Archive | October, 2010

living like a local

6 Oct

You know I really should be asleep. It’s been a busy few days with several late nights and to be honest I feel like giving my body some kind of prize for coping so well under all the pressure. But I’m not ready for bed just yet so I thought I’d take the time to visit my poor neglected blog and stock it up with lovely new stories.

Vancouver continues to delight but life is finally slowing down into something resembling normal service: lectures are happening (I actually have work….and a job) and things like shopping at Wal Mart no longer seem like such exciting novelties (yes visiting Wal Mart was a bit of a thrill initially, I mean it’s kind of a celebrity,it’s got a whole South Park episode about it for God’s sake, though it is a bit typecast- always playing the villain so it is). This is for the best seeing as being a nerdy tourist can only remain acceptable for so long, eventually you just have to accept that things like pep rallies and large McFlurries and peanut butter on everything are normal in Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I love touristy activities and myself and Freda have already been compiling a bucketlist of all the stereotypical things we have to do while living here , after all, what is the point of travelling halfwayish across the world (maybe a thirdway but halfway really sounds more dramatic, it’s very far anyways) if you aren’t going  to sample some of the national culture? But because we are actually living here there’s the temptation to go a step further by actually adopting some of the Canadian lifestyle, as we see it, which means embracing outdoorsiness, cultivating a practical and weather appropriate dress sense, clean living, drinking in moderation, taking college very seriously.

It’s a strange situation to be caught in, on the one hand you like the idea of belonging to a place, of ‘fitting right in’, on one of our earliest trips downtown Freda and I were asked directions by a fellow tourist and we just about jumped up and down with excitement at the thought of being mistaken for locals. On the other you want to keep the sense of newness, I mean I don’t want to suddenly take being here for granted, an awful lot of people who are from Vancouver haven’t been to so many places of note because they’re local, and I know myself that when you live down the road from something and can visit any time it never seems like a priority. So we’ve been trying to do the things that guide books tell us all residents of Vancouver must do once, ie the things a lot of locals can’t be bothered with.

One of the first that we managed to tackle was the Grouse Grind. Grouse is a mountain about an hour from UBC and the Grind is a trail you can take to the top instead of hopping on a gondola…We were under the impression that it was a bit of a stroll, the word ‘hike’ was not being thrown around and idyllic views were expected. As it turns out ‘grind’ is right on the money. It was not a walk but a climb up thousands and thousands of roughly carved steps, sometimes giving way to rocks or particularly prominent roots. By the quarter mark we were sweat drenched.  Since we had chosen to come on a Saturday (probably one of the last dry ones Vancouver will see in 2010) there were about a million people sharing the staircase with us, looking down the mountain it was like a motorway of bodies following, with still more powering on ahead. There are some crazy amazing people who can actually run the whole thing (I think the record is twenty seven minutes) but we found maintaining a steady trudge to be challenge enough, when we were at the final quarter of the climb this little mountain goat of a kid (pun intended) just bounced past us. We made it to the top in an hour and ten minutes which I reckon is an all right time for exercise rookies, there’s chat about trying to improve our time but I’m not sure I agree with it. The top of the mountain did reward us though, the views are utterly mint and there are bears! In an enclosure of course, which was a little bit sad, I’d rather have caught them in the open lumbering around, but they seemed happy enough, I think they knew they were celebrity bears. And they were immense! I mean the logical part of my brain knew bears were a bit on the large side but I was still bowled over by their bulk when I saw the real deal, and they weren’t even fully grown!

Apparently there’s also a lumberjack show to be seen on Grouse but we arrived too late to see it, and since that is definitely something one would stereotypically associate with Canada I may have to rethink my reluctance to reGrind, though there is a more scenic route up the mountain which I may opt for next time, that way I can bring the auld ones.

Another place I want to revisit, though definitely NOT with the parents is Lynn Canyon. This time 24 hours ago I didn’t know it existed. We were at a party for a friend’s birthday and myself and Freda were trying to scout out cliff jumping locations for the weekend. After a little bit of asking a rather lovely New Zealander (so far they’re all lovely really) called Emily turned us onto the existence of Lynn Canyon National Park in North Van. We learned that it was a handy enough jaunt up there by bus and sea bus and that it even boasted a FREE suspension bridge (just as good as the one at Capilano apparently but without the $30 asking price). This was plenty of convincing for us. We delayed departure today until the sun showed itself and things fell into place from there. The park is incredible, everything is so untouched and enormous. The first attraction we tackled was the suspension bridge and the views were so spectacular; the trees seemed to carry on down the sides of the valley forever. And yes I did jump up and down on it a bit to get it bouncing around…I’m sorry I am one of those annoying people that fellow suspension bridge passengers despise.

It was only a couple of minutes walk to the Thirty Foot pool where the more intense jumping was to take place, you follow a path through dense trees and then suddenly they just fall away to the left and the creek and the pool opens out in front of you, all sparkly blue and clear and gushing along over smooth rocks without the slightest regard for your existence. At first we weren’t at all sure if we had the right place- from where we stood the water barely looked deep enough for paddling never mind plunging into from a few metres above. But seeing as it was a lovely spot anyway we found a nice big rock to stretch out on and before long  a group of Canadians started jumping into a pool a bit further upstream- it turned out that the shallow part of the creek was on a shelf of rock and where that fell away you have the 30 foot pool. We watched the natives climbing the rocks, taking note of the different spots where they jumped from (trying to adapt to local norms once again) and after a little bit of deliberation and hesitation about the temperature decided we’d better join in.

