This afternoon Pam and I took the Skytrain out to the Lougheed Town Mail station, where Matt picked us and ferried us up to a Wine and Cheese Party at Oanna’s house up the hill (about a 15 minute drive, and a great help). It was a bright, sunny day, and a little cool, but generally pleasant. We saw lots of patches of melted snow as the car climbed the small mountain where Oana’s house was.
We had a really nice time, meeting a lot of her friends and Oana was particularly helpful in giving many guests a proper introduction so we knew of where interests might intersect. Sometimes we also learned of other coincidences that only arise after a bit of conversation, like the fact that the small town of Waitsfield, Vermont was also frequented by one of the other party guests, who often visited there from Montréal(!). Oana had assembled a great variety of cheeses including Sage Derby, Aged Gouda, Wensleydale with Mango, Tiger Blue (which is a BC bleu cheese that is quite good). and several others, and Matt also contributed some fiery (and even more fiery!) salsas. We brought some Brillat Savarin, a little Salt Spring Island Chévre and some Mimolette, which were also munched on along with the rest of the ‘cheesy comestibles’, as the Monty Python sketch goes.
It all Depends on Your Point of View
We also met another couple of American émigrées. Cecily and Larry moved here from California at about the same time we did. They were retired from working in IT with a daughter in college, and are now living in Belcarra, an area on the east side of Indian Arm (a northern fjord of the Burrard Inlet), about an hour or so from downtown by car.
After each of us told the other our stories ? which were similar enough; We’re all escapees of Bush’s America, even though were were safely surrounded by friends and relatives who were in blue states ? we got to comparing the differences that we noticed between where we were now and what we remembered of the US.
Mass Transit: They felt that it wasn’t done right here, mainly because there weren’t parking lots near some of the key Skytrain hub stations, making a ‘park-and-ride’ strategy inconvenient or downright impossible. In addition, they said that they suspected that a lot of people didn’t pay the fare (it is on the honor system). I’d have to say that we didn’t experience this at all, since we don’t have a car, and I never gave a thought as to whether there was rampant cheating on the part of passengers (since we were so careful that we thought we’d be caught if we ever didn’t pay and never asked anybody).
Roads: They felt that Canadian roads were not maintained as well, nor were they as wide or fast as American freeways. Again, without a car, we had no way of knowing. In fact, when we have driven up to Vancouver from Seattle, we’ve noticed that the road appears to get better after you cross the border, but this is just one highway, and we just don’t have experience with the rest of the roadways.
Cost of Living: We both agreed that some things were much more expensive: our biggest complaint (no surprise) was wine. Coming from California, they particularly missed good, cheap wine. Here wine is neither good, nor cheap. Oddly enough, they felt that there was less variety of fruits and vegetables in the markets, where we, coming from Boston, had observed exactly the opposite. That’s not all that surprising. I was happy to learn that their experiences so far regarding medical care (they had gotten coverage the beginning of this month, just like us), was that it was just as good as what they had under the HMO back in California, and that the wait for a doctor here was, if anything, shorter than the one they had under the private medical system of the US.
How ‘Wired’: Pam and I noticed that our Internet service here is far better than the best that we could get in Boston. Larry and Cecil were blessed with a phenomenal (and quite atypical) fiber-optic link directly to their household back in the states, which is something I know is way above the norm.
‘Canadian Demeanor’: We both agreed that Canadians were far more polite and friendly than we found Americans to be. I was actually surprised to hear this, since I assumed that my perception was skewed by the fact that Boston is reputed to be the very rudest city in North America. Nevertheless, we both found ourselves surprised and pleased at the courteousness of our new neighbors. Larry was now a Freshman at the Emily Carr Institute, and found that he was quite popular and accepted by his classmates (many, I expect, who would have been his daughter’s age).
Movie theatres: Here we both shocked each other. I was impressed at how many there were and how nice they were. They felt that they couldn’t find any anywhere. I think this says that movie theatres here in BC are more clustered within the city, and the concept of a multiplex in a suburban mall is less common (although I’ve been to a pretty huge one at the Metrotown mall, but maybe that’s not far enough out to qualify as truly suburban).
Those were a few of the things we talked about. The biggest difference between us is probably our work situation (we’re not retired yet) and where we settled (after a brief period renting not too far from us on False Creek South, they moved out to rural Belcarra and we stayed in the city). They still drive everywhere and have a dog. We have no pets and no car. Do these things affect the experience of Canada vs. the US? Probably a bit. Cecily and I both noted that the News media in the US has become a drumbeat of violence and sensationalism, which is something you don’t get up here. This makes for a very different populace and a very different life, in the end. It was fun to compare and contrast, and I bet I’ll get the chance to do it again, perhaps with more Bush-dodging Americans.
One more bit of evidence of how small the world is: I also met Karen and Zhongxi, who both perform on the traditional Chinese mouth organ, the Sheng (I believe that’s the one). I also found out that by coincidence, Karen had studied piano at Oberlin Conservatory with none other than an old family friend of ours, Peter Takacs. Those coincidences just keep coming, don’t they?