Monday, April 24, 2006

The Vancouver Diaries- IV

Days that were really important to me - the day I stepped into my first school, the day I met my best friend, first crush, first love, first major disappointment, first job, prom, graduation - have all been surprisingly very ordinary, mundane days! No firecrackers in the background. No razzmatazz. No appropriate ambience (rain on a disappointing day, sunny when I have a crush etc...). No background music. Just ordinary, sometimes even boring, days. Funny how appearances can be so deceptive! Little did I know back then that the nondescript rainy, grey day I stepped into Vancouver was going to be the beginning of a rich set of experiences, one that'd mould me in ways I'd not even imagined....

We were put up at the Tropicana Motor Inn on Robson Street for the first three weeks or so. I was recovering from severe jetlag. My dad had to go to work almost the next day. My brother and I had to wait for two weeks before we could get our student authorization and go to school. So my mom, brother and I spent our days sleeping, eating, watching TV. TV watching is a funny experience when you can't follow the accent that well. We used to religiously watch a series of programs just to understand the accent!

10.00 AM Charlie's Angels
11.00 AM Remington Steele
12.00 PM Mission Impossible
[break for lunch]
3.00 PM Spiderman
and so on!

There was a wonderful Icecream place on Robson (not sure if its there now) called "Cows". The icecream is just heavenly there. I was still on a rigorous diet while my brother enjoyed icecreams and annoyed me. I had just graduated to eating rice with saltless dal.


"Ummm...what is this?"

"Dear, this is your class schedule. Okay?", my high school counselor, Mrs. Gioia, said.

I was staring at a piece of paper that looked something like this with a legend underneath:

Monday A B Lunch C D
Tuesday E F Lunch G H
Wednesday B A Lunch D C
Thursday F E Lunch H G
Friday A B Lunch C D

"These are your blocks for today", she continued.

I was mystified. For me, blocks were something that two-year-olds played with. What in the world were blocks? And what was with the confusing schedule? It seems so simple now but back then, it was a huge effort for me to figure it out!

I staggered out the door heading for Block F in Room 203, North building. I had no idea where North Building was.

"Uh..excuse me. Where's the North building?" I asked a huge, straggly giant with a spiky hairdo.

He gave me a weird look that had "Dude, where are you from?" written all over it and wordlessly pointed at a door.

I was already late for class. I ran around looking for Room 203. I didn't know 203 would be in the second floor..:) I had to figure it out by trial and error! When I finally did find it, huffing and puffing, it was locked. There was none there. I was near tears. I ran back to my counselor. She made a couple of phone calls and directed me to go to the library. Class had adjourned there for some project.

I went to the library (this was another big Crusade for me to find the library) to find a bunch of students in different states of poring over some textbooks. I looked around wondering what to do all the while, quite aware that 20-something people were staring at me furtively. An old guy with spectacles walked by and said,

"Can I help you?"
" for Social Studies. I am new.."

He stared at me over his glasses and directed me to a table where three other kids were already seated. A girl looked up and said a bright hello. I was a bit relieved. I smiled slightly.

"Your assignment - a report on Pierre Trudeau. Class has already been working on it the past two weeks. Due on Friday. Must be typed and two pages long." He barked.

Who in the world was Pierre Trudeau? Report - what sort of a report? Typed? I don't have a computer as yet. Where do I type it? Great, Friday is tomorrow and I have no clue what all this is!


"Okay, kids, today we are going to watch a comedy piece. You've been given a questionnaire. I expect you to turn it in end of class. All questions are from this piece we are going to watch. Ok?"

Mr. Bain was my Career and Personal Planning teacher.

What is CAPP? They have classes for this?!!! What in the world....

I was mystified. I was sitting at a table with 6 other Chinese kids. They were all chattering away in Cantonese ignoring me completely.

Jeez, did I come to Canada or China? Why are they not talking to me?

I tried a feeble "hi" to the girl next to me but she turned her face away. Great, I thought. Just what I need.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bain rolled a TV into the class and turned off lights.

