« mei 2005 | Main | augustus 2005 »

30 juli 2005

Our backyard

Two more gorgeous days in North Vancouver, and we spend them in our backyard...

The Lynn headwaters park is just down the road for us. Last sunday we already hiked up to Norvan Falls. A 15 km. hike with little elevation gain. The area is totally forested. The main trees are red cedars and douglas firs. Especially the cedars grow very tall, 30 meters.

All the important paperwork is done. That means Robin is gettig his regular naps again. Which again improves his mood.

To get in shape for some more hikes, we went to Lynn peak yesterday. This hike is quit teh opposite of teh hike we did to Norvan Falls. The hike up Lynn peak is relatively short but very steep. We gained 700 m in 3 km. Bas had Robin in the backpack. And these days carrying Robin means a load of 15 kg. Pfff.. We lost some swaet on that peak, but it was worth it. The view from Lynn peak is excellent.

(Ge-an with the Greater Vancouver area in the background)

Today, saturday, we did a very short hike, still in Lynn valley. This time we went to the Lynn canyon suspension bridge and twin falls. At the beginning there is a small but very nice ecology centre. This is a popular place for tourists aswell. The hike itself was about 2 km.

Tomorrow we will drive to Chiliwack (1.5h east of Vancouver) and will hike up to Mount Cheam. A beatifull alpine environment.. Mt Cheam is just over 2100m high.. The views should be amazing..
It will be busy since people have a long weekend (Monday is BC day)..

We still have to plan the rest of week, when do we start driving up north, it depends on several other things.. We'll see...

Posted by Brijn at 09:56 pm | Comments (0)

29 juli 2005

Happy Birthday!!

It's the 28th of July and we are already a week here. And today is my birthday!

First yesterday, we had to take care of the last official paperwork, getting our Social Insurance Number (SIN) and getting MediCare (the basic medical insurance in BC). We were amazed by how easy and quickly all that went. Ten minutes and we were on our way again. I believe the dutch immigrant service (IND) can learn a lot from their canadian colleagues.

Later that day we went to Deep Cove, a picknick area around a fjord. Lots of sailing boats and canoes there. Even a small swimming part. At those moments being here feels as just being on holiday. Every scene is still new to us.

And then , today... Iced Angel Food.... mjummie. Blue skies all over, just like we had for the past six days. And two other tasks waiting to be completed. But first it was time for presents and cards. Thank you all for the many (e-)cards & phonecalls I received, I really enjoyed that!

So on this beautifull day we had to take another trip to the bank. And it seems we have been upgraded, hooray. This time we got to go upstair, and met with a financial consultant. A lady with gold diamonds on her business card. It is getting more and more clear to us how the banking in Canada works. And one part is building up a relationship with the financial consultant at your own bank. The other is getting a (good) credit history. We will needs to show a good credit history the moment we would want to buy a house. Hence we applied for a credit card. Since we do not yet have any credit history in Canada (and our Dutch credit history means nothing here) we have to deposit te full sum of the credit into a secured bank account. Just to make sure the credit company runs zero risk when issueing a credit card in our names.

The second thing we did was get advise on some other insurances from BCAA (in the Netherlands: ANWB). We do have a new but second-hand car, we do have standard insurance for that and even 90 days full service with mechanical problems, but we also plan to take that car into Alaska and back, and 7000 km round trip. And we would like someone to tow us to a service station if the car does break down.

Coming back at our appartement we found some more stuff from our neighbours. It's actually very funny, it seems the are all very concerned about the fact we don't have our things yet. While we don't mind camping in our appartement, it seems our neighbours do. Later this evening Wendy from the other end of the block came with a toaster. And we allready have a table 3 chairs a television (!) and some toys for Robin. Everyone here is so friendly.......

(Ge-an)

Yesterday we also went to a barbeque that was organised by somebody from a hiking website I (Bas) have been active on for a while. It was nice to meet all these people. It was a very international gathering. The BBQ was planned in such a way that we could attend, they remembered how it was when they had just immigrated, and how nice it would have been to meet people then... Again, Canadian people are super friendly..
Got some useful tips there as well

At the end of today we drove to the Lighthouse Park, a small park at the end of West Vancouver. We had a really nice view on downtown Vancouver from there. The picture below show Vancouver with in the background Mt Baker (USA).

