Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Defence (Feb 22 – Mar 13)

The most exciting event in this period is that Alanna has “passed” her Capstone. This was a 100 page research paper she did on the public interest in decisions made by regulatory tribunals. She successfully defended her paper in front of a small audience on Friday (March 11) morning. It was very exciting to see her present….but also extremely nerve racking and emotional. I was only “watching” so, I can’t imagine how nervous she must have been! We are very proud of what she has achieved and I am sure she is extremely relieved to have this completed.

She still has some minor revisions to make before she can close the door on it. She only has one more course to finish, and then she will be working full time (she is currently working 2 days a week) with the BCUC (British Columbia Utilities Commission) – first as Acting Commission Secretary for 14 months, then as a regulatory analyst. A very exciting time in her life. In the evening the three of us had a lovely “celebratory” dinner at Cardero’s in Coal Harbour.

Our stay in our “home away from home” ended on March 7. Then we spent 5 days with our friends Cindy and Murray in North Van, and are now spending our final few days with Alanna in the West End. Our life has been spent just living. We entertained our few friends in Vancouver, went over to their place for dinner, ran, shopped, and generally had a lovely time. I went to a Corporations Canada presentation on the new Not for Profit Corporations Act and connected with many people that I used to work with but some of whom I had never actually met in person. Ray and I also explored Furry Creek some more and an area just outside West Van called Seascape, both gorgeous areas built up the side of the mountainous cliffs and overlooking the Salish Sea. Our most recent excursion was to an area in East Vancouver called Strathcona or Mount Pleasant. This is an area of eclectic, brightly coloured homes, a Buddhist temple, a Ukranian Church, and other interesting cultural buildings on the edge of China Town.

Ray and I joined a bootcamp, with the compliments of our daughter! This is a “first-time experience” for Ray and we were both pretty “sore” after the first couple of times. However, we did manage to run 16 km this morning. I don’t imagine tomorrow at bootcamp will be very pretty!!

Along with the rest of the world we have watched the events unroll in Egypt and now in Libya, and the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan plus the effects of the sunami in Japan. The world seems like a very turbulent place these days. During our visit to Torres del Paine in Chile, I remember saying to Ray that it was such an inhospitable place because it didn’t want humans to go there and destroy its beauty. It’s almost as if that is what the whole world is telling us right now. Sort of like its saying to man: “you have had your opportunity on this planet and you have screwed it up with your human excesses – now its pay back time!” Somewhere along the line I think we have missed the point of the battle between good and evil when the world can stand by and watch someone like Gaddafi committing mass murder, and taking his revenge on his country’s people and their resources. It feels as if we are watching the “unravelling” of the world as we know it. Anyway, that’s my view of the world today!!

Meanwhile, life rolls along. Our cat Chloe is on holiday in Toronto and has a Jack Russell for a house mate. We’re waiting to hear the latest episode from Sherry. Hopefully no flying fur, scraped noses, or tails between the leg!!! Relationship counselling as its wildest!!!

From beautiful Vancouver…..see you again soon!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vancouver - Jan 22 to Feb 21 2011

Ray and I continue to enjoy ourselves here in Vancouver. I got my exam over with on Jan 31 and am still waiting for the results. I got my essay in a week before the exam and according to the mark I got, did OK. Now I am free to plan outings without the guilt of feeling I should be studying. On the other hand, what do I do in those moments when we are not out exploring the BC lower mainland….beginning to sound like a regular Vancouverite!! Alanna has submitted the first draft of her Capstone project, has received feed back from her advisor, and is closing in on the second draft which gets sent to the reviewers in preparation for her defence on March 11. She is looking forward to starting full time work in May. Ray and I have done an edit of the first draft of the paper (100 pages) and one of the Appendices (40 pages). Ray has been golfing several times on various public courses, has re-connected with the gang of people he worked with here in BC, and has generally been plotting and planning the economies of reality living in BC.

