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And then there was an earthquake…

Writing a new blog post has been on my to-do list since November. It didn’t budge by the beginning or even the middle of December, mostly due to lack of inspiration for an interesting post. I started this blog in September 2010 to document my experience moving to, and living in, Vancouver. It’ll be five years next week since I got on the place, and life here has gone from an extended vacation to…well, just life.

I used to fill my posts with of all of the funny cultural differences I was experiencing in Canada and what I missed about the UK. Five years on, those topics are pretty much done to death, I feel that much more displaced every time I go back to England and I can’t wait to come ‘home’ to Vancouver.

I went back for a week-long trip just before Christmas to attend an old friend’s wedding and catch up with friends and family. I spent most of the time wandering round in a bit of a daze noticing really tiny things about the UK that I’d never really considered before (those soft drink bottles really are TINY compared to the North American standard). On the outside I was a normal English person whose accent maybe had a bit of a twang, or then again maybe you were imagining it. On the inside I was screaming “you all think I’m like you, because I sound like you, but I’m not. I’m different and I have a whole new life and no idea how to function in this one anymore. How the hell do I respond to ‘alright?'”

So I didn’t write about that trip home, and I didn’t write about Christmas either. I used to to new year’s resolution posts but they were a bit pointless as none of the resolutions ever lasted longer than it took to proofread and hit ‘publish’. I had no idea what I was going to write about next, but knew I had to figure out something before the end of another month with no post.

And then there was an earthquake. If that’s not something to write about, I don’t know what is.

I tried to get an early night last night, but was woken up at 11:39pm by a quake ranging somewhere from 4.3-4.8. The shaking only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to mess with my suddenly awake senses and confuse the hell out of me.

quake

It was a pretty minor one in the grand scheme of earthquakes, but my panic in the moment was whether this was a pre-cursor to ‘the big one’, which could hit Vancouver any day now (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google The Big One Vancouver). It wasn’t helped by my the other half running into the bedroom clutching our earthquake kit yelling ‘This is it! This is it!’

Turns out it wasn’t it, but we evacuated the building anyway, just in case. The dog embraced the freezing cold midnight walk round the park and I made a mental note to add a hat and scarf to our kit. After scouring Twitter, phoning/texting half of Vancouver and speculating with the neighbours in the lobby (all 10 of them who got out of bed), we headed back upstairs. Funnily enough, neither of us slept very well. It’s amazing how one little earthquake can also be one huge reminder about the very real danger of the big one, which will be about 1000 times worse than last night. And all jokes aside, will be beyond terrifying and totally devastating.

Anyway, the internet is full of some pretty hilarious Vancouver earthquake memes today (and I admit to feeling a little smug that we already had our kit prepared), but it does get you thinking. If the big one could happen when I’m fully clothed, wearing comfortable shoes and have my contact lenses in, that would be awesome.

quakememe.jpg

2015: The year of endless sunshine, smoke and a diamond ring

What can I say? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. There are so many blog posts that I meant to write but didn’t get round to, and now I’m wondering whether they’re even relevant anymore.

I wanted to write about that time I decided to ‘shake things up’ and get a tattoo. Then I was going to write about my first trip to gorgeous Galliano Island where I sunbathed, hiked and got driven home from the pub in a school bus by a man playing a drum kit above his head while I tapped along with a maraca. Then I was going to write about the wildfires across BC that caused smoky skies all across Vancouver for a week, dashing our plans for a weekend hiking in Whistler. THEN I was going to write about how we went to Golden Ears Park instead and walked through the forest to a waterfall where the man only went and got down on one knee…eeeeek! We’ve been together almost 8 years, including moving to Vancouver together from the UK, so it was extra special that we got engaged in such a ‘Canadian’ location. The last couple of weeks have passed by in a complete blur of excited phone calls, engagement parties (yes multiple, I’m a very lucky girl) and staring at my left ring finger. Talk about shaking things up.

Shocked doesn't even begin to cover it!

Shocked doesn’t even begin to cover it.

It still hasn't sunk in!

It still hasn’t sunk in!

The best part is, things aren’t going to calm down any time soon. We head to Oregon on Wednesday for an extra long weekend and our first time exploring inland Oregon. We’ll be enjoying some much needed R&R while checking off four of the seven wonders of Oregon: Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Smith Rock and Crater Lake. A week after we get back, the fiancé’s (oooh!) parents arrive from the UK for a two week trip which includes five days in San Francisco. A couple of weeks after they leave my parents arrive for three weeks and we start their visit with a weekend in Tofino. And then it’s practically Thanksgiving and we’ll eat a big roast dinner and have a nap. Phewwww.

