“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Oscar Wilde

So curse me already!

So, a little like the rain situation, I decided that all of those tales of good jobs being hard to come by when you first arrive in Canada was just rumour and hearsay.  I will arrive in Vancouver to glorious sunshine and employers begging me to work for them.  There’s nothing wrong with a little optimism, right?

Okay so it’s not been all that bad. I have been in Vancouver just over 5 weeks and so far I have had five interviews, three job offers and two actual jobs – but it seems that quantity is overtaking quality in this department.  Here is a breakdown:

1st Encounter

  • Organisation: Swatch Retail, Metrotown
  • Job Title: Assistant Manager
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of getting back into retail anyway.

2nd Encounter:

  • Organisation: Public Outreach
  • Job Title: Door to Door Canvasser
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Job declined.  I don’t quite have the stones or the inclination for door to door fundraisng

3rd Encounter:

  • Organisation: Donorworx
  • Job Title: World Vision Fundraiser, Capilano Mall
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Job accepted.  Seemed like a cool organisation, but I wasn’t too keen on the job which was asking mall patrons to sponsor children.  Quit when agency work started coming in.

4th Encounter:

  • Organisation: Vancouver Chinese Gardens
  • Job Title: Volunteer and Event Coordinator
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: Really disappointed that I didn’t get this, they told me that I was in the final 3 and that I was a really strong candidate, but the person they hired had more Vancouver experience.  Not much I could have done about that I guess.

Encounter 5

  • Organisation: Expert Recruiters – Recruitment Agency
  • Job Title: N/A
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Now doing temp work whenever these guys can offer it.  Work is usually fun but inconsistent.

So considering that most people I have spoken to spent at least a month looking for work and at least three months before anything career related came along, I’m not doing too badly.

I’ll just need to keep drinking, and according to Mr Wilde, my curse will soon arrive 😉

Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style…

So the hostel thing is cool for a while, and as an only child I think that I did pretty well spending a month in communal living spaces…but eventually a fixed la bode becomes necessary for mental and financial well being.

I viewed a few places before I found somewhere.  The first place I viewed in Kits I really liked, $380 a month rent, an okay sized room and some decent roommates.  But these guys spent ages getting back to me, and it turns out that they had a friend who hadn’t decided if he was taking the room or not, and he eventually decided that he would.  The next place was also in trendy Kits.  I had heard people talking about the ridiculous set ups that landlords will impose to squeeze as many people into a house as possible, and now I got to see a great example!  The ‘bedroom’ for rent was actually a tiny attic space.  You had to climb up some ladders and then crawl though a tiny Borrowers style door to enter a room that was no more than 2.5 foot/50cm high!  And they wanted $650 a month for it.

The last place I almost didn’t go and see because it was quite far away from downtown, about 35 minutes on public transport.  However the place sounded amazing and the rent was really good.  My first attempt to get there almost ended in complete failure as I had typed the wrong address into my iPhone, woops!  But I got there eventually, and it was such a nice place…roomy, underfloor heating, hardwood floors, back yard…and the roommate seemed really cool.  Like all of the good places, they had viewings all week and then they would choose the tenant.  And I’m now very happy to say they chose me! 🙂

The first day of being able to unpack all of my stuff and sleep in a room all to myself was amazing!  I’ve been here a month now and I’m still loving it, it turns out that the distance from Downtown means that I don’t go to the SevenEleven every day and accidentally spend $20.  We are also very close to Little India/Punjabi Market so there is always loads of good food nearby!

Room hunt, success!Image

The first few days as a sort of immigrant…

Thursday

I had a strange first few days in Vancouver.  My first night I went out to a Battle of the Bands night with the guys from the hostel – we got lost in the rain on the way there which wasn’t super fun, but the amazing night and musical talent made up for it.  Conclusion for the evening: Vancouver is wet, a good night out and contains many attractive men.  Two out of three I can live with!

Friday

I sorted out all of the boring stuff today, bank account, SIN number, cell phone…not because I am usually this organised but because I wanted to clear my weekend up for things of a fun nature!  I also met my old Cali classmate Ashish, who lives in Vancouver,  for drinks and some food which was cool.  I also fired off a few replies to roommate ads on Craigslist.  One got back to me, I have my first viewing tomorrow, yay!

