Monday, September 15, 2008

loving the island-life!

It's been another gorgeous weekend, high 20's with slight breeze.

Everyone is just so happy, and it's contagious.

We are realizing that in today's modern fast-paced world, we both needed some sort of transportation. With me always taking Biggy to town, to interviews, to stores, etc, Matt needed something as well to get around in.

After a few days of humming and hawing about buying an electric bike to scoot around town on, he decided that it just wouldn't cut it. So we went up a notch and got ourselves a Honda Shadow motorcycle, 750cc!

It's a 1995 beauty with only 1100 km! Immaculate condition. We picked it up from the private seller two days ago and went directly to get it insured. No 888 plates available this time though.

It rides beautifully and instead of sorting out our piles of clothes in our bedroom (see pic), we went for a little drive in the forest and its windy roads instead. It will be magnificent to ride when the leaves are changing colours.

Yesterday I had my first session with Arden, a gorgeous 7 year old boy with severe autism. I'll be his Social Intervention Therapist and helping him a few times each week to improve his gross motor, speech, etc..

I met him for the first time yesterday (he was napping when i met his parents for the interview) and at least he didn't run away from me which is a good sign. He is quite a tactile little boy and would immediately feel comfortable sitting close to me, touching me, etc. I have a lot to learn and I'm excited/nervous.

Anyways, Matt came with me to the house, as Will (Arden's father) wanted some help in their backyard setting up a playground for Arden. They are an interesting family and I'm glad they have met Matt and vice-versa. I can tell already that this will be a very rewarding and emotional relationship with Arden and his family.

That afternoon we went house hunting with Ryan, our realtor. See the photos of us going down the steps to the beachside near one of the properties we viewed. See the big Douglas Fir tree? And the people sunbathing on this little sandy island? What a life!

The last property we saw was our favourite and we went back to his office this afternoon to officially put down an offer.

We both don't feel too much attachment to it or anything so if the seller rejects our offer, we will just continue looking. In fact there are several more units in the same building up for sale.

The area is nice, close to shopping, schools, halfway from downtown and from the north end of town, and just a 30 second walk away from a new community centre that has just opened a few months ago!

Equipped with indoor gym space, conference centres and loads of activities, it's fantastic. It's a very good sign too that this sort of thing is springing up closeby, it means the community is a family-oriented one which can only add value to the property.

The building was built in 1980 but just recently went through half a million dollar renovations to the exterior and interior.

Our (look, i'm already calling it OURS!) particular unit was also newly renovated, kitchen, bathroom, new appliances. There is one parking space (outdoors) per unit which we would have to squeeze in Biggy and our new motorbike.

Anyways, we'll know by 5pm tomorrow if the seller accepts our offer. If he does, the real fun begins.

It is an incredible complex process to buy a place but it's all good learning. So far all it has been for is good practice for signing our name.

On Sunday, one of Matt's classmates had a bbq at his parent's place.

Their house is situated right on the bank of the river, a gorgeous lit.tle hideaway. Too bad we didn't bring our bathing suits!

So our weekend could be summed up with: bike, beach, beer, barbeque, bliss.

Friday, September 12, 2008

piece by piece

I'm tired.

If I'm not careful i could burnout. It's been FULL-ON since we arrived less than two weeks ago. But I'm loving it here, the newness, the friendly folk (and boy are they friendly!), the slow island-paced life, and the gorgeous non-stop summery weather.

But I'm tired.

Our stuff arrived today and with 6 young strong guys, they had moved everything from the container to the storage unit in 15 minutes. Fifteen. Amazing. And i'm talking a big 20-foot container! I overpaid them for sure but hey, they are young and they helped me out.

The best news of the day is that my violin is intact and looking beautiful as ever. I was so scared when I opened the case, fearing the worst. I thought the humidity of the cross-ocean voyage would crack the wood. When i held it to my chin, it was like being reunited with a long-lost child.

One more piece of the giant puzzle has come together. Having our stuff here is very reassuring, even if it's only in storage. Opening all of those boxes was like a second Christmas in the summer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

lucky new wheels

Matt had his first Geology Field Trip today. Their prof took them to a parking lot on a hillside and had to sketch the side of the cutting where the rock was exposed.

Sketching is not exactly his forte and he claims his looked more like a kindergarten sketch, but at least he resisted the urge to draw the individual teeth of a zipper or draw special doors for those going in, out and in or out like he used to do in his camping diaries.

During his break mid-day we went to pick up our newly bought 1994 Nissan Pathfinder. For $3,000, it's quite a bargain as we got it checked by a mechanic and he said it’s in very good shape for its age. Lovely and Lucky (888 plates!!) Check out the racing stripes. Just blending into the crowd here.
This evening we went to play Disc golf. Nanaimo has one of the best courses in Canada in Bowen Park, and it’s just up the road from us and free to the public.

It’s like golf but instead of hitting a ball you throw a Frisbee, avoiding trees along the fairways, and
at the end ‘putt’ it into a basket. Check out: Wiki Disc Golf

Monday, September 08, 2008

The big city of Vancouver

The BC FERRIES ferry which runs Nanaimo-Vancouver is like a cruise ship, un- believable! It runs every couple of hours every day and it's always packed it seems, both ways.

There's an arcade, lots of cafes and shops, a children's play room, business desks to plug your laptop in, a HUGE outdoor deck with tables and chairs and comfy sofa-like chairs in the main deck.

