My Impression to Canada
It’s always this case, “I cannot believe time flies until the last few days of a trip.”. At the first few days of this trip, I thought I have plenty of time and seems like I will stay in Vancouver for a long time. Yet, it’s just less than a month and it’s the last day already. My feelings towards Vancouver right now is still quite similar to the feelings I had in the first week, which is comfortable and Asians-packed. Vancouver is indeed my first city to visit in Canada. Before that, I have nearly zero impression to Canada, just a little bit imagination breeds after hearing what my parents and Canadian relatives said. I imagined Canada as a very slow-paced city, with lots of greenery and (white) westerners. In the reality, I don’t feel Canada as that slow actually. Maybe it’s because I still cannot get used to the life here, I always have a quick temper and want everything to be done fast without wasting any time, that’s a core mindset of Hong Kongers I would say. Also, as a tourist, I always want to utilize my time in an efficient way, that’s made me hard to feel the temper of this city. On the street, I still see people rushing or walking like normal pace in Hong Kong. Yet, maybe what made Canadians be more slow-paced are the extensive greenery everywhere that offers a large relaxing space to create that “Slow picture”. If I were given more time to be here, I may discover the slower aspect in a deeper way.
For the multicultural aspect here, it really amazed me. It was completely awesome to be in such a multicultural city. I saw white people, Hong Kongers, Mainlanders, Indians, Middle Easterners, South-Asians everywhere but not in just one time. I thought of something during my trip, can I define a part of real multiculturalism as “When you see people from different nationality, you won’t feel surprised and not dare to look at him for another time because of his appearance.”? Especially when I was on the bus sitting on the back, seeing what kind of passengers come next was sometimes an interesting thing. I can see that people are so used to it, seems like they think people from different races are local as well. In Hong Kong, we have to admit that we will “un”-intentionally look at people with different races from us for another time when we were on bus. My parents said there’s a lot of Chinese in Vancouver, but I didn’t expect to be that much. It’s like half-half.
However, one of the add-on impression on Canada is that people are in general quite nice and welcoming. Even though I still struggle in the “how are you” question and even sometimes unconsciously replied “sorry”as I cannot hear what she was saying, I have been progressing to feel more relaxing when replying this normal greeting. This kind of greeting and smile made me feel better than those in Hong Kong, which is to repeat “What can I help you”and keep following you in the shop to see if you made any troubles.
In general, something I really appreciate is the acceptance of Canadians to people from different places. Yet, it is always one-sided as I was just here for less than a month and having the role as a tourist. I went to a Church in Richmond last week and talked to a married couple from Hong Kong. They migrated to Vancouver for over 20 years already. They told me a bit of their hardships in being a migrant and Asian here for finding a job. I always have a question in mind that will Asians still be of a lower priority to the employers.
In this programme, I think I did progress a bit in my personal growth. This made me think of the first day coming to my room in St. John College. I was stuck with my travel router as I have no experiences in connecting such thing. Normally, the internet stuff was all handled well by my elder sister during travel. I never touch this stuff. That time I felt frustrated. Yet, I told myself that no one can help me and it’s a shame to call my parents to ask about that. I am always a person that don’t want my mum to feel my dependence on them. I tried another time and read the instructions carefully, it works! At that time, I felt a bit of “growth”. It may be a silly thing to many others but it is a record to myself. Independence comes when you have no choice but to try. In the second day of the river rafting trip, we visited Gold Mountain. We had to walk up to the mountain, yet, the UBC students told me that it is not a normal hiking trail but only a historical site so there is no roads. What we walked on were all rocks, mud, sand on slopes. For me, I don’t feel bad about walking on rough surface, having walked under sunlight and high temperature, biting by mosquitoes or having physically-demanding activities. I feel okay to all these. Yet, what made me scared was those slopes. I rarely go hiking and walk on slopes. The slopes are steep to me and especially when you stepped on those sandy area, every steps seems to be not stable and I was afraid that I will fall down. I feel very frustrated that time in my heart. I still pretend to be as calm as I could anyway, but I am very thankful that some of them hold my hands during those super-steep slopes (to me only maybe). I don’t think I can complete the walk before. I feel like literally challenging myself that time.
Another independence comes when we have to use google maps to find the directions and also try to observe in order to get used to the cultures of locals, like the norms when we were on the bus and skytrain. I was initially a person that don’t know how to read the map as there’s always somebody next to me to help me. Now, I learnt quite a lot by seeing how my teammates did and by trying myself. This is extremely useful for my Toronto Exchange in the coming semester. What made me feel that I learnt something or being a bit more independent is to look at what I did and How I feel. Now, I am brave to shout “Thank you” to the bus driver when I got off 99 bus to UBC at night, I am confident to talk when I bought a coffee, I can handle the 1-dollar-deposit-system in shopping trolley well without hesitation and embarrassment ( I took some time to use this for the first time).