Saturday

I went on an organised walk around Chinatown and East Hastings with the hostel.  I has heard a lot of not fun things about Downtown Eastside, so I thought it would be great to get the perspective of someone in the know.  There is a lot of really cool street art down there, and some interesting gentrification going on with slightly pretentious art galleries popping up in the most unlikely places.   We were taken to The City Bakery in Chinatown for some amazing steamed buns, then along to the Chinese Gardens and finishing off with a local ale at the renowned Alibi Rooms.

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I had to dash off for my viewing in Kitsilano (the place to be in Vancouver, apparently) which went well but a few more people still have to view the place.

This was then followed by a rather odd evening…I am on a couple of Facebook groups designed for people who are on the same visa in Canada.  A few meet ups have been arranged through these groups, and one girl had gotten in touch with me asking me to let her know when I arrive so we can hang out.  So as I had nothing to do tonight, I messaged her and she told me that she was meeting a crowd from the Meetup.com website (very popular here in Vancouver, for various reasons relating to general widespread lack of socializing) if I wanted to come along.  I agreed, we met in a bar and the girls from the meetup.com group were great, I was having an awesome time.  After ordering another round of drinks, said girl (we shall call her Lady X from here on in) told us that she was cold, but her apartment was only a few blocks away so she would run home and get a jacket. Thirty minutes later, Lady X still wasn’t back.  We were moving on and still had to settle the tab, so I text/called/vm’ed here – nothing.  So we had to pay for her drinks!  Thanks for that Lady X – although I had a great night with the rest of the group.

Sunday

The plan was to go to Stanley Park, hire bikes and have a good old time cycling around the sea wall.  But the pesky water falling from the sky on the way there meant that we got very wet and were forced to go to Vancouver Aquarium instead.  After watching The Cove, I swore that I would never pass through the threshold of another live dolphin show sporting aquarium again.  However I managed to justify it to myself by reading lots on their ongoing research in protecting wild Orcas…so with yin and yang set right for now, we went in.  They actually have a really cool set up and it was good fun, although my conscience did have to turn a blind eye to the crocodile in a tank forced to endure a ‘tropical storm’ every half hour and the Beluga whale show.  On the way back, the skies miraculously cleared and I had my view of the snow tipped mountains for the very first time – amazing!  Just when I thought lady luck had finished with me for the day, I won $5 in penny poker back at the hostel in the evening!Image

Beautiful British Columbia

You can’t really argue with a province whose tagline is ‘The best place in the world’, now can you?

Thursday

‘Those Americans will give you a tough time at the border’ they said.  ‘The Canadians are great, you’ll have no problem going the other way’ they said.  They said wrong.  I was supposed to cross the border back into Canada on the train, but there was some sort of problem so they put us on a bus (I still need to complain about that…), and I was the only one who had my bag emptied and swabbed for narcotics.  If it had been anyone but an armed immigration officer with my passport and visa in his hand, I would have told him to bugger off and did he realise how bloody difficult it is to pack a rucksack?  But I didn’t.  Because he was.

It turns out that the day before, an immigration officer had been shot at that exact same border crossing, so I forgave his paranoia a little.

People told me that it rained a lot in Vancouver.  “Puh, I’m from Glasgow”, I scoffed. “You don’t know rain until you’ve been there for a summer”.  It turns out that they do.  In fact if Vancouverites were to compete against Glaswegians in a rain-athon, my money would be on Vancouver.

This view may be slightly tainted by the fact that it rained for 24 solid hours when I arrived here, thus dashing all of my hopes that this talk of rain was just a vicious rumour.  I has booked into the Hosteling International Downtown hostel – I had realised a few hostels ago that the Planet Traveler in Toronto was a gem unto its own and so had stopped expecting such a standard, but even with this in mind, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the retro-but-not-in-a-cool-way feel of the place.  Regardless of this, I was happy with my room and new roommates – Sinead and Ursula.  The girls were from Ireland and had arrived in Vancouver on a working visa ten days before me, it was a reminder that the care free traveler part of my adventure was over, and it was time to start looking for gainful employment…and a fixed address.

