A Week in Vancouver

After finishing up in London at the very start of March, I had just over a week to waste before flying down to Africa, so I decided to head to Vancouver to see family and friends.

As our plane came in to land on the afternoon of March 4th, I had an excellent view looking north to Bowen Island, which is one of the best places in the world:


After arriving at my parents’ home, my sister Lisa told me that Fred Penner was going to be holding a concert at UBC’s Pit Pub that very night. Fred Penner was a children’s TV show host when I was a child, and I used to watch his show every day on CBC, sing along to all his songs full of good wholesome values and happiness. When I heard he was holding a concert at a student pub, I decided there was no way I could miss it. Lisa got there early and managed to get me a ticket. My friend Sarah, who studied with me in Sweden, and her sister joined us as they were visiting Vancouver.

And let me tell you, Fred Penner’s show was LEGENDARY. It now ranks as the number one concert experience of my life.


At UBC it’s still impossible not to bump into people I know, and at Fred Penner’s show I was very happy to run into my friend Mike. After the show, we waited together in line for a long time to get autographs, hugs, and photos with our childhood idol:


Aside from that first crazy night, my time in Vancouver was a lot of fun. The weather was pretty nice most of the time:


On Friday night I went to another party at UBC with a lot of friends, and met up with two girls from CouchSurfing.com, Carmen and Franziska, who are both really awesome people.


On Saturday night it was yet another party, this time a prom-themed party in the Downtown Eastside with DJs and live bands.


I lent my brother Dan one of my tuxedos, which made him look professional as he played pool at the party:


On Sunday morning, we went over to Bowen Island for the day. There were a few deer around that day in the forest:


We met up with our friend Alasdair, who grew up on Bowen but moved to France and who I hadn’t seen since 2003 when I visited his family in Lourdes. Together we walked to a little beach to look for crabs under the rocks.


We found a little eel!


And Alasdair managed to find a few photogenic crabs, like this one perched on his fingertip:


After a few more days spent seeing friends and family around town, on my last night in Vancouver I went back out to UBC for another show: Jokers of the Scene. My friend Jason was the DJ opening the show:


My brother Matt happened to fly in from Yellowknife that night so he came out to the show to meet up with us. And so it came to be that, on my last night in Vancouver, all five of my parents’ children (each of which has attended / is attending UBC) partied together on campus:


The night ended very late, and the morning of March 13th began very early as I packed my bags at home long after the airport check-in counter had opened, headed to the airport after boarding had begun, and as always somehow avoided missing my flight. Destination: Democratic Republic of Congo via Montreal (Canada), London (England), Nairobi (Kenya), Bujumbura (Burundi), and Kigali (Rwanda).

10 days in Canada

I got home from Dublin to Uppsala at night on March 17th, spent the 18th in class and packing my suitcase, then took off on the morning of the 19th from Arlanda Airport en route to Vancouver via Chicago O’Hare airport. According to Wikipedia, “O’Hare International Airport was voted the Best Airport in North America for the past nine years by readers of the U.S. Edition of Business Traveler Magazine (1998 – 2003), and Global Traveler Magazine (2004 – 2007), marking the tenth year in a row O’Hare has earned the top honor.” I’m going to venture a guess that the voting is rigged, since I’ve never heard anyone say a good thing about O’Hare and I certainly have nothing good to say about the airport itself. The staff were very nice but, to put it bluntly, the airport sucks. It’s disorganised, noisy, crowded, continues to have constant flight delays, and the security checkpoints were understaffed leading to long lines at a non-peak time of day.

And now, for the actual trip to Vancouver:

I spent 10 days visiting family and friends, hung out a lot at my old university (UBC) and even managed a trip over to Bowen Island for an afternoon with my baby sister Lisa.

I took a few photos from a rooftop trip at UBC with my friend Sophia. This is Koerner Library, where I spent many hours studying in the “Very Silent Study Room” (yes, it is really called that). You may recognise this library from a number of movies and TV shows, including The Butterfly Effect and Smallville.

Looking North:

Looking South-East:

Looking North-West:

Sophia and I spent about 10 minutes trying to time a jump right so that we would be in mid-air when the camera’s automatic timer shot the photo, and this one was pretty much the best shot. I look like I’m missing a leg and Soph has her face completely obscured by her scarf!

I like seagulls:

Looking South-West:

On the 27th, I drove to my old high school and picked up my baby sister Lisa from choir practice, then we drove out to Horseshoe Bay for the ferry to Bowen Island. This is the view as our ferry pulled out of Horseshoe Bay:

After a 15 minute ferry ride, we drove off the ferry and made our way to our grandmother’s place to spend the afternoon chilling out. I took a lot of random photos of stuff that I’ve always enjoyed about Bowen Island, stuff I’ve never really bothered photographing before, so that I don’t forget what it was like in case it ever changes.

These tiny flowers grow in tiny cracks in the bedrock or stone walls or steps near the water:

Here are some things that come to mind when I think about the sea:

A really old fire extinguisher, likely never used:

Being springtime in the Lower Mainland, the cherry blossoms were out on the cherry plum tree in our grandmother’s yard:

I was fascinated by this long-abandoned belt of nails:

And what better place for a small tree to start growing than the gutter of a seaside forest cabin?

This is the view from my grandmother’s house, looking South-East. The tall buildings in the far distance, directly above the lighthouse, are Gage Towers and Buchanan Tower at UBC.