Tomorrow morning we want to hike up Lynn Peak.. A short but steep hike in our back yard :)

(Bas)

Posted by Brijn at 05:35 am | Comments (5)

26 juli 2005

We got some wheels

Monday was a our buy-a-car day, it took a while, but we are now the owner of a nice Chevrolet Tracker (really a Suzuki).

Sunday we had a day off. We did a hike in our new backyard: the Lynn Valley Headwaters park. The first part is a very easy walk that is used by many runners and elderly walkers.. After the first, gravel road, part it turn into a mor interesting trail. Very nice, but we will need to get used to all the bugs.

The walk was a 15km return trip, Robin enjoyed it as well.. Walked small parts of it, but mostly enjoyed it from the backpack..

Pictures can be found at http://gallery.brijn.nu/canada

Monday was dedicated to buying a car. Since I had waited to long with transferring funds to our Canadian account it was a bit of struggle to get all the money that we needed in the account. In the end the quickest, cheapest and easiest way was to get money from our ABN account out of an ATM, and then later deposit it at the bank.. But even if there is enough money sitting in the ABN account, the cards will still block after a certain amount.. All in all it was a bit of a juggle to get it all there in time..

The car buying process is itself was straight forward, but lengthy. We test drove the car and where happy. The sales person made up a proposal (stating the sales price etc).. He then runs this past a sales manager who has to approve it. After that we can approve it..

The next step was handled by a colleague, she took care of all the financials.. and yes... here we wrote our first cheque :-)

The last step is to get the mandatory basic insurance coverage, called Autoplan. For that it turned out that the car had to be AirCared, an emissions check that is mandatory in apparently a part of BC (???).. This took another half hour.

Almost five hours after we started the test drive we were the proud owners of a 2001 silver-grey Chevrolet Tracker 4x4 (really a Suzuki Vitara).

Posted by Brijn at 04:41 pm | Comments (1)

24 juli 2005

Banking in Canada

We new that the differences in banking where huge between The Netherlands and Canada... But that we would be standing in the bank laughing out loud... no.. that we didn't expect

On our second day (Saturday) we had an appointment with our bank. We opened a savings account here last year, while on holiday. We wanted to convert this account to a checkings account so that we could use it to pay in shops and write cheques to other people.

Since we are completely unfamiliar with how banking works here we got a nice explanation on many of the basics:
1) There is no mentionable amount of interest on either savings or checking accounts. So we got rid of the savings account. We don't have much many here anyway at the moment. But I will need to check later if other banks offer better rates (I think ING Direct has a better offer)
2) You pay the bank for using many things. For example, for $3.95 per month you can do 10 self-serve transactions. A selve-serve transaction is getting money from an ATM (pinautomaat) or paying in a shop, 4 full-serve transactions. A full-serve is when you go to a teller (an employee behinf the counter).
When you want to use your card to pay in shop you can if they support Interac (big relief for me, I'm so used to that)... but... every transaction costs $1.50!!!

And several other things, if you want more things to be free, you get a bigger package. A package that is unlimited for everything will cost us $24.95 a month.. But this fee is waived if you keep $5.000 on the account.. As soon as it drops below $5.000 you will pay the fee..

All clear, then we got the question about what design our cheques should be... Huhhhhhhh... How do you mean... It turns out the cheques come in a zillion different layouts. And you can choose one :-) Amazing...
I'm thirty years old and don't recall to ever have used a cheque in the Netherlands. So a personalized cheque was something I had never thought off..
We choose a cheque with an photo of mountains in Banff National Park on it.. I'll scan one if we get the scanner..

At this point we had been with her for more then an hour, but where finished. We decided to try if we could get money from the ATM from our ABN-AMRO account and deposit it in the Canadian account.
If you transfer money between the banks (using internet banking) you pay 11 Euro's cost per transaction. I wanted to see if withdrawing money from the Dutch account directly was cheaper..
We were able to get 2x $1200 using both cards and deposited that on the Canadian account.. Sounds simple.. But the depositing was the really fun part.
In The Netherlands I can also deposit cash money atABN-AMRO. I go to the machine, put in my card, a cover opens and I can place in my money.. the machine makes a funny noise while counting the money and tells me how much it was..
This is what I was expecting here, and it was, up to the point where you have to feed it the money.. here you enter the amount you want to deposit, get an envelope, put the money in, and feed the envelope to the machine... Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... Somebody is taking these envelopes out, counting the money and then comparing it with what we told the machine??? Wowwww :-) It seems that after the machine has accepted the envelope the money is already in your account. Will be interesting to see how they change it when you make a mistake with counting..
Ge-an deposited also a few years old cheque that so got from a travel agency as a refund.. Same story, enter the amount, put the cheque in an envelope and feed it to the machine..

