August 2008

Finally time off.....and almost over again.

It has been a while since we last found some time to write, but within the last 2 months we always had a lot to do. There was never a moment of boredom, not once. All in all, we guess we spent less than 5 hours in front of the TV set in our time here. Therefore we only witnessed little of the European Soccer Championships, for example, or what else is going on in Germany. During the weekdays, we have on-ice practice from 7 a.m. every day and rarely get home before 2 p.m. Then it's mostly cooking and then babysitting or going to classes and doing homework, respectively. On the weekend we mostly try to do something or to meet friends. Whether it's fireworks, the beach, Whistler, Grouse Mountain, Jazz Festival, or simply going to the clubs.... there's always something going on in Vancouver. There wasn't a single weekend when we didn't know what to do.

By now we got used to speaking English. Even the training with Victor (who speaks German very well) and conversations among us during practice take place in English or at least a good portion of it. It's interesting to realize how you sometimes don't know which language to use and then mix up like crazy. Particularly when something needs to be said quickly while skating, but you talked in English before, you think in English and talk in German. Oftentimes, sentences such as, "Rechte Schulter forward and dann close" result from this. It's also super exciting to discover words that only exist in English or only in German. For instance, we wouldn't know an equivalent for the English word "weeknights." It's fun to discover something like this, and we learn something new every day.

What made us aware of how little we actually planned here was when we were told that we're not even in Vancouver. Vancouver, which we thought to be the district Vancouver Downtown, is an autonomous city. We don't live in the same city, either. While Caro lives in Coquitlam, the rink and Daniel's house are in Burnaby. The rink that we currently practice at consists of 7 ice rinks and 1 soccer field of the size of a North American rink. 8 Rinks, that's the name of the rink, will be the official practice rink at the Olympic Games, while the competitions will take place at a somewhat older rink in Vancouver. At the beginning of our stay, we visited the rink because we were eating out nearby.

On Friday, time had finally come. Daniel wrote his last exam and thus completed college here. The grades will only be announced in about 4 weeks when we're already back in Germany. The grades so far didn't look too bad, but since all grades are curved, there are always all grades from A+ to F. Curved means that the average of all students is calculated, and depending on the deviation, a grade gets assigned. A or B are above average, while all points below the average result in grades C to F. The comparison with the other students makes the grades by far more significant. On the one hand this is also motivating, but prejudicial to collegiate cohesion. After all it's always, "Beat the average."

As from now, Caro also has a little more spare time since her family went on vacation. We therefore hope to see a little more in our last few weeks. Besides Seattle, the Rocky Mountains and Victoria, we have so much else on our to-do list for which there unfortunately is far too little time. How time flies.......

This weekend, we went to Whistler with Bryn and Brett, which will be the second scene of the 2010 Olympic Games besides Vancouver City. It's primarily the skiing events that will take place here. It's a car drive on a very small, winding road right along the ocean about 2 hours north of Vancouver. (The road gets broadened at the moment and will only be accessible to the official buses during the Olympic Games.) A very beautiful view and the actual drive are almost the goal since there's not much too see in Whistler itself. On the way back, we stopped over to look at the ski jump, which is located 20 minutes away from Whistler. When we arrived close to the jump, we could see afar how all cars in front of us suddenly stopped. The reason for this was a bear which walked next to the road and ate berries. It was indeed not the first time that we had seen a bear (we once were surprised at a BBQ by a bear and its two cubs that climbed a tree approx. 8 meters from us while the mother went hunting), but it was the first time that we could really observe a bear (the other time we rather tried to shut all doors and windows quickly and to get into the house).

However, we didn't only get to see beautiful things. As mentioned in the television report, we were surprised at the poverty. This we didn't expect here. What is shocking is that this part is located right next to the new multistory buildings in which a one-bedroom apartment costs $600,000. The house and lease costs have increased drastically within the last 5 years, and new apartments are being built everywhere at the moment. Much is speculation and it is expected that the prices will fall again after the Olympics. For an entirely rented house during the Olympic Games, you can easily get between $15,000 and $20,000. What will happen to the homeless during the Olympics is still undecided, but it's either going for a solution like at the Expo 1988 (in a camp outside the city), or they'll be given a one-way ticket to Montreal or Toronto. This is supposedly a solution that both cities have already used now and then in the past.

At the end of August, we'll return back to Germany....

Carolina & Daniel




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