i’m breaking up

Dear Vancouver,

I’m breaking up with “I’m breaking up with Vancouver” posts.

We get it. Everyone wants the dream life of a condo on the beach and a gaggle of friends who all laugh at salad. Vancouver housing prices are out of control, and it’s nigh impossible for most people to afford the lifestyle they want. Vancouver can be unfriendly: people don’t say hello in elevators. I personally have never sought to make friends with people I share 5-10 seconds of my life with only to never see again, but you do you. Vancouver is an emotionally distant shiny glass fortress that just sucks so hard, you guys. That’s why people are breaking up with it and running back to the island/the east/some other magical modern city that has mountains and oceans and mild winters and no transit problems and differently-crooked politicians, patting themselves on the back for escaping the “abusive relationship” they had with Vancouver along the way.

I can’t help but think that calling your unhappiness with a city an “abusive relationship” might be a little offensive to those who’ve survived actual abusive relationships, but I’m just one person. I lived in Calgary for 7 years and I fucking hated it, but I didn’t consider it either abusive or a relationship – I just did what I could to make it better, and moved to a different city when I was able. This is coming from someone who anthropomorphizes toothbrushes, so it’s a pretty big change of pace: I didn’t give Calgary a personality and attribute human characteristics to it, it was just a lousy situation. The end.

Okay, back to the sheer horrific inhabitable nature of Vancouver. There’ve been a lot of open letters posted recently about unhappy people are with the city. These open letters aren’t wrong – Vancouver is a tough place to live, and it’s not getting easier any time soon. Housing prices are ridiculous and unfair and everyone is so mean. What’s a simple marketing executive living in Yaletown to do? I can barely afford to keep myself in Lululemon and organic kombucha! I’m breaking up with you!

I’m going to drop a truth bomb (dear FBI: this is not a real bomb) here, okay?

Vancouver is more than Kitsilano, Yaletown, and the West End.

HOLY SHIT

Did you know that it’s possible to live outside those three areas and still lead a full life?

OH MY GLOB

There’s more, too: some people even go so far as to live outside of Vancouver altogether, yet somehow manage to not exist in a cultural vacuum.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE)

I’m not by any means ignoring the fact that Vancouver housing prices are out of control and we as citizens need to rise up and overthrow the government by force – I’m just saying that maybe it’s possible to live outside the core and not immediately require a minivan and a skort. East Vancouver is pretty cool. North Vancouver is amazing and I love it there. New West? Totally livable. Surrey? Well, let’s not get crazy. I’m just saying that there are ways to survive in this city if you’re willing to expand your bubble a little, y’know?

Moving on: making friends. It’s fucking hard. It’s doable, though, if you try things that aren’t going to the bar or going to the beach or going to the club or going to that one beach that has a bar slash club right on it. So many people have social lives that revolve around alcohol, which is just baffling and irritating to me. Go to a Meetup! Volunteer somewhere! Throw a block party! Did you know Vanccouver gives grants to neighbourhoods who want to be more social? Look online for events that interest you, and go to them! Game nights, book clubs, cooking classes, work events, dog parks, clothing swaps, craft fairs, community gardens, improv shows (or classes!), boot camps, coding events – my god, I have fucking social anxiety and can’t meet people, yet I can think of a dozens ways to try (if I wasn’t too afraid to leave my living room and also I hate wearing pants). Bring a flask if you absolutely have to drink, but maybe try taking your life outside the pub. They’re dark and loud and actually a really shitty place to try and meet new people.

Many people have extremely valid reasons to want to leave Vancouver. Hell, even me: for all my eye-rolling ire, I would leave Vancouver if I could, for a place that has some history. I’m presently obsessed with Europe (and afraid of America) and I dream daily about packing it all up and moving elsewhere (even temporarily). It’s not a “break up”, though. It’s simply a readjustment of my priorities, which doesn’t make for a dramatic open letter.

Again: I’m not saying that life in Vancouver isn’t difficult. I’m just saying it’s possible there’s so much more out here if you open yourself up a little. And if you don’t want to do that, then maybe think about getting involved and help change the things you hate so much.

Or you could move to Toronto. I hear the nightlife out there is just, like, so great.

nimbyism

Across the street from my home is a hotel that has been converted into social housing. People in the neighbourhood have had their collective panties in a bunch since the plan was proposed, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better – the housing has been in operation for almost two years now, and every communication I receive from the neighbourhood speaks of the housing as though it’s the source of all evil in the world.

