Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Returning to Vancouver

I was ready to come home.  I really enjoyed the Spanish group.  I study well and work well.  When the weekend came and I had time to myself. I was glad to do the things I did but was ready to return to work.  There's a lack of purpose in being simply a tourist.  I remember bicycling across Europe that by three months it was a kind of life between lives and I was glad to get off the bike and take a job. A tourists flits about like a bird.  There's a relationship with other tourists which is itself superficial and passing.  In work one is in the depth of a place and culture.  The relationships aren't purely consumer.  As a tourist I begin to feel a bit like royalty must feel, other than.  I would have liked to have gone on the river boats and taken more pictures of birds. I would have loved to have driven to the capital. There's so much more to see in Costa Rica. I really hope one day to see the Caribbean side too.  In Quanacaste those I talked to enjoyed the hikes and I 'd have like to do that.  Maybe it was because I was alone.  Alone I'd done enough.  Even together when I was sailing for months I was glad to return to the routines I associate with work.  Were I independently wealthy would I worry about money going out and none coming in. I suspect so. There's something in the Scottish blood that doesn't like that equation.  It just seemed the break had done what it was meant to do.  I'd go back another winter for sure and ideally would sail to Costa Rica.  l loved studying Spanish.  I think learning another language teaches one so much about culture, anthropology, sociology and psychology. There's a real doing in the experience.  So many of my patients have English as a second language and when I've been learning Spanish I relate so much better to all of them after that because I really appreciate how much effort they are making to communicate with me.  When we went to Italy last year we didn't take a course in country but before going studied the phrase books and tried to speak Italian while we were there. That makes the whole tourist experience that much richer.  Language is such a window to the people of a place.  I enjoyed the teacher and the classmates.  Taking a course right off puts me in a relatiosnip with others and these people were great. I enjoyed we were all medical and had that in common plus our study of Spanish.  When I'd studyied Spanish in Cancun my classmates and I subsequently rented scooters and went off on a day of exploration and Spanish speaking. It's a great way for a lone person to meet others. This time we all dispersed but it was from the other doctors I learned of the Swiss Tavel tour that everyone had loved most.  I was the only one interested in Scuba Diving but would gladly have told everyone about Resort Divers of Quanacaste.  In Israel I was staying in the Anglican Church hostel and having breakfast there. This caused me to meet a group of ministers on vacation and we'd breakfast together sharing our days experience with exploration. It was the same when I stayed in youth hostels much younger and playing chess met other tourists and linked up with them to go to different places.  I liked all that about travelling. Travelling alone is more exposed and spontaneous so it's less buffered.  I've liked the Joni Mitchell "Freeman in Paris" experience of travelling alone but missed the good company of going with a friend.  Certainly ex wives and girlfriends have added to travel experiences in the past as did sailing the Hawaiian Island with Tom and then returning across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver with him. Very different experience than when I sailed solo to Hawaii in winter that other year.  There's a lot to be said for the variety of travelling experiences. I enjoyed this.  The everything included Hilton Package and everything one could want onsight at the Hilton Papagayos made it an adult playground. I felt a bit like I was in a precurser to an adult nursing home with all my needs and wants cared for. I simply had to take my body to the pool or the restaurant or the bano.  It was all there.  Most people didn't leave the gated community.  Were I to do one of these again I think I'd do just that too.
I was glad to return to English speaking world.  I have difficulty after a time with money and the second language issue.  That sense of being an alien that causes 'culture shock' which results in admission to psychiatric wards for immigrants seems to touch me.  I feel alien.  Certainly being alone increases this. But it's around money that I become slightly paranoid.  Everything required division by 500 since 500 was $ 1 roughly. I think those who do well with arithmatic in their heads do better with this bit of travelling. I begin to worry I'm being ripped off at little purchases.  I then pull out the calculator and see that what was my fear of losing large amounts was only in truth cents because the $5,000 colons was only $10.  I hate it most with tipping.  I had the paper money figured out in the week but the coins were difficult still.  Then too in Quanacastre American money is used equally to Colons so sometimes I 'd be using American dollars and other times I'd be using Colons.  Then I'd be worried I was 'being "taken advantage of" or being 'cheap'.  I began to worry what  I was thought of in these silly transactions.  Yet the whole business is to get the tourists money. Especially in the little shops in the shopping malls the potential for 'deals' was incredible. So buying a trinket for $10 was disappointing when a round the corner it was sold for $1.  I had to psychologically adjust to these things in a way that I don't have to in Canada. I like 'fixed' prices.  I don't like bartering on every transaction or thinking like 'sharp' businesman on every transaction. I don't like the 'paranoia' that is the basis of 'business' and it tires me to function in this mode. I can function is this mode amazing well but to me it's like being an assasin, I'd be great at it, really, but I'd much rather be a healer. There's a better feeling I have inside and I like to focus on feeling more like that. I like to look for the common hunanity and not compete to take advantage of each other in every business transaction. I don't like that after I am a 'mark' or a 'sucker'.  Very quickly I'm not interested in playing the game.
