Jorge and I are sitting in Auntie Alice’s kitchen, looking out at her spectacular view of Sansun Narrows – the body of water that runs between Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island.
We have been on-line all morning because last week, we had no in-house internet. Actually, there was wifi, and we had the password, but we were staying in an apartment, and about 20 networks came up. Of course we had no idea which one was ours, and the computer would only let us try two a day, and then kicked out… oh well, all’s well that ends well.
One thing we both realized is just how dependent we are on internet. We visited so many friends, and saw so many gorgeous places while we were in Vancouver, but I never had time to download the pictures and post them.
Today Jorge and I left our lovely 13th floor nest, overlooking the Vancouver harbor. We enjoyed every minute of the time we spent in the city, and yet we are excited to start the second leg of our month-long holiday, in British Columbia.
The coast of the province is dotted by islands (large and small) that are known collectively as the Gulf Islands. Today we traveled on BC Ferries to one of the largest, Salt Spring Island, the home of my Auntie Alice.
Many of our friends have met Alice and her family, as they have visited Merida many times. I have been on Salt Spring before, but this is Jorge’s first time. We plan to take in lots of the sites and activities.
In about the center of the island is the town of Ganges, a popular destination for boaters from all over the Pacific North West. Many of the cultural and business activities are located here, including the Village Market that takes place at Centennial Park, on Saturdays between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm, from mid-March until the last Saturday of October. It attracts both locals and visitors, who come for the fresh produce and to see the work of the local artists and craftspeople.
Salt Spring Island is famous for its hiking trails. The most popular trails are in Mount Maxwell Park.
There are also some great hiking trails in Mouat Park, right in Ganges, and another spectacular hike is the Quarry Park Trail in Vesuvius, where it takes only 25 minutes to hike down to the seashore.
The trails along the rocky shore at Ruckle Park down at Beaver Point on the southeast end of the island are very scenic, especially an incredible trail that goes about 4.4 km to the shore at Yeo Point.
Deer can often be seen on this trail and of course harbor seals and lots of bird life.
The Dunbabin Trail meanders through the forest in Dunbabin Park. It is an easy half hour hike from end to end, with a few stairs along the way.
Generally speaking, there are not too many safety concerns with wildlife on Salt Spring Island other than watching for deer on the road, but the occasional bear and cougar have been known to swim over from Vancouver Island.
Orcas can sometimes be seen cruising the waters around Salt Spring Island, and sea lions are occasional visitors.
While we are here on Salt Spring, we’ll also spend lots of time visiting with other family members – a big barbeque is planned for Saturday.
Because I moved to Merida a long time ago, many people think that I no longer miss my Canadian family and friends. They figure that my busy life and all the people I know in Mexico surely keep me from feeling nostalgic about the past.
But, that’s not the way it is. While we are here in Vancouver, it’s fun to try new restaurants, go shopping and see interesting sites. But really – this trip is all about my Canadian family and friends.
When I left Canada, I was 24 years old. Jorge and I were madly in love, and we felt sure that being together would surmount any difficulty that might come our way. But I soon found out that “being together” created one “difficulty” I would never “surmount” – I longed for my far-away loved ones every day.
A few years later, our children came along, and I wished my Mom lived close by and could watch them grow. I would have loved being able to drive to my sisters’ houses, so that Carlos and Maggie could play with their cousins. I wished my friends’ kids, and mine, would be attending the same elementary schools.
As time passed, I became more and more a part of Merida. Jorge, our children, a big Yucatecan family, my work at TTT, good friends and interesting activities all enriched my life. And yet, I still missed “my” home.
In 2007, I wrote my first book about cultural adaptation. As the completed pages piled up, I came to see that by blending our cultures, experiences, education and personal strengths – Jorge and I have created a truly intercultural lifestyle for ourselves and our children.
And we love sharing it. My brothers and sisters and extended family come to see us often. Many of my nieces and nephews have spent time in Merida and have attended our college. Over the years, Jorge and I have made many trips to Vancouver – Carlos and Maggie have also lived and studied in Canada.
