Monday, 6 July 2015

Vancouver is Shrouded in Smoke

Picture from Vancity Buzz. Where art thou, mountains?

I've mentioned how hot and dry it has been in Vancouver recently. In truth, it has been the longest time without rain in Vancouver since Matthew and I moved here in 2011.

As a result, there have been lots of wildfires burning around British Columbia for the past couple of weeks. The smoke finally reached Vancouver two days ago. It started as a brown smear across the western sky (blocking the miraculous astronomical view of Jupiter and Venus in alignment!) and then dwelt in English Bay for a bit. And then it leeched onto land. You can't see the mountains or the city towers. Even a couple of blocks away are hazy.

Our eyes sting from it. Our noses and throats itch. Our hair and clothing reeks of it.

Last night we were in New Westminster at my uncle and aunt's place (for cousin Sophie's birthday!). We were all sitting out on the deck with our barbeque and our drinks, morbidly joking that it felt like being in Australia. And it did. The grass is brown and dead. The sunset sky was blocked by orange acrid smoke and the occasional warm breeze just stirred it around and made our skin prickle. And that smell.

Ironically, Vancouver just voted an overwhelming "no" in the transit plebiscite (apparently "doomed from the start").  My friend Cail posted this on facebook today (I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her!): "Metrovan, this weekend is an eerie preview of what you've voted for. Climate change creating summers so dry we beg for rain. So many cars the smog smothers us and the mountains disappear. A sun that smoulders."

No Vancouverite ever begged for rain. These are end times.

Celebrating Canada Day as Immigrants

I found this picture at the Victoria Mosaic website. This 9-year photography "Canadian Mosaic Project" appears to be aiming to capture diversity in the Canadian population. This is the Vancouver Mosaic from 2010, celebrating the city's 125th year.
Last Wednesday was Canada Day (1st of July). Obviously there's nothing more excitingly patriotic than a good old fashioned day off work. Really stirring stuff.

But in fact, Matthew and I had a lot to be grateful for this particular Canada Day. I am of course a citizen, but also an immigrant. And Matthew is celebrating his new status as a Canadian Permanent Resident. It is a timely reminder that we are lucky to have the freedom and privilege to stay in Canada or leave if we want to. Not everyone is so politically or physically mobile.

We spent the day at our friends Jeff and Terri's house in Burnaby, eating barbeque and drinking micheladas with a friendly crew of local and immigrant Canadians. There were people from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Honduras, Japan and elsewhere. It was scorchingly hot on the patio with the wind blowing and the grill sizzling. There were no little Canadian flags at the party, and no one spoke about Canada per se. I think it was a perfect way for us all to celebrate Canada Day, being from here or not from here, and being together.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Thrifting: Furniture Edition

All who know me know that I love a good op shop (noun and verb). Since becoming property owners, Matthew and I have been Taking It Next Level with the second-hand sourcing. It is my mission never to buy new when something perfectly good already exists outside the retail sector.

1. Consumerism. Ugh. Amiright? and
2. We are not made of money.

However we do need more furnishings to accommodate our new living circumstances. We are very pleased to be welcoming a good friend to share our home (more info to come) and we need to furnish the second bedroom ASAP.

This post could also be titled "Craigslist: A Love Story". I had known of the existence of Craigslist, but only in an abstract way. Since arriving in Vancouver we have lived in the same, sparse, 500 sq ft apartment. Between my very generous extended family and a single excursion to Richmond (for a dining set and some kitchen wares), we have not needed significant furniture upgrades. About 2 years ago we needed a new bed and couch, and we sourced them pretty quickly and easily on Craigslist. But those were immediate purchases of necessity. Like a person who only needs bread and milk bee-lines into and out of the supermarket ignoring the candy sale, we just got our gear and got out.

