Fire and Water

I got a taste of true Okanagan summer last week.

Until last week, it hadn’t really felt like summer — the weather seemed more like fall. It was still pretty cool outside and rained off and on a lot. Normally, Okanagan summers are extraordinarily dry. One of the reasons I wanted to come here for the summer was to get away from Ontario’s rainy weather (although I have come to the conclusion that it’s quite possible that the rain follows me, considering that Ontario has been dry and it’s been raining here).

Anyways, last week was sunny and really hot – we had an awesome day at the beach and everyday at work it felt like a heatwave under the layers of our uniforms.

Two days ago there was a fire really close to Armstrong. A wood plant  caught fire and on my way home from work I saw everything through a thin filter of smoke, which got more and more thick the closer I got to Armstrong. There were planes flying all around the area, trying to control the fire (you can watch a video of the fire here). It was pretty scary, because I had no idea if it was a wild forest fire or what. There was no local news on TV and the radio was playing the UK Top 40 (seriously?! I found out more about the UK than my own city that night. FYI, American artists are tearing up the charts over there, too.)

Anyways, it was a brand new experience for me because fires are not common in Ontario. I was sitting watching TV and out the front window you could see all this smoke floating around, and this is a pretty regular thing in the Okanagan.

The fire was controlled and I don’t think anyone was seriously injured. The next day the temperature cooled outside and it rained off and on all day. My drive home from work last night was a totally opposite experience from the day before — there was some sun peeking through the clouds while drops of rain splattered my windshield. To the left of me there was a beautiful, large rainbow shining.

At home, instead of seeing smoke outside the window, as I stepped outside the front door I was greeted by two beautiful rainbows. I guess everything works out in the end.

Spot the differences: Ontario versus British Columbia

So I’ve been in British Columbia for over a month now, which is just enough time to notice some differences between Ontario and BC. The following is a compilation of eight differences. wooooooo

1. Tim Hortons

In BC, you’re able to use your debit card to pay at Tim’s (whereas in Ontario there is not one Tim’s that lets you do that). Also, there is a wide variety of lattes and espresso to choose from. Starbucks is more popular here than in Ontario, so that may be why there’s an espresso option. Ontario needs to catch up cause our Tim’s is slacking!

2. Minimum wage/Maternity leave

Although our Tim Horton’s may be far behind the ones in BC, Ontario gets a couple of points for minimum wage and maternity leave. The minimum wage in Ontario is higher (even though I would wager a guess that the cost of living is higher in BC), and mat leave in Ontario is also way better than in BC. Don’t know why, just something I’ve noticed.

3. Ciders/1516

Okay, so at all of the restaurants I’ve worked at in Ontario, none of them sold ciders. I think I have one friend that drinks Strongbow, but besides that I’d never really heard of a cider. They’re so popular in BC — people drink them like it’s their job. Also, the most popular beer at one of my jobs is 1516…What’s 1516? Yeah that’s what I was wondering too. It’s a local, Okanagan Springs beer. We definitely don’t have that in Ontario.

4. Smoking/Drugs

Apparently there are a lot of drugs in BC, and I never really heard much about hard drugs in Ontario. People talk about them all the time and drug issues are constantly being brought up on the news. It’s interesting though cause one girl I work with comes from Manitoba, and she said that she thought that drug use was very minimal here compared to her hometown. I guess every province is different.

Smoking is also way more popular in BC than in Ontario — it’s still very common for people to smoke here. I think it might be because smoking was banned in restaurants earlier in Ontario than it was here.

5. Pronunciation

Okay, this is nit picky, but everyone here calls Cabernet Sauvignon wine “cab sav” instead of “cab sauv,” — refusing to acknowledge the “U”. Must be because there is zero French influence here.

6. Hitch hiking

I never ever see hitch hikers in Ontario, and the first day I got here we saw several. It was so uncommon to me, I thought they were being

Don’t try this on the side of the road. Only use thumbs up with caution.

friendly so I threw them a thumbs up back. Turns out they weren’t being friendly… (Unfortunately I’m not that ignorant and that never happened). Anyways, I see hitch hikers every day on my way to work. People say the reason why it’s more common is because it’s so much warmer here.

7. Laid back

In general, people here are super laid back. Have to wait in line for half an hour at Tim’s because everyone is paying with debit or feel like having a friendly chat with a hitch hiker? Meh, no big deal dude.

I work with a guy who is from London and used to work at a golf club there, and one of the first things he said to me was that it’s way more laid back here (which I’ve found to be incredibly true). The warm weather and beach type atmosphere must have something to do with it. I went to a job fair and a lot of the girls were wearing jean shorts and tank tops, whereas at job fairs in Ottawa people wear nice pants and blazers. In general, it’s a lot more “chill” than “formal” here.

