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ReportsTuesday, 4 March 2003
Vancouver Island --> West Vancouver, Canada I slept in until eleven in the morning and as Tracie was still free for the whole week, she offered to drop me off at the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay, where I was going to get on the 1pm ferry back to Vancouver.
I thanked Darren and Tamra McQuitty for the five days of hospitality, hanging around, using their high-speed Internet connection to hook up, for letting me sleep on their couch that whie and for the GPS device Darren had given me.
We drove from Saanich to Swartz Bay and had a coffee in the warm spring sun in a small town called Sidney.
The ferry ride from Swartz bay to the arriving terminal in Tsawwassen took about 90 minutes and I used that time to edit lots of photographs on my laptop. On the ferry I got the ticket for the bus that would take me straight into Vancouver. Both the ferry and the bus ticket were paid for -with pleasure- by Darren and Tamra!
I finally arrived back into this big city and called my next hostess for today at the Pacific Central train station (nice historical building!), where the VIA Rail trains arrive from the other side of the country and the Amtrax trains depart to the US.
Just 30 minutes later Fiona pulled over in an elegant black BMW. Fiona is a 24-year-old and is in the midst of work and continuing a study at the university. She works at the business development department of the big company THEmedia, snowboards in Whislter winter and scuba dives in summer.
She took me to her small but cosy condo in Yaletown where she quickly checked her email on her computer, before we would head out again to her parent’s house, as her parents are right in the middle of a move.
Some claim Yaletown to be Vancouver's "SoHo" district, but since I've never been to New York's "SoHo", or London's "SoHo" (or any other neighbourhood named "SoHo" for that matter), I really can't say for sure. Nevertheless, if trendy upscale yuppy boutiques, cosmetic surgery offices, expensive studio apartments and funky hip restaurants are characteristics of "SoHo" neighbourhoods, Yaletown is such in Vancouver.
Prior to the 90's, Yaletown was a forgotten warehouse district, home to all sorts of fun industrial things like railroad yards and meat packaging plants.
Nevertheless, throughout the 90's, Yaletown turned from a once-cheap warehouse/industrial district into the trendy urban neighbourhood as described above. Luckily, opposite to the Vancouver fashion (where they tear town any old building), the developpers decided to keep Yaletown's brick warehouses and railroad-embedded alleys, and turned them into pubs, over-chic hotels, trendy restaurants, and high-end boutiques. Even the grocery stores in this area are trendy!
At her condo Fiona found out through her emails that she was admitted to study at the Duke University in North Carolina (US) where she applied to study literature.
She just got back yesterday, from a trip to the US. She had the study interview last week, at that University, and today she already obtained the official invitation.
She was really gobsmacked when she realized (or still could not) that she also just received a big scholarship and fellowship to study in the US. “Oh my God! I don’t believe it! Oh my God! Wow! Oh my God!”
This overexcited lady next to me in the car drove me from Yaletown through West End, through Stanley Park, over the Lions Gate Bridge and to West Vancouver.
In the car we talked about how she discovered my website. She surprised me because she said I had appeared on television like a year ago. Really? I didn’t know that! It might have been the Channel 9 report from Australia that’s broadcast around here. I couldn’t grasp it.
“I am a very social person and I like to communicate with everybody. I like meeting people so, inviting you over for a stay was no difficult decision.”
“And I have travelled myself and you always feel much better among the locals than in hostels or hotels. I actually never thought you would come over to Canada,” she laughed!
“Do you know that you look exactly like Gord Downie (photos), the lead singer of (the Canadian band) Tragically Hip?” Who? I did not know this guy yet, but later today I looked him up on the internet and saw a big resemblance wit this older baldy man!
Fiona’s parents just moved to a new house against the mountain and today was going to be their first day in that house and they wanted to share that with me.
In this big house, smelling all new too, I met up with Fiona’s mother Kathie. She was catching her breath from all the moving. Construction workers were still busy with the last ends in the house and dear mum was also cheered up with directing the movers to all the places in the house.
This house was -again- big. When Fiona showed me where I would sleep for tonight, we had to walk through hallways, turn left, down stairs, turn right, more hallways, turn left, and finally we were there! I was staying in Fiona’s sister Megan’s bed room. And actually I was one of the first people to sleep in that room and bed, as Megan is currently studying in California (US).
And as the house is built on the side of Mount Cypress, I had a wonderful and unforgettable view onto the entire city of Vancouver. While sitting on pillows in front of the window I could just stare at this scenery for hours! I could look all the way to the US and saw the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island in the West! Absorbing!
Kathie made some afternoon snacks with cheese and paté and was very curious about my travel lifestyle. She had to tell everybody who phoned the house that she had a very special guest today! “Fiona got him off the Internet!” she said.
Not much later father Tom had joined in. Fiona’s father is a psychiatrist at a clinic in Vancouver and wanted to invite me over to stay for a day there. I didn’t know what to say, but he eventually cleared it up: “No, better not , you’ll be drugged and sleep a lot, haha!”
The new house, the big move, Fiona’s admission to Uni and my stay at their place made it all a very special day to them. Reasons enough for Tom to transform himself in this groovy cocktail shaker and he prepared us all a martini. He experimented for mine, with black vodka and lemon vodka, but it was honestly a bit STRONG…
During dinner (salmon with asparagus and rice) I talked a lot about my travels and Kathie and Tom were very much enquiring about the website stuff. They were very intrigued by some stories I told them. But in the mean time I also got to know my hosts a bit better. Tom is a born Mexican and his family moved out and end up in Canada. The rest of this family I am staying with is Canadian, except daughter Megan, who was born in Seattle. However when the family applied for a move to the US, where the two daughters study, they got a no-no from the US-authorities and that was all because the man of the family (a highly appraised doctor in this case) is still a Mexican.
I guess Americans have enough Mexicans?
After dinner Fiona connected my laptop to the Internet so I could check my emails, throw away 350 spam emails and edit some photos. I was settled in this little closet, next to the laundry room, as the Internet cable connection wasn’t set up through the entire house yet. With me on one stool and my laptop on a box on another stool, it was fine for me too.
Later in the evening I joined the family again in the discussion if they should keep the dining table and if it was on the right spot where it was. “The chairs will be going out again; these are too big for the table. But isn’t the table too small either?” My opinion was that it all looked fine to me and I advised to get chairs with the same wood as used in the table. “Should the table stand at the window or in the middle of the room?” I suggested that in the middle of the room it looks pretty good.
We all drank a bottle of mineral water before the parents went to bed. Fiona and I weren’t that tired yet and she suggested we could watch a movie in the other living room in the basement . There wasn’t much furniture here yet, so I got the blankets of my bed and a few pillows and placed them against the back wall. There was this huge television screen on the other side and the dolby surround system made watching the poor movie (Jurassic Park II - as better movies were still in boxes) quite interesting anyway.
We didn’t really get to see the entire movie. Fiona seemed to have fallen asleep next to me and I got a call from a Dutch journalist lady who wanted to talk to me.
I got a bit annoyed because she (a journalist!) had only heard about me and wanted all the info from me personal. And next to that: it was already 1am at night (10am in The Netherlands).
“Sorry, darling,” she said to me, “but I have no time to surf the internet all day. So please tell me again: what is it exactly what you do? You travel for free?” Oh, man! I find this so annoying and tiring. What’s wrong with a bit of research? I stayed polite during the whole conversation, but how can a person like that call herself a journalist!!? Whatever...
Good night West Vancouver!