Up Close and Personal

with a very talented singer, Marty Robson of Ten Souljers!

Yes, there is so much talent here in B.C. He is one of them. He is the front man of Vancouver’s Best Cover Band! Check out this link!

 

Advertisements

10-10-10

This is my tenth blog, this is our tenth month in Canada and here are 10 wonderful adjustments we made to our previous, European life:

                      

No more random ‘drinking’!

I am still not over it and have to stress it over and over again: The liquor prices are ridiculously high!  Just looking at them makes my eyes water! If we want to stay on track with our immigration fund, we have to suck it up: Intoxicating liquids are for special occasions only.  Luckily, there is always something to celebrate! On the other hand, the big bonus is when you have a spontaneous get together, everyone brings their own grog!

Coffee – to – Go! 

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” True to this saying I am blending in: My thermos filled with delicious home brewed blend follows me wherever I go.

Cycling

My bike has turned into a tool for recreational purposes only. Gone are the days when I used it purely for transportation. Blame it on the distances! The upside of conquering the steady inclines and steep declines? It beats an indoor spinning class any day!

Let it rip

Not any more- at least not on the Autobahn. The speed limit on highways is between 80 – 110km/h. No wonder it takes forever to get anywhere.  Surprisingly, hardly anybody drives within these limits, but still enough drivers do and it forces us to slow down!

Good-bye repairman / Hello handy husband

No more expensive maintenance and replacement costs for household appliances. Follow these simple steps to get your new part within 24 hours (written from the mechanically challenged woman’s view):

Let your husband find out what’s wrong with your dead appliance.                                                                                           

     Take out the broken part, find the serial number, order and pay for the item over the phone, pick it up the next day and let your husband finish what he started!  

The following is the Dutch or German protocol for getting an appliance fixed:                                       

  Make a phone call, stay on hold for at least 10 minutes, make an appointment, (lucky you if you  get a date within 5 working days) and receive an allocated time slot for the repair man to show up e.g. between 9-12pm. On day in question take time off to stay at home, (don’t leave the house for any reason whatsoever!), the repair man arrives (normally at 11.55am), he will fix the part – or order a new one- which can take up to 10 days and he leaves. If your appliance doesn’t have warranty anymore you are stuck with the bill for the repair man and the new part. Oh, and I nearly forgot: Ladies, no chitter chatter with the friendly repair hunk, keep to the bare minimum: Companies will charge you for every minute their representative spends in your house!

 

Asian Influence

 Our fourth official language at home is now Korean (next to English, German and Dutch).                                        

    We added chop sticks to our array of forks and knives.                                                                             

    Our children are getting a beating in the daily ping-pong tournaments. But in time they will get better and will be champions in their own (Caucasian) League.

Bargain shopping

As I mentioned in “The Move”, costs of living are high.  But here is another trick learned while being the conscientious housewife: Collect coupons and follow the trail of weekly deals!

 Value Village is a paradise found. It’s my favourite spot to go whenever I have some time to kill (a community charity store with everything you can imagine on offer – and more).

Shopping across the border is much cheaper in every possible category. If only the border control officials were friendlier…

Lessons learned: The local Farmers Markets are for treats and not for stocking up on fresh fruit and veggies! Of course you can buy your heart out if you truly believe in supporting the local producers of organic, pesticide free goods – bear in mind you will be charged up to 4x the common prices.

Emergency Help

If one of your children happens to break an arm (as our youngest son did), go straight to the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Don’t waste your time with any other hospital which doesn’t have a paediatric department! Simple reason: the anaesthetist won’t treat your child- the risks are too high if they are not trained and specialized. In our case we received calming (morphine), soothing pain relief (gravol) but had to travel to another hospital to receive special care (an operation on our son’s arm)!

Added sugars

When you take the time to read food labels you will notice that most pre packed food items have additional sugar added to it. In order to get back to my former, tight, 6-pack tummy I was forced to start cooking again with fresh ingredients only. I never said I am a Martha though…

TV in small doses

We stopped watching regular TV! The frequency of commercials is driving me crazy! I prefer Netflix: You pay $8.oo/month and have access to TV shows, movies, documentaries… whatever the heart desires. The disadvantage: They are not new, but the big Plus is, no commercials and no week long waiting time to watch the next episode. Our first addiction was “Prison Break”- (we are talking long, long nights, every night for three short weeks). To this day it still puzzles me how anyone could stand the suspense and wait one week for the next episode? Our next Netflix project is “Damages” – which falls under our category of “a great night in!”

These were truly 10 wonderful, extra-ordinary months. Have you made any adjustments recently? Do you have thoughts to share? Please let me know! I would love to hear from you!

Until the next time – with an update of one of my favourite events of the year: Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAMILY REUNION

Since the beginning of September we are the proud parents of our fourth boy and our children are the proud brothers to a brother from a different mother and father. I am talking about Joey, our Korean exchange student who will live with us for the next 10 months. If this wasn’t enough to adapt to, my parents from Germany arrived at roughly the same time for their first ever visit to Canada.

This is what you need to know about these two grey, but still highly active grandparents:

My father speaks basic English only, my mom speaks none. My husband speaks only English and with my parents limited English skills the three of them form a harmonious trio. I often wonder why my parents haven’t taken a language course at Community College!  Let’s hear the logical reason from my mom:”Why doesn’t Dominic (aka husband) learn German instead?”

My Dad conveniently forgot his driving licence for this trip, my mom doesn’t drive at all. They brought a Vancouver travel guide, but so far forgot to open it.

