Sunday, December 9, 2007

Three Months Later...

How quickly time passes. It has been three months since we returned to Vancouver, to begin the next stage in our lives. While most things seem the same, there is no doubt that our 8 month journey has changed our perspective on other things. Some are significant; others are quite minor, but interesting. For example, we no longer worry whether we can put used toilet paper in the toilet or not! In many places that we traveled, this was not the norm! (no photo) We noticed the progress on the SkyTrain construction, since the track was visible just outside the airport. Another thing that surprised us was the price of housing. It seems like sales prices have risen quite significantly in just 8 months. While this is great for those of us who own property, it is a real problem for those who who haven't been able to buy. Each month, they seem to be falling further behind.One of the delights of being home is seeing the regular sunrises and sunsets along the Fraser River. We can also see the girls on a more regular basis. In fact, they have both moved back into our house! Georgia is enjoying her medical studies, while Claire is dabbling in social work and bartending. She has also built a bicycle for herself, from scratch. While Sally is still trying to decide what to do, I have returned to work on a part time basis. Inspired by my colleague Larry Beasley who has been working in Abu Dhabi, I also agreed to do some consulting work in another of the world's great oil capitals... Fort McMurray! While the work is gratifying, the venue is not. I have also been doing some work with Polygon, headed by our good friend Michael Audain, and am pleased to be trying to help Larco redevelop a sustainable 'urban village' on the site of the Arbutus Village Shopping Centre. Recently, I got a job with Imperial Oil. I have always wanted to be a gas station attendant, but this will be a bit different. Imperial is in the process of de-commissioning its IOCO Refinery Properties, and there are over 200 acres of lands that were never used for industrial purposes. They fall within two municipalities, Anmore and Port Moody, and offer wonderful opportunities for sustainable 'low energy' neighbourhoods. Perhaps the most interesting activity has been working with former SFU Chancellor Milton Wong, former JCC Executive Director Gerry Zipursky, former Carnegie Centre director Michael Clague, and a few other very dedicated people on developing urban design principles and an implementation strategy to address Homelessness, and other housing issues in the Downtown Eastside. This is, of course, a monumental task, but it is something I have wanted to try and help with for a number of years. We have been fortunate in having the opportunity to do a variety of interesting things since coming back to Vancouver. I particularly enjoyed listening to Bill Clinton when he spoke in Vancouver. He encouraged us to make an industry out of our 'green expertise'. He also told Sam Sullivan that Mayor of Vancouver is the best job of the world. I wondered if this was reported back to my favourite politician Carole Taylor! Sally and I joined 50,000 others at the Western final football game.

There have been a lot of wonderful parties since our return. In early October, I turned 60 and we celebrated with a few friends. My old friend Eli Harari, with whom I lived when I turned 21 in England, came up from Silicon Valley. Eli started SanDisk, and gave me a powerful new compact flash card, onto which I was able to load all 15,000 photos from the trip. There is now a continuous slide show of our travels playing in our kitchen on one of the new computerized picture frames. You should check them out. They are wonderful. (The Philips model is particularly good.) There was no Halloween Costume Party this year. (We will start again in 08.) But we celebrated the 6th night of Chanukah with many of the girls' friends from school. Tessa and her mother again made their famous cookies, that have to be seen to be believed. We have also eaten much too much at many Holiday parties, and it is showing. But we have started back at the Arbutus Club, and while we don't walk as much as we did on our travels, we're trying to make the effort.
As a result of our travels, and a different attitude towards driving and parking (I now hate going into tight underground garages downtown), I have started to buy bus passes, and purchased a smaller Prius. Sally also treated herself to a nice new convertible, which has a sunroof! With the girls back home, and four cars, we are seriously damaging the environment. However, I still plan to do some cycling, once I can figure out where to leave my bike and helmet when I get on the bus!

This is the time of year when we all think about holidays past and old friends. We have revived our tradition of designing Holiday Card which we can send to people who we might not see, but with whom we still want to remain in touch. We have sent them off to many of the people we met on our trip, although unfortunately some have been returned.

So as we approach the end of 2007, we look back with great fondness on a year of discoveries and adventure. We are so glad that we were able to follow through on our plans, and would urge everyone to try and block out some time to just take off. You don't have to do 8 months; it may just be a couple of months or longer. The key is to get away for more than just 3 weeks, and to go to places you haven't seen before. While we'll stay around Vancouver for a while, we are starting to think about some home exchanges for 2008, and another big trip in 5 years. In the meanwhile, our thanks to everyone who helped us enjoy the world, and our best wishes for the coming year. Let's hope there really can be some more peace throughout the world.