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Reports

Friday, 7 March 2003
Yaletown, Vancouver --> Langley, Canada

With just a little bit of a hangover I woke up on the couch in Fiona’s condo in Yaletown this morning. Fiona herself had already left around 8.30 to get to work and she let me sleep in a bit and let me do some more work behind my laptop before I had to head out to my next destination of today.
Around 11.30am Fiona returned back home for her (early) lunch break. I had to say goodbye to her and I actually felt a bit sad, because I had spent quite some highly amusing time with her. I find her pretty intelligent and she is a great person to hang out with (and to have as a hostess).

It’s funny that I am already receiving emails from readers who are wondering how I manage to stay with so many charming and good-looking people lately. I guess that’s the pretty thing about Canada ;-) All I know from my hosts is a name and their contact details!

Fiona wasn’t only offering a place to stay and some help with food; she was also there as a good ear for some of the things I had to get out of my head, when I needed to. She was like a friendly arm around me. I will miss that arm.

So… that’s said.

I had to meet up with my next host at a convention at the Canada Place, home of the Vancouver World Trace & Convention Centre, located north in Downtown Vancouver. And to keep me from walking to that part of the city (which goes a bit uphill), Fiona called a taxi and paid the drive for me. I thanked her for all her support and said goodbye.

At the Canada Place a big dental convention was going on. So guess what, my next host is a dentist himself! I met up with Steven Hill and three of his charming assistants in the lobby of the next-door hotel. They just checked out after a one-night stay here and the last few days they had attended the convention and attended a couple of interesting classes.

I had to be honest to Steven, I don’t always bond that well with dentists and that might be just a sort of phobia, but after chatting with him and his assistants I was reassured that he was not one of those dentists who would give me a hard time (that’s how I remember dentists from the past).

Steven was actually a very casual-styled person and did not meet the expectations of any dentist I could have in mind before I met up with him. He walked around in his jeans and a white shirt and has a serious sense of humour too.

There were ready to head out, but Steven insisted on showing me around in the huge convention hall where all kinds of dental stuff was exhibited. Suddenly I had to take my cap off to be able to carry all the free stuff that I got pushed in my hands, from toothpastes, brushes, flosses, chewing gums and several mini bottles of Listerine… I was being spoiled again!

It was interesting to see what a dental convention is all about. They show off all kinds of new products, varying from dentist chairs to the latest buzzing drills around. Only hearing those drills wasn’t always amusing. It will always tickle a bit in my jaws…

One of his assistants had a spare lunch ticket, so suddenly I was also walking around with a big box with chicken sandwich, salad, grapes and a piece of cake. It was like an airplane meal, but then much better than I am used to!

I ate that lunch on our way out of Vancouver. I am not going to see this city for a few months, as I will be heading eastward from now, hopefully all the way to the east coast of Canada.

Steven lives with his four kids and his girlfriend Kirsti (who is originally Dutch) in Fort Langley, a small town east of Vancouver, on the Trans Canada Highway.

I asked him how and why he decided to become a dentist and he told me this fascinating story. “I was actually running a company in garden landscaping, but still wanted to go for something different. I had a friend whose father was a dentist and so we got talking and I got really interested. It wasn’t really because the man had two Mercedeses in his garage at all,” Steven laughed. “So I started the university study and seemed to be enjoying it very much and I finally ended up being a dentist.”

“And I am actually still landscaping, because it is a dentist’s job to keep everybody’s teeth and gums looking good and sometimes I give to help nature a hand.”

”And look around you, Ramon, isn’t it great to be surrounded by delightful assistants like these,” he said regarding the three assistants who had joined us in the mini van. “I actually work with twelve ladies only around me. Now where do you see that these times.”

In Langley City he dropped off the assistants at their homes and before heading towards his home in Fort Langley, he had to show me his dental practice, a pink painted building in downtown Langley. “I guess the landlord got himself some cheap paint,” Steven explained when I asked him about that pink colour.

I was given a grand tour through the practice and saw the places I rather not visit that very often. It was interesting to hear Steven talk about his job and about what goes on at the practice. In the laboratory two men were working hard on little bridges and porcelain crowns. Nice to see that from up close.

Then Steven opened a cabinet and he told me to keep my hands up. Then he filled my hands with more toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss. Enough for the coming two years I guess! “It is here to give away to my clients anyway,” he said, “so you just get a little bit more, haha.”

