47. Salt Spring Island, Part 2

Ferry between Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island) and Tsawwassen, Canada, 14.06.2017.

After five amazing days on Salt Spring Island, I am slowly making my way back to reality. It is Wednesday morning and the “Queen of Nanaimo” (again!) is already taking me back to Tsawwassen. My mood is not the best, I am still really tired (I got up at 4:15 AM) and I am looking at a long day with my late shift in the store starting at noon. Anyway, I don’t want to complain because I just had a great time on the island and I feel blessed that I have a job that allows me to do all the travelling and sightseeing that I am doing in the moment.

So, what happened on my last two days on the island? Well, first of all, I met one of my AirBnB- hosts, Roxy, on Wednesday evening. We talked quite a bit and it was really interesting to hear what is currently happening on the island and what she did so far in her life. Also, it was a great experience for me to see how an alternative way of life may look like and how different lives and ideas can develop with time. Unfortunately, I did not meet Heather since she came home when I was already asleep and she left before I got up again. Pretty tight schedule for someone who lives on an island that seems to offer such a relaxed and peaceful life. So after I got up on Monday, I drove to Reginald Hill to do some running and hiking. By accident, I missed the first turn that would have led me straight up to the hill and instead, I ended up on First Nations land with a magnificent coastline. I happily walked along the coast for several hundred meters and enjoyed the sunshine and the great view of the ocean and the small islands along the way. Finally, I decided it was time to do some exercise so I took a nearby trail that eventually led me up to Reginald Hill. The view up there was also quite nice so I enjoyed that for a little while before I descended to the parking place again. Since I felt still felt fresh after this little excursion, I decided to drive further south on the island to also do the Hope Hill trail on that day. This trail mainly led through a relatively dense forest so it did not offer any particularly great views. That’s why I took this chance to actually train some uphill running in the comforting shade of the trees.

01-Reginald
Coast line near Reginald Hill.
02-Reginald
View on several other small islands.
04-Reginald
View from Reginald Hill. The mountain on the right of the valley is Maxwell Mountain.
03-Reginald
View on the bay leading to Fulford Harbour.

After all the hiking and running, I felt like I wanted to do calm down a little for the rest of the day. That’s why I decided to do yet another wine tasting and to also visit the local cheese “factory” and buy some of their local produce. The wine tasting at the Garry Oaks winery was quite nice and their wines were absolutely okay but none of them really appealed to me strongly so I only bought one bottle of a crisp and fresh white wine. In contrast to that, the different flavored types of cheese at the cheese factory were just amazing. I only tasted different types of goat cheese there but they were all really nice so I bought two different packages there despite their relatively high price. I guess paying these kinds of prices is what you have to do if you want really good quality and organic produces, right?
The day ended with me sitting at a beach on the northern part of the island, reading a little in my book and enjoying the sunset.

05-Garry-Oak
Garry Oaks Winery with tasting room.
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Quite a few of their wines actually won prizes!!!
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Goats and chickens roaming free nearby the cheese factory.
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The cheese factory on Salt Spring Island.
09-Cheese
My shoppings. Truly delicious. 🙂
10-Beach-North-SSI
Another beach, another great view, what more can you ask for?

On Tuesday morning, I decided to finalize and post my last blog entry before heading off to new adventures. So I did that before I drove to a parking place near Baynes Park and the Andreas Vogt Nature Reserve. That morning, I felt like running again so I put on my proper shoes and headed on to the trail that led to the park and the reserve. In the end, I only made a few pictures on this trip but I had a good time and still got to see many interesting things along the route. When I was done with that exercise, it seemed like a good idea to me to drive back to Ganges and finish reading my book while sitting in the small but beautiful Centennial Park. About 70 pages later, I was done with the book (good piece of literature, see below!) and it was time to get another great lunch at the Oystercatcher restaurant. This time I ordered grilled fish and raspberry ale (wow!) and it was really good again. Also, I met a few very nice and friendly islanders, including Shawn, who had been to Germany in the 80s. We talked a lot about Cologne, the people in Bavaria, the purpose of life and a lot of other different things. Surprisingly, Shawn was still able to speak a good amount of German although he had not been able to practice this language for years. In the end, he offered me to stay at his place for the night but I had to decline because I had to get up early today to catch the ferry that I am currently on. Also, it seemed like they would continue drinking and talking for a lot longer time than I intended to stay at that restaurant. Anyway, it was a great and joyful encounter and I will make sure to contact Shawn should I ever return to this beautiful island.

