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Going to Canada 2007
Day 4: Taipei to Vancouver
We managed to get to the airport on time and checked in without any problems.
We had breakfast in the morning and got to the airport at lunch time.
So, by the time they served the first meal it was about 3 o’clock. And we were pretty hungry. The first meal was good but the meal after that was a shocker.
I couldn’t believe they served us “cup noodles”. Instant noodles … what?!
Then it got even worse, they gave us hash browns.
It was like I’d flown to hell and someone was forcing me to eat McDonalds.
They showed four movies. Two of them I thought were so lame I stopped watching after a few minutes. But the other two I watched the whole way through.
One was a kind of drama / romance. Just after they fell in love he died, that was pretty sad. The other one was a romantic comedy. A girl was having trouble choosing between the rich arsehole and the poor nice guy.
In the end she chose the poor nice guy. So no mind expanding plot lines available on that flight.
I slept a bit on the flight. But when we landed in Vancouver after a 10 hour flight it was midnight Taipei time. So we were feeling pretty tired
And it was 9am in Vancouver so I knew we were in for some hardcore jet lag.
But I wasn’t really expecting what happened at customs.
I’ve never had any trouble with customs before in any country.
So I guess there’s a first time for everything.
They questioned us separetly for about an hour. It was awful. They asked me so many personal questions. And most of them I thought had nothing to do with my being in Canada. I wondered how much of it was really necessary. And how much of it was just them enjoying the power trip or being nosey.
All of the customs officers looked about the same age as me. It was like I was back in high school and some nasty kids who thought they were special had gathered round to mock me.
I guess it’s partly to check if you’ll pose a threat to the safety of Canadian citizens.
And partly to give you a lasting impression of a nasty experience of going through customs so you’ll pass the word on and discourage others from trying to stay in Canada as a visitor for more than a few weeks without a lot of money.
One of the customs girls gave her opinion – as if we needed it – about how bad she thought the Korean government was. And then she bitched about some American tourists, which I thought was such bad form.
Anyway, at the time it was a pretty nasty experience, but I don’t feel too sorry for myself because I know a lot of people go through a lot worse.
I was planning to check my email at the airport to see if the room that I had booked was confirmed. I thought most airports have the internet available free. But this one didn’t! It was 10 dollars an hour – which I thought was ridiculous. So we just decided to take a taxi to the hostel and hope they had a room available.
The taxi ride went smoothly. Our driver was pretty cool. He was wearing a pink turban. He came from India about 18 years ago. We asked him if he thought Canada was a good place to live, and he said he did.
He gave an example. He said when we were standing in the taxi line, if a person who was high up in the Canadian government had come and stood in the line, they would have had to wait in the line like everyone else.
But he said if it was in India it would have been different.
When we got to the hostel, they didn’t have a room available. But the woman there was nice and she called another hostel nearby and said we could stay there, so we walked there.
One of the images I have of North America is of friendly, fat smiling people wearing blue jeans and crisp white souvenir t shirts. And my image of Vancouver was of a kind of multi-cultural Pleasantville with everyone strolling around the city smiling and satisfied with living in the greatest city in the world.
So you can imagine my shock when the first person who talked to us was begging for money. And the first street we happened to walk down after we dropped our bags off and decided to go and check out the highly anticipated great city of Vancouver, we later found out was – according to the guy in the dairy – the worst street in Vancouver.
At first we walked past a few crazy looking people and I didn’t really think much of it until we looked further up the road and everywhere we looked there were these people that looked like zombies. Most of them were underweight, wearing dirty clothes, shuffling slowly along the street or sitting or standing and swaying.
A lot of them were pushing supermarket trolleys full of stuff that looked like rubbish.
There were both men and woman of various ages. Most of them were Caucasian … with pale, grayish skin, sunken cheeks and hollow eyes. They looked like they were still alive, but had no soul.
One of them asked me if I wanted anything and I said: ah, no thanks.
But what I really thought was: if it makes me look like you – hell, no.
It was one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen. And we wanted to get out of there asap. Except that we didn’t know which direction to go because they were everywhere.
It was kind of ironic that less than an hour after the customs officers were telling me off for not having enough money now people were asking me to give them money.
I had a fair idea of what these people were on. But I also wondered what whoever decided Vancouver was the best city in the world was on.
Of course I knew we were probably just in a bad area and later on when we were talking to the guy in the dairy he said the rest of Vancouver was fine. “Just don’t go down that street,” he said, pointing to the first street we had walked down.