Brits in Vancouver – Shayna’s story

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverWith a love of mountains, oceans and forests, Vancouver had a natural pull for Shayna.

I met Shayna at one of her special places, Acadia Beach within Pacific Spirit Park. It’s a place that showcased the best thing about being in Vancouver for her; access to water, forests and mountains.  Not wanting to assume anything I asked what brought her to Vancouver.

“The opportunity to teach following a holistic curriculum and live by the sea and mountains” My feeling is that I’d be hearing one part of that answer many times during my meetings with other British expatriates. 

Working conundrum 

Having been sold on the place following a short visit, Shayna applied for a Permanent Resident visa and was surprised that it was approved within six months. The move happened in May of 2017. I asked who she knew before heading here. “a distant relative and some ESL [English as a Second Language ] teaching colleagues”. What surprised her was even though she’d been granted Permanent residency at Federal level based upon her qualifications and skills, her teaching qualification wasn’t fully accepted in British Columbia. This meant a further period of study which she is currently working through. However Shayna is able to use her skills within the private school system and is working as a University Prep Academic English teacher and tutors ESL three times a week.

Taking in the culture 

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverShayna is also exploring Indigenous culture through an online literature course. Her reading has to led to a desire to “explore the history of First Nations and Indigenous People. I would love to go to Squamish and speak with Elders and hear their stories.” There’s a real thirst for finding out more and I find it encouraging that other immigrants are open to exploring the full history of this province, one that extends far beyond the easily accessible Euro-centric stories.

Outside of work and study Shayna takes advantage of the natural environment and walks whenever she can. It’s not all soaking in the local culture though as brunch at Cora’s with her Brit bestie is also right up there as a special time.

Surprises

I wanted to find out more about the surprises of relocation; those things that despite the research just weren’t obvious. Not surprisingly, “Studying and working two jobs” was prominent as well as something a little more off-beat, “The friendliness of the bus drivers. The fact that buses stop for you without being prompted to.” Yep, I agree, it’s very rare to come across a bus driver that doesn’t engage with you in some way. It’s one of the pleasures of transit use here.

Something that I’ve noticed on comments on Facebook groups and through conversation with other Brits has been the challenge of getting a wider friend group established in Vancouver. It’s been something that Shayna has also experienced and I’m left wondering what is is that leads to this. The best I can offer to the conversation is that when newcomers arrive, we are, in some ways, competing with long established relationships and that holds true for singles and couples. One other thing that I’ve noticed since relocation back in 2007 is that locals may not return social or business calls or messages. That’s just how it is and so it falls on the newcomer to make the effort which, when trying to assimilate is another ball to keep in the air. 

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach VancouverMissing

There are invariably things that the emigrant misses when moving to a new country. Rather than the more obvious family and friends, I asked Shayna about what she would have brought with her from the UK but couldn’t. I loved her thoughts “Waterstones bookstore my local pub, the Cornish coastline: Tintagel.” 

Time for tips

To round off the conversation I asked for relocation tips. “Compromise is key. 

Ensure you have your professional qualifications assessed before you arrive, although we are all part of the Commonwealth there are some professional certificates Provinces do not recognize. (Teachers beware you might be required to complete another year at University). 

Go with the flow, there will be dark days.” Her last thought really resonated with me as despite not having the pressure to learn another language, it can still be hard navigating ones way through the administrative, social and business differences that exist. Having said that, for me the challenges have been worthwhile and it seems that is the case for Shayna as well as she updates her education for BC and takes advantage of living in a stunning environment. 

Thank you Shayna for being up for sharing your experience as a Brit in Vancouver. Enjoy your studies, make the most of being in this amazing environment.

A portrait of Shayna at Acadia Beach Vancouver with the TARDIS

Float plane to Bowen Island

It was a very special experience.

Many moons ago I served in the Royal Air Force. I was never based at a flying station as my role was in telecommunications. Strange but true.

Ever since relocating to Vancouver I've wanted to take a float plane ride. There's simply a special feeling for me associated with radial engines and floats planes and I have no idea as to why. There just is.

