Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Being in Vancouver, Bellingham and Seattle

Today, I am in Ballard, a funky, residential neighborhood of Seattle which feels a little more like Bellingham and Fairhaven. I'm staying with Kat, a friend from my first year and a half at Lake Erie College in Ohio who I met when I was still studying Equine Science. I haven't seen Kat since 2003. We both ended up switching our careers from equine science because neither of us were feeling fulfilled with that as a calling. Now, Kat is in the Physician's Assistant field and I'm in the creative field. We have both done a great amount of traveling and exploring since 2003. Kat is headed to a month in Nepal soon.

It is funny how I can look back at 2003/2004 and see one of those important crossroads that changed my life and made it what it is today. I'm so grateful not only that the foresight came to me to transfer to College of the Atlantic that year, but that I was aware enough to listen and follow that direction.  Now I feel like I'm in a real discerning/cross roads place again where possibly another big shift in direction could happen in 2012, 8 years later!

It is interesting to be traveling during this period. I'm very happy I decided to complete/continue this trip I started, even though I had second thoughts about its being excessive. I had an amazing time seeing Vancouver. When I arrived at my first couchsurfer's (her name is Katie) place right near the ocean, we immediately headed out to a BBQ at one of her friend's houses. I rode her bike with her cat in a crate on the back and she rollerbladed in front of me. I had so much fun biking for 40 minutes at night in Vancouver. The BBQ was low-key. Two of Katie's friends were from Taiwan and the 3rd was married to one of the others so our dinner conversation focused on our shared love of traveling through that awesome country.

The next day, Katie took me paddle-boarding in the bay for 3 hours! What a blast! Perfect blue skies, passing by tourism, but not getting sucked into it, getting super exercise and all for free because Katie had access to the paddle-boards through her job.

Katie worked the next day, so I explored Vancouver on my own. I walked about 6 hours all the way from her house near Kit's Beach, up the coast to UBC and back. Then, after saying thanks and bye to Katie, I hopped on a bus and headed to my new couchsurfer's in a different part of town near Nanaimo and Broadway. This couchsurfer, Christina, was so cool and welcoming. She was dressed in all different colors, sparkles and funky hair things getting ready to go to a show. We had time before she left for a great home-cooked dinner together in her back yard over interesting conversation.

While Christina worked the following day, I took her advice and passed quickly through downtown to spend the majority of the afternoon in Stanley Park amid tall mossy trees, sunlight, lily pad ponds and random sculptures with ninja-like black squirrels and sedate Canadian Geese.

My brother and his girlfriend, Lauren, drove up from their home in Bellingham to meet me and Christina for a dinner of sushi and gelato in a park. Then I gave my thanks and goodbyes to Christina and headed off with Joe and Lauren to find a camping spot in the Canadian Rockies for the night. Of course it was Friday and everything was booked! Somehow, we ended up down a logging trail trying to follow directions to a campsite. We stumbled across a modern university campus in the middle of the woods before re-entering the logging road. To our delight, we found a trailhead pull-off with a side trail that dead-ended with a flat mountain top where we set up camp for the night. It was so perfect the way that worked out and we avoided a crowded RV infested public campground and stayed somewhere for free waking up to quiet and a snow-peaked mountain view.

For some reason, my brother was in an unsociable mood the next day. Lauren and I ended up hanging out and talking a lot, determined to enjoy the beauty surrounding us nonetheless. We all went for a couple-hour hike on Four Lakes Trail around Alice Lake and went swimming briefly in the cool water. We stopped by the free Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge on the drive back to Bellingham. Lauren and I picked up some food for the grill and made a really good meal at the appt. That, and watching Pineapple Express cheered my brother up. Lauren went out for an hour to see a great little Bellingham band, The Librarians, play at a The Wine Bar in downtown before calling it a night.

In the morning, Lauren made delicious blueberry pancakes and Joe applied his genius to helping me wish some computer problems, which was incredibly nice of him. Lauren and I went thrift-store roaming for a little bit then all 3 of us had a relaxing, lovely lunch in the sunshine at a cafe in Fairhaven before I had to leave for my bus to Seattle. I wish I could have stayed longer! But my friend, Diana, who I went to school with at College of the Atlantic, was expecting me.

And it was great to see Diana again, and again, I wish I could have stayed with her longer. She made a flavorful Indian meal for us when I arrived and we talked for a while. She recently got back from seeing her family in India. In the morning, we went to my favorite place for breakfast, The Crumpet Shop. I had a nice day walking around Pike's Place Market and the sculpture garden while she worked. We got to go to a restorative free yoga class in her appt. building gym in the evening. Then the yoga teacher brought us to a Kirtan assembly at an amazing community house in the Columbia City neighborhood. We stayed at the Kirtan for 2 hours and it was a very spiritual yet intense singing/prayer experience with a group of people who were extremely bonded already. I am grateful to have shared a window into such a community again, having just left a very bonded yet very different spiritual community myself. I could feel the same sort of intentional energy to "be who we really are" in this group as well and I could feel the experience helping to keep my own candle burning. It was a necessary match.

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