Is this even a class? We are going to watch TV inside a classroom?? Ok, let's see..

A tall, lanky guy with weird hair zooms into an apartment. He says something to a short, fat, bald guy called George.

What in the world? I can't understand the accent at all! Why is everyone laughing?! Just because the guy walked in the door??!

Tall, lanky guy opens refrigerator and takes a drink. Jerry looks at him.

Everyone's laughing again?? Why am I so dumb? I can't figure out anything! Oh my god, I can't relate to anything/anyone here! How am I going to survive?

At the end of the class, I hadn't really latched onto one single dialogue. I didn't find anything funny and I was staring desperately at the questionnaire in my hand wondering how to complete it. It was for 10 points which made it even worse.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was my first introduction to Seinfeld! :) Oh and I'd have to be the first kid in Burnaby North to have scored a pathetic 3/10 on a quiz about a Seinfeld episode..:))

And thus began life at Burnaby North Higher Secondary School!

All these memories are like wine - the older, the better! One of my best friends, Monica, once gave me "That Boy is Mine" by Monica and Brandi as a birthday gift. In "Angel of Mine" from that album, there's a line that goes, "Now I know why they say that the best things in life are free..". I think its true. Would I be what I am today without all those experiences? Would my life have been the same if I hadn't met some wonderful people in Vancouver?

The diary will flip its next page soon...


Prabhu said...

Amazing! The narration of events and the flow are keeping me engrossed.
Waiting for the next - take your time though to make it enjoyable :)

Kirthi said...

Hi Subha,

Wonderful ! Thats all i can say...i can really relate to all your experiences. I live in the westend of Robson St closer to the lost lagoon lake. never moved out of this place for past 4 years for 4 reasons, 1.stanley park 2. english bay beach 3. view of the snow-capped north shore mountains 4. Fireworks @english bay every summer.

I felt the same way the first time i walked down robson st, Am I in China ??!!! My first visit to the hospital couple of months back was a maze for me to figure out. Btw, the icecream shop you talked about is closed down now, even though, the huge cow statue stood there out for quite sometime.

Sorry about the long comment here. Just couldnt resist. Cant wait for more. Please continue the good work here.

RS said...

I like this diary entry the best - the italics add a nice touch to the narration :) And I thought I had some embarrassing incidents when I first came to the US and I was no teenager!

Freeyavedu said...

Unnoda vancouver diaries series romba nalla iruku. U write like a professional in this series of posts.

Unnoda neriaya posts ennaku over-head transmissiona poidum. Nammaku ejukasen kammi.. athu nalathan.
But this one is really nice. Regulara ithu pathi ezhuthu.

Totally impressive !

Anonymous said...

aussome narration. The sienfeld episode is as hilarious as the episode itself.

Anon - I

subramoni said...

The diary is unfurling very well and the narration is smooth and lucid. Look forward to the next page in your diary.

Kay said...

Very good write up.
Make this diary as longer as you could.

kuttichuvaru said...

very nice narration.... kept me engrossed!!

Zeppelin said...

splendid narration subha !! of the 4 me likes this best :)

dinesh said...

Hmmm, interesting a irukku !

Semma popular a aayindu vara pola irukku ? :)

AG said...

Arumaiya irukkuadhu!!

Very interesting and very professional too.

Keep the good work going.

Venky Krishnamoorthy said...

Great stuff, Subha. My first software contract was for a mining company in Kimberly ( 4 hours east of Vancouver). I was the only non-white and I stayed in a motel for over 7 months, since I could not find an apt. Everything was new to me, including cooking, pretzels, frozen vegetables and okra!!!. Those days were an embarassing learning experience.

Subha said...

Its sad that they closed Cows down!:(

Subha said...

@subramoni,kay, kuttichuvaru,
Thanks a bunch!:)
idhaala dhaan popular aaganuma enna? ;)
I can relate to the learning experience part! Vancouver, I guess, was far better than Kimberly in terms of number of Indians etc..:)