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!
Today’s blog post is slightly momentous (aren’t they all?) as I’m writing it from the living room of apartment number three. Last week we packed up our worldly goods for the fourth time in 10 months and moved across the bridge to Downtown Vancouver. It turns out I’m building quite the collection of ‘stuff’ as our belongings have gone from filling three suitcases to filling a Ford Escape SUV. With the seats down. This, however, is of little importance to me because we have a walk in closet and a storage locker in the basement, which means I’m allowed to collect all the rubbish I like. So there.
Anyway, on with the apartment itself. So we’re living in the heart of Downtown, just around the corner from the main intersection of Robson and Burrard. We’re on the top floor of a seven storey building, and we have a balcony that looks out at a number of apartment buildings and offices. We’re less than a minute’s walk from a supermarket, a Starbucks, a pub and a Cineplex, and we can see into our gym from the living room (now that’s motivation). Most importantly, we’re less than three blocks from the SkyTrain station, which means our office move at the end of the month will slash my morning commute to approximately fifteen minutes. Oh yes.
The apartment itself is really, really lovely. Although I’m going to miss living in our beloved beachside community of Kits, I won’t miss old buildings with water issues and broken elevators. Our new building isn’t super new, but the apartment is very recently refurbished with a brand new kitchen and bathroom. The last lick of paint went on the ceiling the day we moved in, and it’s so exciting to be living in a new and modern environment. It’s a one bedroom, but the open plan living/kitchen area means that it still feels spacious, and it’s great to finally have a dining table with actual chairs!
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.
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.