Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Solstice Lantern Festival

When I went shopping at Urban Fare this afternoon, I picked up a little flyer for an upcoming free community event, and it sounds quite interesting. It's called the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival and it's happening throughout 6 local neighbourhoods: the West End, Yaletown, Chinatown, Granville Island, Strathcona, and Commercial Drive. I would love to check it out, but since I'm heading to Montreal tomorrow, I figure I can share it for those who are seeking something to do this Sunday evening that's fun and different. For those of you who are planning to go, it would be great to hear some feedback!

You can find all the details on their website:


Zeeshan said...

I found your blog to be very interesting. I am currently living in Pakistan and due to the worsening law and order situation, I am thinking of shifting to Canada with my family in a year or so. I just hate living in snow, so Vancouver is a place in my mind (ofcourse snow is not the only factor). However, when i see different forums, I am discouraged by the whining of local vancouverites regarding how bad this city really is. In one of the forum topics "Why Vancouver Sucks", I found hundreds and hundreds of posts with people cursing vancouver. The major complaints were regardding the facts that Vancouver is over-crowded, very expensive, has very rude people, it rains too much, government controls people a lot, too many people are homeless, the city is anti-social, too many immigrants, and so on. I would really appreciate if I can get your perspective on all this in detail.

Thank You so much.

Robyn said...

Hello and welcome!

Well... those are massive issues to tackle in just a comment, but I will try.

Typically, I take whining on online forums with a grain of salt, especially if it's a forum where one is anonymous. Of course, some forums (like TripAdvisor or Skyscraperpage) are more credible than others. But there's one particular Vancouver forum which appears (upon first glance) to be a legitimate site of Vancouver info, but its forum has long festered unregulated spam, ignorance, and hate. I hope you weren't just taking all your info from a site such as that! :)

Saying that, there's certainly truth behind what those people were complaining about, but who are they and what are their comparisons? Context is key. So are expectations.

Compared to a place like Hong Kong, New York, or anywhere in India or China, Vancouver would not be considered over-crowded.

Many people in Vancouver have moved here from small towns and small cities elsewhere in Canada. Vancouver is only a city of about 2 million (if we include all the suburbs)... it's not a large city in the global context but from a Canadian context it's huge. Perhaps those who are complaining about how crowded it is are used to smaller suburban-like cities. Vancouver was once suburban in feeling, but over the past few decades it has certainly become more dense and urbanized.

However, people that have lived in Vancouver for over 30, 40, or 50+ years, would certainly notice its growth. In that context, you could say that it's more crowded than it once was. My grandparents, for example, lived on farm acreages in nearby Richmond in the 20's, 30's and 40's. In the 50's and 60's many of these farms were subdivided into suburban houses with large yards. In the 80's and 90's many of the suburban houses with the large yards were demolished and subdivided into townhouse complexes to house numerous families. In the 90's and 2000's a lot of downtown Vancouver's small buildings (including parking lots, nightclubs and single family houses) were demolished to build 30+ story luxury condos to house hundreds of people. So there is definitely a trend of increasing population density in and around Vancouver.

And that brings me to the prices of houses. The prices are definitely overpriced for the value and they're typically out of reach for the average person - a phenomenon that occurred rapidly over a short period of time. A lot of it has to do with investors buying up real estate which has increased the prices dramatically.

In the mid-80's, for example, my parents purchased a large 3 bedroom house for about $160,000. Today the house is priced at over $800,000. A few years ago it was priced at $600,000. These prices are well beyond what my family would be able to afford now, and they're certainly beyond anything I'd be able to afford today.

Even condos are overpriced, with the luxury ones downtown priced up into the millions.

The problem is that wages in Vancouver aren't necessarily keeping up with the cost of living making it financially difficult for many.

About the rain - it's just a part of Vancouver from late autumn until spring. Rain is a part of the climate and it's crucial for the ecosystems here. But I don't think it's the actual rain that bothers people than the grey clouds that hover over the city as those clouds can last for days on end.