To be gifted a float plane ride as part of a fly, dinner, cruise (sort of), limo experience offered by Harbour Air was a real treat. I found the folks at Harbour Air friendly, courteous and professional and, got the evening off to a great start. The short sight-seeing excursion to Bowen Island was in a  De Havilland Beaver, how very Canadian! These planes (not necessarily the Harbour Air fleet) have been around since the late 1940's so one could conclude that it's well tested technology in a very simple skin. It's a throwback adventure and, I loved it.

This was a late afternoon spin over a sun-drenched city and it showcased Vancouver rather well. In fact the whole evening was a wonderful experience, even though BC Ferries conspired to run late - the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay being the cruise portion of the evening.

Photo-wise, my images were shot with my EM5 MkII using the pancake 14-42 mm lens. Although this is a long way short of a professional set up, I was satisfied with the results through a plexiglass window. The constant vibration was also a good test of the built in image stabilisation. Post, well, apart from some cropping and adjustments, what you see is what you get. No retouching.

 

Hometown tourist – Vancouver Aquarium

I want to learn more about one of my new daily shooters, the Olympus OMD EM-5.  Naturally, the best way to find out what the capabilities are is to get out and use the camera. Using the F2.8, 25mm prime (the 'nifty 50' equivalent) I shot these images whilst being a hometown tourist at the well respected Vancouver Aquarium. I'm exploring framing as well as what cropping is possible with a more capable camera than I've used for years. Photography continues to shift from dormant interest in to a creative outlet that I want to excel at. 

I'm looking forward to increasing the frequency of shooting as well as the quality of my images. There's a lot to learn and I'm up for the challenge.

 

Transit

Today it’s easy. I’m straight on and have a prime standing spot. Where I board, remaining on two feet is almost obligatory.

The bing-bing-bong sounds and two doors slide somewhat jerkily towards each other. I register the comforting bump of rubber kissing rubber.

Some days it’s like that. Calm, relaxed and with the added benefit of personal space. Other days it can be backpacks, shoulder bags and the occasional challenging odour. One thing’s for sure, the journey always has a hint of unpredictability about it, yet at the same time, it’s entertaining. I can easily lose myself in the heady mix of people watching and taking in the world outside.

Somewhere else in the city a failed armed forces drone pilot has been a little too heavy-handed on the joystick and I’m forced back against the glass screen. That sudden change from motionless to purposeful movement that results in people resembling stalks of wheat swaying in a breeze. The familiar hum of acceleration gives way to harsh white-noise. It’s time to take in my surroundings.

Inside it’s a mix of middle distance stare, daily papers, dominant white ear buds and the occasional ‘beats’ by Dr Dre, wrapped over a nodding head. I scan the carriage, hoping to catch sight of someone engaging with life. It’s not to be, expressionless faces and heads bowed to the gaming gods are all I see.

Outside a silver disk is still visible but is giving up its reign, being replaced by a palette of blue, white and red. Below is a trail of metal bugs, rolling along like a form of mutated caterpillar, no two parts of its long body matching.

My gaze travels along the ruled lines of roads, past houses and towers to the natural world. Rising in the distance are those captivating, sugar sprinkled mountains. My heart rate slows, my chest rises and falls at a relaxed pace. There really isn’t a better sight in the morning. I’m infused with awestruck and a sense of peace. The din that surrounds me has unconsciously been turned down from ten to two. Warmth rises from deep within me and escapes through my open mouth. All too quickly my trunk starts to strain, wanting to keep itself upright, fighting the deceleration. The failed drone pilot is busy playing with his human cargo. Bong, and a disembodied voice announces another stop. The soundtrack is paused and doors slide open. Middle distance stares and nodding heads leave for who knows where. Replacement ear buds and backpacks shuffle into the confines of the carriage. I briefly get close up and personal with a sheet of thick black polyester mounted to someone’s back until the wearer manages to turn ninety degrees. Swish, thud, sway and we’re off to the next stop.

I play the inside/outside game for a few more stops. The doors slide open and although I want to rejoin the world I’m confronted by a paparazzi like crowd blocking my path. With a deep breath I broaden the shoulders and assess whether it’s a ‘hit the ten-pins’ or a ‘parting of the seas’ morning. A pathway appears and I’m off.