Well rested in Seattle!

I arrived in sunny (yes, sunny!) Seattle on the only dry day they had had that week – score!  You can definitely see the difference between the west coast and east coast landscape…the east coast is all beautiful fall colours at the moment; reds, pinks, oranges, yellows.  The west coast is all lush evergreens and crystal clear lakes.

Tuesday

Checked into the hostel, dumped my bag and did my usual survey of the area.  I found the space needle pretty quickly, however the lady at the hostel told me to look out for a pie shop nearby which sells the best savory and sweet pies in Washington State.  Dinner sorted, I thought – but I couldn’t find it and ended up getting an amazing avacado salad from a little deli.  Back to the hostel, caught up with some laundry and met my roommate, Clare.

Wednesday

It turns out Claire was flying solo too, so we chummed up for the day and went off on the ferry to Bainbridge island.  It’s only a 10 minute ferry ride from Seattle, but it’s a stunning little place.  We had a wander around the shops and had some lunch at a great little seafood pub.  I then went off my own to explore Pike Place market, the famous Seattle fish market.  I also got to see the first ever Starbucks, but refused to queue 30 minutes for a latte I could by in 2 minutes around the corner!  I had arranged to meet Claire, and our other roommate, Min, at the Columbus building which offers amazing views of the city without the hefty price tag of the Space Needle.  After this we went to see the space needle lights, and were further amazed by the number of products that could be turned into souvenir tack…Space Needle Soap anyone??  This was followed up by dinner at an amazing restaurant, Local 360.  Their policy is that all ingredients have to be sourced within a 100 mile radius, or maybe 200 mile, I can’t remember!  Anyway, the food was fantastic and I can now also say the same for Washington wine 😉

Again I don’t feel like I spent enough time in Seattle, but as I’ll be spending the next few months in Vancouver, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to return.

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It’s up to you…New York, New York!

Saturday
Got the bus through to New York City and met my friend and host for the next few days, David at the bus station.  New York is amazing!!  Although I don’t see how you could live there and not be obese and/or very poor as there is awesome food and just general stuff everywhere!  First we went to the Carnegie Deli, which is apparently quite a famous Jewish New York Deli…well Celine Dion and Ricki Lake have been there so it must be!  I ordered a sandwich which was slightly larger than average, and then we had a ‘slice’ of cheesecake between us which probably weighed more than a full cheesecake from Asda!  We then went on an open top bus tour and saw all of the usual sights i.e. Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Brooklyn Bridge, Trump Towers, Rockefeller Centre etc.  Then we got the subway back to David’s.  It’s in Queens so about a 30 minute subway journey.  We had some drinks in the apartment with his roommates then went out in Manhattan – good day!
Sunday
 
David had to study for an exam this day so I went into the city on my own and met my friend Andy (who had recently moved to New York with work) and his roommate.  We took a ‘Circle Line’ cruise which is basically a 3 hour boat trip around Manhattan Island.  Just to clarify (as I was unsure of this), Manhattan island is basically what we would think of as New York and when we think of the New York City skyline.  But actually, New York City is made up of 5 boroughs and Manhattan is just one of them.  Anyway, we saw some cool stuff on that including the Statue of Liberty and the place where that plane landed in the Hudson River.  After we went for pizza, New York style.  You order by the slice, but each slice is probably the size of a dinner plate, if not bigger!  Then it was back to Queens.
Monday
 
David had his exam this morning so I hit the city on my own.  First thing, I was very touristy and went up the Empire State Building.  Really great views, but so over priced and they make you queue, go through security etc for like 40 minutes for a view that takes about 5 minutes to look at.  After that I walked up 5th Avenue (the famous shopping street) and then through Central Park, which is beautiful and  massive!  I was thinking of going to the American Museum of Natural History, but only had an hour before I met David and didn’t want to pay admission only for an hour.  It’s a really cool building though, and I met David on the steps late afternoon.  We went for a couple of drinks then for a New York burger…oh my god…best burger in the whole world, it was amazing!  We finished off by going catching Looper at the cinema, then went home.
Okay so New York is now my favourite city of all time, sorry Barcelona and Dubrovnik, you have both been downgraded!  Definitely coming back here 🙂Image