My Little Sister's Wedding

I grew up with 2 sisters, one older and one younger, raised by my mother and grandmother, sandwiched in a testosterone-dry family. We were raised slightly strict and conservative, with men out-lawed from getting too close to any of us. My mother remarried and divorced in a quick 2 years, and other than that the only men coming around were uncles and ‘friends’ I could never admit were boyfriends. Yet somehow we all knew Ruth, the baby of the family, would be the first to get married. We knew that when she was only 4 years old, still attached to my mothers umbilical cord, and grew up the most ‘domestic’ of us all, baking with my grandma and learning all my mother’ secret recipes.

the beautiful bride

Ruth went to Trinity Western University, a private school nearby my moms home town. She started dating a boy in her second year, and then we all started predicting when the wedding would be. It was still a light-hearted joke after they had been dating a couple years, but before we expected it, they were engaged.

After an 8 month engagement, finishing all their final exams, and graduating from University, they were married a week later. We weren’t surprised, but still scratching our heads with the unusual feeling of marrying off the baby in the family. Me and my older sister, unmarried and childless, were the maids of honour, watching in awe as our youngest sibling out-aged us somehow, as a youthful beautiful bride already starting her life with a man after all these years of being an integral part of our women-only family.

the original hen house

They were married  in a beautiful spring ceremony on an apple orchard in Kelowna, at the grooms home in the interior of British Columbia. My sister wore a $50 dress she found at a bride-swap fair, and layered it with lace from another second-hand gown the grooms sister found for her. She wore a belt around the smallest part of her waist, he hair down and curled, with lacy flats she bought somewhere for a few dollars, and looked like a million bucks. She glowed from the tips of her manicured fingers to the ends of her pursed lips, and her colourful bouqet made from an arrangement of flowers picked from the garden couldn’t distract you from her smiling face.

the getaway car

The wedding ceremony was simple; my mom catered it with home-cooked food, only a few people made speeches, and with no alcohol or dancing, it was over by 9pm. We watched the newlyweds drive away in a blue convertible 70’s Volkswagen bug, dragging behind them cans and balloons, and couldn’t help but feel a pang of loss at the sight of our little sister being the first chick to fully flee our home nest.

2 weeks in Vancouver

As of late, my travel plans have been slightly more spontaneous than usual, since I was expecting to move to France, then substituted that with a euro trip for 3 months, then cut it 6 weeks short to go to Miami where I had 2 unrelated obligations. Then from Miami I basically flipped a coin between St. Croix or New York.

Heads. New York. But I didn’t really have anything to do in New York. But I did just find out my little sister got engaged, so I used it as a stop-over to get back to Vancouver. I could have just changed planes at JFK, but a few days in New York never hurts. I had some relatives, a best friend, and a friend who just visited me in Iceland who owed me some tourguiding hospitality. He lives in the financial district, a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center Site, and works near Grand Central Station. My other friend there is a male supermodel. Both very clichéd Manhattan careers I’d say.

So Vancouver. I lived there for nearly 4 years but every year that passes since, going back to Vancouver makes me feel more and more like a visitor. With every visit, I know fewer people living there, as all my UBC friends graduate, get jobs, or marry elsewhere. Walking around the UBC campus makes me feel like an old creeper. Downtown even seems less familiar, with all the construction and development disguising familiar streets.

I don’t miss the rain, the long, dark, dreary nights, or how expensive it is to drive (parking, gas, insurance). But I miss the cosmopolitan feel of the city, the vibrant, young, international mix of faces you see, not to mention noticeably beautiful faces. I love the cheap, easily-accessible and readily available sushi everywhere. I love Stanley park, English Bay and the surrounding, snow-topped mountains. I really miss Whistler – the feeling of riding the gondola to the very top and knowing you can take up to 2 hours to get back down without riding another chairlift.