So I was missing Canada the day I departed. Arriving in Houston I liked that I was in an English speaking country. It reminded me of the wonderful feeling I got returning to England after months in Europe and hearing English being spoken all over on the streets. I liked that in Houston too.  But it wasn't Canada.  America is more barbaric and wild and raw and I always want to be carrying a glock with a lawyer chained to my wrist and a half naked woman with me beside a ferrari. I feel like the society is blatantly hollywood at times with so much emphasis on the superficiality of power and money.  That's in passing. When I 'm passing through in the airports that's my feeling of America.  Not in the street. When I'm in the states travelling on my Harley or in the truck or going to medical conferences it's a whole other things. My american medical friends and my other american friends are like brothers and sisters to me.  Yet in the crowd there's that other thing I can't put my finger on. Something about the collective.
I like Texans too.  Yet when I landed in Seattle I felt closer to home.  I've spent alot of time in Seattle and love it.  But getting on the Air Canada Jazz jet and hearing the stewardess speak Canadian and watching her politeness and concern for others made me feel at home. Canadians really are a well mannered bunch. There's a whole different thing going on in Canada that was apparent to me on that jet. We do have our assholes no doubt but overall there's something about Canadian culture that really attracts alot of people here and makes it hard to leave.  It's definitely not the weather that makes Canada so appealing. So it must be the people.
I loved coming home.  I liked the familiarity of the Vancouver airport. I liked the Punjabi taxi driver. I liked the multicultural experience that I encountered immediately that carries alot more mutual respect and appreciation somehow for Canada. I"ve met the occasional Chinese or Indian or Russian person who would like to change Canada to their country but mostly there's an appreciation for what people are leaving.  Most people I know want what is here and don't want  what they left. There's that sense in the community of Canada as alien as it can be. I think that's different from what I saw in Latin America and in the US. There's none of the poverty and hopelessness here that is there either.  In Costa Rica people were moving all over the country looking for work to pay the rent. Here it's a very different kind of poverty.
I didn't see a drug problem in Quanacaste. I didn't see a public drinking problem there either.  In fact if anything drugs and alcohol were pretty much frowned upon and discouraged in a way alien to pot head BC where the whole idea of the populace at large seems oriented to getting stoned or drunk.  I'm sure there was drinking and drugging but it wasn't mainstream like it is here.  70% of the country is Catholic and that conservatism seems to have protected the mainstream from the secular rave.
It's all superficial generalizations that one makes as a tourist.  Observations mostly made on ones own past. I didn't like being disconnected from the internet. $17 a day for connection. I realize I check out facts hourly now with my iphone here and didn't there.  I want to know things now.  I saw birds there that I didn't know the name of but here if I don't know something I learn it now.  So I really appreciated returning to the free wifi of the airport and the whole attitude of Canada and the United States regarding education. I don't know any country in the world where the Smithsonian would be free. That's what makes America the greatest country in the world. It's this desire to learn and the support of learning.  Free education is Canada was what made Canada a world class nation and the exclusion of the majority from higher education is going to be the downfall of our nation.  Only in the inbred wealthy children of England in the end could compete with the raw self educated Americans in their Revolution. The same is occurring now.
The whole scholarship thing was what got me my education. Meritocracy is what is necessary to make a nation strong.
I see that in all the free wi fi spots in America and Canada.  I see that in Blenz coffee shop free wifi. I can go there and have the world's libraries at my fingertips.  It's happening elsewhere. Cellphones were ubiquitous even with the young people of Liberia.  So it's happening. Its jsut happening faster here.
I was glad to be back 'on the grid' when I arrived in Seattle. I'm glad to be on the 'grid now'. I 'll be phoning my dad today and glad that the whole phone communication thing won't be so much of a challenge as it is elsewhere.