While I can’t promise I’ll get around to writing all of those blog posts any time soon (except the tattoo one, I really want to write that one!), I can promise that I’ll keeping enjoying life here in Vancouver. For more ‘in the moment’ updates about the craziness that is 2015 you can follow me on instagram. Who said odd numbered years were bad ones?*

*Oh wait, that was me. Shows what I know.

Four years in Canada: Advice from the Professional Working Holiday-ers

This month marks four years since I left the UK for beautiful Vancouver. In some ways January 2011 seems so long ago, but in other ways the time has absolutely flown. My first Canada-versary was very special as one year living abroad was a huge achievement and a pretty big deal, if I do say so myself. My second Canada-versary was important as I was beginning to feel much more settled and was starting to see what my future life here would actually be like. My third Canada-versary was huge in that I was actually starting to live that future, what with my Permanent Residence and permanent puppy. My fourth Canada-versay feels….pretty much the same as last year. I’m still very settled, I still love living here, and I still don’t see myself moving home any time soon (sorry parents). I also still don’t have a Canadian accent, I still don’t watch CFL (or NFL) and I still haven’t been to the Rockies. Ho hum.

Celebrating with my amazing BUNAC-ers <3

Celebrating with my amazing BUNAC-ers ❤

I celebrated my fourth Canada-versary with my fellow BUNAC ’11 crew. There are six of us who met on the BUNAC group flight from LHR to YVR on January 11, 2011, who are still living in Vancouver today. Three of us are Permanent Residents, two are going through the PR application process and one found out she’s actually a Canadian citizen (jealous!). Booking that group flight remains the best decision of my entire life, and it’s fun to reconnect and remember that day with people who were there with me. We had some dinner and drinks at Brown’s Social House in Kits, where we spent a lot of time when we first arrived.

The girls. Just because.

The girls. Just because.

This year I decided my obligatory Canada-versary blog post should be a bit more interesting than just this bla bla about me, so I asked my working holiday companions what advice they would give to others who are planning or thinking about planning a move abroad. I waited until the end of the night to ask this and then recorded the conversation on my phone…the evidence of which I’ll keep just in case any of them any become famous some day. The short, clean tips are below:

  • Be prepared to take whatever work you can to get by. Living abroad is an experience in itself, and starting off with a less than ideal job still beats not living abroad. Think of it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things
  • Save, save and save some more. The more money you can bring with you, the better your experience will be. The minimum guidelines really are a minimum – you’ll be surprised how quickly a cellphone, deposit, first month’s rent and initial socializing and sightseeing will drain your support funds
  • Leave your expectations at home. Keep an open mind and try not to plan too much or set unrealistic goals. Living abroad is probably going to be nothing like you think it’s going to be
  • Celebrate your successes. Everyone has hard days when they move away from home, whether it’s missing family and friends or failing to meet any of the unrealistic goals you set yourself (see above). If it feels like things aren’t going right, just remember what an amazing achievement living abroad actually is. You did something AMAZING and it’s OK if every little thing doesn’t go right all the time
  • Say yes as much as possible. Moving countries is a life changing experience, and you’ll be surprised at how many other new opportunities come your way just from being open to them
  • Work hard. Whether you are trying to carve out a long term career or just save money for travels and beer, put your head down when you can and you’ll reap the rewards
  • Play up your accent! Sounding different to everyone else can be unnerving, but it can also help you stand out in a good way. When it comes to job interviews, meeting new people or just ordering take-out,you ALWAYS have a talking point, and being memorable is never a bad thing

There you have it folks, advice from the professionals. Good luck to all of you brave souls considering a move abroad, and here’s to my fifth year in Canada. Bring it on, 2015!

Dave’s 1st Birthday!

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you all to…1 year old Dave! Today is Dave’s birthday, and is the day that I no longer have a something-month-old puppy but a 1-year-old dog. I half hoped to wake up to a relaxed, calm, well-behaved dog who walks in a straight line and doesn’t pull on his leash…alas that did not happen. Instead, I was woken up by a ball of fur who wanted a cuddle on the bed as he was still tired from his birthday party the night before. Of course, we celebrated in style with a black and white themed gathering, including banners, balloons and black & white snacks.

