Personal Commencement

Vancouver (20 – 22 July 2013)

It felt utterly incredible as I made my way to the last destination on my 3-month journey. The destination after Vancouver was going to be Singapore. Home. Where had the last 3 months flown to?

My thoughts however were broken by the sight of the sky as the bus approached Montreal. It had turned a dark grey. As we entered the city, it did start to rain. And did it rain!

Although the rain did not keep up through the night, it was clear that the weather in the region was awful by the time I reached the airport. Many flights were cancelled and others, like mine, were delayed. I was not going to reach Vancouver in good time but at least I still had a flight.

Eventually I made it to Vancouver. However I had missed the last train into the city centre and to make matters worse my luggage did not arrive with me. Thankfully Westjet gave me a taxi voucher when I asked for help at their office with transport information. I was hoping to avoid taking a taxi but I got a free ride in one instead.

I have to say that the first service provider one encounters outside of the airport is a very important person. He or she has the power to enhance or mar the impression one has of that city or even country. The taxi driver who drove me to my hotel was a kindly man who, based on his appearance and accent, must have been a migrant from India. I thought he was brilliant. He did not fancy himself to be an F1 racer and so I had a smooth comfortable ride to my hotel.

The main reason I had chosen to come to Vancouver was to visit S. She was my classmate in law school but we became friends when we were colleagues for a few years after that. She had married a guy from Vancouver, K, and so had gone to live in Vancouver. We arranged to meet for breakfast the next morning and since I could not get a change of clothes with my luggage arriving late I had to try not to look too shabby or worse smell bad.

Speaking of appearances, after 3 months on the road, my hair had become quite long. And whenever my hair reaches a certain length I start looking like a hobo. I wonder if anyone had thought that of me in the last few places I had been to.

Meeting S was wonderful. She had brought along K and her daughter M, and she was expecting a second. It was nice to see her again after quite a long while.

Breakfast was at this little eatery called the Red Wagon that looked like it was some distance away from the city centre. I only remember being driven down East Hastings Street which was apparently where all the hobos gathered and tried to sell items that looked like they were nicked. I would later realise that the eatery was in fact along East Hastings except in an area that looked less dodgy. I would walk down the dodgy part the day before I left Vancouver but I got through unmolested. Maybe the hobos all thought that I was one of them with my longish hair.

Although I only got into bed at about 2 am the night before, I agreed to meet at about 8.30 that morning so that we could be assured of a table. We had arrived before the doors were opened and there was already a queue. The eatery was that popular. I cannot remember what I had ordered but I do know that there were pulled pork and eggs. It was a really heavy breakfast but I did enjoy it a lot. I think K did a much better job than I did with finishing up his breakfast. Now what did I say about age catching up on me and killing my appetite along the way? K is older than me!

Since I was in Vancouver to wind down, I did very little other than to take light strolls around the city and afternoon naps. I did however manage to visit one museum, and that was the Vancouver Art Gallery. There were a couple of modern art installations in the gallery but as usual art that was too ‘modern’ seldom piqued my interest. I prefer to look at paintings with more realistic themes.

Vancouver Art Gallery

I think the best strolls in the city could be had along the waterfront. This was right next to the business district and S said that she enjoyed working in a place where she could see the sea and the mountains right from her office window. That sounded very pleasant to me indeed although I would rather see the sea and the mountains from outside an office.

Canada Place

View from Canada Place

By the waterfront

Olympic cauldron in front of the business district

View of Canada Place

From Canada Place, it is possible to walk along the waterfront and reach Stanley Park. This is like the green lung of the city and the perfect place to get away from traffic. S and K drove and introduced me to the park before dinner and I did enjoy our late afternoon visit. I would visit Stanley Park again and make it my last tourist attraction before I went home.

View from Stanley Park

Totem poles at Stanley Park

View from Stanley Park

View from Stanley Park

Mr Stanley himself

Another ‘attraction’ in Vancouver, if one might call it that, was the Granville Island Public Market. It was not a long walk away from the city centre where my hotel was. I particularly enjoyed the view of the island and the surrounding areas from the very tall highway (with pavements for pedestrians of course) that I had to get on to reach the island. As for the market itself, there was the typical Sunday crowd and it did spoil my experience a little since I was such a borderline misanthrope. There were many varieties of food on sale there but I only had a lovely blood orange flavoured ice cream. It was just too crowded for me to enjoy a lunch there!

Granville Island and environs

Walking around Vancouver, I could not help but notice that the city was full of Asians. I knew that Vancouver was the favoured new home of many Chinese migrants in the final decades of the 20th century. K himself had migrated to Vancouver with his parents when he was just a little kid. But seeing something is always different from hearing or reading about it.

I love the weather in Vancouver so much. It did get hot at times but it never got to the baking temperatures of the east coast. There was little to no cloud in the sky the whole time I was there and humidity was very low. I felt so comfortable in Vancouver after all the cold on the mountains and the heat on the east coast. But I wonder what winter is like in Vancouver.

I do not wonder at all that so many people migrated to Vancouver. Even S has made Vancouver her home and she obviously likes it there. To be honest I was not aware of anything exciting going on in the city during my visit although everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun anyway at the weekend. Everything was so calm and peaceful that the city felt like the perfect place to start afresh in.

And with that thought my journey of a lifetime ended. I had started the journey in Israel and then I had gone up to Europe before ending up in Canada. As I waited at the airport in Vancouver, I could not help but think about that evening when I was waiting to board the plane to get to Bangkok from where I would change to an El Al flight to Tel Aviv. That felt like a lifetime ago.

So many things had happened on this journey. I had been frustrated by people, scared by situations and lost my way too many times. But I had also seen and encountered so much beauty in the land and so much creativity and goodness in people. I had endured the heat of the wilderness in Israel and the cold of the wilderness in Canada. I had withstood thirst and excessive wetness. But most of all I was thankful for all the experiences that I had had, both good and bad. I think that I am a somewhat different person today because of them. I doubt that I could have been this enriched if I had stuck to my job instead.

From Vancouver I would head westwards again to get home. This journey had allowed me to go around the globe. It was a little sad to end the journey like that but I was not planning on getting a new job so quickly anyway. Where should I go next I wonder. Maybe I should see a bit more of home first. In any case, the possibilities are only limited by the world.

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