July 11th marked my six month anniversary in Vancouver, and also tipped me over the half way point of my first year living abroad in Canada. How time flies when you’re having fun, and fun I have most definitely had. Work, friends and travel have taken over my life to the extent that I can hardly remember what living in Southampton, England, was like, and definitely can’t imagine being back there.
The first thing to report at this major milestone is that my visa has now been approved for 2012, and my Letter of Introduction (the document I had to immigration on the way into the country) is sitting in my inbox waiting to be activated on January 11th2012, the day my current visa expires. I was pretty certain at the three month mark that I wanted to stay here for longer than my original year, and now I’m at the half way line there’s no going back. To England that is. I’m still not sure yet whether Vancouver could be a permanent home, but home it is for the time being.
On the flip side, a number of our original group from the BUNAC flight have now left Vancouver, with more and more ‘biting the dust’ the further into the year we get. Some have gone on to further travel, some to University, and others back home. Some have shortened their trip, and some have extended it. Many were only ever here in the short term whereas others, like me, have applied for their 2012 visas and are looking to stay past Christmas. Either way, January 5th 2011 seems like a lifetime ago.
July 1st 2011 marked my first Canada Day in Vancouver, but it also marked the end of our 6 month sublet and the day we moved apartments. It was with a formidable sense of déjà vu that we packed our belongings at the end of June as July 1stis moving day for students back in Southampton, and the day that I’ve moved house for the past six years. This particular move went very smoothly, thanks to the help of my Guardian Angel/friend who turned up with her surprisingly roomy car to transport our worldly possessions to our new place three blocks over.
Our prized belongings contain largely clothes, so it was essential that we found somewhere fully furnished to move into. Bed linen, plates, pans…you name it, we need it. We struggled to find somewhere in the area that we wanted (i.e. the beach) at first, but 10 days before we were due to be made homeless we found a three month sublet in a very large and imposing building on the edge of Kits Point, and at the bottom of the bridge to Downtown. It’s definitely a little more cosy than our last apartment, but the bright and colourful interior and proximity to the beach more than make up for it.
Today has been one of those days where I’ve been having some of those moments. The ‘oh right, I live in Canada now’ kind of moments.
It’s easier than it sounds to forget that on any given day I’m over 4700 miles from home as I’m not only settled inVancouver, but firmly established in my own work/life routine. I often find myself sitting on the bus checking Facebook on my phone (nothing new there) when I’ll see that it’s a friend’s birthday, or an annual event I used to go to, and I’ll suddenly realize that I’m travelling down West Broadway, in a hockey jersey, on my way to work at Canada’s only national cancer charity. Crazy. Six months ago I left my old life in Southampton so excited but completely unable to imagine what my new life inVancouverwould be like. Now I know, and I love it. Here’s a little taste of a day in the life of me:
6:30am – The alarm goes off, it’s time to get up.
7:40am– Leave for work. My daily commute involves a 10 minute walk to the bus stop, a 20 minute bus ride, a wait for another 10 minute bus ride, and a 10 minute walk to work. But hey, at least I’m not sitting on the tube.
8:30am – Arrive at work. I work for the Canadian Cancer Society BCY (British Columbia& theYukon) and the Greater Vancouver Regional office is on the border of Vancouver and Burnaby, another city to the East. My job as aVolunteer Engagement Coordinator involves attracting, recruiting and managing volunteers, as well as working with the rest of the team to improve the volunteer experience and make us the charity of choice in BCY. My day can include everything from interviewing volunteers and designing training modules to discussing campaign progress with our Revenue Development teams and organizing a volunteer recognition event. Yes, I’m a geek. But I love it!
This week marks the three month anniversary of my arrival in Canada, which seems about the right time for a general update – a ‘maple musing’ if you will. The realisation that I’ve been in Vancouver for a quarter of a year already has come as somewhat of a surprise, as time seems to move at an entirely different speed here. On one hand, I cannot believe the time has flown by so quickly. A quarter of a year? Mid April? Really? It seems like just yesterday I was standing at the airport, laden with luggage and saying goodbyes. On the other hand, I cannot believe it’s only been three months, as the longer I live here the longer it feels like I’ve been here forever. And that I could be here forever.
As they say, forever is a long time, and perhaps too strong a word at this stage in the game, but it’s definitely safe to say that I’m very much enjoying my time in Vancouver and that I have no plans to run back to Blighty for the time being. I have a great job, great apartment and I live a minute’s walk away from a great beach. I’ve done some great things and had some great experiences, including a Canucks hockey game, a trip to Seattle, an Olympic anniversary celebration and day trips to the ski slopes. I’ve met some great people, particularly in my team at work, and I’ve planned a lot more great things to come, such as a weekend in Whistler.
That’s not to suggest that everything has been, well, great. At least not totally, all the time. I wouldn’t say I’ve been homesick as such, but I do miss my family and can’t wait for them to come and visit. Three months is long enough for my trip away to be more than just a trip, and I’ve been here for the right amount of time to miss my British friends but not to make Canadian ones. My fellow BUNACers from the group flight are starting to head back home one by one, and by the summer I’ll be one of the only few remaining. The cost of living in Vancouver is much higher than I anticipated, making my dream West End apartment with gym and pool seem even further out of reach. With my new job I can now afford to travel to the places I read about in my guide book, but I no longer have the time to. And don’t even get me started on the banking system.
Of course, all of these annoyances pale into insignificance when thinking about what I’d be doing now if I was still in Southampton. My point is, since arriving in Vancouver there have been far more downs than I thought there would be (making new friends is proving difficult) but far more ups too (fantastic job, lovely apartment). Moving to another country definitely hasn’t been easy, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t take it back. So much so that my second Working Holiday Visa has been applied for and conditionally approved, and it looks like I’ll be staying for an extra year. In 2012 the world might be flocking to London, but I’ll be heading straight back to Vancouver.