So What's My Story?

After 3 years of being a poor social worker (the work I loved, the pay I didn't), I decided it was time to go back to school and get my Master's! After weighing my options (school far away from home, or school in a different country that is only an 8-hour drive from home) I decided to try my luck in British Columbia, Canada.

For a year I lived in
Surrey, BC while attending Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. However, as the final component of my work toward my Masters degree in Criminology I have moved back to the states to complete an internship at an Independent Living Program for youth leaving the foster care system.

Here is the story of my adventures as a graduate student in a "foreign" country as well as my current work back in the states.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

"Crossover" Episodes

I don't know if this is just a coincidence, but in the last week I have seen two US based TV shows that have decided to do a story line revolving around Canada... King of the Hill's "Uh-Oh Canada" and the season finale of Criminal Minds.

In King of Hill, Boomhauer signs up for a Home-swap program with a Canadian family. He goes north, and has a romantic vacation with a Francophone, and the swapping family comes down to Texas where they complain about American beer, synthetic fabrics and noise when they are trying to read... turning off everyone in the neighborhood (expect Bobby, who learns to appreciate the metric system). Ultimately, Hank and the Canada Dad get into a game of chicken on lawn mowers, drunk, landing them both in jail with DUIs. I don't usually watch KOTH... a friend of mine told me about the episode... and it wasn't fantastic, but it had it's good parts (a couple things that I could definitely relate to!)

Criminal Minds had a case that, I believe, was loosely based on the Robert Pickton murders that happened up here in BC (and is currently still going through the trial/appeal process). Premise: Pig farmer kidnaps "untouchables" in society (homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes), brings them back to his farm, murders them, and feeds the remains to his pigs. The TV show took it a bit farther and made it into a manipulative paraplegic doctor convincing his huge, mentally retarded (think "Of Mice and Men") brother to do the actual dirty work and then utilize their spinal fluid to try to somehow "fix" the brother's condition. I didn't get nearly has many laughs at Canadian stereotypes from this show (but, then again, it's not a comedy), but there were a couple of relate able Canadianisms to be had! =)

All in all, if you haven't seen them yet... I recommend taking a look! =)

Surrey... the good, the bad, and the... beautiful! =)

Whenever I tell someone, for the first time, that I live in Surrey BC the response is generally something along the lines of a worried face or an, "oh I'm so sorry". Surrey is, unofficially, known as the headquarters for gang activity and drug dealing. While I do admit that on an almost nightly basis I see, what I suspect to be, drug dealing going on beneath my bedroom window, I think Surrey has a bad wrap.

By pure land area, Surrey is the largest city in the lower mainland, and the second largest in terms of population... so, doesn't it then make sense that it's risk for more "bad" stuff would be greater than other areas? That's my retort! lol It's funny how, after only living in a city for 9 months, I can already feel so attached to it. Attached enough to stick up for my neighborhood! =)

I feel blessed to have accidentally moved into this area, even it is the drug/gang/crime capital of the lower mainland... because this area also happens to be beautiful and full of wonderful outdoor opportunities for these few sunshine-y days that we've been having so far this spring. Officially, Surrey is known as the City of Parks. There are over 400 parks in this city which encompass more than 3,000 acres of land. Take a look at this map... this is my neighborhood. The section that you're looking at is only about 7.5 miles across... check out all the parks.

The two big ones you see, Green Timbers Urban Forest and Tynehead Regional Park, are both what this area calls "urban forests"... forests in the middle of the city... bordered on all sides by traffic and sirens and the bustle of the city, the moment you walk into the park you are suddenly in a forest with trees, lakes, creeks, wildlife and hiking trails. It's fantastic! I love it!

A few months back Jacob and I set out to explore Green Timbers, and last weekend we hit up Tynehead. It really is just a little bit of heaven to be out in the "woods" listening to the running creek, breathing in the fresh air, and watching squirrels running around "playing" with each other (Jacob insists they were doing something a little less PG, but I prefer not to think like that!) and then, after a nice hike, being home in less than 15 minutes.

May 2-4

This is Memorial Day weekend back home and I am in a country that doesn't recognize it... in all actuality, had it not been for all the "Going camping this weekend!" status updates on facebook, I would probably have no idea that it had come and gone! However, being in Canada, I was able to (somewhat) experience this country's version of a holiday in May... Victoria Day. This weekend, apparently originally intended as a day to honor Queen Victoria's birthday and that of whichever other Monarch is currently on the throne (no matter when his/her ACTUAL birthday is), has since become a day to become incredibly wasted. When I asked a classmate if anything exciting happens in Victoria, BC over the holiday weekend, her response was:

"I don't know if anything specific happens in Victoria, but this long weekend is typically a weekend to drink your face off, hence it's nickname 'May 2-4'. :)"

Yes, this weekend (also commonly referred to as "May Long Weekend"... they are VERY original over here) is nicknamed "May 2-4" due to the fact that it occurs SOMEWHERE around the 24th of May... but, more importantly, because beer comes in packs of 24. =)

While Jacob and I didn't join the masses camping and "drinking our faces off", we did do a little something out of the ordinary and went to the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair (you can take the girl out of the country, but can't take the country out of the girl!) We had a pretty good time watching the rodeo events, fair performances and people of all ages trying to stay on a mechanical bull... not to mention partaking in the fair food. They had your traditional funnel cakes (Yay!!!), hot dogs, lemonade, etc. But, I don't know that I've ever been to a fair where Greek food was a vendor option.

