32. Encouraging developments

Vancouver, Canada, 30.01.2017.

Time is running when you’re having fun. Or when you’re busy. 2 weeks have passed by and I haven’t written anything for the blog. Sorry for that! Well, I will try to make up for this by wrinting a longer entry now. Yes, it will be a bit longer because a lot of things have happened in the last 2 weeks. Let’s recapitulate:

In the days after the last blog entry, I continued writing applications and I did quite a bit of running. Then, on Saturday, 21st I did my first half marathon of the year in Langley, next to Vancouver. The Yeti-Set-Go Half Marathon was a very “exclusive” event with only a hand full of people doing the half marathon. Actually, we were around 15 people overall so the event was even smaller than the Coigach Half Marathon in Scotland last October. But there were really nice people and the weather was also quite good for a run. However, I was really unprepared for this run. In December, I could not train because I was sick for quite a while. Also, I was busy clearing out my apartment. And now, in January, I only ran a couple of times and none of the training sessions was anywhere near half marathon distance. So I decided not to push the matter but to go steady and without a hurry. Means that I finished in 1:51 hours, definitely not the best time ever. But hey, it was okay for my current state of training. Also, just in case I will start going even longer distances in the future, I need to start managing my power a bit better. That means I should probably rather run a 2:00- pace so that I don’t start dying after the first half of a full marathon. Anyway, these are thoughts for the future I guess. We also got really nice gloves for the run and I proudly wore them. Check them out!

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The start/ finish line. You don’t know it’s there….
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Place of the run: The Tynehead Regional Park in Langley, next to Vancouver.
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Soooooooo fluffy!
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Done after 1:51. First finish in 2017. Felt like a real Yeti in this run…. 🙂

Next weekend, there will be another half marathon right here in Vancouver. I don’t know yet if I want to take part in that one as well since my current training status hasn’t changed much in the previous days. Thus, a similar result to the Langley- run can be expected. That is why, on the one hand this run would not make much sense. But on the other hand, I could try to run a 2:00 pace and see how that feels after 20 kilometers. I don’t know yet what to do. Possibly, I will make a spontaneous decision here. When running in the “city” in the last days, I finally found the official US-Canada border crossing and also a very very interesting junction. So let me also share these pictures with you before I change the subject to my new car. Yes, my new car. 🙂

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Official US – Canadian border crossing at Point Roberts.
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England meets Germany in Canada. Good times.

