Back in the CSSR*
After spending just one week in the States, it's good to be back in Canada.
I literally felt the muscles in my shoulders and neck relax as I passed through the Passport Check in Vancouver. It'd been a smooth border crossing, starting with the ability to fill out my Customs Declaration completely online, before I even got on the flight. So when I landed in YVR, I only had to go to one of the (many, open) kiosks, have my photo taken, and bring the printed receipt plus my passport and work permit over to the nearest Border Services Officer (no line, no waiting this time). Said Officer chatted me up as she checked over my documents, and sent me on my way with a "Good luck!" (in my work).
Contrast the experience of flying into the US, where I had to go through security twice, then fill out a customs declaration on the spot, then get interviewed by a border guard who growled at me while eyeing me suspiciously. Brrr.
I was supposed to catch a connecting flight from Vancouver to Victoria, which left me with three hours to kill in the airport. But when I reached my gate, I noticed an earlier flight (which I didn't think I'd make, and thus didn't book) hadn't boarded yet, and was leaving in half an hour. On a whim, I walked up to the desk and asked if they could get me on that flight. Without rolling her eyes, or sighing, or telling me there'd be fees involved, the agent just said "Sure," found me a seat, and printed out a new boarding pass right there!
From the Victoria airport, I decided against waiting for the first bus, and instead walked for about 15 minutes through forested parkland and farm-lined roads before coming to the main exchange, where a five minute wait had me on a bus heading directly downtown. The view from the bus stop was so good I had to take a few pictures; the shot at the top of this post is one of them. Forty minutes later, I was back at the apartment, safe and sound.
I've spent a lot of time knocking the Canadian Healthcare system here, and it has been the most surprising and frustrating part of the move. But so many things are better here than in San Diego: The roads are better maintained, the buses are cleaner, bigger (they have double-deckers here), and run more frequently. People are friendlier, as the cliché goes, but more than that, they seem genuinely interested in helping. Whether that's the ICBC clerk giving you your driving exam, or the passenger next to you on the plane whom you solicit advice on local hikes from. That attitude extends into infrastructure -- the roads, yes, but also even the water fountains are better designed, having spigots at the top now for easily refilling water bottles -- and the way events are run, like the ASL interpreter at the Canada Day celebrations.
In short, I can relax in Canada because I feel I don't need to do everything on my own, here. There's help available (for the most part, see healthcare) if I need it. And that makes all the difference.
*Not a political comment, just a play on The Beatles' "Back in the USSR"