thoughts from my new home

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vancouver: ten things

Vancouver: Ten things I love about you

I do love my new home. I could definitely write more than ten reasons why, but here is the short list.

  1. The 8-4 working day. Ingenious. It doesn’t feel so much like an 8-hour day when you finish while it’s still light and have a few shopping hours left to run errands. I feel like this is part of what casts a happy feeling over the city – the people have a life outside of their offices, which doesn’t just involve going home to the box.
  1. Which brings me to another point – the shops are open at night. This might not seem like a big deal if you are from anywhere but New Zealand, where there is late night shopping one night per week in some malls. Just about everywhere in Auckland closes at 5; this isn’t much help when you finish work at the same time.
  1. The view from my apartment window. And from pretty much everywhere. I can’t get enough of the combination of crisp grey and white mountains and deep, glacial blue sea, especially when coupled with the deep forest green of the trees at Stanley Park.
  1. Wild Spring flowers. This has only just begun to happen. Little irises and tulips poking their heads out of the ground wildly and haphazardly, wherever there is some dirt to grow from. I also appreciate the lack of rubbish on the streets, at least in the area where I live – and the way people are so big on recycling here.
  1. The movie store actually pays me to bring back my DVDs on time. And if I don’t, well that’s okay too. They’ll just call after a while and offer me the opportunity to buy the movies instead. No more late fees or hurrying to return a one-night new release rental before 6pm the following day! Yay!
  1. The public transport in Vancouver is around 60% easier to use and more efficient than that in Auckland. I like the way you can transfer to another bus/train/ferry with the same ticket if you use it 90 minutes or less after you first traveled. It makes sense to make transit cheap and easy.
  1. In my hometown, when you finish your drink you usually have to go back up to the bar to get another one, unless you are in a swanky establishment. In Vancouver, the waitress or bartender offers you another before you have even drained the first. That’s service (and one up to tipping).
  1. When you walk around downtown Vancouver you get this sense of warm relaxation from the people walking past you…Apart from the odd ranting panhandler. I also love the range of ethnicities and how integrated they all are into the population. The range of food – a product of the multicultural society – is also a huge plus!
  1. I love snow, so when everyone else is moaning about the mid March snowfall I am that one smiling as they walk down the street, passing my gloved hand over the dusted shrubs on the way and sticking my arm out to catch the small, quick-melting flakes.
  1. Being able to snowboard in powder 45 minutes from my downtown apartment, which is in the middle of the city and yet also 5 minutes from a huge park. How cool is that? Can I also just add that I love Mounties?

Vancouver: Ten things I hate about you

So, hate is definitely too strong a word, but there are movie references to consider here. These are ten things I don’t understand about my new home.

  1. Cheques. Most of the world left cheques behind a long time ago, but for some reason North America clings to them. I had never heard the concept of giving your landlord post-dated cheques for the next few months rent – until I came here. I don’t mind doing it, but it’s just that an automatic payment direct from my bank account to his would be easier and less time-consuming for all concerned. 
  1. I have a temp job as a mail trolley clerk – a position I had never even heard of before coming here. Surely most of this correspondence could be carried out over email.
  1. Toilet stalls. Why don’t the doors reach the floor, or at least somewhere near it? I find it disconcerting when I can see someone else’s pants rolled around their ankles in the stall next to me.
  1. The other day I was walking past a taxi that had just pulled up, when the passenger opened the door, stepped out and spat at the ground near my feet. I would understand the spitting if this was the Wild West, but I have been to Wyoming and I didn’t see as much saliva there. Is there a bad taste in your mouth Vancouver?
  1. This is one for North America in general: why add tax afterwards instead of including it in the labeled price? 
  1. The shootings are pretty scary, especially for a girl who comes from a country where police don’t even carry guns. I understand this is all quite unusual for Vancouver, or at least I get that feeling by how widely it is covered in the newspapers, but that doesn’t stop it from being worrying.
  1. Maybe it’s because it isn’t prevalent in New Zealand, but I have noticed that absolutely everyone says ‘you’re welcome’ after you say thank you to them. Which isn't a bad thing, just different!
  1. The people at the phone company are idiots, but I think that is worldwide.
  1. The way almost every store is part of a chain is a bit unimaginative. I seek out the independents, but sometimes it’s difficult. I have even occasionally used what I thought was an independent outlet, only to find another one further down the street.
  1. Over 200 Starbucks. Almost every street corner is encumbered with those monstrous green and white signs, with laptop users in every window. Up the road from me there are two Starbucks directly across the intersection from one another…It’s like that episode of The Simpsons…

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stanley Park

About two weeks ago me and my husband Simon moved to Vancouver from our hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. We live close to Stanley Park, which is a bonus. There are all sorts of animals that live there, which make me happy. I was thinking today that I probably won't even notice them after a while...but for now the squirrels and raccoons and herons and Canadian geese are a thrill. Today we bought some walnuts and fed some squirrels. It was raining - as it often is in Vancouver - so there weren't many around, but the ones that came out to brave the rain were pretty stoked with our walnuts. We later learned it was illegal to feed them - oops! We saw one that was holding his tail over his head like an umbrella. He was a more seasoned Vancouverite than us, who forgot to bring any wet weather gear on our walk. 

That little squirrel guy was on my mind when I was naming this blog.

We live on the seventeenth floor of an apartment building in downtown Vancouver. The view from our bedroom/lounge/study (it's a studio apartment) contains both harbour and mountains.

I can't get enough of this. I love mountains, but on the most part if you live in a mountain town you sacrifice seaside living. Not here. And the sealife seems incredible so far. On a ferry back
 from Granville Island - a market of shops and restaurants with a good brewery - there was the largest starfish I have ever seen. Put your arms out in front of you and link them in a circle. That's how big he was. Unless you happen to have very long arms. I'm also almost certain I saw a whale when we were driving the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler last week.

People in this town come from everywhere. There are as many Asian people as there were back  in Auckland, so I guess this is a good place to study English. Japanese is a particularly strong culture, and there are many Japanese restaurants along Robson Street, which is one block from our house. There are also plenty of French-speaking people and a lot of Kiwis and Australians around, which is almost disappointing. But at least it shows that this is a place where anyone can settle. We were kinda hoping to be a bit of a novelty.

We spent a few days in Whistler, which is run by Australians. It was funny - almost every shopkeeper or waitress had an Aussie accent. There wasn't a lot of snow while we were there but it was mostly awesome weather and the views were amazing. Apparently now it's had three more feet of snow...but we have to be here to find work. Whistler almost broke the bank.

In the coming weeks I hope to be able to document my employment in Vancouver. That will complete the picture. We have the apartment and we've accumulated all the things we need for that - a bed, a table and chairs, cutlery, pots etc - so not we just need to make it sustainable. In the meantime, I will just keep writing...