Now, since I have the leisure, I have been carefully combing through Craigslist for our requisite furnishings. Here is what we have found so far:
  • Brass bed with porcelain cherry-blossoms
  • White wrought-iron bed
  • Antique hardwood desk
  • Two banker's lamps (one brass and one green glass)
  • Chair (bonus when we bought the desk)
  • Microwave (actually bought from our friends, but still an excellent second-hand acquisition)
What we still have to find:
  • Floor lamps (the living and bed rooms have no light fittings! wtf?)
  • Book case (our current apartment has one built in to the wall. Our new one has no such invention).
  • Patio furniture for balcony
  • Mini barbecue for balcony
  • Armchair (our couch simply doesn't fit all three occupants of our new home, even if we are good friends)
...And what I found but cannot have:
  • Two antique carousel horses ("But Matthew, carousel horses. Antique." "But Zoe, we have no space and also are you kidding no.")
So grateful we have a wagon.
Actually Matthew has been very obliging about my new habit. We have lived sparsely for four years, but it is time to get cozy and furnish. (We also have to do some significant home redecoration over the coming months, which I am sure will be covered in journalistic detail on this blog.) I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Scotiabank Charity Half Marathon: Triumphant Recap

This year I signed up for the Scotiabank Charity Half Marathon in my capacity as a Friend of the Vancouver Public Library, to raise money for the Vancouver Public Library Foundation. I signed Matthew up to race with me because misery loves company.

Last I wrote, Matthew and I had diligently completed our training run. I also had narrowly exceeded my minimum fundraising target of $200. So we were all set to run that thing.

On Sunday morning we set the alarm a bit later than we had the year before (because last year we spent half an hour waiting for the darn bus!!). I had humbly signed us up for Green corral (for slow-pokes) because I did not trust that we could improve on our time of 2:15. Wow was I wrong.

It was searing hot like a wok when we were not in the shade. There was a good lot of shade on the course, especially in UBC and Point Grey, but by the time we were in Kitsilano it was glaring UV pretty much all the way into town. Some desperate joggers (me included) dashed through the odd neighbourhood sprinkler when the opportunity arose.

At Spanish banks, just before the 10km mark, we had the surprise and pleasure of overtaking the 2:15 pacers. And we did not see them for the rest of the race. There were two excruciating bits that I recall: this first was the hill at the end of NW Marine Dr up from Locarno/Jericho beach area (about 11kms in). There were motivational race volunteers barking "Don't slow down! Don't give up! Don't stop!" in loud, serious tones. We jogged all the way up that bastard and even got a little sprint on at the crest into 4th Ave. The second excruciating bit was coming onto Burrard Bridge (at about 18kms). The Molson sign said it was 22 degrees although it felt like 30. At my request we slowed down to a walk for about 3 minutes to catch our breath. I'm not proud of walking part of the bridge, because I don't think it is in the spirit of the event, but it was all I could do to keep going. We saw one fellow racer sitting down stretching his legs, and other being carried. Tough times.

Anyway, we stiffened the upper lip and ran on for the brief rest of it, crossing the finish line in Stanley Park at 2:13 race time and 2:08 chip time! (FYI: race time is how long since the gun; chip time is how long since you personally crossed the starting line; a half-marathon is 21 kms or 13.1 miles). Significantly faster than all our training runs and also last year's race.


We were immediately rewarded for our efforts with a drink of water, a medal, and a family of ducklings who were very distressed trying to navigate through the middle of the event. Baby animals are very soothing. We parked it in the grass and did some stretching (we still had ahead of us a hike up Davie St to the bus home, we remembered how challenging this felt after running for so long without a proper stretch). We located the Vancouver Public Library Foundation tent in Charity Village. Our fellow Friend Ann was manning the tent, so we stopped for a chat, brought her some snacks, and took advantage of the photo opportunity!

Ann and me at the Charity Village

I would like to take this moment to thank my family and friends for their generous sponsorship of my run. We are lucky in Friends of the Vancouver Public Library that we don't need to "sell" our mission; everyone recognises the civic and philosophical importance of the public library. But it is quite another thing to acknowledge this importance by giving money. In total I raised $265, and the greater VPL Foundation team raised well over $5000. Thank you for giving your financial support to this great and equitable Vancouver institution!

I would also like to thank Matthew for signing up with so little fuss, for foregoing precious Sunday sleep-ins to run all over Vancouver for the last 2 months, and for staying no further than a metre away from me during the whole race (even though he could easily have galloped off and left me in the dust). It is a great pleasure and privilege to be able to run with Matthew.

p.s. I promised Matthew that I would not make him run another half marathon.