Posts Tagged 'Vancouver'

Vancouver 2010 – A Community Affair

The "must have" gloves

Like most Vancouverites, Mark and I got swept up in Olympics fever late.  (Many were very angry at the cost British Columbians would have to bear for no anticipated benefits. Some left town for warmer climes, not wanting to deal with the crowds, noise, and traffic disruptions; others protested the opening and closing ceremonies; still others set up a tent city to highlight the additional homelessness caused by landlords evicting tenants in order to charge exorbitant rents to Olympics visitors. Most were disappointed at not being able to get tickets or were just apathetic.) I was unaware of the first two rounds of ticket lotteries, and never got out of the virtual “waiting room” on the third, largest, and final round.  We were far enough removed from the venues that we would not be affected.  After all, what did it matter if you were watching the Games on TV in the host city or a continent away?  Only… we didn’t have a TV…

It wasn’t until a friend, an Olympics veteran (Salt Lake City, Nagano, Los Angeles) from Southern California, rounded up another mutual friend from the SF Bay Area (also a Winter Olympics veteran – her brother and sister were on U.S. Alpine Ski teams) and landed in Vancouver with flags (Canadian and U.S.), a lanyard, pins, venue maps, a program of events, and a cowbell, that we were dragged into the spirit of the Games.  From the initial participation at the torch ceremony on 11 February at LiveCity Yaletown until the closing ceremony, our lives revolved around the Games.  By the second day, after our friends had gone, we figured out that CTV had live streaming of all the events, from start to finish, in French and English.  We hooked up a projector to Mark’s computer, and set up a couch and side tables in front of the projection wall.  This is where we lived and ate until the evening of 28 February. Like our Wall Street brethren, we even got attached to the Canadian curling teams. (Ok, ok, and the Norwegian men’s curling pants.)

It wasn’t until the Games were over that I got to read about some of the more interesting aspects of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  (Yes, I was trolling the Olympics sites in withdrawal.)  My favorites?  Just Beginnings Flowers, a non-profit organization working with marginalized women (ex-prisoners, sex workers, victims of abuse) was contracted, along with Margitta Flowers, to make the 1800 bouquets of flowers handed out to Olympic medalists.  The wood for the podiums was donated by different communities throughout British Columbia.  And, the Podiums and medal trays were assembled by at-risk youth and recent immigrants trained by Rona, a distributor and retailer of hardware, renovation and gardening products.

In fact, these Games were not just Vancouver’s, they were Canada’s Games.  Community participation started with the torch relay across Canada – the longest domestic torch relay in Olympics history, covering 45,000 km and involving 12,000 torchbearers over 106 days.  Starting in Victoria, Vancouver Island, where the final leg of the flame’s journey from Greece was carried in a First Nations canoe in a miner’s lantern, the torch touched over 1,000 communities from coast to coast to coast, including Alert, Nunavut, the northernmost permanently inhabited community in the world, carried by canoe, dragon boat, handrail, Skyride, on skates, skis, snowboard, skidoo, bobsled, snowshoe, snow plough, (you think there’s a lot of snow in Canada?) bicycle, motorcycle, horse, firetruck, …

Free Celebration sites were set up in every city.  In the Greater Vancouver area alone, there were Celebration sites in Richmond, West Vancouver (site of the freestyle skiing and snowboard events on Cypress Mountain), North Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, and Whistler.  In Vancouver, there were two LiveCity sites, the Aboriginal Pavilion, as well as numerous pavilions representing every province and territory in Canada.  Of the other countries, Russky Dom, House of Switzerland, and Slovak House were the most popular. And, every community center in Vancouver was given a 50”plasma screen TVs so that they could host viewings of events in their “community living rooms.”

Most impressive of all, the Cultural Olympiad, with free and ticketed art, music, drama and dance performances throughout the Greater Vancouver area, showcased Canadian and international performers for night after night of festivities. This three-year initiative, which started in 2008, extends through the Paralympics.

So yes, Vancouverites finally got over themselves and had a great time.  Over 150,000 people gathered every night in Robson Square, in downtown Vancouver.  LiveCity sites were filled to capacity every night.   And through it all, people were friendly and celebrative.  Buses flashed “Go Canada Go” in alternate displays with their routes.  Bus drivers let visitors and revelers ride free.  People used mass transit. Cars sported a maple leaf flag, or two, or four.  Homes and businesses were decorated with lights, flags and posters.  And they are still.


Bike Valet

Bike Parking at Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Bike Parking at Vancouver Folk Music Festival

As preparations were underway for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival that took place this past weekend in nearby Jericho Beach Park, I wondered at the rows of metal barriers set up at the entrance to the Park on West 4th Avenue.  Were they meant to funnel festival goers through ticket lines?  On the afternoon of the 18th, it all became clear – the barriers were set up for supervised bicycle parking.  How wonderful!  If last year’s travel patterns are indicative of this year’s 10,000 daily festival attendees, 32% will have walked, ridden bikes, or been passengers in automobiles. (Last year, 17% took the bus, and 51% drove.)

Celebration of Light - Canada

Celebration of Light - Canada

Yesterday, I learned of Bike Valet, a secure bicycle parking service being offered free at several festivals and special events in Vancouver this summer by BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transport).  This year, BEST is providing Bike Valet at a total of six events and festivals in Vancouver, including at two viewing locations for the Celebration of Light, a fireworks competition that takes place in Vancouver every year.

