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Life in Vancouver

Surviving the First Week

Well this officially marks my first week in Canada.

It is a little unbelievable, as it feels as though it has been weeks already that I have been here. I have to keep reminding myself that I only touched down on the 17th November.

Since my last letter I have been busy again… always busy and it never seems to end. I do like it that way though.

On Monday 19th November I moved out of the backpackers I was staying at in GasTown (Area) of Downtown called C&N Backpackers to the Westside of Downtown into a much nicer backpackers on Granville Street called Samsun Backpackers. This company has a few hostels in different areas of Canada and is known as the best with it’s own bar, restaurant, much better facilities, free WIFI and located on the cities nightlife strip with loads of restaurants, bars and Yes, night clubs which do seem to continue early into the morning. They have good budget meals too. I met some nice people while staying here. It does cost a few more dollars than the previous one but was well worth the spend.
However, not something that you can stick with for too long.

I did a fair bit of site-seeing of the Downtown Vancouver area; walking most of the main streets to familiarise myself, walks down to the Canada Pacific Centre located on the waterfront side. This is where all the large cruise liners pull into during the summer. From here you have a marvellous view over the water with West and North Vancouver on the other side, the snow capped mountains in the distance and you are right near the seaport where the sea planes fly in and land and take off out of the bay. Great to sit and watch.

I also visited some of the shopping centres to see what that was like.
All in all the city is very manageable on foot and is not as busy as a New York so you are not constantly playing dodge with the on-coming foot traffic.

I headed to the exchange office to apply for my SIN# (Social Insurance Number) and to meet the local co-ordinators who look after international guests. They gave me some information on banks and I also scouted their notice boards for potential employment.

I managed to secure a meeting with a bank rep for the next day and within 40 minutes had a bank account setup and my new ATM card in hand. Ever so friendly and efficient, unlike our terrible banks. I am with Scotia Bank of Canada and they have a 1 year free student/checking account which is great, so I don’t pay any fees on my transactions and that will save some $$.

The weather has been pretty much the same as before – it is usually grey skies and on and off rain and/or drizzle with a winter chill in the air sweeping in from the water. I still battle with the fact that it literally only gets light around 7am. Anything before that and it is pitch black you would swear it was middle of the night. The sun then starts setting from around 4pm and usually by 5pm it is lights out. You end up wanting to be in bed by 7pm as it feels like midnight. We did have 2 fantastic days though. By that I mean it was still chilly, a little breezy but no rain which makes a huge difference to ones day. Not having to walk around with damp shoes and pants is a bonus.

There are so many Australians here. That nation is like a plague sweeping across the world. They are simply unavoidable and have totally overtaken the Germans when it comes to travel. I don’t mind as I always find them good fun. I think the Australians themselves get fed up heading across the world to interact with other people, just to land up with their fellow ozzies again. I met 2 very nice Australians and we hung out now and again. Brett from Melbourne and Flo from Adelaide. Both also on a working holiday visa.

On Wednesday we decided to head out on a day trip together to go and see Grouse Mountain. There are 2 close mountains to Vancouver Downtown – Grouse and Cyprus Mountain both about 40 minutes away by public transport. We headed down to the waterfront caught a seaboat (ferry) across the waters to North Vancouver and from here a bus to the Base of Grouse Mountain. We all stood out like the 3 stooges after goofing up on our transport – which ticket to buy, which bus to get on and where to go, so I think our orientation is much better now. The bus driver on our last bus was a great sport and joked with us the whole way about our indecision on what we were doing. The bus drivers here are even nice and I am not sure what they put in their coffee in the morning but they are certainly lively and full of beans; singing, talking with the customers and announcing the next stop’s and destinations in bizarre and funny accents. We were in hysterics the entire ride thinking they had all gone bloody mad.

After arriving at Grouse Mountain we saw the weather was not great in terms of visibility. The whole reason you go there is to go up the cable cart to see the views of the whole of Vancouver which was now not possible. We headed to information to see what else we could do while there. The reception must have thought we were crazy because everything we asked them was answered with “no that’s closed due to weather” and so the ozzie girl and I laughed ourselves silly and the poor assistant at the desk couldn’t understand what was so amusing at 9am in the morning. So we can’t do hikes because of the visibility, we can’t see anything from the top because of visibility, we can’t do any of the other activities because of the rain. So what can we do? Watch Grizzly’s and drink coffee at the starbucks at the top for $50. So sarcastically we were like “well how do you even know the grizzly’s aren’t sleeping too”, what do you have a bear cam in their cages”, to which the assistant said “Yes”. They actually had a den camera to check when they are up and about, so felt a little stupid. Anyway we decided to leave and head to the next attraction not to far away and were very glad we did. I will go back when it is a better day.

We arrived at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. A beautiful park set amongst a bright green fur forest. The entrance and all throughout the park was covered with Christmas decorations and a myriad of coloured Christmas tree lights. It looked like a real winter wonderland. The bridge was just amazing to see. The length of 2 giant aircraft side by side swaying across the gorge. On the other side there are a tree-line canopy walks one can do, which was beautiful. The Douglas Fur trees in the park are just enormous and tower into the sky with thick trunks. Then there is the skywalk which is a semi circle walkway which juts out at the end of a cliff looking deep into the valley beneath you. It was definitely a trip worth doing and it only cost $29.

On the work front I have been sending out emails everyday and have know idea how many emails and enquiries I must have made. It is quite difficult to land ski resort jobs at this time as most of the hiring is done around September and October, which I obviously could not be here for, so the only hope you have right now is to try and find the last minute placements or wait until January which I am told might be a good option because generally there are a number of staff at the resorts who need replacing either because of quitting, being fired, finding out it really wasn’t the thing for them or being injured on the mountains. Many young people show up wanting to do the ski season and by Xmas realise that it is actually hard work and not just a holiday to go messing around and drinking. So hopefully as bad as it sounds I can take someone’s place.

On the TV front I have emailed some contacts again and scouted the web for openings. The tricky problem is that Canada and the USA are unionised which means some companies will only take you if you belong to a union and certain higher positions in the TV world are also unionised. You cannot just join a union as you have to be a permanent resident, so it really is a little tricky. But for the time being I am happy to not fall into the same trap and find myself working 24/7 in TV production work while here.

I have also been doing walk in’s to different shops and companies, restaurants etc etc. I eventually heard back from one company that I had emailed and they asked me to complete further documents to be considered, which I did and sent them off, not really knowing what it was about.

The co-ordinator then got back to me and said they would have me on if I was interested. This company does not offer paid work immediately and does more of a volunteer work for board and lodging and then if they are happy with you, would look towards a more full time staff position. They have a working ranch and hunting lodge and offer backpackers and 1 year travel work visa holders the chance to work on a farm/ranch in the back country.

So, I mailed back and said I would give it some thought. It is not entirely what I want right now but at the same time it is a great way to save some money in the beginning rather than sitting in Vancouver without any work just spending money on accommodation and basic living expenses. I wanted to do something like that while in Australia and did not get the chance. It is a great way to really get a sense of life in the wilderness and to see the best that it has to offer rather than seeing something like that on a tourist bus which you would never truly get the real essence of.

All in all, I find Vancouver a beautiful city, very accessible and not as overcrowded as cities like NYC or London. Great people, Great food and an easy going lifestyle it seems.

Next Stop – The remote Chilcotin Mountains.

Posted by TezaTravels 16:00 Archived in Canada

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