General

It always rains in Vancouver

I left off where we were waiting to board a CX flight to Vancouver. It was an uneventful flight. Both Su and I watched one movie only – she watched Blue Jasmine and I watched August: Osage County – and slept through the rest of the journey. Everything was boringly on schedule; and it was plain sailing going through immigration and customs, so that we had to wait a bit for our bags. At 1:25 am, traffic was light even though it was drizzling. We arrived at Hyatt Regency in no time to find an almost deserted lobby. At the reception, the staff apologized for being a bit slow because they were running data backup. The good news however was that we apparently got upgraded to a room with a view and a sizeable balcony which gave us a stunning and awesome view of the blooming cherry blossoms. Su was very happy and began texting everyone around 2 am Vancouver time. I hope that made our long wait at JFK New York somewhat worthwhile.

We got up almost refreshed a few hours later and I called Naomi and Gus to confirm the appointments we made in Hong Kong. It was supposed to be hiking day for Gus, but because it rained, he came over to take us to Granville Island for breakfast. There was noticeable contrast in the general mood between NYC and Vancouver. People now appeared more relaxed, less rushed and not so much worried about money. The street musician for example could find time to buy himself a cuppa and sit at the next table to sip it. Gus showed us round the shops including the seafood at the Lobster Man, and how could Su resist the oysters which were kept under running sea water, looking so clean and fresh and so cheap. We bought about three dozen of assorted species which were promptly shucked and consumed on the balcony of our room, during which we were visited by seagulls which apparently noticed our good stuff. We went to the market a second time and had a feast in Gus’ apartment. I might come back to this later or in another letter.

This is the third consecutive year we are in the city en route to Whistler, so that the streets and sights have become rather familiar and our activities, routines. We knew we would meet up with Gus, the HKU friends and my classmates; we knew we would make the regular rounds to our breakfast joints and visit Holy Rosary Cathedral when we can; we knew we would do the cherry and plum blossoms and eat as much good food as we could find; and so on. I am only too aware that familiarity breeds contempt. This could be particularly so with meetings between friends, which could happen regardless of whether they live in the same city or in different continents, or for that matter, in different planets. For example, I have heard from a friend who took his time on a business trip in Vancouver to meet up some friends who had migrated there. They organized a dinner and won’t let him pay, took affectionate pictures with him, and repeatedly assured him that he would always be welcome whenever he came. It happened he needed to repeat the trip the following year. When he announced his arrival to his friends, one of them asked – it could have been a Freudian slip – why he was back so soon. Then there was an ex-colleague who returned from Toronto after a visit having been hosted and feted by her friends there, but who could not fail to notice that her friends had gone out of their way for the hospitality which they could ill afford, and so on. I hasten to say that I would not generalize on such areas, for friendship is a rare and unusual thing, which once established would take more than a hurricane to break loose.

Back to our short stay in Vancouver, well, it rained almost every day, but I am glad we were nowhere close to Hong Kong’s rainstorms. We learnt that you had, first yellow rainstorm warning, which turned black, and then it rained hail stones in places, including Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Tsing I, Kwai Chung, Kowloon Tong and Sha Tin, so much so that the Chief Executive had issued a special blog. I hope Mei Foo was spared; and I wish all of you in Hong Kong safe and well.

I went for Mass at the Holy Rosary Cathedral almost every morning, but the short walk was enough to get me rather wet had I not worn my foul weather gears. The Cathedral is at Richards and Dunsmuir Street; and there must be close to one hundred in the congregation at the 7:15 am Mass on weekdays, with many more on Sundays. We came here last year on a Sunday and went for a dim sum brunch afterwards where we met my Wah Yan classmates and when we learnt that Edward was a regular volunteer on Sundays. We met him on Sunday this time and he proudly introduced us to the priests and his friends after Mass as his high school classmates. He apologized that he could not be at the reunion lunch which took place the day before, adding that he still suffered from stress related ailments because he had yet to retire.

After Mass, we typically ended up at Joyeaux Café & Restaurant for breakfast. Joyeaux sits on Howe Street in a low rise one-storey structure which it has taken up for seven years before when it was on Pender Street where it had operated for some 15 years. This is an inexpensive restaurant which serves a variety of Asian, Western, Vietnamese and fusion food from 8 am to 8 pm in busy Downtown Vancouver. We first used it two years ago for breakfast after Mass, so that by now we feel very much at home inside. As a matter of fact, the owner and waiters recognized us and had chatty conversations with us.

This is actually cherry blossom time in Vancouver. We found that out last year and went out of our way to explore and enjoy it. Su was in particular esthetic and almost in ecstasy when she woke up the first morning to find that the cherry blossoms were right below our balcony. A friend we met told us that the city had actually been very careful with planting different species at different locations and because different species bloom at different times, there would also be some blossoming during the season. I think that is rather clever, but we were slightly disappointed when we found that most trees were bare at Queen Elizabeth Park during our visit, in stark contrast to what we saw last year.

The things we did differently this time included oyster shopping, oyster knives hunting, ramen shops hopping, and teaching our friends how to shuck oysters. Next year, we might need to plan more carefully ahead.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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