Some days before, after having lunch with my friends, I suddenly thought of a Catholic Church I searched before, which is the Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown. I looked up to see the events of that day, coincidently, the confession session will start in 20mins and the regular weekday mass will start in 40mins. I hesitate for a second and then told them that I have to leave for some time first. I know that I will be regret if I didn’t go to visit this church at last. I rushed there myself using my superficial map reading skills. I entered and saw the gorgeous church-style designs. I sat at the back to see what’s happening first as there’s a person doing a prayer already. The whole environment made me think of my elementary and high school which are Catholic schools as well. My tears started to fall and I cried non-stop for a short time while trying my best to pretend to have a cold so I can use tissues to remove my tears. The whole atmosphere is just too touching and peace. This was a very special experience to me. I even went on to do the first confession in my life. To be honest, among the 20mins mass, I can only understand 20% of them as the person doesn’t speak in a clear way (from the perspective of a non-local). Yet, I can feel it.
For the river rafting trip, I love it so much! Actually, I don’t feel afraid before as I didn’t check the details of this activity. Only some days before when some of our teammates not joining, I started to feel that it’s a vigorous activity. On that day, I felt so excited when I saw how professional they were, to wear helmet, special clothing and shoes. During the rafting, I felt very excited as I love water so much! Before the trip, I was still thinking that I may sit in the middle so the people on the left and right side can protect me from falling down. Yet, it wasn’t the case as there’s no middle seat, and that we don’t have a left or right side “seats” but to sit on the edge of the boat but not inside the boat, which made me scared to some extent. However, after a trial, I was addicted to this excitement. I even volunteered to sit on the front for a trial as I like the time when water splash came and the first people will be the one to “block” all these. I have never thought of the action “volunteer for something challenging”will happen in my life.
Another kind of growth would be an interpersonal aspect. This is the first foreign study trip I had so far. In this trip, among this 9 people, I can see the diversities and differences. They all have different styles in talking, handling issues and making decisions. Some of them are more quiet and some of them are more outgoing. It is very important to be able to communicate as a team and respect the differences of each other. I am a very open-minded person so I feel no problem in getting along with this group of people. I feel really grateful to meet some of them that can keep contact after the trip. And everyone did inspire me in some ways. I am a thoughtful person, I observed a lot and I have lots of emotions towards what others did and say.
In terms of staying in a foreign place, I feel that I am open to new things and won’t have things like homesick. In Vancouver, I encountered a lot of new things like the way we speak, transportation and daily norms. Of course I took time to get used to the cultures, but in general I feel comfortable in living in a place out of Hong Kong.
During this summer programme, I would say I have more chance in dealing with English as there’s not just speaking but also listening to what other people say and to respond, as well as learning to read everything in English, like the road signs and menu. I cannot say I improved my English in less than a month as it’s a bit abstract to define “improve”. Yet, what I am sure is that I am more open to speak English now. I heard a comment from a friend that I spoke English in a spontaneous way that seems to be using very little effort. It’s actually that in HK, even we want to practice, people will regard you as weird to talk in English if it’s not your mother tongue and both of you know Cantonese. It’s hard to eradicate that mindset. To me, normally I am okay to speak English in daily life so I won’t say this English-speaking trip is very challenging. I can only say I feel more open and willing to speak English here.
What I did to improve my English would be jotting down the vocabulary I learnt on my smartphone. One thing that really helps in living in a foreign country is to learn to read the menu. At the first time, I don’t understand the menu in western restaurant at all as the words they used are not commonly used in HK or learnt in textbooks. Nevertheless, when more trials come, I become more confident in reading some of them as the sauce with long names, choice of soup and the section of the beef are always similar. Especially that I don’t eat tomato and spicy flavor, I will be very “motivated” to search if that kind of soup or sauce include tomato or any spicy ingredients, like Marinara sauce includes tomato. Also, I ate quite a lot of Japanese food here and I learnt to read the English version of Japanese Menu, like chicken teriyaki, and different flavor of Ramen. These was quite effective to me as my memory is quite good. I can remember the word after I got exposed to it for 1-2 times, especially when those words interested me. Another way to learn English is to listen how the locals replied in their native way. For example, some of the UBC students will reply me “That makes sense” after I talked about some experiences, which I found it quite confused sometimes. And westerns are always like replying like “Interesting”, “Cool”or some adjectives after people said something. Moreover, I got some chance to talk to people in St. John College during the meal time. I recently know a person from Middle East and another Indian postgraduate student. We exchanged our contacts. The Indian said it’s amazing to see that we two were effortless in carrying on the conversation for 20mins, when everything just starts with a “Hello” while both of us were using the food wrap to wrap some food.
Another way is that, I am open to talk to strangers. A few days ago, I felt tired so I left my friends and went back St. John earlier. During my trip from Downtown to St. John, I talked to a lady and found that she is an immigrant from Germany and was a Psychology Postgraduate before. We talked about the life in Vancouver and also Psychology major as I am from this major as well. This was quite cool to me.
Anyway, I am quite tired now and tomorrow would be my last shopping day here. Something to say is that, Zoe thanks so much for helping us these days. It’s not easy to be taking 10 people to transit to places and handle our issues. I understand the situation that we were sometimes late and passive in participating. Sorry about that, but for me I am a slow-to-warm-up introvert that I take time to get used to the environment and speak up. Yet, I feel that I am progressing.
And I really like the mini discussion time in Room 2166 (Forgot about the room number…) that I learnt about some Canadian stuff and even the time that I have to present about Musqueam, I still like it because before that, I expected a lot more academic elements inside. I like the way to learn like this.
And feeling a bit pity in losing the individual interview and farewell session!