I hardly feel like I can write, there's so much on my mind. I hope this is coherent.
Alan and I took a four-day trip up to Vancouver. We've been saying that we need to make a few trips during the process to learn as much as we can about what we hope will be our new home city some day. Alan had "use 'em or lose 'em" vacation days, so this was the perfect excuse. We took the train, which we've done before. It's really beautiful because it goes along the coast, sometimes amazingly so -- at time it feels like the train is on tracks on the last edge of land possible along the water. Much nicer than interstates and besides, we don't have a car and neither of us is comfortable driving anyway. (nervous nellies) And the train is much more comfortable than flying; there's plenty of room and you can get up and move around easily. Am I turning into an Amtrak commercial? (I am pro-rail, btw, and it really bothers me that when folks talk about subsidies to Amtrak they forget the deal that was brokered decades ago. What is it about Americans and memory? And keeping to agreements? Lumber anyone? I'll let much better qualified folks rant about that.)
Wow, digression central.
Vancouver is way cool, but we knew that already. Love the sky train (fast and frequent). Despite what we've heard about Toronto's transit system from the "we move to canada" blog, we didn't realize honor-system payment was the norm for all of Canada. Dopey us, we wandered about our destination station, looking for the turnstile to put our ticket through so we could leave without sounding alarms. Finally, a native had pity on us and said, "you look like you're looking for something." So, we told her and I think she was amused, but not in a condescending way. "No. We have freedom here. Just leave the station; you've paid your fare."
Gosh, I can't stick to a point. Bottom line learning: our cost of living will go up and our income will go down. That's the reality, at least for our first 2-5 years probably.
Visiting Safeway (omg, my card works in Canada!), it was deja vu all over again to when I had nearly blacked in response to the prices on my first shopping visit to a supermarket in Hawaii (where I lived for some years). Yikes! But I did notice that sale prices were much the same as our sale prices. [And I've mastered the art of sales and coupons, much to Alan's amusement (and appreciation); he knows he must stop for a recitation upon my return home from shopping of each item I bought on sale AND had a coupon for.] Restaurants are more expensive North of the border, so we'll be having less of that. So, in general, we'll need to roll back to a few years ago when we had to economize to get ourselves out of debt.
And we still want to go. Hard to say no to a more enlightened society that, for example, spends money on healthcare and not war-mongering, a more livable city that doesn't worship the car with a stripe of highway through its center, and a government that recognizes our marriage. (Although I understand that if the Conservatives win the election, they have promised to re-visit the issue. Should we be concerned?)
We've picked out a neighborhood (West End, sorry if it's a cliche') and even an intersection we'd like to be near. See, we've done the city relocation thing before and we know the incredibly banal stuff that turns out to be important (to us, at least): proximity to a full-size supermarket, public transit, and laundry facilities. Yes, nice eateries and artsy stuff is great -- but in every day living, we have found that certain things need to be real close or it's a drag. Walking and busing to the finer things in life is not as big a deal. But have you hauled groceries/laundry for blocks or boarded a bus with a load that doubles your weight? Not pleasant and it gets old real fast.
We had fun exploring the city, although most of it was all the "downtown" neighborhoods (not crossing water). We walked our little legs off and even ventured via bus to Granville Island (but missed the plays we wanted to see) and skytrain to Commercial Ave (these were the exceptions to the "downtown" neighborhoods). As we felt our way around, we would "translate": "That's like our Cap Hill." "Yaletown is Belltown." "London Drugs = Bartell's." Etc. I hope current residents will not take offense. (offence?) It's our way of putting things in context, but it's not like we intend -- or want -- for everything to be the same, like the stereotypical tourists that travel to distant foreign lands and then only do things exactly the same as at home. We've visited Vancouver before and appreciate the city for itself and we're excited at the prospect of being a part of this vibrant, multi-cultural city. But this visit was with "making this home" glasses on. I'm sure that once settled, we'll start having random new exciting discoveries and occasional bouts of culture shock.
Unfortunately, this trip, we did not have time enough to explore the natural beauty very much. But Stanley Park, the seawall, and beaches beckon. And we'll be a little happier doing it when we're not damp anyway. It was pretty wet most of the time we were in Vancouver, but we're from Seattle, so we're not as freaked out as a newly-transplanted Californian. There was one bright, crisp day and it was glorious.
We stocked up on books, magazines, and newspapers -- ones we could only find there. I have plenty to read. I'll try to list some book titles on the right side of the blog home page. Right now, I'm nibbling "What Canadians Think ... about almost everything." Very interesting. Forgive me for sharing a self-centered factoid: [deleted until I can find proper citation, see next post].
So where are we with our application? I'm killing my current employer with kindness -- I brought her flowers on the day before (U.S.) Thanksgiving Day -- to get her to write the letter I need. Who would have thought that this would be the last item I would be waiting for; you would think it would be the first received.
I talked to the Costa Rican Consulate and she said she received my clearance letter on Monday and would mail it Tuesday or Wednesday. I should receive it any day now and then I have to get it "officially" translated, which I'm researching how to do.
I've cut back on my (paid) work hours so that I can really devote more time and attention to getting this baby done and on its way. If it's not sent by December 31, I will be a basket case. Wish me luck (and focus).