Day 1

I am jet-lagged to shit right now. I just thought I'd put that in there at the beginning to excuse this possibly being the worst blog I've ever written.

After I last wrote, things started to run like clockwork. I managed to get all packed early enough that I wasn't rushing, but late enough that I wasn't having to go through my bags picking things out to use before I left. And I think I said when I wrote the last blog, which I believe was on Monday, that I was going to be phoning my landlords to confirm everything. Well I did. I must have called them 6 different times on Monday night without getting a response. I cannot tell you how nervous that made me. All I was thinking, is that these people have caller ID, and can see a call coming in from abroad, so are just ignoring the phone, rather than tell me that they've given the condo away to someone else. After all, I made these calls over a 6+ hour period. And these landlords are old. And old people don't go out for 6 hours at a time. The only logical explanation was that they'd given away the appartment. Luckily though, they must have had their hearing-aids on, on Tuesday, because I was finally able to get through to them. And they were still planning on driving down early in the morning, from wherever it is that they actually live, to meet me as I get off the bus in Invermere. I was as nervous as I've been in a long time making those phone calls, so it was something of a relief that everything still seems to be in place.

On top of that good news, American Backpackers, the hostel that I'd attempted to make a reservation with, actually responded to me. Amazing. And my reservation was all set. They'd just neglected to tell me that. Though what can you expect for $10? So as far as organising and arranging everything that I needed to do, it went like clock-work. I was pretty much packed by the time I went to bed on Monday. Just things like toothpaste that I still needed to use, still needed to be packed. All the planning was paying off.

Tuesday comes. D-day. All the 10-ish months of planning suddenly goes from something that I will be doing, to something that I'm doing. I spent the morning just going through everything in my room. Making sure I'd got all the essential information that I needed. That I'd got all the items that I needed. And that I was thinking about everything that could, and probably would go wrong, and was ready for it. I was really on edge this morning. I just needed it to go smoothly.

Twice in the last week, the airline I was flying with had phoned me asking me if I wanted to reserve a particular seat for £9, because the flight was so full, it would be my last chance. So I could ensure an aisle or a window seat for £9. Or I could even ensure and extra legroom seat for just £29. Unsurprisingly I turned down both these advances. My plan was just to get to the airport as check-in opened and flirt with the girl behind the desk so she gave me a good seat anyway.

Check-in opened at 14:30. Dad was giving me a lift to the airport, so to ensure that I could put this plan into action, we left at 13:00 for the 1-hour drive to Gatwick. Make sure that I was at the front of the queue for when check-in opened, so there was still good seats available.

Parking the car etc. at the airport, I still got to check-in at about 14:15. But to my dismay, the queue was already huge. I don't know if they opened early or something, but check-in was in full-swing, and there were a shit-load of people inline in front of me. If they'd phoned every passenger twice already, as well as offering the opportunity to reserve seats online, I was thinking that a lot of the good seats would have gone already. So this really was a kick in the teeth. There was no way in hell that there would be aisle seats left after all this. And I'm like a damn jackhammer such are my energy levels. I'm just not a person who can sit in once place for long periods of time. I needed this aisle seat for my own sanity. And that of the people sitting next to me. Otherwise they'd have to get up to let me out 50 times on a 12-hour flight. I didn't lose heart though. I had scouted out the girls behind the counter I could sweet-talk if there was any good seats left available.

When I got called to check-in with a fat man therefore, that was plan A out the window. I was doubting there were any good seats left by now. And flirting with ugly girls to get what you want, is a chore. Fat men is where I draw the line. I thought it couldn't hurt just to be friendly though. Ask him how he's doing. How his day's going. Smile. Make jokes, that kind of thing. People in this kind of situation can make your life very easy, or very difficult. Afterall, they have the power to decide where you sit, who you sit next to etc. So it's always worth being nice to them. And it paid off, when he looks at me: "Aisle or window seat?" Aisle baby! By this point I actually was willing to start flirting with him. He'd given me an aisle seat. Then he pipes up again. "We actually have some extra leg-room seats available if you'd like one? The one's near the emergency exit. Would you like one?" Would I like one? Would I like one? Fuck yeah I'd like one. By this point I was pretty much willing to sleep with him. "Aisle or window with extra leg-room?" I could've married the guy right there. I was going to be nice to him to see what I could get, but I really wasn't expecting so much as a shit aisle seat. As always though, pretending to be nice to people gets you free stuff. I got an extra leg-room aisle seat. Sat with the people who'd paid an extra £29 to get theirs. My gay flirting must be getting better. I normally only expect free stuff when I can hit on an ugly chic, because it's so rare for them. They just give you stuff out of shock that a guy is actually talking to them. But now my skill-set has clearly moved onto fat-guys as well. Extra leg-room baby.