Overlooking Fraser River from Marine Drive

We have continued our visits to different parts in and close to Vancouver. One day we drove down to Crescent Beach and White Rock then all around Lower Surrey and back through Richmond, Westminster, and Burnaby. Crescent Beach is a small seaside town which must be a tourist trap in summer. White Rock is bigger, has an interesting main street with the railway separating the restaurants from the Ocean. We also checked out a few town house complexes on the way. White Rock is not far from the American border, and certainly the weather is much warmer down there. It is about an hour’s drive from the City of Vancouver. Apart from the White Rock and Crescent Beach area, the other parts we travelled through were mainly residential burbs. We also took a drive south on Granville, and west along Marine Drive to UBC. Marine Drive is like the Post Road Area of Toronto with the added feature of the large homes on extensive properties having ocean views.

Sunset on the Fraser River from Marine Drice
  Another day we drove across the Lion’s Gate Bridge and along Marine Drive to Horseshoe Bay, then on to the Sea to Sky Highway and up to Squamish. Now this was a much more interesting trip. The scenery was absolutely stunning as you can see from some of the photos. The cove at Horseshoe Bay was delightful, and the communities along the way at Lion’s Bay, and Furry Creek just gorgeous. This is an area where the mountains drop steeply into the ocean, and the mountain faces are overgrown with fir trees. Turning up a fiord like fingerling in the Salish Sea to Squamish, continued to offer magnificent scenery. Squamish itself was a bit of a mixture; a nice-enough town controlled by the Chief – ( Sawamus Chieftain) a massive rock face that is popular with climbers. We experienced local life in a small cafĂ© which provided Ray with insight into “just every day life” and me to a determination never to be in the position of saying to my friends: “So, what did you do today to pass your time?”
The Chief, from Squamish

Horseshoe Bay

Salish Sea from Sea to Sky Highway

Both Alanna and Ray have celebrated birthdays. Alanna (Jan 26) held a small get together at her place with her SFU friends….and her parents. This was our first glass of wine in about a month, and it slid down very nicely!! Have to admit I enjoyed the weight loss as much as the not drinking. Alas, I can’t say that has continued!! Alanna and I then took Ray out for dinner in a small restaurant here in Kerrisdale (Feb 12). We had a lovely evening together and after dinner, and wine, we rolled back down the street, enjoying the walk in the fresh air. I think it is in SuperFreakanomics where someone says it is more dangerous to walk drunk then drive drunk!! We managed to make it safely!! Alanna, Ray and I also had a lovely dinner out last Thursday night with Christine and Tom who are moving to West Van in May.

Alanna on her Birthday

Alanna's Birthday Party

Ray's Birthday - Ray, Alanna and Liz
I selected a Taiwanese hair salon to have a cut and colour on my hair, with even better results than in China; spent an afternoon shopping with Alanna for “office” clothes downtown Vancouver; spent a day “window shopping” with my friend Cindy, and lunch out - it is a treat to spend time “chatting” with good friends, don’t you think?; and another day I went for coffee with my co-author and poured over the latest volume of federal corporate legal procedures that is just being published. Thursday evening we had some friends over for dinner; and Saturday evening we went out for dinner to Cindy and Murray’s in North Vancouver.

Ray and I also run: Tuesday evenings, Wednesday evenings, Friday mornings, and Sunday mornings. This weekend (we did Saturday not Sunday because we were out Saturday night) we ran 11.5 km. And, we love to go on walks and explore.

We are living in one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. So, how much do you know about Vancouver? Situated with the Burrard Inlet to the North, the mouth of the Fraser River to the South, the Strait of Georgia to the west shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. Travelling up the north coast with islands and fjords, and the high North Shore Mountains flanking the coast, the views are magnificent. The economy is supported by the lumber industry, tourism, and the film industry. It has a compact urban core that has gained international recognition for its "high amenity and 'livable' development." Not only is Vancouver aesthetically attractive, but Canada provides a safety net of security from both a personal security aspect, a health aspect, and security from wars and to a degree terrorism. The population is about 642,843 (2010) in Vancouver itself and 2,328,000 (2009) in Greater Vancouver. Immigration occurs from around the world and the city has a rich multi-cultural population from all over the globe. A love affair with Vancouver, and BC may break down when it comes to crime. Listening to the News,it seems that there are many more gun shot deaths than in Toronto, and when I check out the statistics, this is correct. It has the highest rate of gun related violent crime in any major metropolitan region in Canada and its property crime rates are among the highest in North America.