I spent my 2 weeks there wedding dress shopping with my sisters. Ruth didn’t know what colour her bridesmaid dresses should be until our second outing, and still came out with a slightly indecisive choice. “Off-white. Or cream. With or without a pattern. But no one should wear the same dress.” We didn’t get very far with that for me or my older sisters dress hunt, but she managed to find her dream wedding dress. It was a whopping $1200 plus 12% HST and $200 for a belt wrap. She didn’t feel right about the price, so instead bought 2 wedding dresses she liked a little less each, but in total only cost $150, and together, could tailor into something perfect.

During the day, every day, I worked with an old-time friend and long-time professional colleague, Yashar. He hired me full time to work as his campaign volunteer leader in the North Vancouver municipal elections. This job consisted of me sitting between 8 – 10 hours a day in an office where only other Persians worked, organizing his Farsi-speaking only parents to lead volunteer events, and then distributing a handful of about another 20 volunteers (also, all Persian) for random, miscellaneous jobs to help market Yashar as a city councilor. I realized how much I love Persian hospitality, and how alienating it is to be the only person not speaking the common language of your immediate surroundings.

I also spent quite a bit of time with a traveler friend named Murray, who calls me the girl version of him. We seem to lead parallel lifestyles, both insatiably wanderlusting, and irresponsibly quick to pack up and go at the flip of a coin. We lamented about how hard it is to keep relationships, but how inconsequential this seems when we realize how much we appreciate the lasting friendships travel has given us instead. We empathized how lonely travel can get, but without referring to any negative connotations of the meaning of the word. We wondered out loud how we stay so busy doing nothing, and joked about the endless moneytree that people seem to believe feed our travel funds. But, we concluded that our lives are somehow less expensive and more sustainable than our alternative life-options, and also decided we weren’t abnormal, since 2 people living the same lifestyle simply defines a different normality.

 

Roadtrip Westcoast & Craigslist Rideshare

After I spent a day in Miami, I flew to SFO to start a week long road trip from the Bay to Vancouver, B.C. I wanted to visit friends and family from here and there, since that´s what people like to do during the holidays. Me and Steve used his Subaru as a Craigslist carpooling tool and rideshared parts of our drive there and back. We decided to skip the boring, direct I5 and take all of Northern California along the much longer but prettier highway 101, and also thought it would be a good opportunity to stop along the way in Mendocino county for some wine tasting. We had Phil and Kai, both good-hearted travelers not really from any one place in the states, who drove the whole day with us to Oregon, and thankfully knew how to drive a stickshift so that some of us could taste as much as we wanted without spitting.

maxell Digital Camera

all my favourite people from Portland

We visited two California Organic Certified wineries, Yorkville Cellars and Barra of Mendocino, and while I still can’t admit that I can taste the difference in organic versus non-organic, you still somehow feel better supporting a more sustainable, less environmentally-damaging winery just because some California certification schema says that they are. Weird, but true. We also stopped at a famous microbrewery in Boonville, California. Anderson Valley Brewing company makes almost 20 different varieties of beer at their tastehouse, and their Winter Solstice Seasonal ale, my personal favourite, is super scrumptious. Although, it hardly compared to the limited edition, seasonal, 11%alc. Abyss, by Deschutes brewery in Oregon; Ryan described it as God walking down your throat in velvet slippers.

Sienna Ridge Estate Winery

We dropped Kai off in Eureka, and then Phil drove the rest of the way through a grove of Giant Redwoods, weaving along Grants Pass after we entered Oregon. He needed to be dropped off in Ashland, and the person who he was staying with offered us to stay the night there too since it was getting late. Phil got the couch at his friends place, and we got Cadbury Cottage, a beautiful 2-storey, cozy house to spend the night. It’s rented out for hundreds of dollars per night during the very famous Shakespeare festival that happens in Ashland every summer, but I guess in December when noone uses it they can afford to let random craigslist rideshare friends stay a complimentary night 🙂

winter time in wine country

maxell Digital Camera

We made it to Vancouver to visit my mom and sisters, and gorged for the next few days on Mom´s home cooking and specialty Christmas treats. On the drive back down, we had two craigslist people again, this time from Seattle to Oregon, but they were much younger, a guy and a girl, and had no luggage at all. Sounds suspicious, but I almost felt like we were more dangerous than them. We spent that night in Eugene, Oregon, with a friend of mine, Jesse, who works at June. Its a restaurant/bar and we stopped to have some more delicious micro-brew, local beer and stouty christmas ales. We spent most of the night talking about couchsurfing since he and his girlfriend are going to Venezuela and Colombia soon and want to start using the site; of course I gave it the highest recommendation, helped him get his profile completed, and gave him 2 suggested hosts in Colombia to make sure he doesn’t change his mind.

