So, I’ve been in Vancouver for 2 weeks now and I think I’m well overdue to give ya’ll an update. It’s been a crazy, crazy ride so far… I’ve learnt so much and been so busy sorting things out that I’ve barely had time to press pause and think! So here it is, a wee summary of the most significant occurrences in my Vancouver life so far.
On Saturday the 18th of February I took the hugest leap of my life so far and landed on a direct flight from Auckland to Vancouver. Excitement overtook nerves as I hugged my family (minus the little brother Nateo) and Mike goodbye (my eyes may have leaked a little but I think it’s because someone was cutting onions next to me how annoying) and prepared for the 12 hours and 20 minute flight… with a tail wind. I managed to score the window seat, and as I flew out of Auckland at 8.10pm I got to witness a pretty spectacular sunset. I was really excited about this until I realised that I had to climb over my neighbours every time I wanted to stretch my legs… not an ideal situation to be in seeing as they were sleeping 90% of the time and I was too shy to wake them up. As a result I literally only got up twice. Don’t ask me how I did it, but I did. Maybe it’s because I have a weird phobia of flushing the toilet on aeroplanes which sort of added to my reluctance towards getting out of my seat. But maybe not. Who knows!?
I landed in an overcast, rainy, and 6-degree Vancouver. After waiting for my visa to be cleared and my bags to arrive, I went out to meet the Australian girl I’m living with. She had kindly offered to come along and help me take public transport back to our house, something which I’m incredibly grateful for – I have no idea how I could’ve taken a suitcase, a 70L hiking pack, and two carry-ons halfway across a strange city with just an address for guidance. The first thing that confused me (and still does) is how everyone walks and drives on the opposite side of the road. It seems like such a trivial thing, but I just can’t figure it out. I’m constantly walking into people or blocking footpaths because I just can’t get through my head that you need to stick to the RIGHT, not the left! I guess once something’s been engrained in your memory for the past 21 years it’s not gonna be that easy to overcome.
Finally we made it back to my accommodation – a cute wee house in North Vancouver, about a 35 minute bus ride into the city. I’m living with a young christian couple, their 2 (really cute) kids, and the Australian girl who’s also boarding with them. They were so welcoming and friendly that I straight away felt at home. After about a 15 minute yarn I politely excused myself and had a decent 3 hour nap (at this stage I’d been awake for about 20 hours) then woke up to the smell of homemade pizza (what a great thing to wake up to right?). I stayed awake long enough to inhale 3 slices of pizza and then fell back into a deeeeep sleeeep.
On Sunday, I went to church with the family. It’s called Coastal Church, a cool old brick building wedged between high rises and restaurants in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I got the biggest shock when I got off the bus, looked across the road and saw a huge shiny TRUMP sign glaring at me. Turns out it’s a brand new building causing, as you can imagine, a whole lotta controversy (a part of me was like what?? Trump is real? This is actually a real thing?) . But anyway. Moving on. The people at Coastal were awesome, the message was great, and I left feeling really happy and excited for what God’s got in store for me in my time here in Vancouver.
Monday was errands day. Pretty much a whole day dedicated to a) sleeping in and b) sorting out my life. I had to do bank stuff, and phone stuff, and visa stuff… I’d heard stories about people who’ve really struggled with this sort of thing so I was a little worried at first, but luckily it all went really smoothly. Throughout my day I realised that Vancouver is actually really similar to Auckland. It’s a big city, it has lots of shopping (although VAN definitely has the upper hand when it comes to variety and quantity. I could shop for days. Literally. Someone needs to stop me), it’s really culturally diverse, there’s a lot of people and buses and traffic, and it’s right next to the harbour. I don’t know whether it’s just the novelty of being in a new city or what, but I definitely prefer Vancouver over Auckland, despite their similarities. There’s a sort of freshness and energy to Vancouver, and I guess you can’t beat the fact that you can see snow-capped mountains (Grouse, Seymour, Cypress…) from downtown. That’s pretty spectacular.
Tuesday was my first day of work. [For those of you who don’t know, I’ve got a 3-month internship with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) through my uni’s internship programme ‘internz’.] I was pretty nervous to meet the team and find out what I’d be working on during my time here, but the fact that I’d worked with the company in Wellington before coming to Vancouver helped calm me down a bit. Meeting the team for the first time, my fears were instantly mitigated. This friendly, tight-knit team of 4 (now 5) made me feel comfortable and confident, and I instantly clicked into their wee office ecosystem. There’s 3 kiwis, a Kansian (a guy from Kansas. Makes sense right?) and a born-and-bred Vancourite – together I think we make a pretty cool team. The most exciting thing about my time here with NZTE is definitely the Canada Rugby World Sevens coming up in a weeks’ time. We’ve got a corporate box, so we’re organising an event over the weekend where our customers and business partners can come along, network, eat (my favourite part) and watch some sevens! My role is to help with the organising and logistics of the event, and to sort of be an extra pair of hands where needed. It’s great, it keeps me super busy, and hey… free ticket to the sevens (which, might I add, has completely sold out. Maybe the Wellington sevens can take some pointers?). So yes. That’s my work. I’m loving it.
Weather wise… well, it’s cold. But it’s a nice cold… not the usual Auckland cold where you feel constantly damp and wet and muggy and icky. No, it’s the sort of fresh, crisp cold where you don’t actually mind being a little on the chilly side because you feel so refreshed. According to all the Vancouverites I’ve bumped into, this winter has been really out of the ordinary. It usually never snows in downtown Vancouver, however this winter it’s snowed multiple times (and we’re forecast for more next week… apparently a snowfall in March is like, UNHEARD OF, so it’s quite cool to be witnessing this record breaking winter… Woohoo!), much to my delight but the local’s dismay. I’ve never witnessed proper snowfall before, so I’m pretty thankful for this random winter weather Vancouver’s been having.
I haven’t really had a chance to get outdoors and explore yet. Because I’m working full time and it’s dark until 7am and then dark again around 5pm, I can’t do much before or after work. So I rely on the weekend (of which I’ve only had one) to give me my adventure fix. So, this weekend, I’ve decided to step completely out of my comfort zone and take a snowboarding lesson to give me my adventure fix for the week. I’ve only ever snowboarded twice (at Snowplanet so it doesn’t really count) so this will be a very interesting experiment. I’m really nervous but hey, how could I come to Canada in their record-breaking-cold-temperature-and-snow winter and not go snowboarding?
So, all in all, I’m really loving Vancouver and I think I shall continue to love it into the foreseeable future. It’s so exciting being in a different country. There’s always something new to learn or observe or visit, and I think the fact that Canada is so similar to New Zealand has also helped me to feel at home here. The people are really similar, there’s a real outdoor adventure focus, and the scenery reminds me a lot of back home. I’m not saying I don’t miss home, because I do (so much), but I think the excitement outweighs the home sickness and nerves I’m experiencing. And I think that’s a pretty great way to be.