So, I think I have contributed a little to all the questions I get asked: (i) how do you pass your time on a daily basis; (ii) what are the social problems Vancouver faces; and (iii) are you enjoying yourselves. If you have any other questions, just leave me a comment on the blog. But seriously, who wouldn’t want to live here?

PS - Sorry for the mis-placement of the photos - I can't seem to get them in the right place!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Small Things Make You Happy

We are always looking for the “big” things in life; the big moments that will make an impact, but this morning when the book that I ordered through arrived from The Book Brothers in Chatham, ON, in the mail, I realized that it is the small things that can make you the most happy. I am excited. I can’t wait to read it. This is my treat to myself after my exam is over. The book is called “The Gypsies”, by Jan Yoors. and for the front cover of the book
It is the story of the author who, at the age of 12, ran away from his privileged home in Belgium to live with the Gypsies. I have chosen the book as one of our book-club reads. This is the reason I gave my fellow book-club members: “Maybe those of you have ties with Europe will know more than others about the Gypsies. Coming from Britain, we saw the “Tinkers” and “Gypsies” regularly, but they were always described negatively…..naturally, as a child, to me they were “mysterious” and “fascinating” and although we would try to get close to see who they were, we didn’t want to get too close because there was that “fear” about them spread by the “adults” in our life. I am looking forward to reading the book and to learning a little more of the true facts about the Gypsies.” I think we have a choice about the way we live our lives. We can live in isolation of the realities around us, or we can embrace life and the many diversities that make up our “community”. Neither way is right or wrong, but  I choose to do the latter. It gives me deeper “perspective”, and “compassion”, and “tolerance” which gives my life more meaning.….I think!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pole Dancing in Vancouver (Dec 30 - Jan 16, 2011)

Our Run this Morning around the Sea Wall at False Creek
Our life in Vancouver is not dull! Yesterday afternoon I went to a shower for a young friend of mine who is getting married in March. Apart from seeing the beautiful gifts she received, eating the delicious food her mother provided, and envying the pink, green, and white martini’s that the tall, dark and handsome young man made (he was the only man present), we also pole danced…and had a lesson in lap dancing! It was so much fun!! I managed the pole dancing reasonably well (so I’m told)but I am not sure I managed the sultry, sexy attitude that the PT demonstrated; and when it came to lap dancing, I knew I was beat. My body just didn’t seem to arch as arrogantly, or bend as flexibly, or look as enticing as the younger guests!! I couldn’t quite manage to undo my bra while executing a backward bend over my silently-absent, seated partner! But, nonetheless, it was a terrific afternoon and Nicola received a lot of tips for a romantic evening with her new husband!!! Ladies, if you want to “rekindle” the eroticism of your marriage I strongly recommend trying it…..along with the martini’s!! The young barman was a great sport and did try the pole dancing, but was nowhere to be seen when the lap dancing started!! And....the reason I was "envying" the martinis...well first of all I was driving, but secondly and more importantly, we are all on an alcohol-free month - Jan 2 to Jan 26. It's actually doable, and quite bills are cheaper, general cost of "stuff" is less, and you feel great....don't miss it one little bit. But, no doubt we will all go back to our pre-2011 habits once Alanna's birthday hits on the 26th.
On a more serious note, I joined the half-marathon clinic at the Running Room on West Broadway. First class was January 4. We have started out with a slow 7 km on Sunday mornings and today just completed an 8 km run. The only hook is the hills. There are hills everywhere. So our “easy” runs are usually done half up hill and half down hill. Still managed a respectable 6.4 mins/km; but I don’t think I can keep that up for 21.1 km and certainly not over a hilly course. It’s a fun group of people, “Kitsilano” people, I’m told, as if that gives them some immediate identity….which of course is totally lost on me! Ray is joining me at the run club on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Then we try and fit in a fourth morning on Fridays. So that is certainly giving us some “schedule” to our life. Otherwise there is not much!

