I should have written this post two weeks ago, when the snow was actually here. Instead, I was mostly running around the seawall being really excited about winter and Christmas. I know it sounds crazy being excited about snow when I live in Canada, but when it comes to the white stuff I might as well be back in Southampton. We hardly EVER get snow, so it’s kind of a big deal when it happens. SO much so that I forgot to write this post. Then the snow went, December happened and life got in the way. Oooops.
It’s been weirdly mild this week (the temperature is back in double figures) and although the warmer temperatures are nice, it’s ruling out any chance of the current torrential rain turning into snow. There’s now less than two weeks until I’m back at the Washington State cabin for Christmas so it better get colder soon, at least south of the border, so we can have our white Christmas. Until then, I’ll remember the blissful two days when we had snow in November.
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.
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!
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.
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!
After 11 months in Vancouver, I’m happy to be writing this post curled up on the sofa of my house in Shotley Gate, near Ipswich, in Suffolk, England. The Christmas tree is up, the wreath is on the door, and I’m watching The A Team on Sky. I’ve been back in the country for a week now, and I still have another two weeks before I fly back to Vancouver. I’ve spent time with my family in Ipswich, friends in Southampton and grandparents in Basingstoke. I haven’t checked my work emails once, and am well and truly on vacation.
The flight from Vancouver was better than I expected it to be; I didn’t sleep or watch many movies, but I did close my eyes and listen to Westlife for 2 straight hours (oh yes). I arrived at Heathrow very, very tired but very, very excited to see my parents waiting with a huge ‘Welcome Home’ sign and a UK SIM card. Priorities indeed. I managed to stay awake for the drive back to Ipswich, and thoroughly enjoyed the toasted cheese sandwich that was waiting for me when I arrived. My first evening meal was an infamous family speciality: sausage meat pie with mashed potato, vegetables and a lot of gravy. How very British.
Once I got home it felt like I’d never been away, and it was the same when I arrived in Southampton. I was nervous about what it would be like being back on campus, but I had a fantastic few days of coffees, lunches and dinners with friends. I found myself repeatedly pinching myself to remind myself that being back wasn’t a dream, and more importantly that Vancouver wasn’t either. I was surprised at how easy it was to settle back into old patterns, and before long I was complaining about the prices of drinks on campus and fighting for a seat on the bus to town. The only difference was that this time I was openly celebrating drinking soda with lime cordial (finally), and paying for the bus with a £20 note as opposed to exact change (a luxury). Catching up with friends didn’t feel like a whole year had passed, and the awkwardness I’d worried about just didn’t appear. It was a little surreal being back in Starbucks in Southampton High Street after so long, but this time I savoured my toffee nut mocha, knowing I couldn’t get that flavour in Canada.
Today marks the 10month anniversary of my Canadian adventure, and also one month until I arrive back home for my Christmas Vacation (Holiday Roooooooooaaaad). It’s been 10 months since I saw my friends, 10 months since I walked my dogs, and 10 months since I had dinner with my family. When I first booked my flight back I was disappointed to be returning home so early in December as it wasn’t ideal to be using up so many of my previous vacation days at this time of year. In reality it turns out I’ll have plenty to spare after all, and the timing is in fact perfect. I have had an amazing 2011 and couldn’t be happier in Vancouver (well, the Canucks could pick up their game this season), but I am beyond excited to be returning home for three and half weeks.
Those of you who know me will not be surprised to know that the planning has well and truly started. Facebook messages have been sent, dinner reservations made and travel plans arranged. When I arrive back at the airport the boy and I will be heading out separate ways. Him to spend some time with friends in London and me to go straight back home with my family, where I’ll spend a relaxing few days being jet lagged, playing on the Wii and eating British cheese.
It’s my birthday on December 14th, and I’m celebrating with my family and grandparents during the day then meeting the boy in London that evening. From there we’ll travel onto Southampton to catch up with friends before stopping off in Winchester on the way to Basingstoke to visit my other grandparents on the way back home. The next few days will be spent travelling in and out of London and more coffee, lunch and dinner dates before returning home for Christmas. I’ll be visiting Cambridge between Christmas and New Year, then seeing in 2011 back in London before flying back out to Vancouver in early January (date TBC when flight is eventually booked).
It’s going to be a busy few weeks, but one I absolutely cannot wait for. I’m excited to see my friends, excited to see my family, and excited to see just how I’ll feel about being back in the UK after my year away. The strangest part of the whole trip will be not being at work for over three weeks, which is hard to imagine after the craziness of the past few months. Checking out of my Canadian life and back into the UK will be a little like stepping into a parallel universe, and I can’t wait to find out what I’ve missed. The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on!