Alright, let’s talk about my new car. About 10 days ago, my German bank finally told me that they wired the money to my Canadian bank. Finally! It was about time. Then, it took 2 more days until the money arrived here in Canada. Once that happened, I started looking for a car. Since I have no clue about cars or mechnical things in general, I tried to get as much information and advice as I could. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, I had two different cars inspected by professional mechanics to find out if they were any good. Turned out they were crap and I should not buy them. Which I did not do. One was a Dodge Durango, one was a Toyota 4Runner. The latter, however, was a rebuild car that must have been in a severe accident. It’s owner must have forgotten about that as he continued to claim that the car was all good. Well, I knew better and told him I wasn’t interested anymore. At that point, I had already met several different people who kept telling me that a Toyota 4Runner was a good buy. I am especially thankful for the initial advice in this direction which came from Corey&Kelly. Thanks again! So I continued looking for a Toyota 4Runner. I found a decent 4Runner in Surrey and although it was already 20 years old, it had only 94.000 kilometers on it. Japanese import, steering wheel on the right side of the car (I don’t care about that. Done it before in England!) and its japanese owner claimed it was in perfect condition. Well, as I don’t know anything about cars, I wanted to see its papers and have it inspected as well. It turned out that the guy was trying to sell the car for nearly 5 months now. A 4Runner! These usually sell very very quickly. He was asking 7200 Dollars for it which is an o.k. price if the car is as good as he claimed. Then he tried to start the engine and the car only came to live after a lot of effort. Great. Then it turned out that the radio was broken. Oh well. Then I made an appointment at a local repair shop with him standing beside me. After I phoned the shop, he told me he would need 40 Dollars as a compensation to go there. Because it would be his working time that he needed to invest for that. Great service, isn’t it? I then asked him who would pay the mechanic if it turned out that the car has more issues than he claims. He replied that this would be my problem. Now, I am a rather patient person. But when he then went on to say that he has no more time to “play games” and that he was done with the conversation, I was very close to tell him to f**k off. Anyway, I didn’t do that but I told him I would consider his offer. Then I drove off to my next appointment (see below). He later texted me that he didn’t want the 40 dollars anymore to go to the repair shop with me. In any case, the whole thing didn’t quite feel right to me. It was a gut feeling that there may be more problems waiting for me, especially when trying to get insurance for a “newly” imported vehicle with right hand drive. In any case, I then went to New Westminster to take a look at another car. Also 4Runner, built in 1998 but with 360.000 kilometers. Yep, that is a lot. But as of now, I only need that car for one year. And its price was quite low at 2600 Dollars. I had a very long chat with its owner, a very kind and helpful dealer named Ken. He told me about the car’s issues and even adviced me not to buy the car, anticipating that it would need a lot of repairs. He also said that this car was rather suited for someone who already owns a 4Runner and/or who was prepared to spend a lot of time and love trying to fix this one. We had a very good and long conversation and agreed to keep in contact about the car. Now I had a decision to make: A hopefully good car sold by a strange guy or a confirmed “problem-child” sold by a refreshingly honest and friendly dealer. Well, as I don’t know anything about cars, I felt like the presumably healthier car would be the better choice for me. So I texted the japanese guy, telling him that I would still like to have a mechanic to take a look at his car and that we should meet at the repair shop as previously planned. After a while, he answered that he had already made other plans for the afternoon since he thought I didn’t want the car anymore. For real? This was the moment when one of Bricktop’s famous quotes from the movie “Snatch” came to my mind. Anyone who knows that movie has an idea of what I thought in that moment. I won’t quote it here though. In any case, I had never told him I wasn’t interested anymore but after this event, I was sure I would not buy his car anymore. So I then organized a mechanic to take a closer look at the much more problematic 4Runner the next day. I then met with Ken and the mechanic and anxiously awaited the result of the inspection. As anticipated, the car had a lot of issues, including a lot of rust, also visible. But the rust underneath the car was only surface rust and I don’t care about the appearance of a car as long as it is safe and reliable. So the rust and the bad paint on one of the car’s sides do not bother me. The mechanic told me not to buy the car due to its obvious issues but hey, that decision is on me, right? Of course, Ken also got the result of the inspection. We talked a bit about it and made a plan how to fix the most important things right away. Ken was very helpful and very resourceful and organized a lot for me already on the same day. So on Saturday, when I showed up to buy the car, it already had a new wind shield and a new alternator. I then managed to get insurance for the car and we concluded the deal afterwards. Ken then also got me a new belt for the alternator and I had it installed at a nearby repair shop. He also called another repair shop that would then fix the damaged muffler and the brakes. This is where I went today and got these two things done for a mere 460 dollars. Call that a good deal! Overall, Ken’s performance was outstanding. An honest dealer with a great heart, a top-notch understanding of customer service and just a really really nice person overall. That is why I love Canada. Although people don’t know you, they help you and treat you like you are family. I am really really grateful for that, this is so great about this country….

Just now, the car is in another repair shop which takes care of all the other issues that need to be done. Fluids, steering, minor electric issues and other stuff. All in all, these repairs will cost another 1000 Dollars and then I should be good. The overall cost of this car will then be around 4200 Dollars which is totally fine with me. And it will have so many new parts that I won’t have to worry about much about future issues. Of course, it is always a risk to buy a used car, I am aware of that. So there is a chance that this car breaks down soon and I will have lost most of these 4200 Dollars. Then the decision was wrong to buy the car. But I am willing to take this risk. Even if the car fails me in the middle of nowhere, I am not too worried about that. When you’re trained to survive, what can possibly happen? Life’s a challenge and I am willing to take it. Besides, it just felt right to buy this car, I can’t even explain why. While I was very head- driven in the past, I started to listen to my heart a bit more in the past and up to now, I think that has benefited me quite well. In the end, my decision to come to Canada was definitely a heart- decision. Anyway, back to the subject. 🙂  I will probably be able to pick up my 4Runner after having brought back my rental car to the airport on Wednesday. Really looking forward to that! Here is my new boy:

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1998 Toyota 4Runner. My new companion for at least a year. 🙂

So that is all about the car. What else happened in my life? I found out that Whippcream looks like an egg if she sleeps and you put half of a lemon on her. She didn’t even flinch when I did that. Did not wake up or complain about it. Can’t stop mentioning that she is a really great and friendly companion. 🙂 At some point in the future I definitely also want to have a cat again. Just now, it is not the right time for that.

Job- wise, I got a phone call from the HR manager in Banff, asking me about my working permit. I explained it to him and he said that I have a “strong application” overall. So I am happy that there is a positive reaction and people seem to consider me as a candidate. All I need now is a job interview. Let’s hope for the future. But now that I have dealt with the car- issue, I will continue to focus on the job- problem. Probably, I will write some more applications during this week. That is as much as I can do job-wise in the moment.