Celebration of Light - Canada

Celebration of Light - Canada

This year’s competitors for the Celebration of Light are Canada, the U.S. and China.  Yesterday, Canada started off with a spectacular display based on the theme:  Attack, with Godzilla featuring prominently in the beginning of the show.

Summer Treat

Coffee Granita with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Coffee granita with vanilla bean ice cream

Summer has finally arrived in Vancouver. We have now had a week of sunshine, with weather in the 80’s (Fahrenheit). Radio weather announcers pinch themselves and utter un-jinxing spells before they say: “And the forecast for the weekend… do I dare say it… is sunny.” And the little weather icon, which shows the sun, partially covered by a cloud with raindrops falling from the cloud, keeps moving to the day after tomorrow every day.

After an afternoon walking around Gastown with two friends from the San Francisco Bay Area, I was inspired to make coffee granita based on this ‘wikiHow‘. The addition of a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream made for a perfect summer dessert.


Red Salmonberry

We have been (and are still) anxiously awaiting the blackberry harvest here in Vancouver.  We have some big plans for those blackberries – gobbling them up as we pick them, over ice cream, cobbler… can’t wait…

Then, two weeks ago, our friend Ellen Bermingham reported a mother and two kids picking berries in Pacific Spirit Regional Park during her afternoon run.  What were they doing?  It is way too early for blackberries.

Yellow Salmonberry

On Saturday, we saw what looked like yellow raspberries while hiking in Capilano River Regional Park with Tim Ryan and Rissa.  And yesterday, Mark saw several groups picking what turned out to be salmonberries on his mountain bike ride through Pacific Spirit Park.  Aha!  Salmonberries (rubus spectabilis).  Who knew?


Today, we grabbed what containers we had and hopped on my scooter to go berry picking.  A mother and two kids (perhaps the same ones that Ellen saw?) were already at one spot close to the road.  We forged on further ahead, wading into thorny thickets yet untouched.  We found both the yellow and red fruit – enough to fill the three containers that we had brought, hoping that we had at least 6 squashed cups worth.

Boiled with sugar and pectin

The flavors are very delicate – the yellow different from the red.  The juice runs clear.  There is no discernible smell.  (Mark describes the smell as “forest”.)

Salmonberry jam

We emptied out all the jam and mustard jars we had, sterilized them, decided on a fruit to sugar ratio, boiled the fruit with sugar and pectin, filled the jars, boiled them once more to create a vacuum seal and viola – our first attempt at jam.

Goondagiri in Vancouver

Bollywood actor and producer Jagdarshan Samra was beaten up by five men at a soccer and kabaddi tournament at the Ross Street Sikh Temple in Vancouver. He was beaten so badly that he lost an eye.  The public beating was allegedly in retaliation for a lawsuit that Samra filed in this native state of Punjab against people who have illegally occupied a piece of land that Samra owns.  A few more details can be seen in this article in The Province.

Squatting is the most common form of land transfer in India – from urban slum dwellers taking over scraps of available land on sidewalks, by railway lines, or on marshland to relatives expropriating property put in their names by fathers, brothers, uncles, or cousins overseas.  All over India, you will see vacant lots with high fences – their sole occupant: the guard.  People would rather leave their property empty for 40 years than rent it out for fear that the renters would never relinquish the property.  After all, your only recourse is the courts, and that process, even if uncorrupted, can take decades to resolve and is rarely decided in the nonresident’s favor.  So, even “respectable” people resort to violence, or the threat of violence, to get a piece of property or to get it back.  The only surprise here is that that resolution process, accepted as the “norm” in India, has been transfered to Vancouver.  Why face the potential of time for a crime committed in Canada for a lawsuit whose jurisdiction is in India?  Does Samra not have any relatives left in Punjab to beat up?  Are the transgressor’s family members all in Vancouver too?  What is the price of a goonda in Vancouver?


We are in Vancouver earlier in the year than we have been before and are pleased (and surprised) to find everything in bloom.

The first Rhododendron bloom

The first Rhododendron

Apple Blossoms

Apple blossoms

Pink Dogwood

Pink Dogwood (didn’t know what this tree was let alone that it bloomed)

The Hedge

The hedge too?


Could have sworn this Camelia used to be white


Wisteria around the front porch


I don’t know what this is, but I like it

Thank You Keith and Tammy

Kayaking on English Bay, Vancouver, British Columbia

Kayaking on English Bay, Vancouver, BC

Mark and I always talked of getting kayaks for our place in Vancouver. After all, we are right on the beach! That was when at least one of us was working. Should we get singles? Doubles? Wouldn’t it be great to walk our kayaks across the street and put in right there?

Well yesterday, we did just that, thanks to our wonderful friends Keith Miller and Tammy Borichevsky of California Canoe & Kayak who gave us two kayaks (sized to fit the 14′ U-Haul truck), spray skirts and paddles the day before we drove to Vancouver.

Keith and Tammy have been great supporters of our service projects over the last few years, but they have been involved in environmental protection and community service for more than 30 years. They were fixtures at Friends of the River conferences, helped raise over $185,000 to date to fight breast cancer with annual Support Strokes events, and provide internships and other opportunities for low-income youth in Oakland.

It was beautiful on the water despite the fact that my stroke isn’t even (I need a rudder!) and I’m using too much arm (oh yeah – I feel those muscles today). And wouldn’t you know it, the wind picked up on our return and it was not at my back.


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