There are 3 things I always look for in people when I have to sit next to them on a plane, or on a long bus journey or something. Firstly, and most importantly, they can't be fat. Fat people spill over into your space. And because I'm at least moderately broad, I'm too wide to move out the way, so you just end up rubbing up against their fat for the whole journey. Getting stuck next to a fat person on a long journey is about as bad as it can get. The second thing you hope for, is that if they tick the non-fat box, well then are they hot? And preferably female. Hot chics are just better to talk to. Something boring an ugly person says, is interesting when a hot chic says it. That's just science. Probably because when they're hot, you're just automatically flirting, so it's easy to respond with something funny when a hot chic says something. When an ugly person speaks, it's harder to make jokes, so the conversation just goes better with hot people. Plus they're better to look at. And then if they tick the non-fat box, and the hot box, then are they fun? It's a 12-hour journey. You don't want to be sat next to a damn neuro-scientist for 12 hours. You want someone you can talk to and have a laugh with.

So when a guy gets on the plane, and sits in the seat next to me, without even making eye-contact, he definitely didn't tick the fun box. If he wasn't even willing to make eye-contact, how good can he really be to talk to? Exactly. And he definitely wasn't a hot chic. However he was pretty thin, so I got 1 out of 3. And 1 out of 3 in a free-aisle seat with extra leg-room, is pretty-good going.

The flight was loaded up and ready to leave on time. And the captain got on the PA and said something to that effect, along with the bad news that we would be flying into a strong wind which would slow us down. Though why we therefore sat on the tarmac for about an hour without moving I'm not sure. We were late before we'd even taken off, and we would be flying into winds of what I would later find out to be about 120 miles per hour, which apparently made a significant dent in our journey time.

We had to fill out those stupid declaration cards or whatever they are. And it was as simple as asking the non-fat, non-fun, non-hot-chic I was sat next to, what the flight number was, and he suddenly opened up. He'd seen that I'd put 365 days in the how long are you staying for box. And he was on his way to Whistler to work the season. And all of a sudden, this non-fat, not-fun, non-hot-chic I was sat next to, became a non-fat, fun, non-hot-chic. Until we touched down in Calgary, we were chatting about things. So all of a sudden I had a bit of social interaction on the flight, and it made it fly by. They put on some shit films mind. They played Hancock, which was rubbish. They played the Incredible Hulk, which might have been good, but they cut out too much of it to make it sprog-friendly, that it just didn't work. And then they started playing some damn film set in a hospital-room, that I'd seen the beginning of at some point in my flying to/from Mexico in the Summer, that by that point I just gave up. I did try to sleep for long periods. But every seat of this flight was taken, so there was no opportunity to get a triple to lay down on. I did my best to lay down with my masses of leg-room. There was more space than I could ever want... I could do an aerobics workout in the amount of space that I had, but the chair was just too damn uncomfy to get any sleep.

If you've been reading the pre-departure blogs, then you'll know my frustrations regarding touching down in Calgary, because that is essentially where I need to be. It's just that BUNAC didn't tell me that it was a possibility to get the necessary admin done here, until 2 days after I'd booked my flight. Well I thought we were just stopping here to refuel. But people were actually getting off here. It's hard to explain the frustration of having to stay on the plane to fly for another hour, just to get a 13-hour bus journey back here in a few days. But that's the way it went. Luckily, about half the plane was getting off here, but no more were boarding. And I was quick to pick-up on triple seats that were being vacated by families getting off. So I left my now non-fat, fun, non-hot-chic, and moved back a row, so I could have a triple seat. Let's call him Ed from here on. Afterall, that's his name.

Being able to lay down now, I slept for the whole time we were on the ground in Calgary, which I'm told was over an hour. I had to wake up for take-off, but as soon as the fasten-seatbelts sign was off, I was out for the count again, until we got into Vancouver. This was scheduled to be at 22:15. Late take-off, and supposed strong-winds though meant that we didn't actually land until about midnight.

Passport control wasn't too long. And there was a bit of a wait to get the bags out. But what took fucking ages, was getting my work visa issued. There must have been 30-40 people on that flight, who needed work visas. Luckily many of them had brought their own skis. And oversized baggage was offloaded from the aircraft last, so I got in front of many of them in the queue. But I think it was about 01:30, by the time I got my visa issued. Ed got was getting his issued as I got mine, so I met him out in the nearly empty terminal to get split the cost of a taxi. There was a real lack of staff to issue visas at the airport, so I just say thank fuck I was nearer the front of this queue. However, at 01:30am, the airport information desk is still open. Don't ask me why. Standing in the queue to get the visa though, I was getting to the point of turning pretty light-headed. It was 09:30am UK time by now, and I had barely slept. On top of that, my diet all day had been shit, relying on a bottle of Lucozade for the latter portion of the flight to provide all my nutritional needs. So to say it wasn't what my body is used to would be an understatement. I eat well and sleep 8 hours everynight. So there was a point standing in the queue that I even had to kneel down and rest my head on the trolley I had like I was praying, just to be safe in case my legs gave way. I was worryingly light-headed.