In the meantime, I also enjoyed my life in Vancouver. I spent 2 more nights at the YukYuk’s comedy club in Vancouver. Definitely one of my favorite places here. Great show with Tom Buehler (see picture) and Steve Gaskin roughly two weeks ago. And last Friday, I went there with Verena, a work-and-travel girl from Germany that I met online in one of Facebook’s Canadian work&travel groups. We had a great evening and also visited one of Vancouver’s clubs, the Roxy, afterwards. As Verena works in an associated restaurant, we didn’t have to pay for entry and for the (soft) drinks. Never had that before in club!!! Thanks again, Verena, we should do that again sometime!

Also, I have spent quite some time in the local Comic Store, playing all kinds of games with the lovely folks there. Feels good to be able to enjoy my hobbies here in Canada as well. No matter where I went in the world so far, I always found nice people to play with, be it Magic, board games or poker. Just amazing, I feel I am really privileged. 🙂

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Vancouver Sky train. Favorite means of transportation if you want to go quickly from A to B in Vancouver.
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The “cat- egg”. No harm was done to any cat for this picture.
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Energy Empire, Manhattan Project. Great board game that allows for many different strategies.
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Tom Buehler on stage. Great show at the YukYuk’s Comedy club. Love that location!

Alright, this is about as much as I can and want to write about in the moment. Also, I just realized that I already wrote some 2400+ words. Guess I have to write more but shorter blog entries in the future. Well, whatever. 🙂 Lastly, let me conclude with the obligatory music advice. This song is rather aggressive and I don’t like it for its lyrics. However, it has a certain touch to it that stimulates my adrenalin- production. Great when you’re running uphill…

Drowning Pool – Bodies

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29. First steps Vancouver

Vancouver, Canada, 06.01.2017 and 07.01.2017.

After the first few days in Vancouver I feel like writing a new blog entry to keep you a bit up to date. Currently, it is Friday afternoon and I am sitting in a Laundromat south of Vancouver, doing my Laundry and listening to some strange German Rap music. No better opportunity to write something.

The last days were pretty exciting but also really productive. But let’s start at the beginning. After I landed at Vancouver airport, I had to wait quite a while until I passed the Customs office. No problems here. After that, I went to the Immigration office and got my working permit just after a few minutes of waiting. Really efficient, I was truly amazed. I then picked up my rental car and went to the nearest shopping mall with a TELUS- shop in it. Interestingly, there was also a branch of the HSBC bank in there. So I went in there first to ask what documents they need to open an account for me. It turned out that banks always need 2 documents of personal proof and 1 item to proof one’s address. So nothing I could do there yet. Anyway, I then went to the TELUS- shop to reactivate my Canadian SIM- card from last year. Unfortunately, that was not possible since they already deleted my number. Oh well, I then decided to get a new SIM with a new contract including sufficient data volume. This worked out well and by doing this, I got a confirmation sheet from them with my current address south of Vancouver. That was quite good since I was able to use this sheet as my proof of address one day later to open my bank account. After having done all this, it was already relatively late and I found out that the “Service Canada”- office had already closed. So there was not much more to do for me. I sat down, changed my SIM- card and started reading all the mails and messages that my friends and family had sent me while my smartphone was turned off. Later on, I met Dawn in the food court of the mall and we talked a lot while she drank a tasty protein shake. I was really glad to see her again after 7 months. Finally, we went shopping (groceries) and drove back to her apartment to settle in.

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Aberdeen- mall next to the airport. Reminds me of my Scottish holidays last year…

On Wednesday I wanted to box off the rest of the bureaucratic issues. But the day started with me waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning. Bad Jetlag I guess. Unfortunately, I also woke up very early on Thursday and Friday. Anyway, that will go away soon I guess. After breakfast I drove to Richmond and I managed to get literally everything I wanted: I got a Social Insurance number (took me 5 minutes), successfully applied for a BC driving license (took me roughly 60 minutes) and I also opened a bank account (took me roughly 80 minutes). Then, I bought a double- burner plate to cook and also got a stainless steel Wok for a really good price. Finally, I had to do some shopping again to be able to cook my favorite Chinese meals. Overall, that was a very good day for me and I was really satisfied with how it went. At this point I really have to compliment the Canadians on their bureaucracy. It is working, it is efficient and the waiting times are really okay. If I had to judge the three bureaucratic systems I know so far, I would rate them in this order: CANADA > GERMANY > … nothing for a long time … > ENGLAND. Sorry, my English fellows but that’s the way it is. Just a side note: A few days ago, I got a letter from the Gravesham Council Office in England prompting me to pay my council tax. Well, I had already told them a few months ago that I would leave my apartment there at the end of October. And then they had sent me a final bill which I paid promptly. Well, they must have forgotten about that. But knowing the English bureaucracy, I was not surprised about it.

