmth on that cold day. I love herons, they have that old grumpy and yet majestic allure to them. Somehow they seem to be the loners of birds, you never see more than one at a time, probably because they are predators. They just stay around their area where the food is, minding their fishing business. So I always feel a bit bad for them, and there was something of a homeless sleeping on hot air vents in that heron: isolated and seeking heat in winter.

We’re not herons but we’ve been quite isolated here at the beginning but quickly we’ve found friends, via two communities: the expats and the yogis. Both are large entities and the way to connect these days is through the net and blogging. Both have been a lovely support network. I’ve been in touch with several expat bloggers and they have put me in touch with expats in Vancouver.

I met a lovely French expat and yogi two weeks ago. She has created her company helping out expats starting their businesses here. She has been really helpful and also gave me a secret and invaluable tip about cheese, and we might be able to buy affordable reblochon soon.

Jeff, one of my expat bloggers contacts reminded me that emigrating is a very humbling experience. To me, humility calls for gratitude. Since we’re here, we’ve been very thankful of the kindness of our friends back home lending us moral comfort, of the friends here who invited us over for Christmas and occasionally drive us around and lift heavy sofas, of the generosity of lovely strangers on Craig’s list and of the wisdom of senior expats and yogis.

I’ll finish with a quote from a yoga teacher yesterday, inviting us to a shift of attitude: ‘could we replace ‘what’s in it for me?’ by ‘how can I help?’

and I’ll leave you this week with another Heron:

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We’ve now been in Vancouver for a little more than two weeks and it seems to be a good time to write about ‘first impressions’. At the same time, oddly enough I feel that I don’t really have many. Maybe, it’s because we have been travelling for several months now and the feeling of novelty has worn off in the process. It’s not that we are becoming  jaded, but unfamiliarity has become the norm in our new life since leaving London back in August. So, when we arrived in Vancouver, at the beginning it felt like just another new place. It took me time to realise that this is our final destination and that this is where real life was starting again.

Also, as mentioned before this is not the first time that I have moved to another country. The bit of wisdom I’ve developed from previous experience, tries to keep me away from the usual pitfalls. I’ve the best intentions of refraining from generalisation about the place, the people and the culture, as to me, it doesn’t always come from a good place. Generalisation, I feel, can become easily an outlet for things that have nothing to do with the country one is settling in. It rather has to do with the difficulties that one encounters and the feelings that accompany them: frustration, isolation, fear of the unknown, rejection, you name it. Xenophobia etymologically stems from fear, hatred is just the by-product.

Anyway, long preamble just to say that I don’t have black and white first impressions of this place, it might, and probably will, come later, in moments of frustration, fear, isolation etc. but for now, it’s not on the menu.

I could still point out a few random things that we have noticed, like for instance, people here are very friendly and chatty. You can’t look lost for too long here because somebody will inevitably stop and kindly offer help and directions, and then have a nice chat about anything. As we don’t really know anybody here yet, we’ve made the most out of those brief encounters, and always came out of them with a big smile and an “oh, people are so nice here”.

But our experience with people generally has been superficial as you would expect after so little time. In the first stages of immigration, you feel like you’re out of the game, you’re the newbie at school and you want to play but you feel somehow shy and inadequate because you don’t hold all the cards in hand and you don’t know the rules. So, you just observe and learn from the outside until you can get in. It’s like being a strange hybrid between tourist and unemployed and you’re neither in nor out.

It makes me think of ever so grumpy Elias Canetti, who in his memoir – published posthumously by his greedy estate, in English under the title Party in the Blitz  – was moaning about not receiving the warm welcome and due respect he thought he was deserving of from the Hampstead elite, when he was in exile in London. It amused at the time. You cannot expect people to roll out the red carpet when you emigrate somewhere, you have to expect to have to do all the work, that’s part of the game.

We went to a meetup of British expats on our first week here and met all sorts of people. One of them, from the corporate banking world, kept on saying, ‘it’s all about networking’. That’s what they tell you in any immigration help centres. Of course, it’s about networking, but the term makes me cringe as it sounds so pragmatic. I prefer solidarity, but this nowadays sounds communist and somewhat so uncool. Networking doesn’t seem cooler anyhow, very 90s. People probably say linking or linkage these days. In a trendy cafe in San Francisco, overlooking Dolores park, I overheard a conversation of probably Stanford graduates, probably Silicon Valley workers, probably Google employees, that kept on  mentioning that such and such had ‘friended’ them on Facebook and on LinkedIn. Friending maybe the term nowadays in our internet confusion between work and personal relationships. We could be grammar snobs, raise an eyebrow and suggest alternatives such as befriending, but how good would that be?

I had read a fair bit about Vancouver, and I feel that I know just about a bit more now than before landing here. The only difference is I have a first hand experience.  It is beautiful as everybody says, but this is almost exclusively due to its setting, which is quite spectacular and offers splendid views to enjoy one day after another, rain or shine.

Rain, while I’m at it, is a major preoccupation, and it’s not green by accident. It rains more here than in Aberdeen, said a lovely Scottish couple we met at that same meetup evening. So far we consider ourselves quite lucky, and the first week was actually gorgeous. It was as if we were having our own little honeymoon period with our new city and it showed itself in its best light; the peaks of  Grouse and Cypress – those who followed the winter Olympic games might be familiar with the names, it’s where most big competitions took place – on the other side of the bay; the pine trees of Stanley park on the nose of the peninsula, stopping the expansion of downtown, which is quite classy and relaxed for a North American city. However, I wouldn’t say that Vancouver is as charming a city as for example San Francisco that we have visited recently.

Also, we are very privileged because we are living for now in one of the best locations to enjoy the views, 3 minutes walking distance from Jericho beach and we are 15 minutes cycling from Kitsilano, probably the most interesting neighbourhood we have seen so far.

Kitsilano, aka Kits, is divided into two main avenues, 4th and 10th and it’s where you’ll do the groceries if you like organic, European, Asian, or South African  food,  it’s where you’ll dine if you like fusion sushi, and above all for me, it’s where you ‘yoga’, as Semperviva, one of the biggest yoga schools, has 5 studios in Kits and 150 classes a week.

My growing love affair with Vancouver is very much yoga-biased at this point. I’ve taken a newcomer weekly pass with Semperviva and I’ve been to 4 classes, all with very inspiring teachers, so far in 3 different studios. I remember people complaining at my leisure center in Hampstead when there were more than 25 people in the class. Here, some studios seem to have capacities of over a hundred people and I saw one Yin class on Sunday that was fully packed: 100 yogis all ready to let their muscles surrender to gravity. Needless to say that yoga is big here, and I call Kitsilano ‘yogaland’. After my first class, when I came home, I was high on endorphins but also on the excitement of having found my own little version of paradise. Yet again friendliness prevails and teachers do ask your name and warmly welcome you to town.

We haven’t seen much of the surrounding areas, or been to the mountains yet, but we can already see the peaks gathering snow from our side of the bay. We will have to wait  until we have a car to enjoy the wilderness that lies beyond Vancouver.

In the meantime, we go for walks in the nearby Pacific Spirit park, with its massive pine trees, cycle by the seaside on our old second-hand mountain bikes, and play frisbee on the beach. We cook tons of vegetarian dishes as meat has become an expensive treat – $25 chickens have been witnessed – and vegetables are tasty and much more affordable.

To conclude on a musical note and to introduce a post I’m drafting at the moment on Canadian music, here’s my song of the moment: Favourite Food by Tokyo Police Club.

Namaste!

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