Going through the airport, I had flash-backs of coming here on '05. It was the first time I'd been to Vancouver airport, since landing on May 19th 2005, when I first travelled. And although on that day, I arrived in daylight, getting the taxi to downtown, it made me a little nostalgic. I had been that route just the one time 2005. But I could still remember it. Sitting on that bus with the 9 other BUNACers. Not knowing what to expect. My first real taste of absolute independence. I'd had a year away from home at university by then. But even then you still live within the university structure. When I came here aged 19 in '05, I see it as the first time in my life that I achieved absolute independence. And driving this same route from the airport, for the first time since... I'll admit it made me a little nostalgic.

Ed was staying at the HI-Central. That was a hostel that also played a big part in my first time here in Vancouver. But being as money-conscious as I am nowadays, we dropped Ed off at the hostel, and carried on to American Backpackers, where I had a reservation.

Now I really didn't expect much from this place. For $10 per night, you don't expect clean sheets. You don't expect friendly staff. You don't expect free wireless. But you do at least expect them to answer the door. I'd been told that it was no problem that I was arriving out of hours, because security was there all night who could let me in. But after ringing on the doorbell multiple times without response, it was becoming very evident that I wouldn't be getting into the hostel on this night.

Although I was obviously hoping that this wasn't the way that things transpired, it wasn't unexpected to me. I'd printed off the phone numbers to the Samesun, and the HI-Central directly opposite the Samesun that we'd just dropped Ed off at (both reviewed in the hostels page), just in case of this scenario. What I hadn't clocked was that I wouldn't have a phone to call them on, but although annoying, it really wasn't a surprise to be in this situation.

It was probably gone 02:00am by now, so I started walking in the direction back towards the Samesun and HI-Central, but as soon as a taxi crossed my path after a couple of blocks, I jumped in it. I would normally be willing to walk all day to save a penny. But at 02:00 in the morning, having barely slept for well over 24-hours, I was willing to make an exception.

On Tuesday night, I'd checked the availability of both the Samesun and the HI-Central. They both had space, so I figured it would be no big deal for me to be in the situation that I was. The Samesun is marginally cheaper, so I decided to go into there. My dismay at being told at this time of night that there was no free beds, gave me the feeling this wasn't going to be my night. I walked over the street to the HI-Central expecting the same outcome, because with their close proximity, if one fills up, you'd expect the other to as well. Thank fuck they had space. Otherwise it could have been a long night patrolling the streets with my life on my back, trying to find a place to sleep. And thank fuck that this happened in Vancouver. In a city I know so well, and almost feel that, despite only having spent a few weeks here, is like a second home to me. Had this happened anywhere else, I would be lost out in the streets at night. I'd given up hope on American Backpackers by this point. And I didn't really want the hassle of having to find another hostel tomorrow, so although the price was higher than I was wanting to pay, I booked all my 5 nights in Vancouver here.

One thing though, I had to move rooms tomorrow. And it wasn't a case of just moving rooms. I had to check-out, then come back later and check-in again, because there was someone booked into my room tomorrow night. Why the fuck they coudln't just move that person into one of the other vacant rooms I don't know, but that was the way it was.

I've stayed in enough hostels in my life, so I was prepared enough to get washed up, get my valuables locked away, and get to bed without disturbing the other people in my dorm. Didn't even have to turn on the light. And I was just as impressed when someone, at a guess at 05:00am, got up, fully-clothed. He just got out of bed already dressed, picked up his stuff and left. Now that is impressive preparation. It wasn't until 03:00 that I got to bed in the end. But that was 11:00am UK time, so just when I'd normally be finishing up at the gym. Having got that little bit of sleep between Calgary and Vancouver, I really didn't sleep too well on this night. And that is really why I'm so damn jet-lagged right now. I was awake again at about 07:00. And I don't think that I slept properly all night.

Expecting to have trouble at American Backpackers, I'd warned Ed that I'd be seeing him in the morning. But I only really meant it as a joke. So he got a bit of a shock when I walked in for breakfast at a little after 08:00.