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Wild flowers (I guess it is foxglove???) in the Andreas Vogt Nature Reserve.
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I admire how the Canadians maintain their heritage and sights.
13-Vape-Shop
The Vape- Shop at Ganges. Symbol of a lifestyle.
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WW1 and WW2 memorial at Centennial Park, Ganges.
14-Book
A great book to read! Also, I generally like this author’s style of writing.

I guess this was everything that was worth reporting from this trip so I will conclude this blog entry, as usual, with a nice piece of music. Today’s piece is already relatively old but “rock-solid” (pun intended!) and it just came up on the playlist that I am listening to while writing this blog entry. Enjoy!

Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench

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37. Long-term decisions

Vancouver, Canada, 11.03.2017.

When I came to Canada in January, I had basically drawn up two viable plans what to do:

1. The Gap-Year plan: Originally, it was my plan to to just travel through Canada during my Work&Travel year, to get a break from work life and to just enjoy my life. I thought about spending a few weeks on Vancouver Island, to drive to the Rocky Mountains again, to go up north to Yukon and then to drive all the way across Canada by car to finally end up in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of the year. Of course, it was also part of this plan to visit all the sights and parks that were on the route from western Canada to the east.

2. The residency plan: This plan focused on trying to get a decent job somewhere as quickly as possible, to move there and get my own apartment, to then apply for permanent residency and thus to gain a foothold here in Canada. Of course, this plan is the more “responsible” and “mature” plan as it satisfies the common view that you are supposed to work somewhere and be a “good member of society”.  On the other hand, this plan is also less fun and not so much different from what I have been doing so far in my life. So not a great change, really.

To be very honest, I was totally unsure what to do initially when I arrived in Canada in January. I had no real preference for a plan although I clearly saw their individual benefits and drawbacks. However, it was not at all easy for me to weigh them properly and make up my mind what I really wanted. On the one hand, the Gap-Year plan promised to be more fun and it would reward me with a million priceless impressions and great experiences. On the other hand, this Gap-Year would then clearly be a one-shot thing and I would have to go back to Europe at the end of the year and it would become increasingly more difficult after this year to try to gain a permanent foothold here in Canada. So what do you do if you don’t know what’s right? I solved this problem by prioritizing the plans while not discarding either of them. Upon arrival in Canada, I decided to follow the residency plan first and to try to get a job quickly. Then, in case of an unfruitful job search, I was prepared to discard the residency plan in favor of the Gap-Year plan by the end of April. Why not earlier than the end of April? Well, Canada is mainly a cold and snowy country. So leaving the lower mainlands around Vancouver earlier than May does not really make much sense if you want to go up north and see a bit more of the landscape than just the white layer. Also, most of the parks do not open that early in the year and hiking is not too much fun if you have to do it in the snow. So basically the residency plan was my primary plan and the the Gap-Year plan was my “Plan B” or backup- plan. Now why am I writing about all this now? Well, my current situation has significantly changed in the last days and it looks like my primary plan has worked out well. But before I go into details here, let’s take a look at a few pictures first.

Buch
The third book in the triology. Overall, three very good books with a great story line but “The Chess Men” can’t quite keep up with the quality of the first two books. Peter May is a great author, you’ll like him.
Shells
A few shells I found when jogging on the beach.

