Sunday, 10 August 2008

How To Combine Travel and Family

As well as having citizenship (and therefore no need for a working visa), I chose Canada because I had connections here already in case things went badly. My Uncle had made a good case for Vancouver last summer when I visited after summer camp (having already made a pretty good case when I first visited in 2005!) and when things weren't working out in the UK, it seemed like an excellent choice.

If I hadn't had family living here, I may never have visited and discovered the wonders of Vancouver. I probably wouldn't have had the courage to move abroad without a support network and this note would be quite different! Maybe even talking of a return to University in less than a month! Who knows where I'd be now if not here?

Since I had booked August off of work, for rest and relaxation after a busy 7 months and to see certain things that I had not yet seen, I decided to kick it off with a youth trip to Camp Latona (my 6th youth program as leader since getting involved with "Fuel" back in February!) and spent a few days hiking, doing watersports and having fun. I even got the opportunity to tell "the longest joke in the world" to a small group of enthralled youth - who then were maddened slightly by the punchline not being as worth the wait as they'd hoped (though I was complimented on my storytelling abilities).

Each evening we'd wrap up the day with a campfire, singing songs and talking to each other. I chose to use the time for reflection upon my life and the trip so far - thinking about my month working with kids, my relationship with Jill, my upcoming month of free time and my travel plans that were to unfold over the coming years. Dividing my thinking time between staring into the fire and watching the stars (lying by the shore under a clear, dark sky filled with stars and galaxies), I also began to think a lot about my family and friends back in the UK and how much I missed them.

I thought about how I was probably never going to live with my family again and how weird it was not to have seen anyone from England since January! I wondered when I would eventually move back to the UK, how often I'd visit before moving back and what everyone would be like when I did. I figured that the biggest change would be Harrison since babies tend to change more than teens or adults, though I knew that nothing would be the same. Even after only 200 days, the email updates and occasional phone conversations with my parents have revealed that my close family members have been doing a lot since I left!

After camp, I boarded a Greyhound bus to Calgary (for my Aunt's wedding) and had a thankfully uneventful journey (considering the horrors that had made international news a few days before my trip!), even getting the whole back row to myself for most of the journey which allowed me to curl up and sleep - when I wasn't writing letters to Jill for the second batch which was to arrive at her camp on the 9th.

I was picked up from the Greyhound terminal by my Grandparents and challenged on the way home to finish a "Peter's Drive-Through" meal (with famously large burgers, fries and shakes). I told them of my time in Canada since I had seen them in February and we had a good conversation. A couple of times their being old and conservative shone through and I was amused by their reaction to a man with spiky green hair. Discussing Jill, they told me to make sure I got their seal of approval on any girlfriend's that I was planning to marry, though I assured them that marriage was a long way off for me!

Hanging out with my cousins and grandparents in Calgary was a lot of fun and I am becoming much more familiar to them than when we were practically strangers in 2004! Kai was instantly comfortable around me and we went exploring and played in the garden. As well as cycling and soccer, we also built a house for some bumblebees, collected "neat" rocks and watched muskrats in the lake. She had a lot of energy and I wondered how I'd lasted a month with 20 kids when one was tiring after just one day!

At my Aunt's house I had a chance to kick back with most of my Calgarian cousins (Kai, Arah and Hannah) and we played "Rock Band" as I sipped refreshingly sweet cool raspberry beer. Kai took the drums (hardly missing a beat throughout! - impressive for a 5 year old!) and Hannah played guitar. I played "lead singer" and after a few songs, we set a new high score on The Killers' "When You Were Young".

I also hung out with Ron, Carole and Katie (who had also visited for the wedding), and we had fun playing pool and golf with Grandpa, as well as watching the Olympics and shopping. The trip has been great for getting to know my Canadian relatives better but I definitely miss my English ones and am hoping that my Dad's plans to visit in September don't fall through.

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