Calgary, the Rockies, Vancouver, and beyond
15.05.2009 - 23.05.2009
In March of 2009, one week after I returned from my three month travels around Asia, I accepted a job in Hong Kong. Problem was, the actual office space was undergoing renovations at the time, and I wouldn't be needed until the end of May. There wasn't a whole lot keeping me busy that spring - I spent a lot of time seeing friends and eating at restaurants I would miss the most. The prospect of living and working in Hong Kong motivated me to start brushing up on my Chinese reading and writing as well - I probably learned more in three months of cramming than in ten years of after-school Chinese lessons. I don't recall feeling much anxiety about the impending move, though - probably my biggest concern about Hong Kong was my social life. I'd have to start almost from scratch, and that could go either way. Thankfully, I had a few friends in town already, although I was a bit wary of treading too much on their existing social networks. In any case, I had about three months to prepare myself for the next season of my life, and that was fine by me. I wouldn't be flying out of Toronto though - there would be one more mini-trip before my move, a short little jaunt in familiar woods before venturing into parts unknown.
Calgary, for a city of over a million people, is a small place. Or, at least, back in 2009, it seemed small. There were six of us on that trip: me, Justin, Karen, Derek, Alex, and Angela, and on our first afternoon in town, it took us less than an hour to walk its streets and decide that our time was better spent resting up at the hotel. We didn't come to Calgary just to sightsee, though - a close friend of ours, Elsie, was getting married and she had invited us to her hometown to celebrate with her. We had gotten to know her a few years back when she had done an internship in Toronto, and we were only too glad to make the cross-country flight to see her again. The timing worked out in my favour as well, as the wedding would take place just before I was due to start my job in Hong Kong. As we drove out to the venue just outside of town, the big blue prairie skies filled our vision, and we watched as fields around us arced and flowed into the hazy shimmer of purple and blue on the horizon that hinted at greater heights beyond.
After the wedding, we spent a day in Banff walking around a frozen Lake Louise, before treating ourselves to a meal at Grizzly House, a local landmark that specializes in exotic fondue meats - shark, alligator, rattlesnake, and ostrich, alongside buffalo, wild boar, and venison. We had tried going to Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks as well, but the valley remained in the firm grip of winter still, and access to the lake was blocked off. The next morning however, the weather had improved considerably, and we drove out into the mountains again with hiking on our minds. We eventually found a trail that led us through wooded paths and narrow hillsides, occasionally spilling out into grassy meadows that offered stunning views of the forested valley below. It was a beautiful day - spring was just beginning to emerge from its slumber, and we took our time hiking up the sunny hillside. By the early afternoon, we found ourselves facing an impossibly blue alpine lake, the kind of blue that can only come from melting glacial waters. That would be as far as we would go that day - the trail may have gone on even further, but after a few moments appreciating what was in front of us, we turned around and started making our way back down the mountain. Before we knew it, our time in Alberta had come to an end, and we packed our bags for a short morning flight over the Rockies, to a place I'd never been before: Vancouver.
My flight was the last to arrive that morning, the others had arrived a couple hours earlier and were out in the city already, so Derek had to come back to the airport with the rental car to pick me up. As we drove up Granville Street, I was enveloped by the warm spring breezes blowing gently through the trees lining both sides of the road, bursting with green leaves and flowering buds. It was a stark contrast from the slushy browns and yellows of Calgary, and the icy drifts of Banff, and I was enamoured. I stayed with another friend from university, Dan, who had moved to Vancouver the year before, and we made a brief stop to drop off my luggage before going out to find the rest of the gang. The next few days were a blur.
We spent one whirlwind day with Tracy, a friend of ours from our home church, walking and driving around her favourite places around the city - Kitsilano Beach, Granville Island, Stanley Park, and all the rest. Grouse Mountain took up another day - we took the gondola up and zip-lined across mountain valleys and forest, the view stretching into the distant greens and blues of the horizon. The pace slowed down a bit when I took a day to drive into Langley with another friend from university, Sonja, who was attending graduate school in the area. I was able to see one of my university housemates as well, Brian, who is actually from Vancouver and not a transplant from Ontario, and we caught up while we hiked around Lynn Canyon.
On my second-to-last day in Vancouver, I said my goodbyes to my travel buddies from Toronto, as they would be flying back home that day without me. It would be my second-to-last day in Canada as well, as I had decided before the trip to fly straight to Hong Kong from Vancouver. The next morning, Sonja invited me to her Mandarin class, which ended up being her and some friends teaching one another, before dropping me off and saying her goodbyes at the airport as well. And with that, my time as a resident of Canada came to an end. Fifteen hours later, I stepped through the front door of the apartment in Mei Foo, as I had done countless times in my previous travels, only, this time, it was home.