Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver’
“Hi, how are you doing?”
Waiting for the light to change so I could cross Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver on a quiet Tuesday morning, a voice of familiarity is the last thing I expected to hear.
I turned my head to the side, and it turns out it wasn’t a voice of familiarity at all. Instead, this complete stranger had said hello and asked me how my day was. Before I could comprehend what had just happened and gather the words to reply, the light changed and he was on his merry way.
This may be foreign to many of us, but it is common here in Canada. In this case, it was just two of us at the intersection, a situation that most of us try so hard to deny the reality of. We pretend that the other person isn’t there, bury our faces into our phones, and if the situation lingers long enough, it becomes totally awkward.
That doesn’t exist in Canada, where a simple greeting to a complete stranger who’s path we cross is nothing unusual. And certainly nothing to be threatened by, fearful of or looking to avoid. Perhaps another thing the rest of us can learn from!
Just a little scene that sums up the business scene at the Fraser River waterfront in Steveston, Richmond, BC.
For a country that sits so far north it’s often frozen, with parts that see so much rain you could float away, Canadians don’t use anything as an excuse to prevent them from enjoying the great outdoors. Taking great pride in their country’s abundant natural beauty, enjoying this beauty is ingrained into the Canadian psyche, no matter what the weather may be on any given day.
Business happens here just as it does anywhere else in the world, and yet somehow, people don’t seem to lose sight of what surrounds them and live with blinders, as too many of us are guilty of. When the weather’s nice, everyone is out jogging, enjoying the waterfront in Toronto or the Seawall in Vancouver. When it’s not, they just layer up and go for a hike, perhaps with cameras in tow to capture the beauty they are bound to stumble upon.
If there is one thing all of us can learn from Canada (and actually, there are many), it would be to disconnect from the concrete-and-cellular world we live in today, and reconnect with nature from time to time. It truly refreshes your soul.
This wasn’t my initial descent, and wasn’t even a descent, but instead a land crossing. I had been to Vancouver several times prior to this visit, but I had to share this experience, as it was my first time to encounter any trouble whatsoever with Canadian border authorities.
Driving from Seattle (which can often be the cheapest way of getting to and around in Vancouver if you’re counting), I usually cross the border at Peace Arch along US Interstate 5. Today, however, I listened to the wait times, and heard that it was backed up. So I tried the alternate crossing along State Route 543, just a few miles from Peach Arch. While I’m often heading into Vancouver solo, this time I had company in the form of my friend and snowboarding buddy, Shaun.
The line of cars wasn’t long, but when we got to the front, we were asked to pull aside and step out of the car. For a moment I thought it may have been a race thing, given Shaun’s long, dangling dreadlocks and the dearth of black people in this part of the world. But then I considered how truly diverse Vancouver is (for races other than black—though this is changing), and figured that couldn’t be the case. We were taken into a waiting room, and left for what felt like hours without being given any information. Then Shaun was called into a back room, taken for questioning, only to come out 15 minutes later with a clearance for us to proceed along our way.
Wondering what the hell had just happened during a routine border crossing I had made countless times before, Shaun explained that about 6 years ago, he had a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge on his record in the U.S. That basically means he was found carrying marijuana without any intent to distribute, and only in a quantity that one person could use. And it was 6 years ago!! Further, he was issued a warning that if something like that happened again, he wouldn’t be allowed to return.
Apparently, this was enough to trip Canada’s border authorities, which I found incredibly hypocritical given the fact that individual marijuana possession is legal in the state we had just physically crossed over from (Washington), and given my awareness of Vancouver’s relaxed attitude towards the drug. While it is not technically legal, most Vancouverites I know engage in some healthy smoking from time to time, and there are even cafes that allow it in public. As long as there isn’t distribution involved or some widespread disturbance, law enforcement tends to bat a blind eye.
So regardless of what your transgression is, just be aware that you may have some issues crossing the border into Canada if this applies to you! And it may be completely shocking and surprising to you as well, all the more so once you understand how generally tolerant the average Canadian is!
My ID: 3:53pm, Wednesday, 21 January 2004: Vancouver International Airport
Alaska Airlines flight AS673 from Los Angeles
My Initial Descent into Canada came on approach into Vancouver International Airport on a cold, gray January afternoon. Living in California at the time, I decided I wanted to see the city I had heard so much about. So I hopped on the plane and took in the beauty for the entire 3-hour journey up the coast. I was treated to a view of California’s Yosemite National Park, the downtown Seattle skyline, and excited for the bigger treat I had awaiting me upon landing.
Just walking down the corridor at YVR to the immigration queue, I knew so much about the culture and heritage of British Columbia. From Native American Indian artifact displays to mock lakes and trees to recorded nature sounds coming from the walls surrounding me, no detail was left untouched. While the immigration officers themselves were a bit stuffy, I found everyone else I encountered during my first 4-day stay to be exactly as I had expected: warm, polite, friendly and welcoming. There have been few cities I have visited where I felt immediately at home, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was one of them.