Thursday, 5 October 2017

Long overdue update.

Oops! It's been over a year since the last update. Can I say that I've been busy?

So much has happened in the last year it and has been a great but challenging year.

Have had quite a few trips including, Hawaii, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico for Christmas.  Damien has moved in and Mum visited in June/July and will be back in November.

I also broke my hand on Halloween last year so had a challenging few months where I had to learn how to use it again! I had surgery (I now have wires and screws in my hand) the day before Hawaii then spent the whole trip not being able to go in the water! Almost a year later and it's still a little stiff, and my finger is a bit bent. Hopefully with time, it'll go back to normal. I'm just glad I have full strength back and can use it I should after seeing an Occupational Therapist almost weekly for 10 months!

October 19 is 2 years since I arrived in Canada (already) and my work permit expires. Unfortunately I can't apply for any more work permits (I'm too old for the working holiday and they now restrict the number of applications you can have) but I'm now applying for permanent residency! It'll take about 6 months for that decision to be finalised and I'm playing the waiting game. In the meantime, I can't leave the country until a decision has been made so I won't be back home for a little while. 😞

It's my birthday on Monday and we get a public holiday due to Thanksgiving (yay!) so Damien and I are going to Campbell River at the north of Vancouver Island to go scuba diving. Cannot wait! Hopefully we see many cool  critters.

I think that's all, I will try to write more and not leave it so long between updates!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Quick update

Hi, it’s been a while. Sorry! Been a bit busy. :)

Here are the last couple of months in a nutshell:

Las Vegas

Went to Las Vegas in June for Damien’s birthday. It was so much fun! We went to see the filming of American Ninja Warrior. It was great to see but they film at night and we had been up since 5am and by 3am we had enough. We missed the night bus and ended up walking 6km from one end of the Strip (near the Luxor) to the other (the Stratosphere)! We did see the sunrise though! We saw a Cirque Du Soleil show Ka at the MGM. It was awesome! We celebrated Damien’s birthday with a helicopter ride over the Strip and the rides on top of the Stratosphere. Ate at the Wynn buffet and also in the Eiffel tower. It was such a good trip away!

Mum’s Visit

Mum came for 3 weeks at the end of August. It was great to have her here again. We went to lots of nice restaurants, Whistler, White Rock, the Vancouver Aquarium and also just chilled out a bit at home. She appreciated it as she had been travelling for about 5 or 6 weeks prior to coming to me so she liked not having to be anywhere or do anything. It’s so nice having her visit! But I’m really looking forward to seeing her again in Hawaii in less than 4 weeks!


Damien is now a certified diver. Yippee! Now I have a buddy to go with…except when he’s away working! However, we did do introduction to dry suit together and will now be able to dive in the chilly BC waters and keep dry and warm. I went for my first 2 dry suit dives over the weekend and it was fantastic! It took me a little while to get the buoyancy but by the end of the second dive I was starting to get the hang of it. You carry so much weight though. I had 34lbs (about 15kg!). Quite different to tropical diving where I only had 4.5kg (10lbs). Also there were no huge dramas like last time! We saw so many cool things, like a big ling cod, an octopus, a yacht wreck and the coolest (which you would not think it would be but it was) a crab eating a dead jelly fish. It was pretty much just gorging itself and having the time of its life! Since the last time I went diving, I invested in a dive computer and am so glad I did. I can now record them more accurately – depth, time water temp etc. Looking forward to going again…in December!!

Other news

Not a lot else to report really. I now have a FLEX day every 2 weeks. It’s great as I now have regular long weekends!

What’s even better is that I’ll get three long weekends in a row as this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. But who cares about Thanksgiving when it’s my birthday this weekend! We’re going to San Diego to escape the cold and enjoy the Southern Californian sun. Can’t wait!

Fall is well and truly here, the leaves are already changing and it’s cold and wet. However, hopefully that means it’ll be a good snow season and I can practice snowboarding more!

This is just a quick update. Sorry these are few and far between now, but will do it when I can. Anyway, best get back to work!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Scuba Diving in BC

Ooops! It’s been a while!!

Last time I said I was going to blog about Vegas, but that’s going on hold. I’m going to blog about my first cold water diving experience instead.

After reading many articles and talking to one of my work colleagues who just completed her open water certification, I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet and go diving again. Besides it has been 10 months (way over due!) and I need to keep my skills up to scratch. I thought I had mentally prepared myself having ready through my manual again just to refresh my memory and I thought I was going to be a-ok. What I didn’t realise (probably due to inexperience and some lack of knowledge) is how different it would be.