Jackson Wellsprings near Ashland, Oregon

For the last leg of the drive, we didn’t find any craigslist rideshares, so we took our time stopping in Jackson Wellsprings, a hotspring spa that did good for our stiff backs and sore buts from all that driving. We also stopped at Sienna Ridge Estate, a winery right in the middle of Oregon visible from the I5, in an old, restored farmhouse. Our wine pourer was this lovely old man whose name I can´t remember, but it started with G and he’s only one of two people who work there since somedays, noone even comes to taste business is so slow. If you go there, ask him how his sister is, since he was on his way north to visit her at the Vancouver General Hospital the very next day.

I’ll call him Mr. Sienna Ridge

Even though we had no rideshares, we did pick up a crazy hitchiker, who had the most obnoxious, raspy New Yorker voice, and didn’t once stop talking (with excessive cursing) in the 20 miles we drove him. Anymore than that and I think I would have started to regret picking him up but instead it just makes yet another great story to tell from our roadtrip.

Beautiful British Columbia

Every time I’m away from BC for a long time and come back, I’m so amazed by the natural beauty here. There are so many massive, dense forests, with tree tops that are invisible from the ground because they tower so high into the sky, and the hundreds of giant mountain tops surrounding Vancouver and the lower mainland that fade off into a blue mirage off in the distance. Everything is so lush and green in the summer, which is kind of special since most of the year everything is rainy and dull grey… but then there are always the evergreen trees, and of course the moutains too but they start to  turn white as they become snow peaked.

you’d think the 1/2 way mark is inspiring, but it’s actually quite devastating because you think you’ve been walking forever already

A friend I met in Antarctia was in town, a self-proclaimed pengiunologist, and we decided the touristy thing to do was hike the Grouse Grind, a famous 3km, 3000m elevation gain trail – also known as mother nature’s stairmaster. The record time is something like 28 minutes, but most do it in 1.5 hrs, and Tom had a bet to do it in under 50 mins. The stake was just a beer at the top and he didn’t quite make it with a 57 min. finish, but we hiked it with Tom’s friend’s little nephew, an 11 year old who finished in 41 minutes, so Tom lost more than just one beer, perhaps also a little ego bust. I was happy with 1hr 19 minutes, and the view from the top was totally glorious and worth all the sweating and temporary regret.

the Grouse Grind Sky ride that took us back down the mountain, with a view of Capilano behind

I spent the weekend nights in Vancouver and went out to Library Square, a popular night club frequented mostly by university students, and saw so many old friends from UBC, as well as  randomly ran into a group of people I went to highschool with in Chilliwack.  Saturday night was even more spectacular, as I got last minute tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show ‘Kooza’ which always delivers as an intense, impressive, sensory overload of acrobatics and clowning. I went with a business friend of mine who sent me an email a few months back asking “Bentley or Aston Martin?” and sure enough, he picked me up in his DB9 that he ended up buying on my recommendation.

i got to drive :)

i got to drive 🙂

Whenever I’m back in Vancouver, I commit to only eating Sushi or Tim Horton’s since I can never get anything quite like Vancouver sushi or timmy’ ho’s  when abroad, and after the show we appropriately decided to get some sushi. However, we had to play the role of James Bond and went to the fancy schmancy Fairmont Hotel for our sushi instead, and paid four times more per roll than we should, although it made us feel VIP enough to compensate for the crappy (but cheap) seats we got last-minute to Kazoo.

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.

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.