Last week, my future employer, the BC Liquor Stores, finally received the last reference they needed to take me on board. So now I will start to work as a Senior Store Manager for them in North Vancouver on the 20th of March. However, before I get my own store there, I will be trained in several other stores nearby. So it looks like my primary plan worked just fine and I can now try to apply for permanent residency here. And this is exactly what my next step will be once I have settled down in North Vancouver. Next Monday, I will take a look at a few apartments there and hopefully find a good place to stay there. But I think that will not be a huge issue as I am not too picky about my living places.
Despite the current development, I have not at all given up on my Gap-Year plan yet. And if all goes according to my grand master plan, I don’t have to give up on it anyway. In case I get my permanent residency, I can always do my all-around-Canada-trip at some point in the future. So nothing is really “lost” and by pursuing my current plan I keep most of my future options open. I feel I can always take a Sabbatical later in my life and still do the trip once I managed to acquire my permanent residency and worked for a few years here in Canada.
Interesting side- note: Last week, I also received an E-Mail from Parks Canada telling me that I was chosen for an interview for the site-manager position at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. How unexpected. Last time I heard anything from this application, I was just buying my car. Must have been late January I guess. But there was no chance I would go to that interview as I had already signed the job offer of the BC Liquor Stores. Still interesting to see how long a recruitment process can take. Six weeks in between the end of the application process and the decision who will be invited to an interrview. That is long! Also, I am quite thrilled to see the success of my applications. In total, I wrote just 7 applications, I got invited to interviews 2 times, attended one interview and got the job. Can’t say I am not a bit proud about that. 🙂

Now that should be enought talk about work and me drawing up strange plans. Let’s write a bit about the fun things I did in the last days. I managed to read a bit and I also continued to go jogging regularly (see both pictures above). Now that I know that I’ll be staying in Vancouver a bit longer, I decided to sign up for the Vancouver Marathon on May 7th and do the first full marathon in my life. Seems really fitting that I will do it here in Vancouver on a stunning course that will also lead through Stanley Park. You can check out the course map here. Just a really really nice course I think.
Also, I will get a year membership in one of the climbing gyms in Vancouver and start climbing regularly. Climbing is not only great fun but I realized that it trains my upper body and arms a lot and I feel that this really benefits me. Up to now, I only trained my legs by running and completely neglected my upper body. Possibly not the greatest choice.

When it comes to regular fun activities, I managed to attend some board game evenings in the store in Ladner and I also visited the CatFe again twice. They have three very cute Main Coone mix breeds there, all siblings. They are really friendly and curious and two of them ended up on my lap, enjoying my cuddles. I expressed my wish to maybe adopt them but after having checked the currently available apartments in North Vancouver, it looks like this is not going to happen. Most of the landlords do not want any animals in their apartment and those who tolerate cats will only tolerate one or two. That’s pretty unfortunate because I think this band deserves a second chance. However, I guess that many potential new owners will be deterred by their current age as they are already 10 years old. Now that does not deter me but I know that most of the people look for cats that are still young. That situation makes me a bit sad but there’s not much I can really do about it…

Cat2
Harvey (female) and me in the CatFe in Vancouver.
Cat1
Budddy (male), who sat on my lap for over an hour, enjoying my cuddles.
BoardGame2
Mare Nostrum Empires. I played the green Greece, trying to fend off the Romans and the Babylonians at the same time.
BoardGame1
Castles of Burgundy. Second time I played it. Thanks to Stephan Valkyser, I already had a good insight into this game.

