Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Some Observations about Vancouver and Canada

*The people are incredibly friendly. At times I'm so caught off guard, I look around waiting for the cameras to be revealed and the big announcement I'm on a reality TV show. I get asked a lot for directions for some reason and whenever I apologise that I don't know and I'm new, the first response is always "Welcome to Canada" and all the places they are meant to be are forgotten.

*The people are extremely patriotic. There is nothing more they love than their country. Which I really like. They're not pompous and arrogant about their country, they just love it. They also tend to think everything outside of their country is bad. Not in a mean way but whenever I say I'm not used to something or this is different, the reply is "You're in Canada now." The same way you'd say to someone running away from an ax murderer, "You're in a safe place now."

*The coffee culture is massive here. I have seen every demographic, race, age and income bracket carrying a takeaway coffee cup. Even their homeless people are rocking their daily Starbucks. And I cannot blame them, there is literally a coffee shop everywhere you turn. There are even drive-thru coffee shops. Because you know how taxing it is to actually park your car and walk into the shop. That comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek but actually writing made me realise how great this would on the morning drive to work.

*The job market is very different here. It's the norm for Canadian employers to take a little longer to get back to you. And I thought Cape Town was laid-back. Vancouver makes us look like Joburg. I've signed up with a few recruitment agencies but even before you get a job, you have to do these admin tests. They test your proficiency in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and email. Whatever skills you thought you had, fly out the window and you wonder "How the fuck do I type?" which was my thought constantly. They also do not always let you know your results. So you have no idea how (badly) you did.

*So. Many. Asian. Babies.

*The place is filled with beautiful people. More importantly skinny people. And I do not know how they do it. Apart from the coffee shops, there are fast food and other eateries everywhere. And they're always full. And the fast food is cheap and can fill you up for the day. As I found out on more than one occasion. I don't even need my usual order of fries on the side. But no one here looks like they are struggling with weight. I secretly hate them for it.

*You walk a lot. There are buses and trains and seabuses but still getting to them takes a bit of walking. I don't miss my car as much as I thought I would but having to plan my day takes longer. I always misjudge the distance. On the plus side, all this walking has made me a lot fitter than I have been in months. And the best bit at the end of the day, I am so tired I don't need to snack on bad food. Which is also readily available.

*This is Vancouver's public library. It has five floors. Self-checkout. A coffee shop. A gift shop. And it's free. First World Bitch!

Ex-Oh! Ex-Oh!

Vancouver, eh!

So last week Tuesday I took an early evening flight to what I hoped would be the big great risk of my life. I've always played it safe so the fact that I hopped on a plane (after years of planning and not spontaneously mind you, I'm not completely crazy) to a place I'd never been, didn't know anyone and was not guaranteed a job was a big thing.

On the day I was chilled. At the airport, much to the disgust of some of my friends (you know who you are girl) I was chilled. On the flight to London, I was chilled. The whole big thing, apart from not being employed ,has been one great big ride and I'm still very happy and not at all scared. Knowing myself, I do expect a freak out soon. One of those panic attacks where I cannot stop crying and look gross and people actively avoid me because I look so bad, they think it's contagious.

So after a long-ass flight to London on British Airways - which was actually lovely. Delicious food (still a fat kid), extra pillow and had an empty seat next to me so I could sleep for a while. I arrived at Heathrow, nearly freaked out at Passport control, both because I was nervous and scared and also because I saw Amish people. Then I made my way to Terminal 2. With about 90 minutes to kill and 20 pounds I soon made friends with all the coffee shops. I also spent way too much time in Boots. Their entire miniature travel range is enough to bankrupt me. I wanted to buy everyone despite the fact that I had proper, normal-sized versions of everything in my suitcase. I ended up only getting some Soap and Glory stuff on their 3-for-2 special.

Since I didn't know when I was next going to be touching down in London town, ever the grownup, I spent the rest of the money on sweets. Mostly for the plane but also for my host. One more coffee and then I made my way to the Air Canada terminal.

Oh Air Canada. After a really good flight on BA, Air Canada was a bit of a change. The flight was safe, the hostesses friendly and the entertainment good but it was just different. A little bit less glam but again, safe and friendly which is all that counts at the end. I also had the best welcome when I got into my seat.

After 9ish hours, I traveled back in time and landed at Vancouver International Airport. Getting through passport control was nice and easy. My bags even arrived a few minutes later. Immigration on the other hand was not as fun. Despite the hot officers in their sexy uniforms (seriously, it was like an advertising campaign) it took forever. Almost two hours later I emerged with a brand new work permit and had it grilled into me I was *not* to stay longer the date on there. They are so serious and strict that I would have given away my first adopted baby if they told me to.

I'd arranged accommodation for the first month through AirBnB. So after letting my host know I was on the way, I got accustomed to the Skytrain. Now at the risk of sounding like a horrible person, I am not au fait with public transport. It's just not something I needed to take in my younger days. I realise I sound awful. Later in life I used the MyCiti but when it came to trains and other buses, I never shall I say had the opportunity. And now I've been spoiled for life. The transport here is fast, clean and the best bit air conditioned. It changes everything. I bought my ticket, dragged my bags on and then sat for about 20 minutes and arrived at the station.

I'm currently staying in Burnaby which is a great suburb outside of Zone 1 and the main city centre. It's beautiful, just the right amount of noise and has what I think is the world's largest shopping mall. It took me two days to see all the shops and now at the risk of getting lost, I only venture to the one side.

The house and my host are very similar to your favourite, crazy aunt. She is lovely, very welcoming and the house is definitely a home. She's been quick to help me with lots of information and made the whole process a lot easier. There are several other people in the house. We don't always see each other but when we do everyone is lovely.

So far, so good!

Ex-Oh! Ex-Oh!