There are several points to jump from around the pool but we decided to start from one of the lower ones, even from there my body, having witnessed those crazy Canadians doing all kinds of mad flips and things from assorted heights, was pumping with adrenaline. The water was electrifyingly cold. When I emerged from below the surface I could barely speak, still gasping from the shock while my body tried to figure out whether the sun had died. After recovering from that we took a few more jumps, venturing a bit higher but the dizziest drop we didn’t brave. It might have had something to do with the fact that there were only 2 of us so it was easier to chicken out (if my mother is reading this I know she’s thanking her lucky stars we chose to go the same day as the Longboat race, hence our lack of cojumpers), but before the year is out we shall return with a  bigger group, hurrah for peer pressure!

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Continuing in a musical vein

1 Oct

There honestly are other posts coming about life in Vancouver and the best of what we’ve done so far but right now my mind is full of last night’s concert. So yet another rant about being blown away by a band, this time Arcade Fire, is all I can manage right now.

The night started off with a bit of a panic as attempted to find our way from UBC to the venue, Pacific Colisseum, by 9PM. We thought we’d left ourselves plentyof time but that was before we learned that we’d been given seriously dodgy directions. About 20 million bus changes ensued, we collected more and more people on the journey who were attempting to go to the show but nobody seemed to know where we going. Luckily one of Vancouver’s heroic bus drivers put us in the right direction.

I didn’t know what to expect of the venue- as it turns out it’s a hockey stadium, and it turned out to be pretty perfect, a huge space like that was just daring the band to fill it up with beautiful sounds and raucous noise and they were doing just that when we finally got through the doors, getting into their stride with Neighbourhood #2 (Laika). Not wanting to miss it we found a temporary place to watch before finding our high up seats.We later learned we’d missed the opener, a track from Neon Bible apparently, the band went on to play No Cars Go and Haiti before launching in to the new material with Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains. Watching them make music was a breathtaking experience, on stage the ladies and gentlemen of the Arcade Fire looked positively in their element, there was much ecstatic leaping and dancing and there was the distinct impression, that to them this was play rather than work, they were having fun with each other, bouncing off one another, this was where they wanted to be and what they were meant to be doing. Their enthusiasm was infectious, from the moment we’d walked into the stadium and caught those early strains of Laika my whole body filled up with this excited, elated feeling. This did not subside for a moment throughout the concert and lasted long after we’d left.

I think Arcade Fire have done something that seemed impossible with the Suburbs; they’ve made an album that I actually love as much as the previous 2 and the EP. I was just as excited to hear Suburban War, Rococo and the Modern Man as I was for Keep the Car Running. Having said that I did find some of the songs they played odd choices, I mean I love the Month of May but as Freda pointed out City with No Children in it is much more of a stand out track and definitely has the hallmarks of a future showstopper.  And even though it was inevitable I was a little sad at the lack of  Old Flame or Crown of Love, but I suppose when a band has as many epic songs as they do one can’t really moan about not hearing all of your favourites. I guess it’s my own fault for getting into them too late to see them in Dublin years ago when all these songs were still fresh.

The latter part of the set was firmly staked in heart swelling Funeral territory. Rebellion (Lies) provided one of the unmistakable highlights of the night, 3 out of 4 of us had never seen the band live before and while already in pretty high spirits, having just sung our lungs off to Power Out, this song sent us well and truly over the edge into mental as any small ration of reserve left in us evaporated and we danced and jumped up and down with abandon, shouting out the lyrics (in perfect tune I’m sure), deliriously happy. It was somewhere around now, though the whole thing now is a bit of an excited blur, that one of the band members, I think it was William Butler but honestly I don’t really know one from another…I am a bad fan, leapt off the stage, ran all around the barrier and leaped into the pit area. Only a few fans towards the back actually saw this, everybody else was blinded by the crush of people around them, but those that did well..they just sort of waved at him. Which was polite I guess I mean the show can’t really go on if one of the musicians has been mobbed by rabid fans. But he looked so up for going mad with people. It made me think what would have happened at home had he done the same. Well the guy would definitely have been danced with and some folks would have gone in for a high five or a handshake, physical contact anyway. I hate to say it but I do think crowds at home give a bit more back, I mean I did notice a more reserved brand of crowd antics than I was used to at The National, but that’s the National, they’re more of a stare and sway band anyway, this was Arcade Fire, they’re all on stage dancing like people possessed AND playing instruments , and you get to watch, there’s just no excuse not to go mental!

After an emotional Neighbourhood # 1 (Tunnels) we waited for the band to return for their encore. I’ve never been so afraid that the words ‘this is our last song’ were meant to be taken seriously. At this stage everyone in our section had well and truly woken up and were (aptly) humming the opening bars to Wake Up, positive the night couldn’t end until we’d heard it. After what seemed like forever they returned, subdued but only for a moment until they broke into Keep the Car Running and once again the crowd erupted, or the folks around us anyways (maybe it was just the people in the pit who were holding it in, cool points may have been a factor down there, I don’t know). Having worked us back up to exhilarated  the only thing that remained was to get Wake Up out, the lights shut off at the close of Keep the Car Running and as they came back it started. I’m not even going to try to explain how awesome it was to hear it live. All I know is that pretty much every individual in that stadium was singing along, ridiculous grins on our faces and when it ended we felt like we’d seen and been part of something really special. I left thinking I’d be quite willing to trade in college, accommodation, the year in Vancouver in order to follow them around on their tour Grateful Dead style. And I don’t think you can get feedback much more positive than that.