Yes, I knew the wetsuits would be thicker (7mm over arms and legs and 14mm over our core – tropical diving I only wore short sleeved 4mm wetsuits) but did not realise that I would be carrying more than double the weight. Other differences include the measurement of the air you use (PSI as opposed to bar) and depth (feet as opposed to metres). I don’t think this helped my sense of ease about the diving. I really wish when we did training we learned in both as they use different forms of measurement (air consumption and depth) around the world. Another thing was that there wasn’t a dive computer on the rentals (I suppose they are expensive) so I don’t really know how deep I went nor my dive time.

Anyway, I arrived at the Vancouver Diving Locker at 9am as requested and checked that I had all my gear. One of the instructors (let’s call him Tom…as I can’t remember either instructors names!!) asked me how much weight. I said I wasn’t sure as it was my first cold water dive. He gave me 28lbs (12.7kg). Far out! That’s so much weight! Anyway, I went with it.

The awesome thing is that they drive you to the dive site, which was Porteau Cove.

There were quite a few of us with some people who had just recently got their open water. I still felt very much like a newbie as my last dives were all close together when I had just got certified!

We were split into 2 groups, got our gear together and then headed to the water. Another new thing for me that day was shore diving! So there we were, weighted down, walking through the car park to get to the beach to enter the water. It was such a hot day so it was actually a relief to get into the 10 degree water in our thick wet suits and all the weight. So we got our fins etc on and I was having trouble putting my mask on. Everything seems so much more difficult when you also have to wear a hood and gloves!

We started to descend and my mask flooded straight away. Great! So we surfaced again and I swapped with the instructor.  Much better – eventually got down but then that’s when I started to have more problems. I put way too much air in my BCD (jacket you wear) and this totally screwed up my buoyancy. Visibility was poor and I lost site of the other and due to the amount of air in my BCD was taken straight to the surface. We tried again and the same thing happened. It was so easy to lose them as for the first few metres you couldn’t see a metre in front of you so I got too high from them, couldn’t find them and surfaced again. By this time I was frustrated and felt like I was letting my buddy down. So I said I wouldn’t go down again (and had used a lot of air) and I felt like a real failure. So I started making my way back to the shore. Meanwhile the rest of the guys said they saw some cool things and I felt even more defeated.

It was lunch time by then and I really did not want to go again. The instructors asked me if I wanted to go and I said that I probably wouldn’t. Basically felt like crap. Tom pulled me aside and then I cried. (How embarrassing!) Actually for some reason it still makes me tear up. I don’t know why, perhaps because what he did really restored some faith in myself and my diving abilities. Anyway, he said he learned to dive in Australia and that he also had trouble the first time switching from tropical to cold water diving. He also suggested that he take me one on one and do the buoyancy skills so I know what to do. The other instructor agreed and I immediately felt better.

This time, my mask was perfect, no problems at all and when we got down we did the buoyancy skills. Once I had perfected them we went for a dive. Finally! I felt good! I still had some small problems but was able to quickly rectify them without shooting up to the surface. Progress!!
There wasn’t much to see, some large cod, crabs, prawns and jellyfish but still so different to tropical diving. It was cool though and I made a breakthrough.

While the day was not quite as I expected, I learnt so much. I’m hoping to go again in September to cement what I learned and then perhaps even do a dry suit course so I can keep up my skills in the winter…yes you heard me winter diving! It’s supposed to be so much clearer and there’s more to see.

Anyway, I think I must remember I’m still a beginner and not to give myself a hard time. Not every dive is going to be a success.

I also highly recommend the Vancouver Diving Locker. They are so professional and they definitely know what they're doing!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A tribute to my friend Clare.

I learned today that my friend from primary school passed away. Clare was only 31.

We were great, actually I would say best friends in primary school and we played together all the time. I have such fond memories of our time together at Manly State School. We were friends from year 1 to year 5 until she moved away to Lowood in the country.

During our childhood I'll never forget hanging out on her boat (where she lived until she moved away), pretending to be our favourite characters from our favourite books (most notably the Narnia series), playing together in the fife band and singing in the school choir and writing letters to each other after she left.

Over the years we lost contact and the internet was not a thing back then, however Facebook connected us again in 2007.

Unfortunately, we never did catch up again as our lives went in different directions, however, through Facebook, I loved seeing what she accomplished over the years. One thing that was consistent from when she was a child to an adult was that she was brilliant, kind and driven.

About 18 months ago she was diagnosed with secondary liver cancer of an unknown primary. I don't think they ever found out where the primary source of the cancer was and from her many blog posts and updates on Facebook she fought hard.

It is always difficult when someone passes away. It really hits home how precious life is and how we must not take life for granted. Clare will be missed by many.

Rocky Mountains, Whistler and saying bye to Jess and Mum.

The time with Mum was busy!