That was our banking experience up to now, we have still have to use the Interac system for the first time.. But that is probably OK..
Fortunately for us Canada is also moving more towards what we are used to in The Netherlands.. There is a good change that after I have found a job, I will not be given a cheque to deposit.. But they will Direct Deposit the money to my account... :-)))

The rest of the day we spent looking for a car...pffffff... what an ordeal.. The car sales people here apparently work on a comission basis and will do anything to get you to buy a car.. that doesn't work to well with us..
We started of looking for a Toyota Corolla. but there are not to many available and since they are import cars they are relatively expensive.
Our list now constists of two widely different cars:
1) Dodge Neon, 2000, 70.000km, $9.488
2) Chevrolet Tracker, 2001, 86.000km, $12.500

Since they are both fairly recent american cars reliability is OK.. The tracker is really a Suzuki.. The Neon is a family car, the Tracker a real 4x4.. Gas mileage is obviously better for the Neon.. But not to bad on the Tracker since it's just a 2.0L 4cyl..

Neon is cheaper, the Tracker the car that would like to have in the end anyway..

Pffffffffffffffff, not easy

Misc things of yesterday.. People are so super friendly. We went for a walk around the appartment area.. Robin saw a dog and started talking to it, the owner came to us and we have a really nice chat with them..
There is a small forrested area behind the appartments, she told us that a bear had walked down to there three weeks ago :-) They follow the creek bed :)
We found that there are many Garage sales over the weekend, a good way for us to find cheap furniture and other items.. So we will start today (Sunday) by checking some of them out...

After that it's time for the first hike in the Lynn Headwaters park.. Weather is absolutely amazing, so will try to get an early start..

Posted by Brijn at 03:35 pm | Comments (1)

23 juli 2005

Our first day....

YES!!! We finally made it to Cananda! After a very long day with 3 different planes (Robin kept yelling "vliegtuig, vliegtuig" all day) we are here. Not even a very sour german ticket controll lady could keep us from coming....

[Don't mind the spelling errors, we blame the jetlag and fix it tomorrow]

In the plane Robin kept the other passengers awake by running laps in the rear end. He enjoys runnning. He has so much energy. We too enjoy his running, it makes him tired in the end, without getting us completly tired too.

Th last thing about flying to Vancouver.... If ever you do have to switch planes in the US, don't change in Chigaco. Lasts year we changes in Chigaco, this year it was Portland. What a difference!! So much more friendly in Portland...

And so we entered Canada, or as Robin says "Kanana". Without much delay, the immigrtion service only took 15 minutes or so. We rented a car and drove "home". It doesn't feel like home yet.... It's a very empty appartement. Besides the 80 kg of things we brought with us in the plane it is empty here. In about 5 weeks all other items we shipped here will arrive. Untill then we will have to camp in our appartement. Robin is the onlyt one of us who has his own bed. Bas and I are sleeeping on our thermarest matresses on the floor. Happy to have a roof over our heads and and soft carpet under our feet and matresses.

And then our first day after our first night. Getting to know the place just a little... Shopping, the mall is just across the street. It seems to have all basic shops we need, how convenient. We only saw one problem.... How do you get the things you buy back to your appartement. Simpel things like baking oil comes in cans upto 5 liter. Icecream comes in 5 liter packs aswell.... not to mention diapers, peanutbutter or milk. What we did find in normal size was real "de Ruijter hagelslag", strangely enough (for us) in the baking section :)

And apart form getting the both of us a cell phone (in a short while we probably need to get a third one for Robin), getting Robin to take a nap, and walking around near Lonsdale (nothing wrong with that name here)and the waterfront we hardly did a thing.

Tomorrow we will have a whole new day exploring North Vancouver. On our lists for tommorow "buying a car".......

Ge-an

Posted by Brijn at 06:22 am | Comments (5)