Therefore, I am the chosen tour guide. For the last two weeks Mrs. Google and Mr. Tom-Tom have been my closest friends – together we navigate the big unknown!

My parents are still young enough, very active, healthy enough and like going places. My mom is right when she says: “We didn’t come all this way just to sit at home.”

Needless to say, life as I know it has come to a standstill. I don’t know about you, but with my parents to visit I am doing things I normally wouldn’t consider doing – like sitting in the BIG RED TOUR Bus, exploring the sights in Vancouver.  But I must admit, sitting on top of the bus was an eye opener. Now I know that Vancouver is not big, not old, not historic, but its beauty comes from its location: The scenery is mind boggling wherever you look!

On Granville Island Dad was magically drawn to the Kaiserhaus Bratwurst und Sauerkraut. But surprisingly he opted for the sweet sour Chinese noodles instead. He recognized the dish from his Chinese restaurant back in Germany. My German Mom, the more adventurous part of the duo, opted for French Crepes (?) instead.

I also persuaded them to go on a beautiful bike ride along the river dykes in our neighbourhood. This round trip normally takes me three hours, but with my active 60 plus bikers in tow it took us nearly six hours! I must hand it to my mom: after cycling during the immense lunch time heat, after giving her German buns a grilling workout and her hard assed daughter only allowing one pit stop, I only heard her complain once! Aren’t they amazing? I am exhausted, I don’t get things done, and our children have to walk home from school alone because I am so preoccupied with their grandparents.

The only ongoing complaints about their trip are the ridiculously high prices for alcohol. This German couple can’t refuel on coffee and hot chocolate alone! And when they finally find a pub they get a near heart attack when they receive the bill for two pints of beer: $16.00! With this fatal beer experience they figured: “We could have gone to Scandinavia instead – drinks are as expensive there, but we are much closer to home!” Of course they are kidding, they won’t find their grandchildren there!

After two weeks of non-stop action I finally followed Dominic’s advice: I will put them on the train with the city map in my father’s hand.  Mom remembers the one place closest to her heart: Robson Street!  A happy place for strolling shopaholics!

On this note I will raise my glass to my very extra-ordinary parents who have their flaws, their die-hard habits and who can drive me crazy to say the least!  But they are my parents, I feel very blessed to have them- and I love them for who they are.

Childhood Memories, Nordseeinsel SYLT: Blessing or a Curse?

Image

FEDER_Software_SYLT014

This awesome picture is my Past

Dear Island, You are responsible for shaping my early childhood memories.

I blame you for setting a high standard for every other island I visit.

You are the reason why for example I prefer eating shrimp fresh from the boat and not at a fancy restaurant.

Subconsciously you make me compare every beach I walk on. Every other one is too hard, too dark, too muddy or has too many pebbles.

My mother is convinced your wonderful, healthy air is responsible for my overall good health (North Sea air contains a high amount of salt- which in turns equals healing power!)

This is not your fault – I should blame my parents for dragging me to you, year after year. But even now, as a “mature” woman the love affair continues. I left Germany over two decades ago, today I live in Vancouver, but the memories remain!

It has to stop, right here and now!

Believe me:  Nothing compares to you- nothing compares to these wonderful Nordtfriesen islands up in the top left hand corner of Germany.  The Friesen-style houses only look good on the islands; sunsets look spectacular when you watch them from your Strandkorb with a glass of cooled white wine in your hand.

Friesen House

You are the love of my life, always will be, but it’s time to give something else a chance to shine, to  be extra-ordinary!

The following is your lesson I have to learn from you:  If I want to fully appreciate the beauty of something else I have to stop comparing!   Sylt, you are not better, you are only different!

Sylt, I imagine we can form a harmonious partnership – but this may also be the reason why I never attempted to live with you! In my mind you are perfect- and I don’t want to be disappointed. I’d rather live with the illusion than be proven wrong by reality.

Instead of living with you permanently, I will enjoy you in short spurts whenever I return. And when I visit you it will be with another bottle of wine from “Gosch.”(The islands most popular fish and wine bar) It’s fun to watch the rich and beautiful (in Germany that is) strut their stuff.- Or shall I rephrase this: the many wanna – be rich and of average looks waddling past.  The idea of paying to walk along the beach is still unheard anywhere else in the world, but then, you have your reasons for charging us!

This was then, this is now:

Pender Island is one of the Southern Gulf Islands, lining the coast of Vancouver.

Like the rest of Vancouver, Pender is understated. If Vancouver holds the trophy of one of the worst dressed city in the world, Pender Island needs an award for “Easy Going” and “Hippy Chic”!

These two islands are worlds apart – but oh so special in their own unique way!

On Sylt you are judged by the clothes you wear, the size of your wallet and the colour of your AMEX card.

On Pender you don’t show off, you are not here to shine with your new trophy wife – you come here to just be yourself!

Pender is a rough beauty, raggedness on an unprecedented level.

Nothing cries “chic” or “sophisticated” here. Nothing eludes arrogance. Everything is so nice and refreshingly normal on Pender. Let it be the local residents or the day visitors.  I have seen and tasted more organically produced fruit and veggies on Pender, I have noticed more hand produced – or – crafted items here than I have ever noticed on my childhood friend.

If Pender is the rare diamond found on water, then Sylt is the fine cut and polished sister. And I love them both!

Extra-Ordinary places are found around the world and yes, my heart is big enough to carry them all!