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Archive for the ‘Life in Canada.’ Category

Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

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You got a fast car……..

Officer Singh looked at me quizzically through the pouring rain. I stood before him with the raindrops pouring down my face. He opened up his window.

“What seems to be the problem?” He had been parked there on the side of the busy road for ages. I think he had noticed me as I frantically charged back and forth along the street.

“I have lost my car! I parked it right there.” I pointed to the other side of the road. I was confident that this is what happened. But let’s go back a few hours…….

I had done my due diligence and checked all the road signs. I even remembered what was printed on them. Parking for one hour only……tick. No parking in front of driveway…..tick. Parking for two hours…..tick. I even checked to see if there was a fire hydrant as there is an even heavier fine for that one. As in any busy city, parking is a problem and there are so many rules here in Canada that one has to obey. Need I say that they are strongly enforced?

I was convinced that my car had been towed away. Officer Singh thought so too and phoned around for me. I stood at his window soaking wet. I knew that I had NOT parked illegally or had I? He opened the window again and announced that no car of my description had been towed. He then added that it could have been stolen. No, I did not believe that for a moment, not here in Canada!

He saw the look of desperation on my face. He jumped out of the car and walked round to the back door and opened it for me. He was tall and had a confident and strong manner.

Is it fast enough……..

“Get in and we will try to find your car.”

I duly jumped into the back. It was cramped and I manoeuvred myself onto the bench- like hard seat. Not sure what a tall criminal would feel like if he was made to sit in the back. I struggled to get my legs in! Once in, I leaned across and spoke to officer Singh through the opening in the glass window.

“This is the first time that I have driven in a police car.” There was silence other than the roar of the cruiser as we sped off down the road.

It was almost as if he had done this before. He turned at the next corner and doubled back on the road which ran parallel to the one that I had been charging up and down on. There she was…..all white and shiny. Rain drops trickling off her gleaming surface.

Officer Singh helped me out of the cruiser.

“Are you sure this is yours?”

“Yes, I am sure. Thank you so much.”

He waited for me to start the car and I sped off down the road. But before I took off I said to him through the window……

“I am sane you know. I have not done this before.”

I am not sure if he believed me, but was courteous enough not to show it. He just smiled.

Am I ever going to live this one down?

Another rainy day in Vancouver…..

 

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Been rusting in the rubble…..

Goats are not one of my favourite animals. They smell and are often bad tempered. This is certainly the case with the ones that I have encountered. They do however, have a talent that I covet……the ability to climb up steep and rocky mountains. It is another grey Vancouver day. I am lying on my back among our trees with the Mission Creek stream snow- melt pulsing in my ears. In usual Vancouver style the water is falling from the skies as well as from the mountains. The world appears magical from this horizontal position.

When last did I just gaze skywards here? Probably on another occasion that I came scooting down on my rear on La Ravine! I seem to exercise this involuntary move a great deal lately. I scurry around along our steep river course in the quest for removing the previous owner’s building rubble and garden waste. This is when I covet the acrobatic ability of the humble goat the most. His prowess would be such a valuable asset on our steep river bank. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a forest of tall conifer trees so my tumbles go unnoticed. My red face goes unnoticed.

I am learning from the news……

According to the weather bureau we had the grand total of 75 hours of sunlight for the whole month of March! This rainy weather accompanied by the grey skies is getting to the most experienced locals. They assure us that this is not the norm. I think I have heard that somewhere before…..when we moved to Toronto and we endured temperatures of minus 40 C. Torontonians assured us that this occurrence was most unusual too. So what are we to do when a garden beckons?

Nothing quite like mucking about in a garden….

Fall like the rain…..

My short fashionable all weather trench coat just did not cut it anymore. One walk to the bus stop and I was soaked! On a recent trip to a consignment shop, I found a long, very long red raincoat. It was probably relinquished with glee when the previous owner moved back to Toronto……no rain there, only deep snow! Once donned it looked a bit like a bag lady until I accessorised it with a pair of shiny navy blue Wellie boots. Now I can take on any storm.

Now I am hypnotised……

There is nothing like a garden to ground you and to keep you present. I while away the hours as I dig, make new features and discover lost treasures under the soil here at La Ravine. The steep slopes have their challenges and the miserable weather a test of patience. But slowly I chip away at my Canadian soil and carry my Canadian rocks to new corners of my garden. With each spade full of earth, I feel that I am getting closer to making Vancouver my home. I am most grateful for my red raincoat!

 

The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there. Ellie Rodrigues

There are rocks to be carried……

 

 

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I got this feeling inside my bones……

Starting again is a great leveler. It takes courage to try something new whether it be a new career path or to move to a new country. But if you need to be brought down a peg or two, just move countries! All this newness makes you feel like a kid again. Whether it be in acquiring the rudimentary skills of making new friends of a different culture or learning to drive on the other side of the road. I still jump into the passenger side of the car and then creep out in case someone has spotted my idiotic act. It infuriates me that so much patterning has taken place in this brain of mine. Now I have to spend hours trying to reprogram this geriatric head!  So in order to survive I have had to learn to laugh. I laugh at myself and the mistakes I make.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired 'big boy'  rain gear.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired ‘big boy’ rain gear.