Being born here, I never complained about the rain as it's just a normal part of life here, like sunshine is to California. It's the rain that gives Vancouver excellent drinking water and clean air. It's also what makes the city lush and the gardens beautiful. But people like to complain about the weather regardless, so people will always be complaining about the rain.

Regarding rudeness, I would not say Vancouver's overtly rude or overtly friendly. Vancouver is a city of transients and is a hodgepodge of cultures so you'll find everything. Overall, you could say people in Vancouver are more reserved, but I also attribute it to life in a big city. Vancouver, in my experience, has been a city where you have to take a lot of initiative if you want to meet people and make friends.

The homeless situation is unfortunately a big problem for Vancouver, and there is a noticeable presence of drug addicts, mentally ill, and homeless on the streets. While violent crime is not common, property crime unfortunately is, and it's a direct result of the drug addicts. This is a huge, huge political topic in Vancouver and I can't really even give justice to all the issues involved, but if you do a few searches online, you'll find more than enough info.

Re: too many immigrants... that's just xenophobia speaking. Vancouver has always had immigrant communities from the day it was founded. Perhaps most notable to the first-time visitor is Vancouver's large Asian population as it makes up a significant portion of the city's demographic.

Finally, I wouldn't say that the government has too much control over Vancouver, but there is still a lot of antiquated rules regarding alcohol consumption and smoking. Smoking cigarettes is banned practically everywhere (more of a recent thing), and it's illegal to drink alcohol in public. Whether this is the government controlling people a lot, I don't know. I'd be curious as to the examples they were giving.

Zeeshan said...

Hello again

Your comments were extremely valuable as they came from a life-long vancouverite and gave an impartial persepective.

You are right, perception is built through context. Indiviudal situations and backgorunds differ from people to people.

I have lived in United States for two years. I am in a good position to compare life in Pakistan to that in US. The general perception about Pakistan in the world is that it is a backward, third world country, where half of the people are ready to explode themselves. And that there might not be any decent, educated and intellectual people here. These perceptions, in my opinion have been built majorly through western media. By the same token, our media does not project United States very positively. This is a bias again. However, having lived in both countries, I can tell that atleast we, in Pakistan, have access to a lot of international news channels on our local cable. Whereas in US, I found it to be very hard to get an alternative perspective, which is unfortunate, especially for the US population.

Anyways, the reason why I came back to Pakistan might surprise you: My life style went down there. There are a lot of reasons for that. By the grace of God, yes I am one of those people who belong to the 5- 10% of the population in this country who are in a position better than others. The house where I live in Pakistan is located in an upscale neighborhood. This house is atleast 15 to 20 times bigger than the size of the apartment where I lived in US. I didn't have a car there, whereas I have 3 here. I live in joint family system and we have employed a chauffer, three kitchen helpers, 2 jenitors, 1 gardner, 1 gatekeeper and 1 security guard at our house. We have a business of our own that employs around 50 people.I could not dream of all this in US.

The reason why I am mentioning all this is not to boast but to give people, who have never been here, a perspective of how different some lifestyles here can be to the general perception and how different they can be from the life in the west. This also depicts that there is a lot of income inequality in Pakistan. This is true unfortunately. However, I must mention here that my father did not inherit anything from his family. He is a self made person and achieved everything on his own. This also demonstrates that if one tries, one can achieve a lot even in a country where there are huge income gaps. Now, if you try to get a perspective of someone in Pakistan who has not been so fortunate, his perspective about the country would be different and might just want to leave immediately.

I have my whole family and friends here. Its not easy for me to leave. However, its only the law and order situation due to which sometimes I think of leaving. If the situation really gets very bad, God forbid, then maybe I might leave, atleast for some time.

Anyways, I took a lot of your time. Thanx for listening. And thanx for your valuable advice. Stay in touch.