The rodeo was kind of a trip, too! At rodeos back home, we don't really rely on other countries for competitors... but Canada does. I would make a rough estimate that only about 1/3 of those riding were actually from Canada, the rest were from the good ol' USA. Even the rodeo announcer was a Texan. Because of this we sang both the American National Anthem and the Canadian Anthem, O Canada!. But the US was not the only "foreign" country present. They also had a "cowboy" from Mexico performing mid-rodeo entertainment with his horses. It was quite the interesting experience... including the security officials... some of which were police officers wearing turbans (nothing wrong with this, just not something I'd see back home), and Mounties in their "official" dress (you know what I'm talking about!).

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Layout

I was ready for a new look to my blog.... but it totally messed up all my layouts... so, if you're reading an old post and the pictures are cut off/weird, sorry... they looked good when I did it the first time! =)

Vancouver Barbie

One of my classmates posted this on facebook... it made me laugh. =)
I live in Surrey...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

-er or -re?

I just typed the word "centre" without even having to THINK about the order of the last two letters... does that make me Canadian now?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Croc-en-cannelle, s'il vous plait?

I don't really feel like I'm living in a "foreign" country on a day to day basis. All the pomp and circumstance I had to go through to live up here (not to mention every time I cross the border) seems a little silly to me as I'm JUST in Canada. I feel like the only culture shock that I've really had to deal with up here is from small, homogeneous city to BIG, diverse city.

And then I go to the grocery store and I get a little bit of a reminder that I'm no longer in good ol' Oregon...

Seems a bit classier in French, don't it? lol

Everything in the grocery store is in both English and FRENCH over here... not going to find dual language Spanish stuff very easily up here... and my parents didn't think I'd ever use my French... well, by the time I'm done up here, I'll at least be able to order my favorite cereal! =)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Canadians Take Honolulu!

Jacob and I decided to take a, somewhat, spontaneous vacation to Hawaii during my break between terms. We were sooo tired of the cold, wet weather and wanted to get away from it for awhile. So, on April 28th we flew to Honolulu for 4 days in a tropical climate!

Guess what we found there? Canadians. EVERYWHERE!

Our shuttle to Hanauma Bay was full of Canadians (Edmonton, Toronto and Chilliwack). At a burger joint for lunch one day the group at the table next to us was from somewhere in Canada. We turned on the TV in our hotel and there was the Canucks. Everywhere we turned, every tour we went on, there were Canadians! I guess we weren't the only ones who needed a break from the extended winter! We got back up to BC earlier this week and I started preparing for the new term and getting the online class that I"m a teaching assistant for organized. My students are all suppose to post an introduction on the website so I know they are up and running. One of my students introduced himself by saying, "I just got back to BC after a vacation in Hawaii"... lol

On another note, we had a fantastic time on our shot visit to Oahu. We went snorkeling at Hanuma Bay, drove mopeds around the island and through the mountains up to Pali Lookout, climbed Diamond Head, took a horseback trail ride on a ranch on the North Shore, walked the beaches of Waikiki and the eastern shore of the island, and rented a convertible to drive around and explore on our final day. We came home with lots of memories... and some pretty massive sunburns!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Some see the this Vancouver nickname as derogatory as it refers to the large number of Chinese and other Asian immigrants in the area due to many waves of immigration throughout history, however, about 1/5 of the population of the Vancouver-metro area are from Chinese decent (other Asian ancestries are in addition to this). Approximately 1/2 of Vancouverites have a language other than English as their first language (with Asian languages being at the top of the list).

I hear a variety of Asian languages spoken every day. I've seen a man on the skytrain reading a newspaper with characters rather than letters. And today, why checking out the bulletin board at school, I saw at least half a dozen notices that looked a lot like this:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canadian Tax Returns... Boggles the Mind

My Canadian tax returns were waiting for me when I returned from my brief hiatus to Hawaii (more on that later). As always, it's nice to get a little bit of "free" money. But here's the interesting part; Apparently I made a mistake on my return and they sent me a statement explaining the correction they made and the new amount they calculated... which turned out to be MORE than I had originally figured I should be getting. I kinda like this Canadian system... lol