I met my new "family" in stages. First of all, after sitting nervously with my cousins' dog Chloe for a short while, Garth and Barb arrived. Garth is the man of the house; he is a musician and works in a high school. Barb is his wife and also works as a teacher. They both seemed to recognise me but I don't know why because I had only ever seen them in the pictures that they had sent me.
The eldest son, Jesse and his girlfriend Virginia arrived next. Jesse is 23 and works as a plumber. Virginia is 20 and studying Journalism in university. She is moving to Austria next month for 5 months in Vienna as part of her course. Shortly afterwards, Uncle Ron arrived and we sat down to dinner.
After dinner we drove (about 2 miles) to my new home. I was given the tour and shown to my new room. It had recently been painted and Jesse was going to install a sink for me as well. A basket of fruit and snacks had been left on a chair for me so that I didn’t go hungry trying to be polite by not snacking.
I then met the two (extremely excitable) dogs, Rosie and Whiley. They barked and ran around me; inspecting the new guest. I was also introduced to Lisa, who the family have lodging with them as well. She has Down's syndrome and can be hard work apparently, though she is usually a lot of fun.
The final person to meet, Cory, was at work so I would have to wait until the morning. I sat with the family in front of the TV and was shown how to use the "uber-remote" which basically controlled every electronic device in the room! We watched ice hockey and they tried to explain the basics of the game to me. I was also told that the Calgary Flames were the Vancouver Canucks' biggest rivals! This made picking a team difficult because I didn't want abuse from every person I met, but I also didn't want to stop supporting the team that I had quasi-supported since about 10 years old!
I was then shown how to use the kitchen (including an oven with electronic lock) and shown around the downstairs "games room". The games room connects all three of the guys' rooms with the hallway (containing the stairs to the main living room) and is filled with DVDs, games consoles, sports equipment and has a large couch for us all to lounge on in front of the TV.
Upstairs the main living room leads into the kitchen and out onto a balcony. Garth and Barb sleep upstairs and there is also a guest room and a computer room. Downstairs, across the hall from the games room is a second bathroom (under construction by Jesse), the garage, utility room and Lisa’s bedroom.
Unlike most Canadian houses, houses in Richmond are built on silt and so cannot have basements. Also, if there is ever a large earthquake, most of Richmond would sink. Coupled to this is the fact that, like Severn Beach, most of Richmond is below sea level. This also makes it at risk from flooding in a big storm or from Global Warming. Apparently, these are things that the children have to come to terms with at an early age, during their school earthquake drills!
Cory, Garth, Barb and Jesse Bowen
Feeling at home is a strange expression. When a host says to make yourself at home they probably mean something more like "sit down and have some crisps from the snack bowl" than "feel free to sleep/raid our fridge/watch TV". However, when I say I feel at home here, I’m not trying to say that because I have a room and food access here I feel like I do when I’m in England, but instead that I at least feel comfortable in my new surroundings.
This doesn't mean that I am not missing home, nor that I no longer consider my old home "home" but that I am having a good time and feel happy with my new lifestyle at the moment. I am enjoying the experience and am thankful for the opportunity and the efforts made by my new family to welcome me.
In the few days that I have been in Richmond, I have sorted my money problems (Natwest thought that someone had stolen my card and moved to Canada!), rebuilt my bike, spent some time with my cousins as well as each member of the Bowen household (including Virginia, who now lives here too!), seen some of the people that I met whilst here over the summer and hung out in both the Reed's house and the Bowen's house.
I have been to a sushi cafe with Cory, swimming with Jesse and Virginia, fallen asleep watching movies in multiple houses, played "Mexican Train" , seen "There Will Be Blood" in the "theatre" (cinema!) and eaten at Earl's (which turned out to be a restaurant!).
For Virginia's trip to Europe she was provided with fact sheets about moving abroad and the history of Canada so that she can answer the Austrians when they ask her about the 4th prime minister or the main crop of Alberta! I have read through the booklet and it is actually quite interesting (as well as being incredibly in-depth). From it I hope to learn a lot more about BC, and Canada during my stay.
One thing that it contains is the National Anthem in both English and French. One of these weeks I will set myself the challenge of learning both but this week's challenge has already been selected.
Upon spotting a Rubik’s Cube on the table I mentioned my inability to complete them. After a few minutes under Cory's tuition I am now able to complete most of the cube without help. My aim for this week is to go from "Novice" to "Pro" (completion within 2 minutes, unaided!).
Wish me luck!