I am trying to do my reading and REMEMBER IT for my course. I thought someone said that running was good for the memory. I remember to go running….but not much else!! I have done a first draft of my essay and am now waiting to do a telephone interview with a charity that I am going to use as a cases study. Can’t wait for Jan 31 when it will all be over, and I shall be a free women again!!

Alanna joins us on Wednesdays and stays till Sunday when we drive her back to the West End (about 15minutes). The kilometre scale here is liberating. Instead of having to drive for half an hour to get anywhere, in 15 minutes we are practically at the other side of town….well, that is if the traffic is co-operating! We’ve had a few journeys over the Lion’s Gate Bridge that have taken a little longer than one would like. And we study (that's Alanna and I)………. Last night one of her class mates came for dinner and that was nice. I have also spent a couple of days with Alanna studying in the library at the Simon Fraser campus downtown. The atmosphere there is very congenial to studying for blocks of time without interruption. Bliss!

When Ray and I are on our own, I study (are you getting the picture???); Ray busies himself with listing our Collingwood Condo and the house for sale. We like to walk; so in between our runs, we try to fit in a walk, and of course we can walk to the “high street” in Kerrisdale to do our produce shopping. We walked "up" (note, yet another hill) there last Friday evening and had dinner in a neat little family owned restaurant called Suvai which was recommended to us by the owners’ of the house we are staying in. During the week, Ray had an outing to visit some business associates in Burnaby. Last Tuesday night it snowed, quite a bit actually, so Ray had to clear the front steps and the pavement in front of the house, and did the same for our neighbour. But by late afternoon the snow had turned to slush in the warm temperatures. We didn’t run that night because none of the side streets Otherwise, temperatures have been up and down - low was -4 or -5C at the beginning of the month; today it was 12C; and it has been up to 13/14C. By the end of Thursday, you would hardly have known there was snow. On Friday, I took the bus downtown to go “lingerie” shopping and spent a fun hour or so in Scarlet’s choosing some sexy lingerie for a shower gift.

Ray has also been checking out the real-estate in Vancouver. Most of it is totally out of anything that makes sense. I haven’t a clue how young people will ever buy a house here and since travel into the city is so restricted, I can’t imagine what the future for Vancouver looks like. The price of houses is just not in line with salaries. If your mortgage is $100,000 per annum, that means $200,000 earnings before tax; and if that is 50% of your salary, that means a salary of around $400,000. Unrealistic for the many. Of course figures for “affordability” are much higher and the average in Vancouver is more like 65% of salary.

We had a quiet hogmanay, and then on New Year’s Day our friends Cindy and Murray came for drinks. For those of you who don’t know Cindy, we lived together in a house on Davisville Avenue in Toronto “pre-marriage” together with Suzie, who lives in Sydney in Australia. These were my two cohorts on my August visit to Vancouver.

We made a trip today over the Second Narrow’s Bridge to Deep Cove on the north shore of the Indian Arm of the Burrard Inlet. It was a spectacular setting. The forested mountain slopes came right down to the shore line and there was a beautiful little hamlet right in the cove with a yacht club and piers for kayaking and other water sports. We had a tasty lunch in the Arms Reach Bistro looking over the water to the mountains on the other side of the Arm. It wasn’t raining but the skies were very gray and a white mist hung sulkily in between the mountain peaks so that the whole effect was very dramatic and very stunning. We ran out of road just past the houses in Deep Cove and so turned around and headed back to Vancouver over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. A really beautiful afternoon’s drive.

These have been our “highlights” to date, and sorry for not having more pictures…will try and remember to take my camera with me... stay tuned for more….