Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ups and Downs in Vancouver

Sometimes traveling, especially a foreign country or just someplace foreign, period, is full of extremes--you go from REALLYREALLYEXCITEDANDHAPPY to just crushed at the smallest mishap. I think it's part of the being far away, being out of the comfort zone thing.
I had a series of mishaps before even leaving for the airport. I got home (well, to my parents' house) from work around 9 PM and started laundry and packing. I should note that what I wanted to pack was laid out, just not in a suitcase yet. Around midnight, it seemed like a good idea to wax my eyebrows.
I think you're supposed to heat up the wax for 10 or 20 seconds. But the label is smudged, so when I saw "_0 seconds"I, for some reason, thought it meant "90."
I then spilled the super hot wax on my left hand. Fortunately I was near a sink and just blasted it with cold water. So the burn is nothing to write home about, but I had wax stuck to my hands for hours.
I then was so spacey that I waxed off much more of each eyebrow than intended! Oh well - they'll grow back.
I ALSO managed to drop liquid wax onto my eyelashes - on BOTH eyes. This is really hard to get out, so I boarded the plane this morning with weird brown gobs on my eyelashes that probably looked like I just had sleepy eye crud and was too gross to wipe it off.
When I saw my advisor at the gate, for some reason it seemed prudent to tell her that I hadn't combed my hair that morning (?!?!).
Towards the end of the flight, I got a random nosebleed. The sink in the bathroom wasn't working so I couldn't wash my face with water!!!!! I imagined I looked terrible - with a bloody face and uncombed hair and gobs of guck (I just realized I have no idea how to spell this) stuck to my eyelashes. I was really looked beautiful for Canada!
I got to my hostel and was told I couldn't check in for awhile. I had to hang out on the rainy beach with my luggage and a tube of our posters, hoping they wouldn't get rained on. When I finally checked in, I got on the internet and was sending mopey emails to my friends, when I started having nice conversations with people in the room. Then the sun came out!
I wandered around the beach, then decided it was time to go to UBC to hang the posters. Well, long story short, I got lost trying to find the bus stop. It's on N Marine Drive, but the problem (for a foreigner) is that there are like, three road sections that say "N Marine Drive" and I didn't know which one to walk up...I spent a long time walking in the wrong direction. The maps at the hostel aren't that great.
Then I missed the bus. Then I stood at the bus stop on the wrong side of the street. Then I missed the second bus while waiting to cross. Then a lot of time elapsed before I got on the third bus and I didn't realize you have to pay the fare in coins! I didn't have any because - I just got off a plane and the ATMs don't give you coins!
When the bus driver realized this, he did something that shocked me. He asked if anyone on the bus had change for a five! TWICE! No one stepped up, but a few people smiled at me as if to say "It's ok. You didn't know." I can't imagine a bus driver doing that in NJ. They would just throw you out! I informed him that it was my first day in Canada and I did not know about all this. Then he told me sternly to sit down (therefore not paying!?) and remember coins next time. I was more embarrassed than the situation called for (that whole out of one's comfort zone thing) but overwhelmed by how nice he was.
I was relieved when I FINALLY found the place to hang the posters and saw I was totally not late - it went until 6 PM! And then I took my poster out of the cardboard tube.
It is SO CREASED. I wanted to cry right there in the exhibit hall, but I did not. Later, Lena told me it was FINE but at the time, it seemed like the worst thing in the world. And the other posters were laminated and had lots of color photos and mine just has line drawings (and I know that I did that on purpose, that I thought line drawings would be more uniform, more informative, blah blah blah...but they're not as PRETTY as color photos) and omg I'll never be a real scientist and I didn't pay the bus fare in correct change and my poster is creased - aaahhhhhh.
Later, I stopped to get pizza. When I asked the guy for a slice of plain, he said, "I'm giving you two for the price of one because the crusts are burned." Again, shock. PEOPLE ARE SO NICE HERE.
Then I went to the plenary lecture about mycoremediation. I think it was good. It started out good. But then they turned out all the lights in the room. Why do speakers do this? Literally ALL of the lights. No windows. Just a powerpoint. Most people had flown in today from points east with later time zones, or they'd flown to Seattle and taken mass transit (tiring.) When I awoke to my arm falling off the armrest, I was so embarrassed! Until I realized everyone next to me was in deep slumber. Not just students, even the grownups. It was kind of hilarious! When I got out of the lecture, I heard all these people whispering "I fell asleep. It was just so dark!"
And the speaker was really good! He totally wasn't boring. It was just so dark...
The nap rejuvenated me for the mixer, in which I met lots of botanists, including one who has the same fern purse from Target that I have. I wish I could talk up ballast plants more, but when people ask me about it sometimes I freeze up. Before presenting tomorrow, I'm going to go over my notes. And so I'm going to bed now.
Oh, the bus driver on the way back was also really friendly - aside from another bus driver asking me where I needed to go and telling me which stop to go to, this second one was just really friendly, asked where I needed to go instead of being like, figure out the stop yourself, foreigner! Then he made conversation the entire ride home, which at first I felt weird about, but realized it was just my New York Area conditioning and that this was just someone being FRIENDLY, not creepy, and wasn't it nice to be FRIENDLY? Yes it is. That's why I like places that are neither NY nor NJ...people are friendly to strangers.
He said I didn't have a strong Jersey accent - HA HA.
Tomorrow I'm planning to get up early and review my notes, possibly walk to UBC if the weather's nice because the area is so nice to look at, and after the student luncheon and my presenting, I am hoping to sightsee around UBC - the Anthropology Museum and the UBC Botanical Gardens - hopefully I will have time for both. Unless presenting makes me want to de stress by taking a nap on Jericho Beach - that's ok too.
I'm hoping on Tuesday to sightsee outside of the UBC area. Based on very limited tourist info reading, I'd like to see Stanley Park though I don't know how that will go without a car, and I might check out the shopping areas, and the Punjabi Market sounds interesting; apparently they sell fabric.
Walking back from the bus stop, I saw the lights of the city in the distance, and the mountains (barely, in the dark) and the ocean and tops of boats and I thought, I'm so glad I came here.

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