Dave all dressed up!

Dave all dressed up!

 

Celebrating with his family!

Celebrating with his family

Dave is very grateful for all of the wonderful gifts he received, and particularly enjoyed dressing up in his own costume for the night! The thing I’m most grateful for is that Dave most likely didn’t ingest any of the rat poison that was left out on the patio of a coffee shop, and that the hour at the vets before the party and associated bill are probably for nothing. Dave is wonderful at picking his timing for these things…but we are really just glad he’s OK. Dave’s party was also an opportunity to debut a little video of his first year, so please enjoy the highlights below. Here’s to another year, Dave!

Three Years On: Celebrating Another Canada-versary!

It’s that time of year again – January 11th 2014 marked three years since I arrived in Canada. Wow. It’s been a big year and a lot of things have changed since my last Canada-versary. In a good way, I should add. I have all kinds of feelings about celebrating this latest milestone, so hear we go…

I’m a Permanent Resident

This time last year I was a temporary worker on a IEC working holiday visa, and now I’m a fully-fledged Permanent Resident. Yey! Although nothing in my day to day life has really changed (still have to spend hours in border line-ups, still can’t vote) I’m one step closer to the illusive passport, and it’s a big step. There’s something about knowing that if I chose to go back to studying I’d be classed as a Canadian student rather than International that makes me feel happy. This is definitely a good thing; changes recently proposed to Canadian citizenship guidelines mean that I may be waiting an extra two years before I can submit my application. Better get used to this Permanent Resident status as it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon.

All smiles at the border when we received our Permanent Residence in April, 2013.

All smiles at the border when we received our Permanent Residence in April, 2013.

I have a dog child

I didn’t quite realize just how much getting a puppy would change my life. And I’m not just talking about the endless poop bags and excursions limited to 4 hours. Dave is part of our family, and I find it so funny to think of him growing up in Vancouver, having no idea that we’re not from Canada. To him, we’re humans who give him meals and take him for walks, and we all live together in Canada. And that’s the way it will stay. Having a puppy wouldn’t stop us from moving back to the UK if we needed to, but it has made it all the more unlikely. Our short to medium term future is definitely on this side of the pond.

Puppy, or bunny?

Puppy, or bunny?

I have family here

Yes, my younger brother moved to Vancouver with his girlfriend in June of last year. It’s been really fun having them here, and I see them every couple of weeks to continue our everlasting hunt for cheap, good pubs. It also meant that we got to spend our first our first Christmas away from home with each other. Our parents come to visit in TWO WEEKS (excited, much?) and I can’t wait to have all four of us in one place.

Siblings in the snow

Siblings in the snow

I like my job

Or should I say, jobs. Now that I’m a contractor my employment situation has technically never been more unstable. Despite this, the hours are still coming and I’ve had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects with some amazing people. Vancouver is all about who you know, so the more I achieve here the more I wonder what I’d do if I went back home.

Scenes from the Walk for Reconciliation that I was lucky enough to work on in September 2013

Scenes from the Walk for Reconciliation that I was lucky enough to work on in September 2013

I cheer for Canada in the Olympics

Not over Team GB, of course. But being the Winter Olympics (or as they call them in Canada, the Olympics) there are many more maple leafs than there are Union Jacks on TV. I happened to see Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe receive their Gold and Silver medals in the women’s moguls while I was in the gym, and almost wept into the cross-trainer. I was a very proud Canadian in that moment, and the lump in my throat was very real. Then I started thinking about how I had a lump in my throat and my connection to Team Canada, and that made the lump get a little bigger. If only Citizenship & Immigration Canada had been watching me…they would have presented me with a passport on the spot.

The Dufour-Lapointe sisters at their medal ceremony. Go Team Canada!

The Dufour-Lapointe sisters at their medal ceremony. Go Team Canada!

I don’t feel the need to go home as much

I still miss my family and friends, but I miss the UK less and less. I haven’t been back in 14 months, and don’t really feel the pull to the Tesco cheese aisle the way I used to. Three years is longer than I spent at University, so it’s more than long enough for me to have built some amazing friendships in Vancouver (the strongest ones with those I met on the plane over!). I miss so many of my friends in the UK, but time apart is a good test and my I appreciate my friendships with those who have kept in touch with even more. I do wish I could see my parents more often but I’m so glad I get to speak to them on Skype every week. Going over a year without seeing them has been tough, but it’s made me realize that I could survive another year before going home to see them. Which would be two years away from the UK. The problem with this is that I do really want to see my Grandparents. I know they’re not able to travel all this way to visit me, so I want to make sure I go back to spend some time with them. Because of them (and my beautiful dog, Freddie), I’m thinking about a 2014 visit after all, but it’s to see them rather than see the UK. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wouldn’t stop in at Primark on the way back…

It's Freddie!

