In April 2008, my wife and I decided to fly to Vancouver, Canada, at the invitation of our friends. We waited for one month to obtain a visitor visa. We left our children in the care of their grandparents and nannies, and at the end of March, we flew to British Columbia, via Frankfurt with Lufthansa.
The flight was long, lasting 11.5 hours, but quite comfortable. During the landing, we noticed a group of Canadian schoolchildren with their teacher, around 20 people, who were returning from a trip to Europe. The children seemed very well-behaved, composed, and direct. They settled not only in their seats but also on the floor.
Upon exiting the jet bridge at Vancouver airport, we were stopped by a female immigration officer accompanied by another official. She carefully examined our documents and asked some obvious questions. The feeling was not pleasant.
As we prepared for the trip, we had read in advance about Canada and its laws. We were aware that the government’s immigration department was like a state within a state, and the immigration service was accountable only to the country’s parliament. Moreover, stories about female police officers in North America had already become proverbial, so we tried to calmly and politely satisfy the officer’s curiosity.
After enjoying her job, the “Cerberus in a skirt” finally let us through to the main hall, where the official passport control was located and where they stamped our arrival in Canada. The hall was filled with people from all over the world. Interestingly, the employees, who appeared to be Indians, Chinese, and Slavs, smiled and even joked with the arrivals. We also noticed that the signs in the airport were exclusively in English and Chinese (?!) languages.
We were greeted by Svetlana, whom we had known since our time in Almaty. She put us in her stylish Chevrolet, which looked like cars from Al Capone’s era, and we headed into the city. Vancouver was unlike any city we had been to before – beautiful, serene, impressive, and stylish. However, perhaps due to the gloomy weather, it felt cold.
After passing through Vancouver City, we turned onto a peculiar street where we noticed many homeless people with their belongings, carts, and so on. It turned out to be an area where homeless and marginalized individuals gathered. Svetlana explained that they were kept in this area because they provided them with free hot meals in the park and, for those in desperate need, brought drugs. It was like a madhouse. Interestingly, there were volunteers from the general public in Vancouver who sympathized with these individuals and even helped them inject drugs discreetly with disposable syringes.
Sveta also told us a story about an acquaintance of her girl friend, who helped to receive a dose to addicted one. She was intentionally injected with the same needle that had just been used on him. The poor woman spent six months in treatment, fearing she might have contracted HIV. Strange practices indeed…
Our friends lived in Coquitlam, one of the districts of Vancouver. It was a peaceful and clean area with numerous sports fields, bike paths, and a park with its own lake. The lake was home to fish, and once a year, on “Father’s Day,” fishing was allowed. We were surprised to see dog watering stations and stands with disposable plastic bags in the park, which every dog owner was expected to use when cleaning up after their pets.
All the facilities and sports fields are essentially free, meaning they are maintained through taxes paid by every resident of Canada. There are both federal and municipal taxes. The amount of taxes depends on each citizen’s income. The minimum tax rate starts at 21% of annual earnings, which is not insignificant. By the way, tax evasion is considered a serious crime and is second only to murder in terms of severity of punishment.
Svetа’s husband, Rahim, was on a trip because his job for over five years involved long-haul trucking with his own (credit) freight tractor. He worked for a company that provided him with delivery orders for various cargoes, paying him a fixed tariff per mile. I don’t remember exactly how many cents per mile it was. He arrived the next morning.
His “mastodon,” for which he was paying off the loan, looked like this. Inside the cabin, there were all the conditions for a mobile lifestyle, including a comfortable bed, TV, WiFi, microwave, and so on. In general, it was a modern nomadic setup.
After having breakfast together, we set off on a trip to the town of Tofino, located on Vancouver Island.
First, we headed to West Vancouver to the port from which the ferries depart to Vancouver Island. The ferry turned out to be a large ship with multiple decks. The first deck was for car parking, while the other decks were for passengers. The journey took about a couple of hours. The surroundings were beautiful.
Upon arriving in Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia, we continued our journey for another two hours along a high-speed highway and a mountain road to Tofino.
The road was picturesque, with forests on both sides, mountains, rivers, and lakes. We even spotted some fearless deer along the way. We made a couple of stops to take photographs.
Canada is a beautiful country, but it can be cold both literally and metaphorically.