It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on….

As part of the LETS MAKE IT NEW AGAIN campaign we decided to buy an old house and to blow new life into it. Would I do this again if I had the choice? Not easily…..but I have learnt some home truths about myself through this whole process. I have mastered the art of just GETTING ON WITH LIFE while the walls tumble and shake around me. I find a small unused space and just get on with ‘it.’  Bear in mind that at times there are at times 4 different workmen here all going for it in various corners of the house. Once settled into my little cocoon I am able to shut out the world, turn on my computer and just get on with my writing. I do have the odd day when I just feel crazy and cannot handle another buzz or clunk. I grab poor old Josh and go and pound the pavements. Thankfully there are not too many of those days.

The other art that I have mastered is the one where there is A LACK OF PRIVACY. I am gregarious by nature so I do enjoy having people around me. On one particular day last week I had found refuge from all the clanging and banging in my bedroom. It was cold as the central heating was also part of the upgrade and had not been hitched up yet. I tucked myself up under a throw with my long suffering canine companion. He is taking major strain with all this noise and sometimes just sits and whimpers. Softie that I am, I now have him sleeping at the foot of our bed and at times he lets out a yelp. Who knows what those dreams are about……a bear chase or possibly a pneumatic drill?   Anyway to get back to my solitary pursuit. I managed to bash away on my computer for a while. But it was too good to be true, my tranquillity was to be invaded. This was all in the name of the barn door installation and was to be placed between the master suite and the bathroom. I was excited by this as I could see some of my ideas being implemented. So much energy had been put into more of the manly interests like a workshop, heating and lighting. I did see the reasoning behind all these upgrades and I was not wildly enthused by it all. So the installation of the said door continued. Before too long the other members of the team arrived and I had 3 young men in my bedroom. They admired the new addition and chatted about the building plans for the coming weeks. Suddenly my eyes noticed my black feather boa that I had tossed across the mirror when I had unpacked yet another box that morning. I am not sure why but I felt a hint of embarrassment. I had used it for a fancy dress occasion a few months before. I then wondered what else might be lying around in my bathroom…. My laundry basket was overflowing as the washing machine had been disconnected to attach a few more pipes. What secrets were about to be revealed? They were all young enough to be my sons so I shrugged this one off quickly.

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My girlie laundry in the process of transition searching madly for her inner beauty!

I got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet…..

The most important art that I feel I am well on my way to mastering is the one of PATIENCE. I think the builders might differ on this one. There are days when they can sock it to me with all the sorry tales of delays and I am gracious and understanding. Then there are other days when the ‘ crazy’ just rears its head and I just can’t handle another mishap. Then the inner child escapes and I go off at a tangent. But all too soon we reach a compromise and things are brought on track again. Thanks go to Adrian, Nico and Angela. I think I will have to invent some award for this category as I feel I have earned my stripes!

I am practicing my happy dance………the end of this renovation is in sight.

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough....

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough….

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All the walls would fall around me…..

 

One thing about living in a ‘cardboard,’ alias drywall, house is that sound travels! The drills drone, power tools whine and hammers bash. There is no relief in the never ending cacophony that resounds from the depths of our cabin in the woods. All in the name of RENOVATION. I thought that years of listening to the ‘white noise’ of my classes of children would have conditioned me to this rumble. But it is not the case! My nerves cry out but it falls on deaf ears…..

 

Our cabin in the forest....

Our cabin in the forest….

 La Ravine, as she has been aptly named, teeters on the edge of the Mission Creek ravine. She is perched elegantly on safe ground above the white water and is serenaded by the swirl of the waves that plummet down the rocks. This sound has become our indicator of the upcoming weather for the day. The density of the crash of water is indicative of whether we wear the light and pretty weather resistant raincoat or if it is time to pull out the big guns. The papa bear of raincoats is hardly glamourous but it does the trick! Donned in my sensible waterproof shoes, I am bound to add just a dash of colour with the swirl of an infinity scarf.   Oh my…this Vancouver, is wet, wet and more wet!

These never ending worries, pulling on my sleeves.

But back to the renovation……I think you all know that all our efforts are going into getting ourselves a place to call home again. I thought the first move was hard enough but little did I realise that I would have to do it all over again. What a sucker for punishment! The test has been the lack of order and stability in my life. Unpacked boxes still abound! But I do have the excitement of the unpredictable. The question being…..do I actually need this excitement in my life?

Today it is a bulldozer ,tomorrow who knows....

Today it is a bulldozer, tomorrow who knows….