Last week I also managed to make a few trips to downtown Vancouver and I visited the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Museum and the Space Centre. The library resides in a very interesting Colosseum- like building and it has a truly large collection, including some German literature. Unfortunately, they apparently also bought crappy books in the past as I found a copy of a rather infamous German author whose views are much questioned.
The Space Center is a nice place to go and their shows are really entertaining and offer some stunning views. So I can only advise to go there if you’re a bit interested in astronomy or Space exploration. Not the biggest or most thrilling exhibition but it is still worth to go there and take a look at it. Now I wish I could say the same for the Museum of Vancouver but I really can’t. Verena and I went there and we both agreed that this museum is rather boring and that it did not really entertain us. I have seen many better Canadian museums and I would not recommend seeing the Museum of Vancouver if you’re only staying at Vancouver for a few days…

Library
The Colosseum- like building of Vancouver’s Public Library.
Library2
Very surprised to find a copy of THIS book here in Vancouver. Not the best choice to invest the library’s money.

Space1

Space2
A very nice saying, displayed at the Space Center.
Car
Magnificent Oldtimer in the Museum of Vancouver.

Now that I’ve chosen to settle down in Vancouver, I suppose that I won’t be writing that many blog entries in the future anymore. Of course, I will still write about the exceptional events in my life but I also guess that it will start getting a bit more quiet in my life in the future. But that is okay, life can’t always be a rollercoaster ride. Thus, you should not expect so lengthy and frequent blog entries anymore. But we’ll see about that…
Ah, one last thing before I conclude the blog entry with my music advice: I just received my Parks Canada Discovery pass (see cover picture at the top of the entry) so I can visit every one of Canada’s National Parks for free this year. Anyone can apply for this pass and it costs exactly zero Canadian dollars as Parks Canada gives it away for free this year due to Canada’s 150th birthday. What a great gift! I wish I could do both: work in Vancouver and travel to see Canada’s National Parks at the same time. Not possible though. And again, it is always about setting priorities and making (long-term) decisions….

By chance, I stumbled over this interesting piece of music last week. And I simply put it on repeat and listened to it again and again and again. Until I got fed up with it at some point. But it is still a very good song so I happily share it with you here:

Aesop Rock – None shall pass

33. Ups and Downs

Vancouver, Canada, 04.02.2017.

Less than 2 weeks have passed since the last blog entry. Significantly less. ^^ Someone’s keeping a promise. 🙂 And this blog entry will also be a lot shorter than the last one. Everything according to plan, at least with the writing.

So, what happened during the last days? First of all, my car got repaired. I decided to invest a bit more money into it to get it to an overall good standard. For example, I decided to get a “new” (used) steering wheel (costs a hefty 300$) because the current steering wheel is already beginning to disintegrate. Well, no wonder after 19 years. And since I also decided to get new spark plugs for the engine (the old ones were really worn out), I had to bear a little incident today. But I will write about that later. Also, I washed my car from the inside and from the outside. And I realized that an “undercarriage” wash in one of the big commercial washing facilities is just laughable. There was a lot of mud and dirt under my car when I bought it. So I thought it would be nice to have it cleaned. However, the undercarriage wash in the commercial washing facility I went to was so weak and poor that most of my car’s undercarriage wasn’t even wet after the wash. Now, I am noone who likes to complain a lot but this time I asked for the manager and I showed him. He was not very helpful and told me there was nothing he could do. Then, he advised me to get a pressure wash for the undercarriage but could not even tell me where I could get one. Yeah, well, I guess I experienced better customer service already. Definitely the last time that I went to that car wash. I then googled a bit and found a self- service car wash with high pressure washing pistols. And I got my undercarriage cleaned, finally… So aside from a few minor repairs that still need to be done next week, I am fine now and the car is in a good state. And I love having a 4WD in the current snow weather here in Vancouver. It is a blessing and it works so extremely well, unbelievable. Really happy that I bought a 4WD and now that I have seen how it performs in the snow, I am really confident that the car will also be alright in any offroad-action. Can’t wait to take it for a ride somewhere…. 🙂

snow
Winter has returned to the Lower Mainlands.