Another interesting thing at his office was the fact that everything was still done by hand writing. Every client has his file in the cabinet and the appointments agenda was filled in with pen. “I am about to transform everything in digital information, but I am still working for the best computer network to connect everything in one system that can be used throughout the entire practice. One day, it will finally all be electronically.”

Then we finally drove to his home in Fort Langley.

I had already noticed the change in the scenery on our way from Vancouver. Langley isn’t called The place where city and country meets for nothing (Langley is also home to over 7,000 horses on over 1,000 horse farms!). Densed residential areas disappeared and in return there was lots of farm land. It was nice and green with snow capped mountains as the backdrop of this post card town.

It was here, in the actual Fort called Fort Langley to be precise, that the province of British Columbia was proclaimed a Crown Colony back in 1858. It was the mid-1800s when the first European settlers trickled in and established the town of Langley, but those pioneers were strategic thinkers, to be sure. They choose Langley for its marriage of fertile and convenient location of easy transportation of merchandise via the Fraser River and by the farming potential of the healthy land surrounding Langley. Thousands followed in their footsteps and the town and city of Langley, boast a population of more than 24,000 residents today.

I was invited to come over and stay in Langley by Steven’s partner Kirsti. As an 8-year-old Dutch girl Kirsti had emigrated from The Netherlands to Canada with her parents in 1980 and she ended up with meeting Steven many years later.

“It is actually pretty funny how we met,” Steven tells me in the car to his home. “We met in a bar and I saw this lady and said to my friend that that was a very interesting person. The friend then approached the lady and started talking about me. I got a bit embarrassed but decided to join that conversation. Then my friend left us alone and there we were.” Oh, that sounds romantic!

Steven and Kirsti live with their four kids in this fascinated wooden land house in the middle of Langley farmland. Surrounded by a horse farm and a Christmas tree farm it is a perfect location to let young kids grow up. It’s so unique!

At their home I met up with Kirsti and the kids who were playing around in the house. Steven gave me a short tour through and around. Outside was a lot of land, but also an old outside sauna house (built by the previous owner, a German man) next to a natural spring pool (cold, but good to jump in after a hot sauna!), two horses walking around, and some of the tallest cedar trees I have seen so far.

And, it started to snow slowly! What a way to get used to the rest of British Columbia!

As usual, I always ask my hosts how they knew about my website and what their reason was to invite me over. Kirsti: “I once read a Reuters story in The Province newspaper. It had a photo and two lines of texts mentioning your website. So I checked that out and decided to invite you over. Why? Because it is interesting to get involved in your project this way and I never guessed you would come to Canada,” she smiled.

Steven and Kirsti invited me over and immediately told me I could stay for a few days. They at least wanted to show me some interesting local highlights in the coming days. I felt very at ease with this comfy family, that I did not turn that offer down.

And besides that, I have to tell you about Abbotsford. Abbotsford was the nearby town, next on my list. My list of places to stay in Canada had four places to stay in Abbotsford, so I saw myself having quite some luck again.
But when I contacted these people who had once invited me through this website, one had moved abroad, the second person’s wife gave him the poo-poo (“Sorry kid, you can’t come anymore.”), the third person said I did not have to come anymore as I "had enough invites in Abbotsford after all" and the fourth person I only heard his voice on his answering machine.
It gives you a bit of an inside in the events backstage, because you won’t read often about the people I don’t stay with. Some people just don't seem to care to send me an email in advance to let me know that the situation has changed...

However, Abbotsford might have some great residents and could be a very interesting town, you won’t see me there.

Steven and Kirsti’s invitation to stay for the weekend and head out east again on Monday was generously accepted by me. Then my fourth week would also start and I would have another sixteen weeks to try to reach the Canadian east coast!

Tonight’s dinner at the house included freshly smoked salmon, salads and barbeque vegetable sticks. And tonight’s dinner was also connected with friends and family of Steven and Kirsti who came over with their part of dinner. Most of them were interested in my way of travels, so I chatted around again with pleasure. The women talked then women and kids stuff, the men talked about cars and ice hockey and some eight kids were playing around in the house.

With a few relaxing and interesting days coming up in Langley, I settled myself behind my laptop around midnight. But not before first watching the DVD Goldmember starring Austin Powers (alias Canadian actor Mike Myers), a groovy movie that I had not seen yet. It was a must-see according to Steven and Kirsti, because the bad guy in the story was Dutch and the actor played this being-Dutch so shoddily that he could be quite an embarrassment to Germans. Haha….

Yes, I had a report to write….

Good night Langley!

Ramon.