Noreen keeps asking, and as it's quite possible that she's the only regular
reader of this blog, I really should do what I can for her :-)
On June 17th, my contract with the British Government ended, and the very next
day Christina and I got on a plane to Vancouver to spend some well-deserved
relaxation time. I hadn't seen my family in about a year at that point, and
Christina hadn't been in Canada since 2013 so there was much to see and do --
so much that I thought I might see about extending my stay by a few weeks (now
that I didn't have a job to go back to right away). That all went sideways
after the 23rd, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I wanted to go hiking. I figured: this is the first time Christina has been
to BC in the summer, let's show her how beautiful it is! The plan was to the
Grouse Grind, or hike the Chief, or some other gorgeous and brutal experience,
but jetlag is a harsh mistress and neither of us were even remotely interested
in anything that difficult in our first few days. Instead, my dear friend
Shawna, now living in Vancouver, back from Korea (yay!) drove us up to Squamish
with her husband Michael and her friend Sarah for a leisurly ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola.
There, for the ridiculous-but-acceptable-when-accounting-for-jetlag price of
$40 each, we had a nice ride up the side of the mountain to a plateau at the
top with little "hiking" trails (more like a stroll really) and magnificent
views in all directions.
I didn't take a lot of pictures on this trip, so instead I'm just going to fill
this post with lots Michael's shots from this hike. He's a pro photographer
and he made us all look amazing. My new profile pic is one he took actually
A Quick Visit with Friends & Family
There wasn't much time for anything else in Vancouver this year. We had one
day to (try to) recover from the jetlag, one to go Squamish, and one to visit
with friends & fam. For this last case, we booked some time to meet with Ruth
(Jeanie's mom) over lunch at Boston Pizza where we were treated to messy,
sticky (but quiet!) children and good company. Ruth bought me chocolate (yay!)
and gave us bubbles to play with, and we got to catch up on what was going on
in our lives. Later that evening we did it all again, but with a larger group
and in a noisier setting: Quinn, Jeanie, and Michelle met us for dinner at
Milestones where we watched basketball and talked about what's going on in our
lives. Chris and Trish were supposed to meet us there too, but their twins
had the audacity to be born just a day or so beforehand so they had their hands
The next day Christina, my grandmother and I hopped on a bus up to Kelowna.
A Note About Greyhound
Holy crap is this the way to travel now. They've instituted express busses,
shortening the YVR/YLW trip to just over 4 hours. During the trip you get:
- Large, comfortable seats
- A beautiful view
- Free Wi-Fi
- AC Power
Why would you ever want to fly?
- 40 minutes to the airport
- 20 minutes to check in
- 20 minutes through security
- 1 hour waiting for your flight
- 40 minutes in the air
- Turn off your laptop "for safety"
- Tablets are ok, but not keyboards, they're dangerous!
- Yes, I'm bitter
- 20 minutes to deboard and collect your bags
=~ 3.5 hours and about 3 times the price. Screw that.
After having our schedule feel very pressed for the first few days, I tried to
slow things down a bit in Kelowna. We had lots of slow nights doing family
dinners, some lounging in the sun on my parent's patio, and a few shopping
trips here and there.
The Engagement Party
Things got a little crazier around the 25th, as we were doing a joint birthday
party / engagement party for Christina and me. It was only family at this
shindig, but it was an opportunity for the fam to get to know Christina and see
us together. We're still not sure how we're going to work out you know,
actually getting married yet, so there were a lot of questions as to how the
actual ceremony will happen. Would we do a Greek wedding? In Athens or on an
Island? What about doing one in Kelowna and another in Greece? I think I'm
starting to understand why people just don't bother getting married: the stress
Still, it was nice to be able to spend time with both of my grandparents in the
same room again. We even had my grand-aunt June fly in from Ottawa this time
around! It's been a really long time since all three have been together. I
also got to see Violet & Ried for the first time which was fun, and despite
Shawna being fresh out of the hospital with my brand-new niece, she was there
and looking fabulous.
My new neice, Lucy Jane Quinn was born, 6lbs & 2oz, just a few days before we
arrived. She was nearly a month early and so she had to be kept in the
hospital for almost a week while she got used to being in the world. Mother
and baby came out of it ok though, so all is good. Christina and I had an
opportunity to visit her in hospital where tiny Lucy was bundled up in a box
with tubes up her nose and down her throat. Shawna was there with a bundle of
books and a laptop on hand: she was the food source so she basically had to set
up shop there until the doctors let her take Lucy home.
She was released a few days after we arrived in Kelowna though, so the second
time we saw her, she was at home with Mom, Dad, sis, and the dogs getting her
immune system revved up.
When I booked the flight, I joked that I might leave one country and come back
to a completely different one. Like most Britons I didn't actually think that
that would happen. As the votes rolled in, my family huddled around the TV,
dumbfounded by the sheer idiocy of the British public on this issue. Our jaws
gaped at the fall of the pound, of the considerable sum of money I had
personally lost in just a few minutes. Christina was in rough shape for much
of the rest of the trip, and I cancelled any plans I might have had to extend
my stay in Canada.
Idiots doing idiot things because they're idiots.
The only friend I have up in Kelowna is Melanie, who was up there finishing her
contract with UBC. We went for some ice cream and then met her for lunch where
I got her to take a picture with @travellingjack!
Then my mom picked us up like we were still in high school to take us home. It
was a nice day.
My Solar Desalinator
One project I've been toying with in my head for years now got to see the light
of day for some time while I was in Kelowna. I've been working on a way to use
solar power to desalinate water cheaply and pollution-free modeled after this power station in Andalucia.
Most of the progress on this front was talking to my father and brother about
it, changing the model in my head, scratching bits out on napkins, and fiddling
with a parabolic mirror in the backyard and almost setting the house on fire.
I've started fiddling with a proper 3d model in Blender,
and now that I'm back in the UK, I've started poking around to find spaces that
might be able to offer me the technical expertise I lack in this area.
Something may never come of it, but you never know. For now, it's fun to think
The rest of the trip was largely a series of car trips: out to Peachland and
Penticton to see my aunt and then brother's family, running through sprinklers
with my neice and eating fabulous homemade ice cream. Other nights we drove
out to Vernon to have dinner with my grandmother and grand-aunt, and still
other nights we just stayed in, ate Dairy Queen Blizzards and bemoaned the
future of the UK.
Canada Day in Holiday Park is a big deal -- by Holiday Park standards anyway.
It's a villiage of a lot of old people with a lot of golf carts, small
decorating budgets, and a lot of time on their hands. Given this equation, a
golf cart parade seemed fitting for Canada's birthday. It was our last day in
Canada, so we got up in time to see the show, after which I drove down to the
Greyhound station to send my grandmother home. For the rest of the day we
relaxed in the sun (or in my case, the house) and enjoyed the peace, quiet, and
I'm back in the UK now, and the Brexit mess is still in full swing. I decided
to come home on time because I felt like I needed to be here in case shit,
but that feeling of helplessness is as thick here as it was in Kelowna. I
think in retrospect I wish I'd stayed a little longer -- I really miss my
family, especially now that I've got two nieces who are just starting to grow.
Being an expat is hard.