Vancouver. I was jet-lagged and confused when I met you for the first time; fifteen hours away from everything I had known in Sweden and you, to be honest, didn’t make much sense to me.
You didn’t speak the way I do, we almost whisper words in Sweden but you talked loudly about everything and nothing. I waved hello, you shook my hand and gave me a hug; it didn’t matter that we were strangers.
I tried to keep up with all the things you talked about – politics, music, food – but most of it was unfamiliar. It was as if you lived at a completely different pace than me, and sometimes I felt like I was either walking two steps ahead or two steps behind you. Leaving or being left. At times I think I was just on another street altogether.
“Watch out for the zombies.” An Italian girl told me this after I had just arrived, her soft Italian accent contrasting with the solemn words. I didn’t know exactly what it meant but I nodded as if I did, trying to look well-traveled I guess.
Watch out for the zombies. Ok. I could do that.
We shared a room at a hostel downtown for a couple of nights. I spent most of the days walking, exploring and learning. Turns out that a stroll around Stanley Park takes a long time if you get lost on your way there and on your way back. Salted winds and an ocean coated in sunshine soothed tired feet though, and surprisingly, Coal Harbour and the English Bay didn’t look completely unfamiliar to me. I guess the ocean always seems the same.
“I miss home.” The Italian confessed one night, she looked almost perplexed, as if it was strange, this feeling of longing. I nodded, sympathizing, thinking that I could relate.
“How long have you been gone?”
I swallowed. Seven years. I hadn’t even been gone one week.
The process of finding somewhere to live began, and I followed ads all around the city. Downtown to Chinatown to Richmond to Burnaby and all the way back around again. Finally I ended up just renting a room down the street on Granville. Seemed like a good location I thought, right in the middle of things.
In an attempt to further embrace Canadian culture, I tried poutine and japadogs for the first time. The poutine wasn’t completely unfamiliar; if you add lingonberries and meatballs it’ll be like any other Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s. The japadogs were a bit more of a challenge.
One evening, as I got back to the hostel, I found the Italian girl packing.
“Where are you off to?”
A smile. “Mexico.” She had found a cheap last minute flight, a ticket to a new adventure. “I just can’t stand the cold you know.”
I nodded. It does get to you sometimes, the cold.
The next morning she was gone.
I moved into the apartment on Granville that week. One roommate’s Korean and the other’s Japanese. A lot is lost in translation, yet it’s never quiet here. Granville Street may not have an obvious beauty to it, not like the ocean, but I still find myself allured by it somehow.
And the zombies?
I’ve met a few; though it didn’t take me long to realise that they were more harmful to themselves than others. No real zombies to fear, just people lost. Not completely unfamiliar. As Leonard Cohen once sang: “There’s a crack, a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.”
It takes time to get to know you Vancouver. You’re an explosion of cultures but you’re not as confusing as I first thought. Not as different. You know what? I don’t need Mexico. I guess all I’m trying to say is:
“Hi Vancouver, it’s nice to meet you. Do you wanna come for a walk with me?”