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Countries of contrast

Catching the last of the summer in BC

Patrick Guntensperger

Vancouver Island


From the South Seas to the Great White North

Last days of summer on Gabriola Island, BC


So we’re back in Canada.

A little over 36 hours in transit, including a six hour flight from Jakarta, a seven hour layover in Hong Kong, and 12 hours from there to Vancouver, 3 hours in Canada’s immigration office, and then a ferry trip across the Georgia Strait to Nanaimo and then a drive to Parksville was no picnic with a hyperactive 3 year-old. I think my favourite part was when JJ decided somewhere over Hawaii that it was time to do wind sprints up and down the Boeing 777, tagging anyone who was sleeping; four hundred weary travellers found that to be very cute; about as cute as a stomach pump. The payoff was the nearly terminal jetlag; Yolanda’s Dad and Mom and JJ crashed and burned as soon as we turned down their bed; three days later our body clocks are still screwed up and JJ has yet to settle into a pattern of sleep and waking time.

I’ll be eternally grateful to my buddy Art and his lovely wife, Marion; they picked us up at the airport with a truck they had rented in Nanaimo and brought to Vancouver. Marion’s son Jeff was there too, with his truck, so we had transportation to the Horseshoe Bay ferry for all of us and the luggage that was made up of everything we didn’t leave behind in Asia. The seven of us made the crossing together and then drove in a truck and one car to Parksville. I got popped for speeding sometime around midnight as we exited the highway and entered the Parksville city limits. Alex, Yolanda’s father, was blown away by the politeness of the RCMP officer who stopped us, wrote me a warning and neglected to solicit a bribe. When he displayed a big smile, said “Welcome home, sir” to me, and to Alex, “Please enjoy your stay in Canada!” Alex was gobsmacked.

In between bouts of sleeping off the flights and taking care of a bewildered and emotionally seesawing JJ, we are getting the yard and garden ready for fall, restocking the larder and cooking new foods for JJ and Alex and Ana.

 Despite our exhaustion, we are engaged in a whirlwind visit. Yolanda’s parents are being introduced to life in Canada and so far we have visited the Cathedral Forest, Englishman River falls, the famous Nanaimo waterfront, the Parksville boardwalk and community oceanfront park, Gabriola Island, and a dozen other places of interest, mostly involving the outdoors. Yolanda’s parents are experiencing a high level of positive culture shock; they are astonished at the open friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of all public places, the fact that access to most of the places we visit is free, the courtesy shown by drivers, the cheerfulness of employees of retail outlets, and the helpful decency of civil servants. Alex keeps remarking on the fact that Canadians in contrast to Indonesians seem extraordinarily outgoing, happy, and outdoor loving. JJ is totally entranced by all the little blonde girls, and has fallen in love with our neighbour’s little girl Marissa.

 We have until the middle of September before Alex and Ana head back to Southeast Asia and my little family tries to settle into a normal life. I have to restart the book that I set aside to go to Indonesia, Yolanda wants to get some work experience, and JJ needs to join a playgroup before we’ll know whether his hyperactivity needs any sort of treatment. In the meantime, we’ll continue to show my parents in-law around their daughter and grandson’s new home.

Sunny but cool with a chance of pumpkins


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