The title of this piece is the main equation which defines the people of Vancouver and the foundations of its growth. According to the Canada 2011 Census, 603,502 citizens live in Vancouver and this makes the city the eighth largest one in Canada…plus one more, me.
I arrived with my suitcase from the south of France after reading the book by Eileen Cook: ‘’Ne dites pas à ma mère que je suis voyante, elle me croit libraire à Vancouver’’ (Do not tell my mother I am psychic, she thinks I am a bookseller in Vancouver) – it just goes to show you that everything is possible in this world. Yes, it’s not The Globe and Mail, Le Monde or The Times magazine. The modern media do their job: forced to describe a reality that is not often fun for the reader, the citizen, the young professional, the families and all those exposed to the world’s global realities.
I decided to explore my new city with the spirit captured in this book – with humour, curiosity and attention. One of Vancouver’s assets is the numerical way of managing the streets. Here we don’t walk around the streets, we play Battleship instead: first player to reach the corner of 37th and Oak gets to pay a visit to the VanDusen Botanical Garden. I put my pawns in position on my agenda as would have done the French explorer Lapérouse. So…
Monday: Richmond, Chinatown, and Steveston village. I visit the old houses of the Japanese fishermen, and eat Dim Sum in a Chinese restaurant that my bilingual Cantonese/French colleague Xinzu talked to me about.
Tuesday: Surrey. Like in Geo magazine, gentlemen wearing multicolored turbans and speaking Punjabi are sitting next to me. I am told that there is an Indo-Pakistani market every week and because of all the beautiful colours, I make up my mind and schedule it on my agenda.
Wednesday: Kitsilano, wow! One, uh, no…two Greek food stores. It’s like Ali Baba’s cave: oils, cheeses, ready-cooked dishes, cakes and desserts. Every week there is always something to discover!!! Here I’m going to find the colours and smells of my dear Mediterranean.
Thursday: North Vancouver. I take the SeaBus, and here I am in an Iranian grocery store. I don’t understand the labels, but it’s okay, I will have to taste them. I leave with a very wide bread under my arm in order not to crease it like when I come back from the laundry service.
Friday: Gastown and the souvenir shops for tourists. I am more interested in the Aboriginal art galleries. I see sublime works. The employee describes the reality and recognition process of the First Nations. Cuisine, lifestyle, history, arts of yesterday and today. I am impressed by the tenacity and the richness of these cultures.
Saturday: Commercial Drive. Two skytrain stops from downtown. Italian cafes and shops like in the 50’s at the time of the Cinecittà. I go to the Italian Cultural Centre a few blocks away. It’s one o’clock and everything is closed. I find a neighborhood within a city district and a Venice gondola as an extra bonus. In one of the huge banquet rooms I see the staff dressed to the nines and busy with white tablecloths, covering chairs in white, and arranging high-end cutlery. An Italian wedding is going to be celebrated! Benvenuto tutti a Vancouver!
Sunday: UBC Campus. I visit the international student houses and…!!!
But I have not finished, or rather, Vancouver has not finished bringing out all the multicultural richness of our daily lives. Multiculturalism in Vancouver is an atmosphere with much more to discover and to live.
Translation Hakim Ferria