So what else happened? On Wednesday, I went to the board game night in “my” store. We played a really nice game called “Terraforming Mars”. Not too complicated but it offers a lot of different options and various strategies. And I like having lots of choices when it comes to games. So it was a great experience and I enjoyed it a lot. I don’t know how many points are considered a “good” score in the game but I felt I was doing well. Aside from the board gaming, I also started reading again. I don’t know exactly when I read my last book but I think it must have been sometime in 2014. That was not intentional but rather a reaction to the shortage of available leisure time I had when I worked for my last employer. Anyway, now I bought a book at a local store and I already read it. Very nice story, very entertaining and overall an enthralling book. So after having read this book, which is the first book in a cycle, I went to the same store and just got the second one of the cycle. Can’t wait to see how the story continues. Anyone who likes to read crime thrillers and who has a connection to Scotland will probably love this book. Try it!

board-game
Terraforming Mars. This game is not yet on sale in Canada but will be soon. Current copies are U.S.- imports.
book
Great crime thriller. Setting in Scotland, outer hebrides.

Yesterday, Verena convinced me to go Ice Skating with her in the Hillcrest Rink arena. Now I don’t like Ice Skating. Why’s that? I tend to fall a lot, I am not good at it and there are a lot of things I like better. But hey, I am in Canada now. So I suppose I have to at least try to do those things that Canadians do. And in the end it was quite the nice experience. After initial difficulties, I got more and more confident and managed to even go a bit faster in the end. And I didn’t fall a single time so that was good. But I was pretty close to falling several times…. Must have helped that I did some Inline- skating in the (more distant) past. Although I think that it is a lot easier to brake with Inliners. In any case, I enjoyed it and maybe I will do that again some time. Just to get a bit of practice. Not that I will ever be able to play Ice Hockey in the end, I am still light years away from that. 🙂

hillcrest
Hillcrest rink arena, south of downtown Vancouver.
eisschuhe
I had to lend some Ice Skating shoes but they were overall okay.

Today, I got up early to do the half Marathon I already talked about in my last blog entry. It was a quite expensive one as well since I had to pay nearly 90 Dollars for the entry. Well, the later you enter, the more it costs. Still, 90 Dollars is quite a lot. Anyway, I got in my car this morning, started it and drove roughly 2 kilometers. Then, the engine check light went on. Great stuff! No choice but to drive to the nearest car repair shop and let them have a look at it. As I suspected, the mechanic that had replaced the spark plugs on Friday made a mistake when he did that repair. So it’s not really the car’s fault that it “broke down”. In any case, I had to leave my car there and there was no chance I could still make it in time to the half Marathon using public transport means. Bummer! I would have loved to run in the current cold snow setting. Would have been a great experience I think. Interestingly, I already had a bad feeling when I drove the car yesterday after they had changed the spark plugs. It felt like the motor was slightly louder and there were more vibrations when it was idling. Sometimes I just hate it when I’m right. In the end, the car could at least be fixed today so that I can use it tomorrow. Well, there will be more half Marathons I can run this year so I guess it’s no big deal. Next time….

Tomorrow, I will help Verena to move her stuff from her current apartment to the new one she got in downtown. No big deal, I guess that will be done quickly. After that, I plan to go to Granville Island south of downtown or visit one of Vancouver’s museums. And in the evening, I’m invited at Jen’s Board Game night. Really looking forward to that. I will probably miss the “Super Bowl” but I don’t really care much about that. I don’t have much of a clue about American Foottball anyway and since it’s an American thing, I don’t feel obliged to watch…. Next week, I will focus a bit more on getting a proper job again. So after the car issue is resolved now, I should now put some more effort into writing applications.

Today’s music advice is from one of the most popular and best Punk bands, Green Day. I first listened to the song on the flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver and really liked it. The rest of their new album “Revolution Radio” is also pretty nice so that anyone who likes Punk Rock can buy that album without second thoughs. The chosen song also reflects the current situation on earth quite well (Trump, etc…), think about it!

Green Day – Troubled times