After the 90 minute ferry ride, I caught the express bus to The Border Services in downtown Vancouver, passing the famous Stanley Park and Lions Gate Bridge.

The whole process was easy and efficient. However, our cargo ship still hasn't arrived and will probably only be docking tomorrow at the earliest. Well, at least I could still sign for the cargo, but it looks like we won't get our stuff until the end of the week.

I met up with
Kumpo and Kowgong for lunch. They were so happy to see me but so disappointed Matt wasn't there as well. Next time. We plan to do a Vancouver-weekend sometime soon.

Anyways, we had a nice lunch and then they dropped me off so I could take the bus to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal (about 40 min away).

Unfortunately I just missed the connection, running furiously with Matt's takeaway crispy fried noodles dripping in the bag!!! The next bus would have arrived at the ferry terminal a few minutes too late, so I hopped into a taxi instead.

I can't help but notice how everyone is so naturally friendly and talkative in Canada. I really notice it coming back this time. I was trying to figure out which bus stop I needed to be at in Vancouver so I asked bus drivers, bar owners,
strangers, anyone really.

And everyone I asked wanted to literally hold my hand and take me there. I am surprised at how shocked I am by this treatment. I wonder if I've become more inconsiderate and impatient since being away ....

It's such a change, this slow-paced island life. A lot of it reminds me of Cornwall (Ontario, that is), the open spaces, the huge roads and sidewalks, the corner shops, the small primary schools... everything minus the mountains and sea of course.

Tomorrow the inspection on the truck will be done and if it passes, we'll go up and pick it up. We were considering buying an electric bike to get around in, but after more deliberation, we opted against it.

We really want a motorbike and I think I will take my lessons in the spring here when we're more settled. There are LOTS of Harley riders here, it's really quite amazing. There was a Hell's Angels group up until last year when the police busted them. But it seems they still are quite active underground.

House-hunting is progressing along nicely. Our realtor has sent us more housing/condo options so we've been looking at some of those online. It's exciting to be looking at houses again but to think it will be to buy this time!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

a busy first weekend

Here are a a few pictures from our first weekend here in Nanaimo.

First off, the weather was absolutely fantastic, couldn't be better.

Hot, but not humid during the day and gorgeous skies and sunsets at night.

I'm still waiting for the miserable wet cold dreary days that the West Coast is famous for, but this will do for now.

Friday night we went to our first (ice) hockey game, the Nanaimo Clippers Game!!

They played against the Victoria Grizzlies and lost terribly.

We sat right up pretty much to the glass so we saw lots of action and body checking and even a few fights, which I thought were pretty lame considering one guy just nudges the other and then suddenly they erupt into war, gloves and masks off.

There's a women's hockey league too which would be great to see. I'm thinking about joining a league too but don't know how my skating skills are after years of living in hot climates.

Anyway, there are some pics of us wolfing some pre-game food, the obligatory bbq hamburger and 'poutine' (fries, gravy, curds) .. but a very lame excuse for a poutine it was. It should be real St. Albert curds but instead they drip this bright orange hot cheese over the fries.

Still, it was surprisingly tasty.

Here is a picture of us having our first home- cooked meal. For the first week, our stove didn't work so Karen had another one delivered to us on Thursday. We ate our chicken curry and couscous meal sitting floor-style since we didn't have a table. Still, this place feels like a palace after living in Foxy for several months.

On Saturday morning we drove about an hour south to Cobble Hill to visit a used dealership and put an offer in for a Nissan Pathfinder. Pending the mechanic inspection this week, it's pretty much ours.

Then we went to see some houses with our realtor. He took us out to lunch to a British-style pub about 20 min from town. It was unbelievable how authentic the whole thing was. They were even advertising the 2009 Coronation Street calendar just in!

We never managed to get around to having a pub lunch in Jersey, but we definitely didn't think we'd be having one here! It was the 'real stuff' and the freshly-baked blueberry pie was just the right finish. I have to admit I did find myself missing the Jersey cream accompaniment though.

On Sunday I went to my first hot yoga class, a good long SWEATY session. Matt tried out for the Nanaimo soccer team and got short-listed for the team.

I then had lunch with a member of the Multicultural Society of Nanaimo (she does immigrant and settlement work there) and after lunch she took me to introduce me to the President of the Chinese Association of Nanaimo, Angela.

Angela just happened to be hosting a big dumpling making-and-eating party and told me to come along later with Matt.. so we did. We met a lot of interesting people from China, HK, Taiwan, and Canadian-born-Chinese folk.

It was great to practice Mandarin again and eat homemade
jiaozi. Good connections too, which is what small-town living is all about!! :D

Work hunting is going well, I've been meeting a lot of people from different organizations, and making those necessary contacts.

I want to give myself at least another week+ and see what my options are. But so far so good. It is infinitely easier than in Cape Town where I didn't have an official work visa; here I can at least start immediately.

So it's Monday again. I'm going to Vancouver on the 8:30am ferry to see Canada Customs and sign for our shipment. It should be delivered here by mid-week, fingers crossed. We've rented a storage space for now and will just take the necessary boxes into our little apartment here. I'll see my
Kowpo and Kowgong (Dad's aunt and uncle) for lunch too, it's close to Chinatown so I assume another heavy duty dimsum session will be in order! :)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

back to school

Here's Matt on his first day of school - after more than 15 years of being out of the classroom!!

Notice the pants-below-the-waist look.. I wasn't too keen but he

He just wanted to fit in I guess, can't blame the boy.