No sooner that we got back from the US, I had 4 days at work and we were off again. This time to the Rockies. We flew into Calgary on the Thursday night and picked up the hire car. However, what was supposed to be a 10 minute drive to the hotel turned into 30 minutes! Although we were given directions we could not find the hotel. We drove round and round in circles until I remembered that Google maps on my phone could tell us how to get there. Oops! It was the best hotel of the 3 we stayed in too! Highly recommend the Radisson if you need an over night in Calgary. But Calgary airport is seriously in the middle of nowhere...or the "boondocks" as Mum called it!

The following morning we set of to Banff. It's a pretty ordinary drive except for the fact that as you drive towards the Rockies the mountains get bigger and bigger!  In no time we were in Banff and had a delicious lunch. We thought we would lash out and stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs. It's an impressive hotel but honestly very disappointing and way overpriced for what you get. The room was small, the beds were single size and the bathroom was the size of a closet and there were dirty marks on the wall...probably from the suitcases? Not sure. But definitely not worth the price we paid. I don't think I'd stay in another one.

We wandered around Banff, did a little shopping and chilled out in the bar at the hotel. The following day we checked out the Bow River and falls right next to the hotel then also the Hoodoos.

We then set off for Lake Louise. Instead of driving straight up the highway we took the scenic route the Bow Valley Parkway. Much prettier! We stayed for 2 nights at the Deer Lodge, which is a 5 minute walk to Lake Louise. It was an old lodge, and had no tv (shock horror!) but we liked it much better than the Fairmont! We learned that it was the last weekend the Lake Louise ski resort was open so we went to check it out. What a party atmosphere! So many people dressed up in Hawaiian shirts, shorts, bikinis etc and they were all skiing/snowboarding!

Part of our package deal with the hotel was that breakfast and dinner were included. The 2 nights we were there we had the most filling 3 course meals. Absolutely delicious!

On Sunday we went to check out the Icefield Parkway...however I took a wrong turn and ended up on the road back to BC! So we thought we better check out Field (of which it was a small town made up of 3 streets), Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge. We then headed back to Alberta and took the right road to the Icefield Parkway.

It really is very beautiful, many of the lakes were still frozen. We checked out Bow Lake and I went to Peyto. Last time I went to Peyto it was a short walk from the car park to the lookout. But as there was still so much snow, it was a good 15 minute trudge through the snow! Mum didn't go as she didn't have the correct shoes. It was very beautiful. Stupid me, decided to take the less travelled path even though it was an obvious path not as many people had taken it. As I learned that day, just because the snow looks smooth and stable doesn't mean it is! I ended up in snow almost up to my hip! Not fun when there's literally no one else around and you go into panic mode.

The highlights of the day were seeing 3 bears (!!), a mountain goat and a big horned sheep. We also stopped and looked at the Athabasca Glacier. Unfortunately we didn't get to Jasper as it was another 100km from the Glacier. It was a beaut day!

We unfortunately couldn't go to Lake Moraine (my fave) as the roads were closed due to avalanche risks. We had such a fantastic time and I would highly recommend it! It's a really unique time of year to go.

Back to Vancouver and back to work but it was my friend Jess' last week in Vancouver. :( She lived here for almost 3 years and it was time for her to go back to Brisbane. We didn't know each other in Brisbane but have a mutual friend who suggested we meet up when I first moved over. We did and we clicked! We mostly went to movies together seeing some really good and some really crap ones, but we also had some awesome and random roadtrips. Including going to Portland for the weekend where Jess drove in the torrential downpour for hours to get there, going to the outlets near Seattle so for a visa run and more recently a weekend that ended up finding lots X Files locations! Mum and I had a lovely dinner with her and it was a lovely way to say "see you soon".

Jess, I'm going to miss you a lot. Living in Vancouver, knowing that you're not here to call upon to see a random movie just won't be the same. Looking forward to seeing you back in Brissie and I'm so glad to call you a friend. xxx

Anyway, 4 days of work flew by and it was the weekend again. So we went to Whistler! We didn't do a whole lot. Only Blackcomb Mountain was open so we couldn't do the Peak to Peak Gondola but we had a nice time wandering around the village. We had awesome Mexican though and I highly recommend Mexican Corner if you're ever up there. Sunday was Mother's Day so it was great to have Mum here. We drove up to Pemberton and then past the random farms in the area and finally headed back to Vancouver. We had a lovely dinner at Pronto which is a great Italian restaurant right near where I used to live! UH-MAZING!

Finally Monday come and it was time for Mum to pack up and get ready to leave. After work we had a nice dinner and as we didn't want to prolong the goodbyes at the airport Mum left in a taxi.

It was so nice having you here Mum and I look forward to seeing you again really soon! xxx

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A week on Un-Cruise: Pacific Northwest

Mum is here! It is wonderful to have Mum back in Vancouver.