The truth of the matter is that crime and police incidents have dropped in the area since the housing opened. There have been far fewer random occurrences that require police intervention since the hotel was converted, but no one is paying attention to that – they’re too busy actively looking for ways to close the shelter down and put people back onto the streets in the name of “thinking of the children”. If they truly wanted to set a good example for the children, why not teach them that everyone deserves a home and that some people need help? People in the neighbourhood have been quoted in the news saying “we believe in social housing”, but it’s painfully obvious that their sentences end in “.. just not in our neighbourhood”.

According to the organization that runs the place across the street:

[The former Ramada Inn] is a 40-room transitional housing centre, operated in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. These buildings have adopted a Whole Life Housing approach to wellness which features: affordable rent; assistance with addictions and medical issues; a breakfast and community kitchen program; housekeeping services; employment support; free laundry; and, an advanced pest control and room maintenance program.

Oh, the horrors. People living near us, learning how to become productive members of society. Recently, it was announced that the city is trying to make the housing a permanent thing instead of the temporary solution it was initially proposed to be. Naturally, people in the neighbourhood are panicking, thinking no doubt of how they will possibly explain the lower crime rates to their children. I’m really disgusted with most of my neighbours – who the hell are we to interfere with other people having a roof over their head? What makes your home so precarious that the thought of someone different than you living nearby puts it into actual peril? The people in the housing program have waited for months or years for the luxury of a stable home – they want to be there, they’re getting help to overcome their issues, and they want to be a part of the neighbourhood. Remind me again how that’s a bad thing?

The emails I’m getting from the neighbourhood association are just the best. In the last few weeks:

  • I received an invitation to the Community Block Party that excluded both our building and the social housing across the street, but we were given an exception and extended an invite
  • A neighbour had an incident with a housing resident. The last line of their email was a threat: “If I ever have another experience like this or hear of another neighbour who has,  I will immediately resign from the [community alliance] and will become a strong opposer instead of a supporter.”
  • Someone living in my building sent a list of all the times and dates that police, fire, or ambulance vehicles were at the hotel over the last six months, and demanded an explanation for each incident (holy fuck are you kidding me)
  • People are freaking the fuck out over the marijuana dispensaries, with emails like (everything [sic]): “I personally find it extraordinary that the Mayor thinks he can trump Federal law. And I am sick and disgusted over what the blocks of xxxx-xxxx East Hastings look like, and the businesses they support. Not only do we have at least two pot shops.. I refuse to call them dispensaries, but we have the Ramada social housing and we have the government office where social assistance cheques are picked up.” GASP! WON’T SOMEONE REFUSE TO THINK OF THE HUMANITY!
  • Everything the “community association” does is because “if we don’t do XYZ, the housing will become permanent”

Gross. Truly, horribly, gross. I don’t understand people at all. HOW can you be so against someone having basic human rights? For that matter, how can you be horrified that there are heavily regulated, no-minors-allowed weed stores in your area, but not give a rat’s ass that men are buying sex next door? People have gone on record saying they’re worried that the screened and monitored housing residents will include pedophiles looking to diddle their children – why aren’t they worried about the guys getting hand jobs instead? After all, the massage parlour closes at ten pm. What if someone come by at 10:30pm wanting a bbbj and ass-play only to find the parlour closed .. but little Jimmy and Susie are hanging out in the McDonald’s parking lot, and they got real purdy mouths? Why is no one concerned that someone going by the name “sex monster” is thinking about visiting the parlour and wants to know if the girls are any good? What if that person is truly a monster and goes all Godzilla on the precious neighbourhood? What if they’re Ed Gein? No, who cares about any of that – let’s instead threaten the people across the street who are simply trying to make a home for themselves. Makes perfect sense to me.

Do you want to know the biggest impact the housing across the street has had on me, personally?

It no longer makes sense that my wireless networks are called “Ramada Wireless” and “Ramada Guest Wi-Fi”.

That’s it. Oh, and no one threatens to snip my spine on a regular basis. It takes some getting used to.

NIMBYs, you are fucking disgusting and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

flash the message something’s out there

This is how I spent my Sunday evening:

*bloop*

let that freak flag fly

bc place (the b stands for bubbles)

bubble vision

all hands

just another run of the mill boring vancouver sunset shot full of bubbles

i think of you and let it go

the moment i burst

all that remains

I love bubbles. A lot. I didn’t learn about Bubble the City until Saturday, but I still arranged my Sunday around it and I was not disappointed. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was just beginning to set, a small orange child shrieked in my ear multiple times and I did not push him into a puddle, and the light was phenomenal. SO MANY BUBBLES!

