Category: personal reflection

Living with bears in the yard

A yearling bear appeared in our garden
Boris the bear on his last visit

Last week we had a visitor. This one was hairier and hungrier than most of those we get (I am excluding some of my son’s friends in this!). It was a yearling black bear and it was our first close encounter with a bear. Actually it had become a bit of a sore point with us. We were beginning to wonder if we could call ourselves truly Canadian if we hadn’t seen a bear!

In Vancouver, particularly on the north shore where there’s wilderness literally on your doorstep, bears are a fact of life.

There seem to be two reactions to bears:

  1. Love them.
  2. Hate them.

If you love them, then seeing one up close and personal tends to prompt mixed emotions. They can be cute, but if they are in your yard then it is likely that they’ve become used to humans and are becoming a nuisance. Once bears start foraging for food in human habitat there’s usually only one outcome – the bear has to be destroyed. (Relocation is the first step, but it seems that many bears eventually make their way back).

If you hate them, then the best thing you can do is to avoid creating any bear attractants in your area. This advice goes for those who love bears too.

That means:

  • store all garbage indoors or in a secure enclosure
  • put your garbage out on the morning of collection
  • remove your birdfeeders
  • clean your bbq after each use
  • keep your pet food inside
  • pick ripe fruit and vegetables and clean up the windfalls
  • keep your fridge and freezer inside (many people have second ones in their carports)

And if you do see a bear in the yard then you can make loud noises and try and scare them off.

We personally like living in an area that we can share with bears. It does mean some inconvenience, mainly with garbage, but that seems a small price to pay. After all the bears were here before we came. And they don’t do any harm.

What are your thoughts on living with bears?

Island life

Salt Spring Island
Is there a welcome waiting for you on an island in BC?

When we came to British Columbia we chose to live in Vancouver because we wanted to be in a relatively big city, having lived in London. We had thought about living in Victoria but thought that living on an island, however big, might seem a bit strange. (My daughter pointed out that Britain is an island too!)

We now have a bit more experience of living in B.C. and we can see that island life is something we’d now consider. Here are a few things for you to think about if you’re considering island life.

Vancouver Island is the largest island in B.C. and at about 32,000 sq kms it is pretty large (2/3 the size of England). You might not even feel that you’re on an island.However when it comes to travelling you’d need to get a ferry or plane to the mainland. Depending on how you think about it that can be constricting or part of the adventure. From my point of view, from the mainland, I’ve always enjoyed the ferry ride, which is like taking a mini cruise and is pretty relaxing.

You are dependent on the ferries and that’s something that British Columbians love to gripe about. That’s understandable given there’s no real alternative, especially if you’re taking your vehicle. You have to pay the fare. You may have to pay extra to reserve a place if it’s peak time. And any problems with the ferries can really disrupt your journey.

If you’re living on the Island (as Vancouver Island is most often called) then you’re going to pay less for your home than in most places in the Lower Mainland, especially Vancouver’s expensive neighbourhoods. The pace of life is likely to be slower too. (And we found Vancouver pretty slow compared to London, so Island time might well be very slow!

Of course Vancouver Island is only one of the dozens of islands off the coast of British Columbia. The other islands are much smaller, so if you want to get away from crowds these might suit you.

The smaller islands do tend to leave you even more dependent on BC Ferries, and in some cases you’ll be taking more than one ferry in order to get to the Mainland.

If you want to live and work on an island then Vancouver Island offers you the most opportunity to find work. The smaller islands seem to thrive on tourism and often have a lot of artists. I don’t know if they make a living, but if you’re at all artistic then it is a very attractive lifestyle. Even if you don’t make your fortune, you’ll find yourself part of a community that supports artists.

What does the Sun Run say about Vancouver?

Vancouver Sun Run
The start of the Sun Run

Last Sunday we took part in the Vancouver Sun Run. This is the second year we have done it and this time was more enjoyable than last year.

Being fitter I had time to take in the sights and sounds of the run that much more and it got me thinking about what this event tells you about life in Vancouver.

It is probably no surprise that this is a well attended event. This year there were over 48,000 participants confirming Vancouver’s reputation for supporting an active life style.