I was really glad to see Gilbert. He went berzerk.  It's the longest we've been apart and he was running in circles and squealing for ever. I felt fairly welcome. Angel was rubbing up against my leg and it was good to hug Laura too.  I feel alone in the cosmos alot and it's moments like this returning that I feel special and connected.  I don't think people care for me that much. I don't think people are very connected. The sense of life's journey as being born alone and die alone is with me much more especially as a result of the horrors of divorce.  I believed in community., love and all those other human creations before divorce. But divorce is that utter destruction where the person who you trusted most and knew you most intimately turns into Hitler and Osama Bin Laden. It's learning that living with people they can suddenly become psychotic and change to swamp things and unrecognisable mutants from another planet that makes living itself among humans terrifying. I never saw it coming. I never thought that my 'true love' could be a Sigourney Weaver Alien killer. I suspect that my partners felt the same for me too. So I think those who don't divorce can keep a higher measure of self worth and the worth of the fellow man. I'm paranoid of people since my last marriage.  I believe she was trying to kill me and almost did.  I believe my friends were rather impotent to deal with authorities on other occasions and that community is a frightening place.  I know patients who have been jailed for questionable reasons, seen people throwing into psychiatric hospitals and horribly abused, known patients from other countries who were tortured.  Humans can be very un nice.
So I really appreciate friends I have today.  I really do care for the guys I know. But the fact is every time I meet someone I look at them carefully because I wonder at some level if they are 'infected'.  Maybe it's my work that has made me so sensitive to the changes.  But I've been talking to beaurocrats and watched them 'lose it'. Suddenly I'm their mother or their ex husband or something and I see the change. I start ducking and worry how can I get away from this mad person. It's safe in my office because madness there is about people who have some insight. They're seeking help. But the madness in the street is terrifying.  The madness in beaurocracy is the worst because these people have a whole lot of power. So suddenly I'm talking to an armed policewoman with kevlar and she's checking my passport and I'm more concerned with talkign softly to her than any rattler or grizzly bear I've been with. She might jsut lose it here and then I'm caught up in her personal dram.a.
In other countries and other languages I'm not as 'fine tuned'. I'm like the fool in the tarot deck where as back in Canada I'm watchful and can be careful around the children with power and arrogance.  I'm safer in a way but much more alert in a different way.  I had great encounters with all the authorities on this trip and wondered what it was about me, them and the weather that resulted in this positive experience.   Other peoples emotional states are often like weather to me and yet sometimes I'm the one causing the storm in the tea cup.
A Chinese lady in the airport dragged her suitcase over all of our toes and hit our knees in this little space she had chosen to find a seat in.   She was with a surly husband who dragged his big suitcase to the same place but didn't hit anyone. I figured what she was angry at him for wanting to go to this seat and therefore hit all of us.  Her look was blaming and angry acting like she was the perpetual injured person while all of us were looking up at this rude unsocialized child. She was obviously wealthy but probably never toilet trained. Nonetheless it was that experience of 'bullying' I didn't encounter till I was back in the US.  The Latins were so gracious by comparison. When we bumped each other everyone said 'excuse me'.  Not at all like this woman who appeared to think we were an offense because we were 'in her way'.  I'm sensitive to these things and had to stop myself from acting on behalf of the half dozen injured people rudding toes and knees.  I wanted to get up and talk to her and her husband but then thought , whatever.  Children.
Now I'm back in Canada. I feel home. I got the sunshine I needed. I really felt after last years long last flu andwinter sickness I needed a bit of sun.  I could well have gone to los vegas for a quarter of the price if not less. I could have taken spanish classes there too so will think about 'getting the sun'.  Also I know in the past going skiing at Whistler and Blackhomb gave me the 'sun experience too so it's not just going south that will do it.  In Winnipeg if we got out cross country skiing enough on sunny days the winter was so much beetter.
The other culture makes me see my own differnently and I admit I have a whole new appreciation of my own surroundings.  I always return to Canada with such appreciation for this plac.e.  Vancouver is a beautiful city and it's a blessing to live here.
Time to go.  Enough rambling.  Work to be done and the routine to be re established. Normally getting off a week as a doctor requires doing twice thew work the week before and three times the work the week of return. I've had colleagues who stopped taking vacations because they couldn't stand the overwork required when they left the office.  I was taking emergency calls and emails the whole time I was away so have some second thoughts about connectedness.  Still I think that means that some of the work that might have been horrible isn't. In my first years of practice I returned to a death from every vacation I took. Somebody died and usually because they were turned away at the hospital or there wasn't any cross coverage.  I'm always afraid to walk into the office and see what has occured while I was away.  These days I'm hopeful though.
I'm looking forward to going to work. I'm glad to be back.  I've slept alot while I was away too.  Lying napping in the sun reading books I enjoyed.  I think everyone here should have a SAD Lamp. I really must gett to a tanning salon. Laura says I look so much better tanned. She looks great always.
Thank you Jesus for the blessing of time off from work, study, travel and sunshine then the blessing of return to friends and Gilbert and Angel.

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