 Is it furnace fitting or is this the day that the bulldozer will be taking out half the garden? I never know how it will pan out. These workmen beaver away with intent and I marvel at their progress. Thank goodness for the capable hands of Matt, Adrian and Nico. They are out there and certainly don’t shy away from the Vancouver drizzle! I wander around and record the transformation through photographs. These get fed to the family who want to be kept abreast with the progress.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it....chimney sweep's assistant today.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it….chimney sweep’s assistant today.

It’s gonna be okay!

So I am having excellent training at just living in the present. I don’t think further than tomorrow and I have got really adept at improvising. Whether it be for a make shift curtain or a quick bed for a guest.

Yes, the Morkel guest lodge is open for visitors as long as the patrons don’t mind a rather eclectic stay.

Our brave visitors.....Jon and Sarah.

Our brave visitors…..Jon and Sarah.

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Life is older than the trees…..

My canvas bush hat is pulled right down over my eyes. I peer up at the grey skies and the drizzle wets my face. The hot water swirls up against me and the warmth soothes. This is hot tubbing Vancouver style. Sometimes we resort to the protection of a golf umbrella. We jump into said hot tub and prop up this useful apparatus. There is some skill attached to getting the angle just right. This alleviates the possibility of icy rain drops trickling down one’s back. Then all that is left to do, is to indulge in our daily medicinal ritual. There has to be a way of beating this weather at its game!

Here's to acclimatisation....

Here’s to acclimatisation….

The wild storm had raged on through the night. We lay and listened to the pine cones that crashed and hit the skylights.  Our forest succumbed and branches flew off and tumbled down the embankment. The eco-friendly ‘green roof’ was thick with its carpet of leaves.

 

“Please tell me, honestly……does it rain like this all the time?”

My new friend looked at me long and hard. She drew in a deep breath and paused. I think she was trying to decide whether she should give me the information in the form of a ‘white lie’ or whether I could handle the truth. It was to be the latter……

“It rains pretty much all the time….. till March.”

My heart sunk. Minus temperatures are one thing but soggy rainy days are another!

Almost instantaneously I felt a surge of energy. Survival mode kicked in and ideas rushed into my head. How would I manage these endless soggy rainy days? But a plan began to formulate…..

I am always partial to a spot of clothes shopping. I had recently eyed a rather fetching shiny navy spotted raincoat. I could envisage it with the rain drops sliding off its gleaming surface. I had pushed this rather frivolous idea into the far reaches of my brain. After all the recently acquired sensible khaki one would have to suffice. But that was 3 weeks ago, before the harsh reality of the Vancouver winters had set in.

So it is off to the shops for me. I do hope that the little spotted number is still around. In fact I think my green fishing wellies could do with an update!

Fishing wellies ready for an update....

Fishing wellies ready for an update….

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

 

 

 

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I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos…….

 

“You do know that the rain never stops in Vancouver!”

It was move- in day and true to form, it bucketed down. Soggy people and boxes filled the front doorway. The movers lurched down our four flights of stairs and the piles of boxes steadily climbed towards the skylights.

“Where would you like this?”

I looked up from my pile of paper in the kitchen.

“I really don’t know! Find a space……anywhere.” I wanted to weep.

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare....

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare….

So I call on my angels….

I lay and listened to the loud squawk of the Steller’s jay and the deep blast of the cruise ship’s horn that resonated from the harbour. My brain was still trying to process ‘all that is new’ from my unfamiliar environment. These sounds sooth the jaded unpacker’s weary muscles. I decide to lie just another 10 minutes. I can see down to the river from my uncurtained bedroom window. I jump up and open the door onto the balcony…..just a fraction. Enough to keep the cool morning air out and to let in the sounds of the bubbling stream. It is still too early for our grey heron who has regular fishing trips along our banks. He must be having a lie in too! I have begun to recognise the clicking hoop of his call and the enthusiasm of his flapping wings through the giant cedar trees.

Our resident Stella's jay...the national bird of BC.

Our resident Stella’s jay…the national bird of BC.

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas....

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas….

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
……
My days disappear as I fill them with trying to create some order out of this chaos. I am making headway with the unpacking of boxes and am slowly becoming an expert at discarding unwanted clutter. Yes, I am still at it! My heart has hardened and am able to toss that favourite scarf or special ornament. This is round two of my clear out session! Hopefully the thrift shop will find a home for all these once ‘special things’ that have no place in our downsized abode. Fortunately we still have a Black Hole which runs under the house. It is slowly filling up with the camping gear, Christmas decorations and seasonal items like the skis. I hesitate to place anything there. It is dark and awful and I hate going down there! It feels like any piece of furniture or box that gets put down in the hole, is being committed to a stint in solitary confinement.

Josh on his morning fishing expedition....

Josh on his morning fishing expedition at our river.

Victory is in my veins…..

Nature reminds me of the rhythms that surrounds me. I feed off the familiarity in the sounds of the birds and the consistency of the flow of the river. Some things don’t change.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay...with some tech assistance.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay…with some tech assistance!

 

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