The course takes you around downtown Vancouver, skirting the edge of Stanley Park, along English Bay, across the Burrard bridge and back over the Cambie bridge. This route shows off Vancouver pretty well. In fact I overheard another runner saying she’d not thought Vancouver would be so beautiful. (I don’t know where she was from).

The Sun Run would not work without the volunteers. They help with handing out race packs, gear check, the water stations that line the route, the after run party in BC Place and marshalling the thousands of runners and walkers. What I found interesting that I heard several runners thanking the volunteers, or even cheering them, as they went by. That was nice to see.

Perhaps one of the best things about doing the run is being encouraged by the people watching. All along the route there were people watching, cheering and shouting encouragement. I particularly liked a little girl of about 7 or 8 who was holding her hand out for “high five’s” and telling us we were awesome! It certainly helped in the last kilometre or two, when energy is flagging.

The after party wrap up was in BC Place Stadium. It was my first time inside with its new roof. It was a great venue and luckily our running clinic had arranged to meet under the N – so we were all able to catch up and find out how we’d all done. There’s a lot of people looking tired but really happy. And they’re already talking about next year!

When the honeymoon is over

The honeymoon starts now
Keep that loving feeling

When you first move to Canada the chances are that you’ll be in a honeymoon period. Just like those newly in love, you’ll enjoy everything with an uncritical eye. There will be things that are just what you expected. Some things will be better even. And even the odd Canadian foibles you come across will be endearing.

This honeymoon stage is delightful. You can really appreciate the new life you’re making. And the best way to do that is to immerse yourself in what you’re doing. Enjoy the whole experience without analyzing it.

But just like in marriage, there comes a time when you begin to find fault with things. The equivalent of your partner not cleaning up, or leaving stuff all over the floor.

What begins to irritate differs from person to person.

Actually it differs from thought to thought. After all nothing has changed about Canada. It is just that you have begun thinking about it in a different way.

Some people find this stage quite distressing.

As in a relationship it is important to remember that you are committed to the relationship.

You are in Canada and your intention is to make it your new home. Just as in marriage it is not a good idea to be wondering whether there’s not something better somewhere else. Being fully committed to your new life, like your new partner, is the best way to assure that you settle well.

The other thing that really works is to avoid comparing Canada to your previous home country. I recommend that you simply dismiss any comparisons whenever they come to mind. This leaves room for you to appreciate the experience that you are living in the moment.

Comparing and thinking about what life was like before is simply living in the past. That makes it harder to enjoy the present.

Imagine if you did this with your relationship. Your partner would be wondering if you’d rather be with someone else, and would likely feel that you were being critical. That’s not going to help the relationship!

The best thing about appreciating your new life in an uncritical way is that your appreciation will grow. The more you appreciate about Canada the more likely you are to find your experiences more and more enjoyable.

A Valentine from your bank

TD Canada Trust branch
Banks look comfy and welcoming

Yesterday we went into our local branch of TD Canada Trust and were struck by how different it was from visiting a bank back in the UK.

The main thing we noticed, on Valentine Day, was that there were red and white hearts decorating the branch. There was a table with cake and coffee for any visitors to help themselves.

We had an appointment and were a bit early, so we sat in one of the many comfortable chairs set out in the area by their meeting rooms. I got chatting to another guy who was sitting there, tucking into the cake. He told me that TD was the best bank. He liked their friendly service… and the cake!

Unlike the UK, the bank tellers are not hidden behind glass walls. You simply walk up to the counter and chat to them while doing your banking. There are ATM’s but most people seem to prefer the personal touch.

We know the bank staff and can even tell you a bit about their lives. For instance we usually meet Melanie. She’s from Toronto originally, but lived in Victoria before moving to Vancouver. She likes hiking, and most recently enjoyed a hike on Bowen Island. She prefers Vancouver to Victoria because she enjoys the bigger city and being able to fly to more international destinations.

I bet that none of my UK readers could tell me similar things about their bank staff.

It makes for an enjoyable, and admittedly slow moving, visit to the bank. But if you want fast then there’s always the ATM’s.

(And by the way, this is not an advert for TD, since our experience is that other banks are equally friendly. I don’t know if they have cake though).


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