“Blink and you’ll miss it,” my brother in law joked. He was referring to the sun – something that we saw very little of in Canada’s most popular, least cold, and most rainy city. Indeed, during a 9-day trip where the family members residing in Asia (myself and my father), and the family members still residing in Trinidad (everyone else), met up in Vancouver, we were up to our asses in rain.
“Why does everyone want to live here?” my sister asked. “All the houses cost a million dollars, and it rains every single day. I going Toronto!”
The family on a mission
This trip was partly family reunion, and partly a major immigration reconnaissance. The Trini contingency had recently applied for Canadian residency, and received it, and had therefore taken a big trip to check out Vancouver and see if it would be a good place to live. It was seven of us in total so we had a rent-a-car which we maxxed out, driving around various areas, taking a look at popular towns and districts, trying to get some ideas about what life would be like there.
Burnaby, where we stayed, is not a particularly interesting or charming area, popular only because of its proximity to the heart of downtown Vancouver where everyone works. The owner of the airbnb where we stayed told us that the house, which was well over 30 years old, was worth ‘about $950,000’. My sister’s eyebrows raised high as she imagined what she could buy with a million Canadian dollars in Trinidad.
They actually found the perfect area to live right on the second day of the trip. We had been blessed with perfect, unbelievably beautiful weather, and we drove east to the lovely little town of Port Moody, nestled by a small bay and surrounded by mountains. Burnaby was dark and gritty, but Port Moody was like a scene from Pleasantville. Everyone was out strolling on the boardwalk, admiring the view. Otters swam around in the bay, and kids played in a pretty park as moms chatted. The leaves on the trees were turning red and orange, and the sky was a deep blue. We had an amazing lunch at a local restaurant where the hot waitress served us with a smile. “Ah, Canada,” my brother in law said happily. “Everyone is so civilised here.”
After Port Moody, we also visited New Westminster, and drove south through Surrey, South Surrey, and down to White Rock. None of these towns really tickled our fancy, especially after our lovely day in Port Moody. White Rock was quiet, almost deserted. We walked along the beach, shivering in the wind, and then ran back to the car. I wondered how this gang of Trinis would adapt to life in Canada, especially if they didn’t end up living in Vancouver. (I actually did not think it was that cold – I’m always hot anyway.)
Then, five days of rain. Five days! It rained, and rained, and rained. It was dark, and windy, and cold. It’s a good thing we had Netflix to keep us entertained. We got some arts and crafts stuff from the crappy dollar store across the street to keep the kids occupied. But really, what does one do in the rain for five days?
Then at the end, the weather cleared again, and we took the opportunity to spend some time downtown in Stanley Park. It was a gorgeous, blue sky day, but still cold. The kids ran around happily in the park, and were therefore warm, but the adults were freezing. The locals, however, were happy with the weather, biking around in short-sleeved shirts, rollerblading, and jogging. I’m sure they can spot the tourists a mile away – they’re the ones in jackets and scarves!
After deciding it was too cold to be outside, we bundled back into the car and drove through the park and over the bridge to North Vancouver, to try to find the Lynn Canyon Park. The GPS was useless and sent us to the wrong side of the park, so that we were too far away to get to the Suspension Bridge that I’d read about.
Tired of driving, and with daylight rapidly falling, we instead took a walk on a random trail into the forest. It was like being transported to another world. Everything was wet and mossy, a swathe of green growing over all the trees and plants. We were poorly equipped in our running shoes to walk through this moist world. But with the sunlight pouring through the gaps between the trees, it was incredibly beautiful.
Then, just as we began to drive back down the quiet road through the forest, a big deer ran out of the forest and across the road. We stopped the car, and the deer stopped and looked and us. Much to my surprise, instead of continuing in its original direction and disappearing into the forest, it turned around and actually ran right back across the road, past us again. We were so lucky to get such a good look at this magnificent creature that had been walking around in the forest not too far from where we were.
Then, the trip was over, and we had to say our goodbyes until next year, and start the long journey back to Asia and Trinidad. My father, daughter and I took a taxi to the airport that night, where the Punjabi taxi driver poignantly and proudly informed us, “If there is a paradise on Earth, it is Canada. And if there is a paradise in Canada, it is Vancouver.”
I really do hope my sister and her family move to Vancouver, because then they’ll only be a 10 hour flight away. Heck, I hope we move there one day too. I still would prefer the rain of Vancouver than the -25’C snowy weather of Toronto, but this is up for debate. No matter where you move to, you’ll have to take some bad with the good and deal with it. And in such a beautiful, clean, green, safe, civilised, friendly place like Canada, there shouldn’t that much to suffer through, anyway.