This is my morning ride. Although the route is repeated, the differences can be subtle or dramatic. Today was a good day, but there are times when the world outside is grey. On those days, clouds can envelop me within the carriage as I long for the uplifting sight of those mountains. Life is more bearable when the day starts with the Lions in view.

Victoria Day Weekend

All in all, it’s a world away from the hubbub of life in the Lower Mainland; and that’s one of the things I so enjoy about living here.

One of the regular reminders of BC’s more recent heritage, well more recent by Brit standards, is the Victoria Day public holiday. Celebrating the birthday of the long departed Queen Victoria has been part of Canadian life since before Federation and maybe the original intent has been lost or at least diluted as the country becomes more multi-cultural. The Victoria Day long weekend now seems to be known as the first camping expedition or maybe first barbecue of the summer.

The day off work is dependent upon the Province or Territory mandating a Statutory holiday so although most of Canada breaks out a tent, there are some places, mainly back east where you’ll possibly find yourself at work. Of course there’s also Quebec’s approach which is to celebrate the 1837 rebellion. Ah, life in a slightly disunited kingdom.

But what to do on a relatively sunny long weekend? Pursuing a couple of things I like to do was my aim, and it turned out rather well.

Since relocating from the UK I’ve tried to get in to North American sports. I’ve been to a NHL and CFL game as well as minor league baseball. I’ve watched NFL again (first time since the 1980’s Channel 4 coverage) and I’m afraid nothing sets the pulse racing the way football, the real football, the beautiful game, does. Having said that I’ve also tried to get into MLS and have struggled with the out-of-sync summer season. However, with no World Cup and no Euro’s to distract me, this is the year of the Whitecaps.

I’d arranged to go to the Whitecaps game, a Cascadian derby vs the high flying Portland. What made this event rather more special was being able to go pitch side during the warm up. I was one of the works draw winners that gave me the pre-game experience at the Portland match. It turned out to be rather fun. BC Place is a smashing stadium and being down on the pitch (turf) gave me a whole new perspective, not just of the stadium, but also on the fans. It’s been well documented and I can confirm that the Pacific Northwest rather likes football. Add to that, that the standard of football is improving and the whole experience becomes more appealing.

An entertaining game finished all square and was a fair advert for the game over here. I’ve tickets for a few games this season so, come the end of the year I may well finally embrace sport in my own brave new world.

As a compete change from football, the sunshine also gave me a chance for a social scoot. A few years back I’d ridden around Barnston Island when out with a biker buddy. This time I’d be heading back with my wife on our Vespa’s. the island seems to have been named after a former Hudson’s Bay Company employee and apart from farmland and a Reserve, there’s nothing on the island. Why go there? Simple. The ferry crossing. The ferry is nothing more than a barge strapped to a tug. That’s it. Cars drive on, back off and vice versa. It’s rustic, functional and fun. The crossing must take all of two minutes, and is free of charge.

Barnston Island appears to be popular with cyclists, particularly families and people out for a short hike. I can certainly see the attraction for leisure cyclists. There are very few cars to contend with and on a warm sunny day, circumnavigating the island (all 10km) has to be a pretty relaxing thing to do. There are no amenities on the island so its very much a case of bring your own snacks or picnic. All in all, it’s a world away from the hubbub of life in the Lower Mainland; and that’s one of the things I so enjoy about living here. It really doesn’t take long to escape in to a peaceful, place and it doesn’t have to be the wilderness.

After a very leisurely scoot around the island it was back to the mainland to find a coffee shop and refuel before heading home. I sure there are those that would consider a trip to Barnston Island pointless. For me, it’s actually a joy to explore my new home and that’s enough. Sometimes the point is, there is no point. It’s about disconnecting, shaking up the routine and recharging. Back in the UK I didn’t disconnect enough. In BC, people seem to get it far more.

So that was the Victoria Day long weekend. No camping, no barbecue, just reconnecting. It was time to reconnect with football, with nature and with family, all made possible by the respect for a long departed sovereign.