It’s Freddie!

A Very Cabin Christmas

This post is very late coming, and Christmas now seems like a very long time ago. It’s been a pretty hectic 2014 so far and I’m only just getting round to writing this. Hopefully, you’re still interested in how I spent my first Christmas away from home.

The morning we left to drive down to the cabin did not start well. Dave had a little upset stomach emergency and we ended up rushing him to the vet. Luckily all was well, and we were on our merry way with some pills for a minor bacterial infection, only an hour behind schedule. We just had my brother and his girlfriend in the car with us as our other two friends were coming down after work on Christmas Eve. The initial wait at the border was only about 30 minutes, and Dave was waived through without any questions. My brother was not so lucky, as he hadn’t been into the US in the past 90 days so needed to buy a visa waiver.  We were all asked to get out of the car and line up inside the building with my brother, and Dave and I were directed to a kennel at the back of the building. When I say kennel, I mean 10ft x 4ft concrete cell with wire mesh walls. There was no way I was leaving tiny little 10lb Dave alone in the freezing cold, so I stayed with him. I was plenty warm in my ski jacket and James’ coat, and had my iPhone blasting out my Christmas playlist on full volume. No-one came to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be pacing up and down inside a kennel, so I was still there when the others finally reached the front of the line two hours later. I dashed inside to meet them at the desk, and ten minutes later we were finally able to enter the US.

The view from the border kennel...

The view from the border kennel…

Looking not so happy in the kennel

Looking not so happy in the kennel

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Feeling a little bit Festive

Today is December 6th (though WordPress thinks I’m on UK time, and will say that this was posted on December 7th), and this December is already feeling longer than most. Usually at this time of year I’m packing my suitcase to head back to the UK for a two or three week vacation, which includes Christmas and New Year. This year is my first Christmas away from home, and I’m spending it at a cabin in Mount Baker with my brother and friends. We don’t head down until the 23rd, which means that my December in Vancouver is suddenly longer than two weeks. I haven’t been overly impressed with how Vancouver does Christmas for the last couple of years, so I’m hoping that this year is different.

First, we have a tree! We haven’t bothered getting a Christmas tree the last two Decembers because we’ve always been heading back to the UK before some people even get round to decorating. We just wait until we get home. Picking out the Christmas tree is always something that I do with my Dad, and always involves strict testing criteria of symmetry, bushiness and how-tall-can-we-go-without-Mum-minding-ness. Then the tree goes in the garage for a week so that the branches can drop before we start decorating. The decorations are a mix of old and souvenir baubles of all different colors and styles, with multi-colored lights and all kinds of tinsel. I know Mum would really love a tree with more of a classic theme (think wooden decorations), but Dad and I are in charge of the decorating, so that’s that. Saying that, I’m not there to supervise this year, so maybe Mum will win after all!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!

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Dave by Numbers: New Puppy Comes Home!

This post is possibly the one I’ve been the MOST excited to write. It joins such life events as ‘arriving in Canada’ and ‘getting Permanent Residency’ in the Lizzie’s Greatest Moments Hall of Fame. This post is all about Dave. For many of you reading this, Dave needs no introduction. He has existed in our minds since summer 2012 (way, way before he was a twinkle in anyone’s eye) and finally came home with us on November 2nd, 2013. Our first few weeks together have been interesting, challenging, tiring and awesome, and I’m excited to share this video and Dave’s story.

 

310 – The number of miles we drove from Vancouver to Portland (and then back again) to collect Dave. The border delays and traffic on the journey down were so bad that it look 10 hours to get to our hotel. So much for my tax-free shopping. Despite this, we saved over $1200 compared to the cost of buying a puppy from Canada. Plus all that money I would have spent in Macy’s…

0645 – The time in the morning that we collected Dave from his breeder. Our meeting place was a deserted car park outside her work, and it was still so dark at that time in the morning. I was really nervous about the initial meeting, but as he bounded across the tarmac to us we knew instantly that he was Dave! He was friendly and affectionate and didn’t whimper at all when we settled him in the car. Apart from a terrifying case of the hiccups, Dave’s journey home was calm, quiet and mostly nap-filled.

