Voices Of The Pacific Northwest: VANCOUVER

Beach, palms, Caribbean? Nope. Vancouver, Canada.

That’s right. I said palms in Canada.

Storied Vancouver was the third of my three major city stops on my summer 2017 journey through the Pacific Northwest.

After Portland and Seattle came Vancouver, a gem of a metropolis on the southwest corner of Canada.

Known for is diversity, positive spirit, and natural beauty, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia didn’t disappoint on any front. 

Funny money

Through its people, however, Vancouver did offer a couple of wrinkles I didn’t anticipate. 

***

Meet Derek.

After seeing the fun, sun, ocean, and high-rises of Vancouver, my Couchsurfing.com host made this a well-rounded tour by taking me to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Whereas Seattle and Portland had numerous homeless and street-drug users scattered throughout their cities, this neighborhood in Vancouver seemed to contain all these issues within its blocks. Emaciated people openly injected themselves with heroin; others dressed in tattered clothes selling random objects along the sidewalk.

Near one of these vendors I met Derek.

“As far as I’m concerned, it should be behind closed doors,” said Derek of the drug use. “Little kids walk by. I hate it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want my little kid to see it.”

“Are you a user?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he replied, as he studied a Native American-influenced print a Native American man with cowboy hat and leg cast was trying to sell him.

“Actually, we’re in the middle of something here,” the Native man told me while standing up. Then he and Derek turned their backs to me to make an exchange.

I don’t know what Derek gave to the man, but the man gave Derek a pair of nunchuks.

“The black market here is alive and well,” Derek said me after their transaction.

“What will you use the nunchuks for?” I asked.

“I’ll sell them.” he said. “I hustle all day.”

“I see a lot of that down here,” I said.

“The more I do of this, the less I have to steal,” he concluded.

Derek’s, unfortunately, is one of many similar #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest hailing from a place of struggle in the cities across the region. Look for our upcoming interview on The Periphery YouTube.

***

“Until one has loved an animal, part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Meet Anika. I did as she was out walking her dogs.

“This one over here is Star. That’s my daughter,” she said.

Anika works for Vancouver Animal Control.

“We catch them, bring them to safety, find the owner,” she explained. “We reunite them with the owner…and it that doesn’t happen, we adopt them out.”

“Are there many people willing to adopt?” I asked.

“Oh ya!” Annika exclaimed in as thick a Canadian accent as I’ve heard in the city. “Oh, it’s Vancouver! Are you kidding me?”

Her work deals with wild animals, too.

“We had a bald eagle once land into one of our dog yards after he’d been electrocuted,” she recalled.

They sent him to a bird rehabilitation center, where they brought him up to health. But that took time, and in the meantime his mate was missing him.

“She just called, called, called for him,” said Anika with a pained face. “Cause they (bald eagles) mate for life.”

Once the eagle was healed, they set him free, and he reunited with his female eagle in the park nearby.

For Anika, this was bigger than just helping two eagles.

“That’s nature: loyalty, love,” she stated, and went on to say that working with animals “teaches you something about your soul.”

As we came back around the block, Anika summed up her thoughts on life with animals.

“Until one has loved an animal, part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Whoa. Thank you, Anika, for contributing yours to the many #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest. Look for our upcoming interview–including conversation about exotic animals and what she thinks should happen to animal abusers–on The Periphery YouTube.

***

Meet Steven.

He picked me up in his raft at a dock near the float planes, and we roared across the channel to North Vancouver, where his house boat is docked. On the way, this free-spirit told me his story.

Steve was born in a small mining town 400 miles north of Toronto, Ontario.

“My parents ran a house for schizophrenic women,” he told me. “My dad was an electrician.”

“What made you come to Vancouver?” I asked.

“My cousin passed away. So I came out here to teach his son how to ski,” he answered. That was in 2011.

“What made you want to stay?”

“Look around,” he said tilting his face toward the mountains to the north.

When we got to his boat, Steven talked up the benefits of life on the docks.

“$500 a month,” he stated proudly, sharing the cost to rent the space.

Due to fuel costs, he doesn’t take his boat too far. But he does go crabbing in the area.

To earn a living Steve builds websites and tattoos eyebrows on women’s faces. He’s a member of the Canadian national cricket team (a sport he got into in Latin America) and used to be a rescuer for those stranded in Antarctic waters.

Steve’s thoughts were as free as his lifestyle, sharing about politics, Indigenous People’s affairs (his mother is Native), and the ups and downs of life on the water. I look forward to sharing his on my #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest video interview series currently playing on The Periphery YouTube.

From what I learned about Steve, though, he may see me before I get a chance to finish the video.

“I want to take my ’77 Monte Carlo to Mexico [from Toronto]. Maybe I’ll stop and see you on the way,” he offered.

***

Meet Helča.

I did at the bike rental business from where I got my bike for a day touring Vancouver. Her accent caught my ear; her story captured my attention.

Helča is Czech.

“Actually, I am from Czechoslovakia,” she clarified, as she was born before the Czech Republic split with Slovakia in 1993. She also clarified how to pronounce her name.

“The ‘c’ has a little thing over it,” she said while gesturing a ‘u’ shape. This gives the “c” a “ch” sound.

Just as Helča had done in New Zealand a couple of years ago, she is currently taking advantage of the Working Holiday visa available to applicants between ages 18-35.

I asked if one needs to have a job lined up before arrival.

“No,” she answered. “You just show up.”

Sounds pretty daring. But things were made a little easier for Helča because of Czech friends made in New Zealand who were yet in Canada when she arrived.

“Second day after I arrived, I started to work,” Helča recalled, getting a job at a “cleaning company” with her friends. They also showed her where to go and how to get around in Vancouver.

Not long after, she got her current job at the bike rental business and has now been in Vancouver about one month.

“I feel Vancouver is a huge, big city for me. I’m not used to it,” Helča admitted, then added, “But it is a friendly town. It is good.”

After Vancouver?

“Maybe I will stay here one year. I will earn money,” she explained. “And then I would like to travel…actually, my plan is Alaska to Argentina.”

Helča and I talked about her home land and her hopes to go back to the Czech Republic, start a family, and have an active job. Hers was a foreign addition to the many #VoicesofthePacificNorthwest–fitting for this especially diverse, international city. See our forthcoming full video interview on The Periphery You Tube.

Thank you to all those I got to know in Vancouver, helping me to know Vancouver through you. Next time, I show you the people and pictures from my last leg of this travel.

***

Stay tuned for announcements on this website as I release more videos. I’ve released four interview videos thus far. You can also go to The Periphery YouTube channel to subscribe. If you’d like to suggest a person, place, or topic for me to cover on The Periphery, email me at brandon@theperiphery.com 

What say you?