*happy bubble sigh*

london: new vancouver

We’re staying in an area of London that is both new-ish, and new to us. It’s a little further from Central London than our previous visits, and it feels very much like home. Seriously, tell me if this doesn’t look like False Creek and BC Place:

all aboard the mount pleasant gondola

Most of the buildings in the area are new, and built of concrete and glass. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but .. it feels like home. Specifically, Vancouver home. When I visit London, I want it to feel like UK-home: history and wainscotting and ridiculously ornate buildings fit for nobility but are actually a corner grocer and torture chambers and and and. The last place we stayed was right next to the University of London, with all the accompanying Britishness you might expect – but the flat was tiny and uncomfortable for the two of us, and wouldn’t work for the four of us this time around. I did a ton of research before selecting where we are now, but didn’t really look into how London the area felt. It’s not a big deal – as Ed says, we traded charm for comfort – but something feels off about the area, and I think that’s what it is.

But! It’s where we sleep and store our underwear, so it’s all good. We’ve settled in, and have worn ourselves out running all over town exploring new things and revisiting old favourites. Our adventures on Tuesday took us to Canary Wharf for SIM Cards and an accidental high end car show: we made our way through Maseratis and Bentleys and Land Rovers on our unintentional romp through London’s financial district, and once we were fully equipped with internet, I took Ed to Buckingham Palace because it is shiny. We wandered through various Parks, stopping to rest our feet and people watch. Everyone was very fancy – Tuesday was Prince Phillip’s birthday, and some sort of party was happening at the Palace. Hundreds of people were queued up to get in, and everyone was dressed to at least the 8s – top hats and tails on the men, and the FANCIEST HATS on the ladies. St. James’s Park has a huge collection of interesting birds, and I spent a long time looking at baby ducks and geese and swans and this fat squirrel:

it’s hobbes, in squirrel form

We spent some time laying on the grass, then made our way back to home base for sleepings.

On Wednesday, we decided to hop the gondola to London Bridge and walk for a million miles (or 17000 FitBit steps) – all along the South Bank, over multiple bridges, and past my new favourite places in London:

adorable shops in gabriel’s wharf

more 'ffiti

south bank skate park

south bank skate park

more ‘ffiti

The Skate Park was *covered* in graffiti, and was wonderful – I could have spent hours in there (but didn’t, because I killed my camera battery). More South Bank will happen later, as I think it’s my happy place .. so much to do and see and walk and also this old thing:

big ben at seven bong

big ben at seven bong

We wore ourselves the fuck out yesterday, so today was much less exciting: a trip to the mall (because it has the closest M&S that isn’t fucking invisible). We stocked up on groceries and desserts, and are simply resting up because the fun is about to begin: Heather and Renee will be here tomorrow, and then we’re off to Portobello Market and Brighton and Oxford and the V&A and castles and haunted pubs and bus tours and eeeeee!

My feet are gonna hurt so much.

and and and

#bhangralove

While waiting for Ed to finish getting his hairs cut, I accidentally stumbled upon a Bhangra Festival:

I originally had grand plans to go buy makeup, but I found myself utterly entranced by the colours and music. I ended up inching my way closer to the stage for a better look, eventually getting clear view of the action (save for the guy standing in front of me dancing along and waving his arms in my face). It was so cool! Can’t really go wrong with dancing men in bright colours .. which brings me to my point: I would like to file a complaint against my heritage for not having bright shiny dance times. As far as I can tell, there is nothing about being a half-Malaysian half-Canadian-Euro-Mutt that allows me to bounce around in glorious silken robes festooned with sequins and jewels and that is NOT FAIR. Perhaps I need to invent some sort of movement that will allow me fantastic sequins and fun music (I think I will skip the Macklemore mix though). I am endlessly jealous of Bhangra dance, and wish Ed had more hair that needed to be cut so I could have watched some more. Alas, we had to leave all too quickly, and now I have nothing more than a bunch of Instagram photos and a yearning for spangled tunics.

Today was the finale of the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration, but now that I know what the deal is, I will make plans to attend next year. MORE DANCING! AND SEQUINS!

Time for bed. Gotta go to London.

deja vu

As I piteously whined about being sick and missing out on the many things going on this weekend (which, to be perfectly honest, I would hate actually attending given my inability to handle crowds), I couldn’t help but feel I had done this before – and in fact, I had. Last year, to be exact. I had a terrible flu/cold over the 4/20 weekend last year, and felt sorry for myself because I missed out on Record Store Day, the Vancouver Fan Expo, 420 at the Vancouver Art Gallery, a goodbye party and several other fun things. Going forward, I will block this week out on my calendar as “STUPID SICK WEEK”. This way, I will not be surprised and amazed when everything is terrible and I can’t leave the house for 6 days because all my things hurt.

