For anyone who's interested here's the first part of a journal I started writing for my Mom. She's posted it already on a board she and my Dad run, and its been posted on another board for seniors.
I have seven entries so far, and will keep writing them as long as interesting things keep happening. Some of the experiences will also be used in a book I am writing about a few people traveling over seas to work in China.
I got on the Greyhound early in the morning.
At that point I realized this was one hell of a leap of faith.
The furthest I had ever traveled alone was Florida. And I had Grandparents waiting there to pick me up at the airport.
And here I was going across a continent by bus, only to hop on the nearest plane without even having a ticket to head to Shanghai or Beijing, at least a week before the Ministry that had hired me wanted me to actually check in. Since I didn't have a plane ticket, I didn't know when I would be reaching China either, so I didn't have a reservation waiting for me.
All I had were my clothes, some electronics, four books about teaching English, one English-Chinese Dictionary, my laptop, and a huge desire to get out and do something.
I started shaking half an hour before the bus came, when I realized it was late. By the time it came I had calmed down somewhat. I think mainly to keep my Mom from worrying so much.
It may also have had something to do with the fact that I had worn a groove in the pavement from my pacing.
I got onto the bus, and found to my distaste, that it was packed. I had to ask a young woman if I could sit beside her. She was cute, but I had no desire to make conversation, and I hate how close the seats are.
Turns out she spoke French and only a tiny bit of English. So at least I didn't have to worry about talking. I don't think I could have come up with five coherent sentences at that point.
At the first stop we switched seats, so she could talk with her group. The bus was full of a group of people from Quebec, I'm not sure if they were a class, group, or what, but they were all headed for Northern BC. I was happy, I got to stare mindlessly out the window, and enjoy the cool glass on my arm and head.
Not much happened on the bus. I couldn't concentrate on the books I had brought. Through Ontario the only people around me were French speakers, or I was alone. I prefered being alone. I suck with small talk, and my mind was still incorporating the fact that I was walking blindfolded into the unknown. Even better I had put the blindfold into place, and started walking without anyone pushing me.
So I'll just say this about most of the bus ride, Northern Ontario is monotonous when you can't step off the road and actually explore. The prairies are flat. All Greyhound depots are huge ripoffs. And when you buy an overpriced notepad, don't leave it on the bus when you transfer.
The most interesting part of the bus ride was Calgary and the Rockies.
Calgary is booming right now. It's the fastest growing city in Canada, and it has one of the biggest housing crisis in Canada, only one or two other small cities in Alberta are suffering more.
So much of the buildings in Calgary are shiny, new skyscrapers, very nice to look at. Even the majority of houses, and small buildings looked new, and well kept. It looked like a city I would like to live in.
I was also impressed by all the construction going on. There were a large number of small buildings being worked on. Also in the small portion of the city there were at least 4 or 5 skyscrapers were being built.
I also found it interesting how the Science Center was called the "Telus World of Science". I know that lots of places use corporate sponsors. I approve as well of this practice.
But every other one I've heard of hasn't had the sponsors name as the main part of the name. "World of Science - sponsered by Telus" I have seen and it wouldn't had surprised me. I guess it comes from being a small town hick.
The downside I saw in Calgary, I only saw as we were leaving. Hundreds of trailers surrounded Calgary. There simply aren't enough houses for all the workers, so acres of prime land are crammed with trailers of all kinds. They were so close together, it looked like there was only just enough room to open the door. Nothing else.
Going through the Rockies was an experience.
I've seen large hills, and even small mountains. I've climbed a number of them (nothing extreme, just going up the road, or along the easy slope), but nothing prepared me for the Rockies. The way the mountains rise up, piercing the clouds and forming a wall that stretches as far as you can see is amazing.
As we drove between them, you could look up as much as the window permitted and still not see the top.
There was a storm behind us, so clouds surrounded some of the mountains. Sometimes the mountains would be perfectly clear, and you could count the boulders, and then we'd turn a corner, or go into a dip, or climb a hill and clouds would form a blanket of grey that swallowed the light.
And the colours. The grey and black of the storm clouds. The pitch black shadows that covered parts of the mountains. Pale blue from the more distant mountains. White glaciers at the mountain peaks. Streams and rivers of dark blue, with brilliant white rapids and waterfalls. Red and brown rock, suddenly turning to dark green forests, in virtually ruler straight lines. And deep valleys lost in the gloom as I looked straight down for over a thousand feet.
I wish we had driven through it during the day instead of the early evening and night time.
The rest of BC wasn't bad. Mostly trees. I need to visit there when I'm driving and have time to actually look at things.
Got to Vancouver, and I was a mess. I hadn't really had a chance to clean up, or change anything other then my shirt, so I didn't look that good. I had finally gotten over my shock at least, so I knew what I had to do.
I found a cab and had him drive me to an RBC (Royal Bank of Canada). Unfortunately it was too early and wouldn't open for about 20 minutes. So I walked through this upscale shopping mall looking for a bathroom, as I got dirty looks and pointedly ignored by the well dressed and clean, early morning patrons.
Finally found the bathroom which was a single one with a locking door. Spent 10 minutes changing, and cleaning up. Still didn't look great, but I no longer had the whole, recently homeless, greasy bum, look.
I had my first real breakfast in two days, a cinnamon bun and apple juice. I had been eating junk food and fruit on the 52 hour bus ride. Then I went back to the bank.
I asked about getting an international account, and a few other questions, only to be told that it wasn't necessary and to change it would just be a waste of time.
So I had that out of the way at least.
Next I had to buy a few things, before I took off for China. And I wanted a chance to shower, and sleep in a proper bed.
Thus I did the most intelligent thing I could think of that wouldn't cost me a lot of money in cab fare, which at that point I couldn't really afford. I hopped a bus and kept a look out for cheap hotels or a mall.
Through absolute dumb luck I found both.
I saw a mall a few streets over from the road I was on, and tried to memorize where I had seen it. Then about 1 minute later, I saw a string of low priced hotels.
So I got off and broke numerous traffic laws, because I didn't realize you couldn't cross on certain sides of the street, even though they had traffic lights there.
Asking about rooms, I discovered something very important. Low priced hotels in tourist cities, aren't low priced. But I really needed a room, so at the third hotel with the lowest rates, I grabbed a room.
After showering, shaving, and letting my arms rest (my duffel bag was bloody well heavy) I was feeling human again. Even better, small children didn't run away when they saw me coming anymore.
I went to the mall I had seen. Grabbed a keyboard as my laptops keyboard was acting up. Got some material for sewing inside pockets onto my pants, and velcro to sew onto my pockets to close them.
The inside pockets and velcro were meant to stop, or at least slow down pick pockets.
I also looked for a power converter, because I had heard that the differences in voltage could cause trouble for some appliances. But the clerk at the shop said that wouldn't be a problem. Instead he sold me a device to make plugging my stuff into the electrical outlets a little bit easier. (All of this will come up again later)
At that point I decided to call it a day except where it came to food.
I grabbed lunch at an authentic Korean restaurant. The food was super spicy, and what they did the pork should be outlawed. It probably would have helped if they had told me I was suppose to put the bean sprouts into the soup to cool it down. Instead I would eat some of the soup, gasp for breathe as my mouth overheated, eat some bean sprouts and repeat.
That night, for what I thought would be my final meal in North America, I looked around for the perfect place. Most of the nearby restaurants looked a little overpriced, and nothing really jumped out at me.
Then I found it, the perfect place to have my final North American meal. I entered the restaurant and ordered a Big Mac, fries, and coke, large sized.
I'll post part 2 tomorrow.
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