Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Letting things be.

On my way home from the Aquatic Centre, I ran into a couple that had obviously just gotten into some kind of an argument. “You said you’d be better off without me!” accused the suburban blonde guy in his thirties. “I never said anything like that!” the bodacious brunette protested, as she charged at the doors of the Skytrain with her dozen shopping bags flying in all directions.
The guy followed her into the train, got himself caught between closing doors and, after wrestling with them for a moment, squeezed himself onto the train. There was some more huffing and puffing between the two, which in turn gave the two fashionably dressed Japanese exchange students sitting across from me something to chuckle about.
Yet another true Vancouver moment, I thought to myself as I was sipping on my small, bitter, regular Tim Hortons. So many cultures and people meshing and clashing with each other, enacting and viewing the daily tragedies that unravel on the monorail. There’s just no choice but to let them be, whether it’s a young silly couple or an old crazy addict from the Downtown Eastside.
That’s what still continues to captivate me as an expat – these moments of realization that sometimes there are no sides to be taken, because in our multifaceted world there are no sides to begin with. It seems infinitely comforting to realize that you can just let it be, as opposed to taking sides or stepping up in your head to correct someone. People are just so different that most of the time there is simply no way for us to even begin to wrap our heads around why they do the things they do. Again, the words of Huxley ring clear in my head, for “Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies — all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

Yup, living abroad. It certainly makes for some neat zen moments on your way home from work.

Friday, January 2, 2009


This post was written on January 1st and I meant to wrap it up later. So much time has passed since that I gave up on continuing it, but here it is anyway...

It's difficult to believe that we've been in Vancouver for a year already. 2008 proved to be a very refreshing year, full of new faces, places and lots of little "ah!" moments. We celebrated the anniversary of our arrival with a little trip to Mt Seymour, where we took snowboarding lessons and managed to get our muscles properly mangled up.

I'm sitting here in our sweet little apartment, in muscle pain, inspecting the fresh snow that fell on our painfully lengthy way home from the New Year's Eve bash. This quiet moment feels so very much like this entire city: full of amazing possibilities, but little action unless you get up and make your day.

My physical condition is making me acutely aware that there are people who are seriously roughing it out there. The new city council is promising to end homelessness; the critics say that they are just slapping people into human zoos to give the city a cosmetic makeover. I really don't know how that is going to help the young guy standing at the Broadway station McDonald's. On my way to the grocery store, he was smiling and making eye contact with every passer-by, attentively begging for change. By the time that I had made it back from the store, his eyes were glazed over and rolling back in his head, as he had managed to score a hit for the money that the mother of two had given him. There's only so much you can do to combat free will and the personal choices that this guy is making. Objectively speaking, his opiated oblivion may indeed be preferable to the sober facts of his existence, but who is to draw the line and say that enough is enough and his way of coping with issues is not conducive. The city? I guess so.

Living in a big city with as many issues as Vancouver makes you realize how small we really are as humans. Our way of running our sand castles is still quite experimental and based on trial and error. It's fine - it's the best we've been able to come up with, but the real problem is the follow-through. People fail to realize that their happiness is entirely dependent on the choices that they make. Sadly, there is still very little personal accountability and an expectation that the mother system will just magically take care of it all.