8. Landscape

So I think the reason why people are okay with #2 (minimum wages/mat leave) is because it is so amazingly gorgeous here. The scenery is unbelievable. Every time we drive in to town I’m blown away by how beautiful the mountains are. Also, it’s been raining quite a bit too so everything is really green right now. I love when it rains because patches of clouds hang in the hills and you almost feel like you can reach out and touch them. It’s also neat that you can look at the mountains and see patches of sunlight and cloudy areas, and mean while it could be raining wherever you are…It’s different than Ontario because when it’s flat all you can see is wherever you are, whereas when there’s elevated land you notice all the differences in your surrounding areas. So cool.
Anyways, those are the main differences I’ve noticed so far. Both provinces are sweet and have their pros and cons. One excellent similarity is that the people are great in both places.

ZUMBA! Plus awkward hips, smiles, and inspiration.

Lately I’ve been immersed in a Zumba-filled environment. You might be thinking “uh Grace, Zumba isn’t even a word…I thought you work at a newspaper. Shouldn’t you know how to spell?” Correct — it’s not in the dictionary and I should know how to spell. It’s actually the name of a company. ‘Zumba Fitness LLC’ is a Latin/international dance fitness program — and people are going crazy over it.

My sister Robyn is a Zumba education specialist (ZES) and I met up with her in Edmonton two weekends ago for a couple of workshops. My sister Nadine and I were her assistants as she taught people how to become instructors.

Nadine, me, and Robyn selling Zumba wear. hollllaaa!

The next weekend when we got back to BC I ended up taking her workshop (so yes, technically I’m now a certified instructor. I still need an excessive amount of instruction though, so I won’t be instructing any others any time soon unless it’s on how to take a break.) No, this won’t be a blog post describing how awkward it is to do body roles and how my hips are a little too connected to the rest of my body. It also won’t be about the time when I was doing a Salsa move a little too aggressively and ended up knocking over a woman in front of me… (don’t worry. That was only a horrifying dream.)

The best part of the Zumba training was seeing someone doing something they’re truly passionate about. Robyn is passionate about dance and fitness, but her passion for people and developing relationships is ten fold.

During the lecture portion, Robyn talked about the importance of the role of an instructor. She said that as instructors, they have the responsibility and privilege to make people feel special. She pointed out that some people go through a whole day without being acknowledged or even smiled at — it’s important to remember that you don’t know what people go through and what their life is about. By simply smiling at someone from the stage, saying “hi, how are you” or “I love your new haircut,” you can make an individual feel really special because finally someone noticed them. This doesn’t only pertain to Zumba instructors — this attitude can be a lifestyle. We all know dance is the universal language, but I’d say smiling is as well. One of my favourite pass times is laughing, and I love that no matter what language people speak, smiling and laughter always mean the same thing.

I discovered that no matter what your daily routine is, you can make a difference in someone’s life in just a couple of seconds — and I know this works. Everyone in the room felt special because Robyn made sure she took the time to acknowledge each person.

Afterwords I was helping Robyn by typing up the evaluations that the participants filled out after taking the workshop. There were many comments that said participants left the workshop feeling “inspired.” Being inspired is one of my absolute favourite feelings in the world. I love when I become inspired by someone or something. Robyn has a job where she is a catalyst for inspiration, which is the ultimate goal for me. I hope that I end up doing something I am equally passionate about where I can ignite some inspiration in others. Robyn could literally introduce herself like this: “Hi, I’m Robyn and I’m a catalyst for inspiration. My favourite colour is purple and I think it’s hilarious when people shake a floppy fist when they’re angry.”

People always seem to ask “what do you want to do after school?” or “what’s your career going to be?” To be honest, I only have broad ideas and don’t have a definite answer — and I’m not too worried about it. The most important thing to me is that I make a difference in peoples lives, and I can do that in pretty much whatever career I choose. I can even accomplish this by letting the public witness my awkward hips while doing Latin dance. Who doesn’t like a good laugh at something ridiculous like that.

Robyn doing in her thang in Edmonton

Oh hey

So… this is my blog. I figured I should start one so that my friends and family can keep tabs on me while I’m out gallivanting around and raking in the adventures.

“Laughter: an instant vacation” is where you’ll find updates on what in the world is going on in my life. Hopefully some humour and a little bit of wisdom will grace its pages as well.

Straight up — I’ve never been good at consistently journaling, but I’m always up for a challenge. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person, so we’ll see how frequently this blog gets updated.

Well, guess I better go have some adventures now…Good thing I never leave home without my game face.