It seems that my timing with regards to the Olympics & Paralympics is impeccable. I chose to leave the UK and move to Vancouver one year after the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and am still here over the London 2012 Summer Games. The decision not to go home this August was an incredibly difficult one to make, but unfortunately my lack of both vacation days and money made up my mind for me. I was very much at peace with the way my summer was panning out until today’s Opening Ceremony. I’m writing this while watching the 10,000+ athletes from around the world enter the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, and can truthfully say without a doubt that I wish I was there.
Although I missed the Vancouver 2010 games, I still feel very much connected to them through the growing number of friends and co-workers who worked for VANOC both before and during the competition. I’ve heard countless stories, anecdotes, confessions and inside secrets which have convinced a small part of my brain that maybe I was actually there. At least in spirit. Reading John Furlong’s (CEO of VANOC) inspirational book Patriot Hearts pretty much sealed the deal, and I’m still overwhelmed at just how much Canadians came together to support their country. Vancouver’s games definitely were Canada’s games, and I really really really hope that the games will do for the UK what they did over here.
This post is not about visas, immigration or Vancouver. Well, not specifically. It’s about an event that happened this week which was amusing for a number of reasons. Being the geek that I am, I tweeted throughout this event, though found that 140 character snippets were not enough to truly convey the hilariousness of the situation. So I thought I’d expand below.
Fire alarm at 3am. Well practiced, we’re the first out from the top floor. Staring expectantly at the fire station opposite.
Yes, the event which I am refering to was the fire alarm going off in our building at 3am. Before I continue, I’ll let you know now that it was a false alarm. We had a false alarm in this building last fall, and a not so false alarm in our previous building last August. That situation was nowhere near as amusing as this one, and ended up with our apartment being used as some sort of pressure valve for smoke removal. Three middle-of-the-night fire alarms in under a year have meant that we’re pretty well prepared when it comes to evacuating the building. After waking up the boyfriend (who hadn’t heard the alarm) I ran for my hoodie, Uggs, glasses, phone and bag, while he went straight for his Macbook Pro. The anxiety caused by watching him run off into the smoke during the real fire evacuation while not wearing my glasses has now trumped my need for a shiny grey Apple product, so my MacBook Air was left safely inside. Everyone else in the building was obviously not so practiced, and we were the first people out of the front door despite running down from the seventh (and top) floor. We stood and stared at the fire station which is opposite our building, waiting to hear the bell which would be followed by engines and sirens.
It took the fire truck 17 seconds to cross the road and come to a stop outside our doors. I took a video.
It turns out you don’t need to use sirens when you’re only driving 50 metres. We’d guessed by this point that it was a false alarm, so I couldn’t help but laugh (and take a video on my phone) when the fire truck made its way very slowly across the road. More men followed on foot, and arrived at about the same time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I’ve seen of BC recently, and made the first step to putting this right this month by embarking on a day trip to the very beautiful Bowen Island. Bowen is just a 20 minute ferry ride from Horsehoe Bay in West Vancouver (a day trip in itself), and is known for its hiking, trails, scenery and all round ‘quaintness’. We decided to partake in all of the above and picked a sunny Friday to make our escape.
The bus to Horseshoe Bay is only 30 minutes (and $3.75 one way) from Downtown Vancouver, and the ferry just $10.75 return. This brings the total commute time to just one hour, which is ridiculously low when you realize that you’d be hard pressed to get further than Coquitlam in that time if you headed East instead of West. The ferry was small and the ‘ferry terminal’ at Snug Cove even smaller, consisting of one sign and a ramp. The foot passengers crowded around the cars and were let off first, and we headed straight up the hill to Snug Cove picnic area where we found our first trailhead. I’d spent a lot of time researching some short but moderately challenging trails that would give us the opportunity to see some views and get in a half-decent workout, and Dorman Point was the all round winner. The 2km climb took us approximately 30 minutes, and there were a few steep sections which I knew I’d be feeling in my glutes the next day. The rocky summit at the top was the perfect place for a picnic lunch, and we could clearly see across to Whytecliff Park on the mainland. The walk back down was even quicker, and the copious amount of ferns gave the trail somewhat of a Jurassic Park feel.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time, but have also been putting it off. Comparing different healthcare systems around the world can result in opinions being offered and political statements being made, especially when the two countries being compared have very different payment structures involved. This article is intended to be an introduction to the healthcare options offered to Brits living in Canada on working holiday visas, and is based on my own experience. Etc. etc.
What’s this MSP malarkey?
MSP stands for Medical Services Plan (of B.C.), and is insurance that provides coverage for basic medical procedures and services. This includes doctor’s appointments, x-rays, basic surgery, maternity care and medically essential podiatry and dentistry. More importantly, this does not include non-essential examinations, prescriptions, cosmetic surgery or dental work, routine eye exams, massage therapy, acupuncture or chiropractic services. All BC residents must enrol with MSP, and means tested premiums are payable based on annual household income.
As I sit in the comforting warmth of Starbucks with my latte and my oatmeal, the pain, sweat and tears of my first half marathon are trying to fade into a distant, rose-tinted memory. Still, no matter how hard they tries, I’m not sure I’ll forget the 1:52:33 of pure, unadulterated hell any time soon. I’m marking the one week anniversary of the toughest experience of my life (it really was that tough, I’m not just melodramatic. Read on and you’ll see) by writing about it in glorious detail to share with all of you who are thinking the exact same thing I was around the 16km mark – why the hell am I running a half marathon?
I’d been training for this run since I registered for the race back in April. A couple of weeks later I ran my fastest every 10km in the annual Sun Run, and was feeling positive about my running schedule for the next two months. I very quickly went from running 15-20 km a week, alongside step classes, spinning and regular strength training, to running 50-60 km with no room for anything else. Every run counted, and I alternated between endurance and speed sessions to build up my half marathon base. I had to miss a couple of weeks after having three wisdom teeth removed, but I pretty much stuck to my training schedule like glue. By the middle of June running was turning into something I had to do, rather than something I looked forward to, and I knew I was ready to get out on the road and get it over with.