As I haven’t been downtown for the 420 rally in a number of years, I had NO IDEA that it’s basically gone from a bunch of people in weird hats smoking pot in large groups on the lawn to a fucking circus. And because I didn’t know that the 420 rally is now a fucking circus, I made plans to meet up with someone at the ice rink today at 1pm. That was interesting, made all the more so because I really shouldn’t have left the house .. but hey, I managed to sell my Pentax fisheye lens, so it was worth it. Plus, contact high! We had to wade through SO MANY PEOPLE to get to the rink, and it was kind of nuts – basically, the rally has grown to encompass an entire city block of kiosks and vendors openly selling massive amounts of pot and pot-food. There was a band, and food trucks. Roads were closed! The City of Vancouver will close off Robson between Hornby and Howe for any old reason – craft fair, bake sale, pillow fight, Tuesday – but this was the very first time I’ve ever seen Howe itself closed (between Georgia and Robson). It was amazing to behold, and I felt really bad for the poor Japanese student I was meeting at the rink – he’d only been in Canada for 2 weeks, and was just the cutest little thing. Still, he was a good sport and now has an awesome camera lens, and I have some money that will either buy me things in London, or most of a Nexus 5. The jury is still out on that one.

I’m mostly done being sick. I mean, I’ve been so over this for days now, but by tomorrow I’ll probably be able to go to work and not pass out from the exertion of waiting for the bus.

Hooray.

henna times

Long ago in the dying moments of 2013, we had Friendmas and merrily exchanged gifts over the traditional holiday Boston Pizza table. Renee was declared the winner of Friendmas, as she had gifted we ladies with a brow and henna session at Indian Brow and Henna Boutique – and last Friday, we descended on the shop to have our brows tamed and our skin made for fancy times.

I was the last to arrive (it’s fashionable to be stuck in traffic), so I missed the hand massages. I’m okay with that as I am Weird About Massages, and it gave me a great chance to take some pictures while the girls were getting their henna on:

gill getting henna’d

shan’s shoulder henna

renee put a bird on it

heather’s ridiculously gorgeous henna work

my boobs, because boobs

All the henna is done freehand , which is baffling given the intricacy of the designs. While we were there, we relaxed with some delicious tea and great music while the IBHB ladies worked on our skin and brows, staying open a little later than usual so we could all get our fill of art and grooming. I had my brows threaded and shaped, and since I couldn’t decide which arm to get done, I had them henna my chest (which was a better plan in theory as opposed to practice; more on that in a bit). The staff were amazing and more than accommodating of our silliness, and we had a great time – so much so that I’m thinking of going again next month to have more henna applied, because it’s so gorgeous.

Getting my boobs henna’d was fun, but I really wish I had opted for an arm instead. For whatever reason (my own molecular defects or the difference in skin type), the dye didn’t take to my chest very well and is barely visible, even after settling for a day. In comparison, the henna applied to Heather’s hand and arm is crazy dark and awesome so next time I will go traditional and see if my skins reacts better.

My brows look awesome, though. I bought some brow makeup to try and duplicate their work at home, and also a packet of henna powder for hair. I normally get my hair henna from Henna Sooq, but they’ve been out of stock for AGES and my roots were really awful, so when I found out IBHB sells henna I jumped on it. I applied it to my hair yesterday, not really knowing what to expect – the prep time was only 30 minutes (compared to the 12-24 hours my usual stuff requires), and the recommended head time was an hour (as opposed to my normal 4-8). I figured I might end up with green roots, but at least they wouldn’t be white so I was okay with it. I mixed up the henna, let it sit, and donned the traditional Sunday Saran Wrap Hat .. and two hours later, I had some crazy bright bombastic red hair. I LOVE IT! It’s SO RED! I will definitely be getting more head henna from IBHB. It is my new favourite ever.

We really did have a great time at IBHB, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone looking for something fun, relaxing, and a little outside of the norm. They have man services, too! Super fun.

Unnecessary disclaimer: This was not a sponsored post. IBHB did not give me free services in exchange for my words; I went with friends and had a great time so I wrote about it. Not all bloggers are shills – some of us still have integrity. Integrity, and pretty pretty eyebrows.

whee!