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Lansdowne Mall in Richmond. View of Skytrain tracks.
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View of the mall itself.

On Thursday, I decided to chill a bit and screen the job offers in Vancouver and Canada. Also, I contacted my German bank because I want to wire some money to Canada to buy my own car. And when the sun came out in the afternoon, I decided to take a walk along the beach and also to the U.S./ Canadian border. There were no fences or walls or guards but I found one sign, see below. Maybe Mr. Trump will change this situation soon and build one of his famous walls here if the amount of Americans seeking refuge in Canada rises. Or, on the other hand, he could just leave everything as it is. The outflow of Americans going to Canada could equal the inflow of Mexicans going to America so that the net change of the population in the U.S. would be zero. Or something like that, who knows?

In the evening, Dawn’s boyfriend dropped by, brought her cat Whippcream back and picked her up for the weekend. We had a good chat and I was happy to meet him. That pretty much concluded the day and I went to bed relatively early.

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U.S. / Canadian border south of Vancouver.

This morning, little fuzzy Whippcream woke me up and parked on my bed, see below. I cuddled her for quite a long time until she fell asleep and I then played a bit with my smartphone. Later in the morning, I decided to set up a Facebook account and to update my profile on Indeed to maybe get some job offers. Then, I found out that BC Parks will soon start recruiting Park Rangers. As of now, they have only posted this intention on Facebook but as soon as the official job advertisement will be released, I am definitely going to apply for one of these positions. We’ll see how it goes. After having done lots of things at the computer, I decided to do three more things today: 1. Laundry, 2. Hairdresser, 3. Game Night at a local comic shop. As of now, number 1 on the list is nearly complete so I will be moving on to number 2 soon. Looks like I will have to finish this blog entry tomorrow morning. See you then!

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Whippcream occupying a part of my bed. 🙂

Saturday morning, time to finish the blog entry I began writing yesterday. After I had my hair cut yesterday, I went to a local Game shop to relax and play one of my favorite games: Magic. I managed to draft a really solid deck and win all three of my matches. It was really good fun and the people there were all open and friendly. As they were all still relatively young and/or unexperienced, I could give them a few hints how to improve their drafting-, deck building- and playing skills. Sometimes I feel really old when doing these things… Anyway, I will definitely return to the store and play some more in the next weeks. They also seem to have a board game evening on Wednesdays so I will take a look at that as well.

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My deck. Solid and flexible W/B mid range with a few ways to mess things up.
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Next time I can draft for free. Yeah!

As promised in the last blog entry, I finally want to share my thoughts about participating in future Marathon events with you. As of now, I have not yet decided if I want to register for the Canadian Death Race in August or not. Fortunately, I don’t have to hurry with that decision as the registration for solo runners opens no earlier than February 22nd. So I still have some time to let events unfold and then decide accordingly. In case I get a job as a Park Ranger, it is highly unlikely that I will do the Death Race. Probably too many organisational- and training-related problems to do that. However, there are two things that I definitely want to do in the next weeks: Firstly, there are several Hypothermic Half Marathons near Vancouver in the next weeks and I definitely want to run one of those. And secondly, there is this famous Grouse Grind Hike just north of Vancouver. It is said to be a challenge so I have to try it. As I don’t know where fate takes me after February, I will plan for future Marathons rather spontaneously as I go. But I am pretty sure about one thing: Although I did a very small triathlon last year, I don’t think I will continue doing these kinds of events. I think it does not make any sense to buy a proper bike for triathlons here and to be very honest: cycling has never been one of my favourite sports. So I’ll just stick with running and be fine with it.

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View from Dawn’s terrace. Just amazing!
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Clear water during low tide. Sea port Tsawwassen in the background.

Wow, I just realized this blog entry is already 1450 words long. Time to stop writing. Today I will spend some time in downtown Vancouver and visit a few locations that I missed last June. Like the CatFe.

Now, what’s today’s music advice? The song comes from Kollegah’s newest and heavily praised album “Imperator”. I think this is the best song in an otherwise rather mediocre album. His earlier albums were a lot better but that is just my opinion.

Kollegah – Assassine