04 September 2006


Just woke up from a long sleep, after going to bed rather early.

The heat in Vancouver really did me in yesterday, as I explored sights on the North Shore - Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. Thanks to the exchange rate, both turned out to be poor values, though they still were worth a visit. I was able to cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge and take in the rainforest, as the park employees served visitors in late 1880s-era costumes. Over at Grouse Mountain, not even a bit of the napping at the lodge helped, as I had to sit in the sun for two shows - one featuring lumberjacks, and one featuring birds of prey. And my feet still hurt from the previous day, even though I had my most comfortable walking shoes and athletic socks.

Regarding Canadian currency: it's really expensive right now, at parity to the US dollar and with higher price tags, but using it is second nature. The coins, from pennies through quarters, are of the same size and material compared to their US counterparts. (In fact, at the hotel restaurant last night, I was given change in a mix of Canadian and US coins - had to look to tell them apart.) $1 and $2 are in coins, $1 being called "loonie" (after the duck on it) and the bimetal $2 "toonie." Bills are clearly color-coded and look much like Euro banknotes. $5 is blue, $10 is violet, $20 is green, and $50 is red. And most importantly, it's good not having to see "In [mean, judgmental patriarchal] God We Trust" on every coin and bill.

As I walk around Vancouver, I see a very good mix of people of different backgrounds. Granted, the roots of the modern city lie with the English, and there are plenty of fair-skinned, blue-eyed people here, looking better than their London counterparts. However, there also are lots of Asians - both East Asians and South Asians. Canada's liberal and FAIR immigration policy, one that picks immigrants based on their ability to contribute to Canadian society as a whole (as opposed to a specific political cause, as is the case in the US) results in a polyglot of faces and languages. There also are many Europeans here. I hear just about every major Western European and East Asian language on the streets every day. As I was returning from Grouse Mountain yesterday, the bus driver was practicing Spanish with some passengers!

Back here in suburban Burnaby, I noticed that my Hilton hotel is connected to a Chinese mall. The Chinese - and their money - are everywhere here, especially down in Richmond near the airport. There is also enough Korean traffic here at the hotel, to warrant putting up emergency instructions in Korean. I've heard that affluent Asians, particularly those fleeing Hong Kong, settled in the Vancouver area in droves. And it seems that Canada, with its higher standard of living, is attracting more wealthy immigrants - especially ones who could start new businesses in Canada and create jobs - than the US, where low taxes and a potential for quick money attract desperate unskilled workers, often illegally. And no matter how many come here, the basic value of tolerance is staying put here in British Columbia, a province that legalized gay marriage on its own before the rest of Canada followed; compare this to the US, where immigrants are being actively pitted against the gay community.

I wonder if and how I can fit into the picture here in Vancouver. With every SkyTrain ad for an immigration attorney service (as well as ads for condos under $200K), I keep wondering. After all, I am fed up with my inability to get healthcare in the US, at any price.