Last summer my brother rebuilt an old bridge that had been falling apart for years, and the new one he built looks terrific and is no longer terrifying to cross! Growing up, there were always a lot of bees and hornets around this bridge, so I often ran across it to avoid being stung, but the boards were often loose, missing, or rotten.

More random photos of stuff around Bowen:

Being the poor student that I am, I didn’t pay for a plane ticket to Vancouver just to see friends and family and relax; the purpose of the trip was actually a result of a 4 year old knee injury that I need to get fixed. I’ll be getting a routine surgery at the start of June so that my knee won’t bother me anymore, but I had to visit in person ahead of time for a consultation with the surgeon and a bunch of tests, including an MRI. I’ll have Dr Piotr Blachut operating on my knee, and he is supposedly quite good.

I got to take the MRI results on CD from the lab to Dr Blachut’s office myself, so between the two appointments I copied the contents to my computer for backup and personal interest. This is one of dozens of images of my knee from different angles and with different foci. Neat eh?

On Friday the 28th, we had a big party at the King’s Head Pub on Yew Street. We called the owner, Jan, and reserved 50 seats ahead of time, and I’m fairly certain we filled more than 60 seats in the end. Monkeybar, the live band made up of Steve and Paul, played another great show and even learned a song just for me which they played that night, “Another Drinking Song” by Captain Tractor.



Our group of partygoers:

I took off Sunday morning for what turned into a VERY long trip home to Sweden, but I won’t get started on that.

Back to Switzerland Part II

Warning: The pics in this post aren’t necessarily in date order, they’re sort of randomized.

The closing ceremonies of the Model UN Conference at the Palais de Nations were a joke, really late starting and about as boring and self-adulating as an awards ceremony could be. But we made our own fun in the seats.

Lysandra shows her Japanese half.

Juan definitely had his pants open in the middle of the General Assembly Hall, but I guess security didn’t notice.

We had 2 days after the conference before heading home, so we headed east on a train to Bern, the capital, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Bern is very different from Geneva, but not much has changed since I first visited in April 2003.

Fancy clockwork

Bern gets its name from the bear, and there has been a bear pit in Bern for ages, though there are currently plans to move them to a better location.

The crest of the Canton of Bern is visible all over the place. In Switzerland, unlike Canada, the symbols and flags of the various cantons are seen all over the place.

This bunny statue thing was a bit taller than me, and is the main display in the centre of the chocolates and Easter egg section of a grocery store. I have no clue how this would entice people to buy more chocolate.

This is European architecture at its best

The view to which I awoke in the hostel in Bern

We had a visit to the International Labor Organisation in Geneva, where we watched the ending of the 298th session. This is the long, old-school hallway leading in. The building used to house the World Trade Organisation headquarters.

The Broken Chair, a commemoration of victims of landmines. From this angle, the broken leg isn’t really visible, and if you look for a bit you may notice the 3D optical illusion thus created.

Earpieces are a must for true diplomats, though many of them malfunction and the volume is always a hassle.

All week we had great sunny, warm weather and then a wee bit of rain, but when we left the closing ceremonies there was a raging blizzard outside! I’ve never seen such huge snowflakes in my life! Too bad they’re hard to photograph, but Juan proves that cold precipitation did indeed fall on us that afternoon.

Back to Switzerland

From March 23rd to April 2nd I was out of the country (Canada) on a trip to Switzerland with 11 other UBC students for the Harvard World Model United Nations conference in Geneva. While the conference itself was poorly run and couldn’t compare to the level of the UBC Model UN in January, the trip was still very much worthwhile and a terrific experience. As usual, I took a lot of photos.

Our private plane to Seattle:

Sara made friends with tiny children on every flight

Sara also thought she lost stuff a million times, and in this case actually DID leave her iPod behind on the plane when we landed in Copenhagen (she got it back)

Once we arrived in Geneva, time to take the train into town

I got a Rolex for $10 in Thailand… works fine.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency headquarters

International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, founded in Geneva

Just outside the Red Cross Museum, which of these things is not like the others?

Drew, Kat, and I chose to eat a cheap lunch by shopping for groceries and eating in our hotel room, and it was DELICIOUS! We’re good sandwich-makers.

We got a private visit with the International Organisation for Migration. This is the stylish waiting room.

Juan with the IOM flag. The IOM is not a UN Agency, but works with UN agencies and other humanitarian agencies. The visit was really educational and I’m seriously considering doing an internship with them during my Master’s degree, as I was really impressed by the staff members who put a lot of effort into their presentations for us.

Devon, Sara and Juan taking a break in my room.

We had a rather lacklustre visit to the dreary campus of Webster University, and the highlight of that excursion was this brochure. If you don’t understand why I think it’s funny, please ask and I will explain to you.

Sara, acting as Mom during the trip, tucks Cam into bed.

Juan and I visited a really neat museum of art and history, and this piece of armour is just his size!

The description for this one says that it is supposed to be bovine, so those horns aren’t demon-horns but cow horns, and those are little cow ears too.

The section of the museum with all the guns was really nifty. These are a couple of old school grenade launchers.

This is both a pistol AND a battle axe!

This Flemish painting from 1613 (I think) shows people clearly playing hockey. Crazy.

On our visit to the UNHCR, Juan got to try on their field staff safety gear, a bulletproof kevlar vest and helmet in UN colours. The vest weighs 11 kilos.