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All Change, All Change, All Change!

The fact that it’s been six weeks since my last post is an indicator of just how busy this summer has been. I had an amazing three weeks with my in-laws from mid-Wales, and enjoyed a whole month without rain. I visited Astoria, Cannon Beach and Gibsons (twice). I hiked the BCMC trail, ate brunch on Main Street and took advantage of Earl’s Mexican Bulldog Mondays – all for the first time.  I continued my summer traditions of reading magazines on the balcony, drinking coffee on the seawall and enjoying a cocktail in the gorgeous Reflections bar. Now Labour Day is here, and it’s time for me to start looking forward into fall. Usually I’d be disappointed that summer is coming to an end, but the last few months of 2013 (and beyond) are just holding way too many fun things for me to even think about the post-sunshine blues. Here’s a taster of what’s in store for me between now and the C word (Christmas, of course…).

1. Reconciliation Week – September 16th – 22nd 

Those of you who read my post on my new job at Reconciliation Canada will know that the week commencing September 16th is a big one in my calendar. Reconciliation Canada is hosting three major events during Reconciliation Week, including a traditional burning ceremony (Monday 16th), a visually stunning canoe gathering (Tuesday 17th), and top top it off, the biggest event of all: the 50,000 participant Walk for Reconciliation & A New Way Forward Celebration (Sunday 22nd). My job has been to lead the recruitment, scheduling, on-boarding and training of almost 1,000 volunteers who will make these events happen. With less than three weeks to go until it’s all over, the busyness starts now. On a related note, today is where my social life ends for a while…see you all on September 23rd (unless you’re someone who believes in renewing relationships among all Canadians, in which case I’ll see you at our Reconciliation Week events, won’t I?)! As I also mentioned in my previous blog post, my contract will be ending at the end of September, and I’ll be looking for another job. I’m not in a huge rush (mainly due to the length of this list), but there are couple of potential options floating around that I’m really excited about. Watch this space.

Join us in the Walk for Reconciliation on September 22nd in Downtown Vancouver

Join us in the Walk for Reconciliation on September 22nd in Downtown Vancouver

2. New Apartment – October 1st

After two years in our beloved Downtown apartment, we’re officially on the hunt for a new home from October 1st. We’re looking to stay in the Downtown core (Yaletown to West End) as we love our location so much, except this time it needs to be a pet friendly building (more to come on that). We’ve been scouring craigslist on the half hour, every half hour, and have a number of viewings lined up this week. We’re hoping to get somewhere sorted in the next week or so while I have evening hours available to look at places, otherwise the madness of Reconciliation Week will kick in and the manfriend will be searching solo. Pet friendly places are generally more rare of than their no-pet counterparts, and the laws of supply and demand have therefore driven the prices up substantially. Saying that, we’re really pleased with the viewings we’ve been able to secure this week, and have everything crossed that we find somewhere soon. We’ll really miss our current place, but are looking forward to moving somewhere unfurnished that we can customize just as we like. Wish us luck!

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Another Year, Another Canada Day

On July 1, 2013, Canada turned 146. This year, I was much more excited about celebrating my new country’s birthday than I was in 2012. After the excitement of my first Canada Day in Vancouver in 2011, last year was a bit of an anti-climax. I’d seen the parade and the fireworks and wasn’t overly impressed by either of them. I can’t remember what I did to celebrate and it obviously wasn’t blog-worthy enough for me to write about.

This year was different. My brother had just arrived in Vancouver, as had the sunshine, and I was gagging for a long weekend after the craziness of starting my new job. Saying that, I did start my Canada Day by working…but it turned out to be a great decision as I was supporting our booth at Canada Place. The atmosphere was electric, with the hundred thousand people in attendance blurring into a sea of red and white. The Reconciliation Canada colours are pale blue and red, so we decided to try and stand out from the crowd by wearing blue. Stand out we did, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tourists from outside Canada who had dressed in their Canada-branded best for the occasion. It was a hot day, and the two hours I spent in the sun handing out information about the Walk for Reconciliation in September flew by. The mood was definitely one of excitement and celebration, and I couldn’t help but catch some of it myself. I was inspired by the sight of a Citizenship Ceremony taking place in Canada Place in the afternoon; hopefully that will be me in a few years time!

My brother and I, future Canadians?

My brother and I, future Canadians?

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