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!

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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. 🙂

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Hillcrest rink arena, south of downtown Vancouver.
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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

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.
crossing
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.
energy-empire
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