We all make choices in life. When we are young, we figure we are “giving up” some things to have others. But in the long run, is that really true?
After all these years, my Canadian relationships are intact and thriving, despite the 1000s of kilometers that separate me from Vancouver. It has taken effort on my part and by my family, but it has worked out pretty well.
When Jorge and I left Mexico a week ago, we noticed the other people in the waiting room were busy finding food. They bought snacks, sandwiches – even salads – and stuffed everything into their carry-on bags. We knew that the airline would not provide a meal, but I’d read there would be “items” we could purchase on board. And that’s what we decided to do.
Bad choice! We now understand that the others had more experience with this no-frills flying than we did. Not one in-flight “item” looked remotely appetizing, so we waited until we landed in Calgary. By the time we got through Customs and Immigration, we were famished – it had been 10 hours since breakfast. We grabbed a sandwich at the Tim Hortons stand next to our departure gate, and wolfed it down. We’ll go for dinner in Vancouver, we thought. But the restaurant at our airport hotel was closed, and we did not feel up to walking through the dark streets, searching for one that had stayed open. We went to bed hungry and tired.
But since then, we have certainly made up for that one day of deprivation. Vancouver provides whatever your heart desires. We haven’t tried too many restaurants yet, because we’ve been invited for scrumptious dinners with friends, and have had fun cooking meals at our apartment.
We have enjoyed setting off every day, to shop at the well-stocked markets found in our neighborhood. We’ve gobbled down lots of sweet corn and plump blackberries and last-of-the-season peaches, pears and apricots. The apples are crisp and the rhubarb is tart – together, they make for heavenly cobbler. Fresh scallops, clams and mussels- and of course BC wild salmon are our entrees of choice.
Our favorite store is Whole Foods. The selection and quality are incredible, and last night we attended a fund raiser – “A Taste of Thanksgiving.”
For a $10.00 contribution, we could meander through the different departments of the store, where stands had been set up for tasting all kinds of Thanksgiving Day specialties – cheeses, hams, turkey, vegetables, fruit – and pumpkin pie, of course. The annual event is sponsored by the store’s suppliers, and 100% of the proceeds go to UBC Farms, an experimental organic growing facility at the province’s largest university.
Maybe this is an idea that might go over well in Merida? Perhaps at the Saturday Slow Food Market?
Yesterday, Jorge and I took the bus to downtown Vancouver. We have been paying $5.50 a trip for the two of us, but today, the driver said we only needed to pay $3.50.
“Why,” I asked, “Is there a special price on Monday?”
He looked a bit embarrassed. “You are seniors, aren’t you?”
We nodded and took our seats, but NOT the ones at the front. We left those for more senior seniors.
I turned to Jorge, “OMG, that’s the first time anyone has asked me that”
He patted my hand, “Get used to it Sweetheart,” he said.
He’s right of course, but I must admit I thought about maybe dying my hair again…
However, I perked right up when we reached Pacific Center for a day of shopping and sightseeing, I made a point to exit from the front of the bus – with a bound!
The Vancouver Art Gallery has a current exhibition of Vancouver’s art history but everyone’s attention has been taken up with the latest piece by the well known local artist, Douglas Coupland. At the start of summer, the seven-foot-tall sculpture of his own head was placed outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery – and he asked passersby to stick their used chewing gum on it. Now, fall has arrived, and all I can say is that Vancouverites seem to chew a LOT of gum!
A great way to see all of the downtown is to use the “Hop on – Hop off” bus. Once you pay your daily fare of $40.00 CAD (seniors get a $3.00 discount) you can come and go between all the stops.
The skyline features many award-winning skyscrapers:
And yet, just a few blocks off the main streets, you feel as though you are in a small town:
Once home, from our balcony, we watched a cruise ship sail off to Alaska…
“Once in a lifetime, a city like Vancouver,” is one of the city’s PR catchphrases, and really, I can’t say there is anywhere else quite as diverse and delightful as this place.