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Vancouver is a cultural experience, something not to be taken in all at once but slowly over time.
My first night here I lay on my couch with a horrible feeling. What had I done, moving to Vancouver? It was so different I wasn’t prepared for it. In the middle of the night light streamed in through the heavily curtained windows and the noise was enough to wake anyone from a dead sleep.
I came to Vancouver from a small community out in the coastal mountains north of Mission. It is so small the nearest store is 8 kilometer’s away and a stroll around the block means a two hour journey. For the first few years of elementary school, the bus stop, about a 20 min walk away, was affectionately known as ‘the stop sign’. Going into town was essentially a day trip and anything that needed to be done in town was accordingly planned for the trip.
Our house was on a gravel road and the last house on the road that the power-lines reached. We were too far out for cable and our water came from a well to an underground aquifer. I remember them digging it because the old one would dry up in the summer. In the winter we heated our house by wood stove, a life-saver during power outages.
Moving to Vancouver was more of a career move, or rather a dream of a career move. I wanted to be an actor. Years later I would find the film industry wasn’t for me, I wasn’t ambitious or driven enough. Though, I don’t regret trying.
My first apartment in Vancouver was a beautified slum. It looked respectable on the outside but the inside was falling apart. There was a big hole in the wall behind the toilet with black mold growing out of it; the bathroom floor boards were in a state of decay and over a few years we had an array of creature infestations from squirrels to cockroaches. That’s right, I said squirrels.
One of our neighbours in the apartment next to us used to have violent fights. It didn’t matter the time of the day. On one occasion, while fighting, they broke a window. It lay broken for months until we informed the building caretaker when summer effectively came to an end and the rain returned. But our rent was cheap, and it was in the perfect location.
On the up side, everything was so close. The Skytrain was fast, the shopping center was just down the street and finding work wasn’t dictated by access to a car. On the down side I was in cultural shock from only an hour and a half move west. No one in Vancouver seemed to want to know their neighbours, as if getting to know them was far too much effort. I despised living here.
Everything was chaos. Non-stop movement. If there is one thing I could equate with the city, is never ceasing movement. Like an action movie that never ends, as if the writer couldn’t bear to stop the action, so he kept on writing. It was relatable to the never ending drama of a soap opera.
I missed the quiet, calm nature of my country upbringing. The fresh air. The slower time. There, I knew how to survive.
My perspective changed in just one moment. It wasn’t a rather significant moment for anyone else. I was in a coffee shop – one of my favorite places to think – across from a park and I suddenly mused how l loved living here. The view might have help with my muse. Though, I was content. I don’t mind the cities energy now and I love the people. We care about each other. We just get tunnel vision inside of our busy lives. It’s an expensive but beautiful place to live, there’s always something to do or get done.
This concrete labyrinth is now my home. I know it by heart and love to brag about its attributes. It’s a gorgeous city. Its strength is its natural borders, a river, an ocean front and mountains. It’s contained by nature itself and we’ve grown our own culture around it in our isolation on the Canadian west coast. This Vancouver culture is held up by its many smaller cultures. A kind of Vancouverism.
As the years have passed I have come to realize that I moved to city with the perfect contrast, the perfect balance. Vancouver won me over.