She arrived 3 weeks ago and albeit very jet lagged arrived in one piece. Her arrival wasn't totally smooth as when I went to meet her at my place, we thought we had got all the bags out of the taxi...then just as the taxi took off she said "I don't have all my bags!" So there I am, running after the taxi, yelling "wait! wait!" Luckily he heard me and pulled over. We searched through the cab and nothing was there. Turns out I was carrying the bag the whole time!!!

I took a week off work (which was lovely) to do a cruise in the Pacific North West. The cruise started in Seattle so we thought instead of taking a bus or plane, we would take the train instead. We had heard the views on the way were really lovely and it's absolutely true! The train goes right along the coast line. We arrived safely in Seattle, checked into our hotel and then wandered around the city.

I don't know how to sum up the week except to say it was awesome!!! There were about 35 passengers and 28 crew so we got to know everyone on the ship. We were the only Aussies...everyone else was American! Also I was the youngest passenger but a lot of the crew were around my age. We met some lovely people and now have contacts in California, Oregon, Texas and South Carolina.

Highlights of the trip:
  • Seeing orcas! I have seen oracs in the wild before but that was on the BC ferry to Victoria and they were miles away. During the trip we saw them at 3 different times. It was breathtaking. We saw one of them spyhop! That was absolutely amazing. Luckily one of the keen photographers caught it on camera.

  • Hiking! I didn't realise this trip would be so active and did not pack entirely appropriately. However, I ended up doing 4 hikes all of varying lengths. It was great as generally the same people went on the hikes so we got to know each other really well.
  • Snorkelling! Yes, I went snorkelling. The water temperature would have been about 10 degrees C. We donned thick wetsuits, hoods, boots and gloves. Getting in the water was a shock to the system as the water fills your wetsuit but then it warms to your body temperature keeping you warm (ish). We spent about 45 minutes in the water. It was really murky but we saw these cool little see through jelly fish called ghost jellyfish, lots of crabs, spiky sea cucumbers and star fish. Great experience. Definitely keen to get my dry suit training for scuba diving as it's so different to tropical snorkelling/diving.
  • Food! The food was amazing. We had a 3 course dinner every night, buffet breakfast and either a buffet or packed lunch if we had day activities. Every meal was delicious and we also got to know the waitstaff really well. It was great as we also sat with different people every night.
  • Kayaking! I think I've been kayaking once before. So Mum and I decided to try kayaking 101. We were quite ok at it and there weren't too many arguments. It was a really nice kayak with pedals to steer the direction of the boat. After about an hour long lesson/getting used to it, Mum and I went kayaking another 2 or 3 times and really enjoyed it!
  • Weather! We were prepared for cold wet weather, but it was sunny and hot for the whole week. Amazing!
I would definitely recommend Un-Cruise. Although more expensive than other cruises we really enjoyed the smaller group aspect of it and getting to know everyone. We're going on another one in November for Mum's birthday to Hawaii. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Spring has officially sprung!

No wonder it's called beautiful BC. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and the weather is warming up! It's so nice to go out in the sun in one layer...finally! Summer is coming!!!

Work has been super busy though but the fact that daylight savings has kicked in means that the days are getting longer with the sun setting at 8pm so it's not so bad finishing at 5 when there's still 3 hours of daylight left.

Easter was quiet for me. Damien and I are still going out but he has been sent to Edmonton for work for about 6 weeks. That sucks, so I didn't have huge plans. Did some spring cleaning, saw a couple of movies, went to the Cat Cafe, and hung out with friends.

This past weekend was great though, I get this message on Friday night from Damien with a photo of chocolate and wine asking if I wanted them. Of course I said yes but it would be impossible (as he was in Edmonton...). But then he says to go check the front door. Yeah right I thought, I'm not falling for that. Next minute I get a photo sent to me of my front what? So I went down and he was there, with the chocolate/wine delivery. So that was a really sweet surprise. It was so good to see him and spend most of the weekend together.

On Saturday it was the first hike of the season where 4 of my friends and I hiked the Stawamus Chief.  There are 3 summits with gorgeous views over the valley. I have done it previously but only 2 of the summits. We hired a car and I drove (and we survived!). It's only about 45 minutes north of Vancouver near the town of Squamish. We decided to hike all 3 summits which was tough but so rewarding. It took us about 6.5 hours total but we also took the time at each summit to chill out and take in the view.

From left to right: Samadhi, Anish, Helena, me and Olga at the top of the first peak.

Next week Mum arrives! I cannot wait. I'm really looking forward to it as it will be exactly 6 months since I've last seen her. We have lots of exciting things planned but that'll be for the next update!