“5 August 1986: I have got the feeling that I fall in love with another place… – it’s Vancouver!” Thus the start of my journal entry from that momentous day, the first I spent in Canada. Yes, I wrote it in English, even though I hadn’t quite figured out the use of the gerund. It was the summer between Grades 12 and 13, and my aunt had brought me on a trip to visit family in Vancouver .
I still remember the feeling of waking up in that little house in East Vancouver with its slide-up windows (very strange for a German used to inward-swinging casements) and hearing people walk by on the street, talking in English – “Mrmlmrmlmrml,” that soft purring that to German ears sounds like the speaker is talking around a wad of chewing gum.
It was the most magical holiday, and I loved every minute of it. Loved it so much, I came back the following year, and the rest, as they say, is history. Actually, that summer of ’86 is history, too. And in honour of said historical occasion, I made a point of going back to Vancouver this August and visiting some of the same places we’d gone to “back then”.
As I only just realised this year, August of ’86 was the ideal time to come to Vancouver for the first time. It was Expo 86, the World’s Fair on Transportation and Communication, and Vancouver had been polished to within an inch of its life. All sorts of new buildings and infrastructure were put up just for the occasion – places that have since become defining landmarks for Vancouver. Science World (built as Expo Centre), Canada Place with its white sails, the SkyTrain, the Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Chinatown… all of them opened in ’86.
And then there was Lighthouse Park, Downtown (Skyscrapers! Pretty cool for a girl from a Bavarian mountain village), the Pacific Ocean, Granville Island, a day trip on the ferry to Vancouver Island… plus a couple of road trips into the Interior, one of which led us out here to the Okanagan, where, rather prophetically, I ate my first peach-fresh-from-the-tree (bliss!) and acquired my first Okanagan sunburn/tan.
We spent a whole month in Canada – a month of almost unrelenting sunshine. And when my aunt and I climbed back onto that airplane on September 4th, suitcases laden with Canadian souvenirs (amongst other things I took back a muffin tin and corresponding cookbook, a Lazy Susan, a jar of homemade peach jam, Chinese tea candies, and a hoodie with a Snoopy on the back), I left behind a piece of me. A piece that I had to come back to retrieve the following year – unsuccessfully, I might add; that time I simply got stuck for good.
So this year on August 5th (it just happened to be that very day), I once again took a trip to Vancouver. Canada Place (I thought it was very nice of them to put up “30 Years” celebratory banners just for me), Science World, Chinatown, the SkyTrain, Peace Arch Park (the border crossing to the US – I managed to lock myself out of my car in the parking lot), the Pacific Ocean, Granville Island… And then last weekend I went on another quick jaunt down there for a couple of days, and went on the SkyTrain to Downtown Vancouver, to the Art Gallery and Robson Square. And drove back across the mountains, on my own that time – exactly thirty years after I had first been through there in my uncle’s car – back to my family, my own house and my Canadian life.
Life, the Universe, and O Canada… It’s been a good thirty years.