Life as part of the Working Class

It has been strange being in one place for almost a month now, just living and working like a settled local. I have managed to get two full-time jobs since returning to Vancouver, but still feel a little distanced from truly ‘localizing’ myself; the latest and longest memories of Vancouver have always been of my life at UBC, being on Campus all school year and enjoying the city as a starving student. Now, when I go to Campus, I feel strangely foreign, and even though noone else knows I am no longer a UBC student, there is this pang of ‘outsiderness’ that I feel walking around campus without a class to go to or a study group to attend. Even more bizarre is not living on or near campus, so when Im there, I feel like I have nowhere to belong, since my home refuge is gone, as well as a full time class schedule. I have also been coping with the reality that this is the first semester in 18 years that I am not going to school this spring; I have no classes to register, text books to buy, or homework to do. Very, very strange, but comforting. My master’s thesis is almost done too, so I’ve really got very little to do in terms of academic life as of now.

Being downtown is a bit more familiar, same scene, same people, same activities. I would still say I fit the starving student profile since Im tecnically still in grad school until I defend my thesis and officially graduate, but now I’ve joined the ranks of the working class to having that secure, 9 – 5, Monday to Friday Job, in addition to serving at a bar 4 or 5 nights a week. Working two full time jobs is exhausting, and all I have time to do is work and sleep. It’s great since I have no time to spend the money I am finally making, but paying off my upcoming trip and the debt I’ve incurred from both studying in the states and my obsessive cumpolsive traveling habit is a slow process. I have yet to see if I’m actually back to square 1, which would just be an account balance of $0, since my hourly paychecks lag a few days and are paid bi-weekly, but now I’m about to go off on a 3 week trip where Im sure I’ll quickly jump into the negative account balance again. However, not to worry, for after I return back to BC the Olympics are coming to Vancouver, and so are alot of people, all their money, and alot of work – all reasons why I (and my travel habit) may personally benefit from the games.

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Why travel to the Southern Hemisphere?

worldI’ve been realizing just how much a difference exists between the ‘north’ and ‘south.’ These are often terms to distinguish between the ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ nations, synonymous with terms that divide the first-world/third-world and western/non-western countries, since a poverty divide is strangely apparent geographically.

Even crazier to understand is that most of the earth’s landmass is in the northern hemishpere, and 90% of the human population inhabits this land north of the equator. Two-thirds of Africa, almost all of asia, the entire continent of Europe and North America, and even a part of South America sit north of the equator, hosting 5.7 billion people, while the other HALF of the world only houses about  650 million people. This also leads the Southern hemishpere to be significantly less polluted than the north, with less industry, development or infrastructure.

Less people means less crowding, less tourists, and less traffic, and also means more natural habitat, more ocean, and milder seasons. And, when we are in the middle of blistering winter, somewhere north of the 49th parallel, we could fly to the same latitude south of the equator and be in the middle of summer again with long, bright days! So interesting and complex, the way of the earth – rotations and axis and all that jazz. I would have considered myself a genius if I had been the first to figure this out – one could literally have summer all year long if they traveled in sync with season changes and the angle of the earth on its axis. Or, I guess you could just live in the tropics all year round.

It is just after the winter equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, so thankfully the days are slowly getting longer. However, it is still pitch black at around 5 pm, and I couldn’t imagine a better time to trave South. Tomorrow I fly through Houston (which, crazily enough, is not having normal sub-tropic weather and they could benefit from heading further south) enroute to Buenos Aires, where the temperature will be around 30 degree highs and 14 hours of daylight. After I’ll go further south, to Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula, where days will be neraly 24 hrs long, but, unfortunately the temperatures will drop a little in exchange.

Vancouver: Rainy City

sunny vancouver

The Olympic Rings floating on a barge in the Vancouver Harbor. Visible from Stanley Park on a rare sunny day.

Dec 21 has just passed, the shortest day of the year, and now we can slowly start to look forward to longer days. Ironically though, the weather will still get colder, as Vancouver gets most of its frost and snow in January and February. Even though it doesn’t get very cold (temperatures hover around 5 degrees Celsius), it is typically very damp and dreary in Vancouver from Nov until about April, and this is the worst time for bad weather since its so dark all the time. But, now we can begin to look forward to longer days, and atleast the grey clouds won’t seem as dark anymore.

It never really feels like Christmas without the icy cold chill or snow Iceland usually gets around this time. But the lights covering all the houses makes it a bit more festive. Maybe it just doesn’t feel like the holidays since all I’ve done since getting back to Vancouver is work in an office or write my thesis. I also came here from California, where the sunny days and palm trees never make you think its winter or Christmas time.

This year my family decided to do something peculiar. We are not exchanging any gifts, both because our materialist, consumer driven society has begun to make me, my sisters and my mom very anxious in an economically tight time, and also because there are much better things we can do with our spare time and saved money other than add to the clothes hanging in our closets that we never wear. We are going to spend Christmas day donating half our possessions (mostly clothes and accessories we’ve accumulated over the year, in addition to some household things), and I think it will be a much more gratifying experience than opening gifts that result in more stuff to pack into our rooms.

Vancouver seems extra rainy and non-christmasy because everyone is just thinking about the Vancouver Olympics as the games near closer and closer. February will be a crazy time here as thousands upon thousands of athletes, fans, and tourists flock this little city to try and get a glimpse of just a handful of events that actually comprise the Olympics. Tickets range from $60 to $1,100 – a hefty fee for watching the opening ceremony, but apparently a price which people are still willing to pay. Which made me think – perhaps thats why people are thinking less about Christmas and spending less on gifts, because the Olympics are occupying our minds and draining our accounts.

Eitherway, Vancouver is still the same old, familiar place in all its rainy greyness, but it makes you appreciate the sunny days so much more. Today the weather had bright blue skies, not a breeze in the air, and me and a friend actually managed to have lunch outside on a patio, basked by the sun and wishing we had our sunglasses. It felt like I had just momentarily been transported to a warm, sunny vacation destination (even though I was cloaked in winter clothing which was actually the cause of my warmness); I guess its true that without rain, sunny days wouldn’t be so special, so let it rain – as long as the sun shows up once in a while.