My main activity for today, was to go to the SWAP orientation. That was at 11:00. So I had to check-out of the hostel, put my bag into storage, and check-in again later. What a fucking pain! There were still 2 people asleep in my room, so I had to sort out all my bags in limited daylight, making extra effort to be quiet. Just so I could put the things I didn't need for the orentation into storage, and keep out the rest of the stuff. What a fucking hassle. Just to move rooms; seemingly unnecessary. But I got out about 09:30. It occured to me as I was walking through Vancouver, I hadn't actually checked the address of this orientation. Luckily I could remember approximately where it was, so I stumbled across it no trouble. Over an hour before I actually had to be there. So I spent that time walking around aimlessly. It was raining, and I was jet-lagged to shit, so it was kind of like a zombie radomly walking about. The most important thing that I got done in that time, was probably get a potent caffeine drink, which was probably the only reason I lasted through the orientation. And it's probably the only reason I'm still awake now.

This was supposed to be a 1½ hour orientation. It somehow went on for nearly 3. Probably partly my fault because I was asking so many questions. Especially when they brought in some woman from a local mobile phone store, with supposed special deals for Swappers. When it comes to a purchase like that, I always have questions. Especially when my brain isn't really focussing well enough to actually listen to what she was saying. I was like that kid in school, who, when a teacher says "Is there any questions before I let you go for lunch?" And the whole class is silent, because they know that if no one says anything, then they get to go. But there was always that one geeky kid that no one liked who would always feel the need to ask a pointless question just for the sake of it. The teacher would then spend half your lunch hour answering it, and you'd miss most of your break. Well that kid was me today! About 40 times, because I wanted to have everything clarified. So this damn orientation actually ended up going on for nearly 3 hours. I didn't even get a phone either. She'll be back with her "special" deals tomorrow. And my head is in no fit state to be making important decisisions like signing 12-month phone contracts, so I'll be going back tomorrow once I've had the time to digest her saleswoman speel. At the time she was convincing me that I really wanted to sign onto the $45 per month plan. But then she's probably paid on comission, so she'd be good at that. Since I bought my Tesco Mobile, I only ever used about £6.50 credit. And that was probably 3 or more months ago. To be fair, I had no social life all Summer, so I expect to use a bit more credit this time around, but $45? I don't think so. That's $540 per year. Even with retarded Canadian mobile phone price plans that's excessive.

At the orientation I did also come across a couple of people who will be working at Panorama as well. One was that Kiwi that I think I mentioned in previous blogs that would be in Vancouver the same time as me. He seemed a little shy for some reason. Maybe it was all the phone questions. He was with another guy, who I hadn't actually interacted with at all at this point. Though I did recognise his name from the Facebook group. He seemed a lot more open. And although in parting we said that we'd be in touch tonight... I was lying. And I'm pretty sure he was lying. Because although they're in the Samesun just over the street, the only solid method of contact we have, is Facebook. And is that going to work. No.

And that pretty much leads me to right now. Despite my promise of trying to eat healthily, for notalgia reasons, I have to visit all my former eateries. So my lunch was a $1.50 slice of pizza. From there I was back to the hostel, and despite him supposed to being in Whistler by now, Ed was in the hostel reception. His landlord was going down to Whistler anyway, and was supposed to be giving him a lift. It was just he was an hour and a ½ late. Gave us a chance to talk again for 5 minutes. When I came back down to go out and get water about 20 minutes later, he was still there. And still when I got back 10 minutes after that. He might even still be sat in reception now waiting for his ride.

It was at that point that I decided to fight my urge to sleep to try and combat jet-lag, and instead write this blog. And here we are. It's strange looking around and seeing how different the world is, even from 3 years ago when I was here. Since I was at this hostel in '05, and even since I was here in late '06, they've got wireless for the whole hostel. I'm sat in the common area. In '05 this was a place for people to chat. Right now there's 9 people sat in here. Each one silently on their laptops. You wouldn't have got that 3 years ago! People don't really need to interact anymore. Everyone has laptops nowadays. And to be extra anti-social as I write this, I'm even listening to my mp3 at the same time. Whatever happened to the days when everyone who travelled and stayed in hostels put tea-cozy's on their heads and played guitars? Hippies aren't supposed to have laptops. Yet I look around this room, and not a sole is talking. Not even looking up. Everyone is immersed in their own little world. It's amazing the difference 3 years has made.

You know another thing I've noticed? Either girls in Vancouver have got uglier, or my standards have got higher. But something has changed! And I don't like.

That, though, is how this trip has started. I hope to still be writing this blog, still travelling, 5 years from now. That this blog is just the first drop in the ocean. But there's a long, long way to go before I can say that. But this is... the beginning. But now, mainly out of fear that my jet-lag is making me write absolute jibberish that will make sense to no man, it's probably best that I stop. It's started!

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