Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Daily Life in Richmond

Posted by speedygeoff on Wednesday, July 08, 2009 with 2 comments
Guest blogger Emma Adams!

Hello There Everyone!

Writing an account by email is one of the few ways I can take stock of our time here, and reflect on our new experiences. Life is very busy, and I also have to say, stressful at times.

Work-life balance is out of whack with the limitations placed on us by work visas and geography. And of course, my urge to heap as much on my plate as possible....did I mention the NBAS (neonatal behavioural assessment) that I have enrolled in through the Brazelton Centre in Boston?....which may have to be on hold until I start work back in Canberra.....which....arrgh! this sounds soooo bad, so I can arrange to do the Boston Marathon in the same trip.....which means I need time to qualify again!

At the moment, I am working full-time, and started studying to get the last part of my infant mental health course done and out of the way in the next little while. But what I would really like is more time to spend with the boys, on running, and on enjoying the gentle art of domesticity. The domesticity part of it is indulging in an afternoon reading on the couch in the sunshine, with the sense of pride, calm and smugness of a clean house, and maybe flowers picked from the garden in a beautiful vase. And a chance to organise some trail runs, and to do some crafts, and to have long lunches with friends.

Which brings me to a wonderful discovery......"Mrs Miniver" by Jan Struthers. This book is the narrative account of an upper-middle class mother in pre-WW2 London. She thoroughly savours her life, being middle-aged, and is mindful and appreciative of all the pleasant details, for example, in the first chapter, she brings home a "cornucopia" of chrysanthemums " they were the big, mop-headed kind, burgundy coloured, with curled petals; their beauty was noble, architectural; and as for their scent, she thought as she buried her nose in the nearest of them, it was a pure distillation of her mood, a quintessence of all that she found gay and intoxicating and astringent about the weather, the circumstances, her own age and the season of the year"....and then with a little sigh of contentment, "rings for tea". It is not at all a sentimental account of privilege and pleasure though, and later stories and letters discuss the preparing for the Blitz. A legend of this book is that Churchill insisted it had done more for the Allied cause than a flotilla of battleships and Roosevelt claimed it had hastened America's entry into the war. Recommended reading.

Over the last few days, Summer has declared itself in Vancouver. Riding a bike to work is something I try to do at least a couple of times a week,....unfortunately a back injury recently has limited this. Or when I drive, I park at Minoru track (so I can get to training after work) and walk across. This short walk each time lightens my heart, because it demonstrates to me each time what a wonderful community Richmond is.

Always, even in the snow, is a group of elderly Chinese-Canadians doing their outdoor exercises. It can be Tai-chi, or sword practice or fan-dancing. As well as the beauty of the movements, it shows the sense of connection and community.

I walk past the Richmond Library. This is a fabulous place. This is the main library for this community of about 160,000, but there are about 6 others here too, well-stocked and large, for local, walking access. The Minoru library is a large, modern and friendly building. In the same complex are housed the local art gallery, museum, and craft guilds such as the weavers guild, and other exhibition spaces. The library is set out in a very attractive manner, a friend said "it's just like a book shop!' The main displays change theme regularly, and new books are always coming in. You can borrow music and DVD's too, good ones. There is a HUGE chinese language section too of course. I recently obtained a library "prescription pad", so doctors can write what search terms a patient can use, and specially "sensitivity trained" librarians will direct the person to the literature by just giving them the nifty! And I have contacted the library who are always happy to buy what self-help books I have recommended.

After the library, I walk past the Swimming complex (2 heated 50 meter pools and a smaller childrens pool), ice-skating rinks (3 of hockey is huge here, but Minoru also concentrates on figure-skating), and then past the track. There is a 400m, olympic running track (with astroturf soccer or American rules field in the middle). I run here with my track club Kajaks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The track is always being used. With older people doing their "constitutionals" around, young families with children, or sometimes a group of kids with a hoarse voiced coach. What really strikes me is the huge age, fitness, cultural and ethnic mix of people out exercising together. I wish this happened more in Australia. I wish we had these wonderful facilities, which would help! In addition, at Minoru, there are also 2 Lacrosse fields, tennis courts and a senior citizens club, and a theatre complex!

After the track, I walk across the grasslands, home to a flock of Canada geese (which I am avoiding in this nesting season!), and if I look up, there is usually a float-plane lazily buzzing through the sky.

Then it is across the bridge and through the Minoru gardens and lake to the hospital. The gardens have burst into life since Winter. First it was the blossoms, then an amazing display of magnolias, the big flowers and the smaller stellate ones, and now the rhododendrons are just about finishing. Squirrels are running about on the ground and up the trees, I love the way they move, with their springy back legs in unison. The gardens are also home to many rabbits (thought to be pets that people have released), many are very used to humans and can be hand-fed. They are in all sorts of colours and sizes.

Canada has lots to offer by example to Australia, on how to live our lives and get on with people. Canadians are very polite, and easygoing generally. Our community is such a wonderful diverse group, and as I have said before Canada does multicultural much better than Australia.

However, Australians are much more willing to participate, maybe are more spontaneous, and just "dig-in" to help, I think this is our cultural strength of "mateship". Volunteering in Canada is very formalised, and I have been surprised that if things are not arranged formally, people won't help out as much as I had expected in Australia. I have noticed this in the school parents community and in the running groups. People were amazed that I helped out in packing up after a race when I, 1. had run the race 2. wasn't on the roster.

Photos 1. early morning exercise 2. and 3. the dyke, my commute 4. the boys riding bikes to school 5. weird ad for a Japanese restaurant in Richmond......WTF?? 6. float plane 7. canada geese 8.rabbit 9. chapel at Minoru park.

Running not going so well, not enough time for lots of long runs so focussing on track. Got a bit of bling recently, but times aren't as good as I hoped, because of backpain and lack of longer runs mainly.....and a really rotten headwind for the 400 and 200m. Wish I could have got to Sydney this October......but maybe later, one year I want to be able to prepare really well for a season. When I was at the BC Champs in Nanaimo (which was really an excuse to have a ferry ride and a night away from home by myself), got a chance to see some great Canadians masters runners.....and realised that it is a very very small world! One of my Kajaks training buddies still has the W60 world record for the 400m. And it is a really friendly and cohesive group.

Yesterday I watched the Kajaks International meet that our club hosts. An elite track and field meet (with a masters mile at the end of the day). What an amazing sight to see the American and Jamaican sprinters do their stuff. 46 second 400m for the men! The Mexicans cleaned up in the 5000m (places one to five). I hadn't expected Mexico to be a big running nation, but I suppose the training in the heat (and perhaps altitude) helps foster stamina.

Next on our agenda are the Summer hols. We are going to Quadra Island for a week (renting a house on the water, with kayaks and we can take Xena the swimming wonderdog!) before my parents arrive, and oh boy, do we have a lot of activities and sights to see for them. Rob and I will take a week off some time by ourselves, maybe riding our bikes around the gulf-islands and hiring sea-kayaks when the mood takes us, and Rob has a weeks cycling in Oregon planned too.

After the holidays, assignments need to be done for me, a lightning visit to Australia in September, then it is planning to come back to Australia. It will mean looking for a new place to live......anyone know of a nice 4 bedroom for sale?

Love Emma


  1. Hi Emma!

    I hear there's a vacant 4-beddy in Holt going cheap.