Can it get any busier?!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 07, 2010

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Sunday, February 21, 2010

The week started well with a beautiful walk around the Sea Wall and Stanley park. We have been so blessed with the weather this week- far better than in England, I gather. It's got up to 15 degrees at times, glorious sunshine, clear blue skies- but I guess you know that if you've seen any footage of the Winter Olympics. I decided to make the most of it and walked the 8km around the perimeter of Stanley park, with amazing views over Kitsilano, the Pacific Ocean, North Vancouver and the unmistakable Vancouver skyline. Walking in the sun, I was down to just a thin leather jacket- no coat! In February! In a city hosting the winter Olympics! I also gazed up at the sky at one point and caught my first glimpse of an eagle since I've been in Canada. They're more common over on Vancouver Island, and aren't seen all that often in the city, but I guess they've been enjoying the warm flues of air as much as the rest of us. 

We met up together again as a team in the afternoon for some group worship. Water to our souls, really. Refreshed and re-energised, we set out for Commercial/Broadway warming stations after dinner. We found people far more receptive than last Saturday, perhaps because they have more time to stop and chat in the evening, either coming back from a day out or going out for evening festivities. I'm sure the cold downpour of rain worked in our favour too! I decided to take the backpack, meaning that I could chat to people as I poured/squirted out their hot chocolate, and actually engage in some conversations. The very first person I served looked me deep in the eyes, and sincerely said 'Thank you. You've made my day.' Wow. If I could do that with just a cup of hot chocolate, think what a conversation could do. I wonder how many other people felt as grateful and just didn't express it... :) That was a great start. We stayed until about 10:30pm, when we ran out of coffee (the hot chocolate had long gone).

Tuesday we did Prayer stations again in the afternoon, down in Gastown again. In triplets, we took it in turn to offer prayer, prayer walk and 'engage with the world around us' (generally in a coffee shop...) Well, I discovered it's very hard to think of stuff to pray for while walking up and down Water street for 90 minutes. Also met Tony, who came up and asked for money/food- and ended up buying him probably the most expensive combo of sub/chips/drink possible from Subway! It would probably be the only meal he had  that day though, so thought he'd better fill up.  I took Rachel into John Fluevog shoes (remember Karen Padgett, who came to speak during lecture phase and works there?) and met up with Maddisson (Karen's daughter) who greeted me like a long lost friend, despite the fact I've only met her once, I think! That was really great. Another highlight was cheesecake from "the best cheesecake shop in Vancouver" which was indeed very good. We came back early to cook up an almighty batch of 60 pancakes. Turns out that takes quite a while. Especially when the batter is too runny, and even after 5 minutes of cooking on each side still produces flabby white discs. Hmm. Problem was miraculously solved by adding more flour, but they were still a bit hit and miss... and it was now 8:30pm. Eventually we all sat down to a traditional (English, apparently) dinner of savoury and sweet pancakes. Debate all you want, savoury pancakes are a vital part of any pancake day dinner, in my book. Served the sweet ones with a very successful Christmas pudding icecream I made with leftovers a couple of months ago. Did you know, by the way, they don't celebrate pancake day over here? Only Mardi Gras- fat Tuesday, by eating fatty things. And aren't really aware of Lent/give anything up for it. Oh how the English culture has suffered since they gained independence. 

Wednesday a few of us went to help at a drop in centre. Unfortunately for us, Wednesday was also the day welfare cheques came out, so the homeless people were more likely to be found in the liquor stores than in a Salvation Army hall drinking hot chocolate. So we spent the morning doing odd jobs, cleaning out 4 huge freezers, doing this and that. We were meant to go litter picking on The Drive but Pete (who was in charge) disappeared for 2 hours. So yet again, were faced with an unscheduled afternoon- but determined to do something, I decided to bake cookies to hand out with the hot chocolates later. Despite using pre-made muffin mix out a tube (gotta use whatever's available), they turned out pretty good. We named them coofins/mukkies. Not sure which is worse. 

Thursday was pretty chilled out, spending 3 hours at BURN- and event lasting 28 hours, of continuous worship. The first hour was great but then my concentration waned and I fell asleep twice. What can I say, it was warm and dark, people were singing softly to me, it was a sleep-accident waiting to happen. The evening was much more lively: I watched my first ever ice hockey game from start to finish! (That would amaze people over here). Canada v Switzerland, with 3 Swiss friends, in a bar full of Canadians. I must say, my loyalties were confused. I tended to cheer for whoever was winning. The Swiss, on the other hand, were very vocal. And of course, were the only people in the entire bar cheering when Switzerland scored.We were shot more than a few glares. 

Friday was our long-awaited day off. For once, I stayed in the area while everyone else went out for the day to Lynn Canyon. I decided to wander around downtown, checking out the pavillions- each country/Canadian province has their own tent, with food from that country, music, bars etc. Not all are open for the public, but they're proving very popular. In fact, everything is. People are standing in line for 2 to 3 hours to get into one of the tents. Quite happily. As I walk past, I mentally rub my hands together and think 'just wait until the rain starts'. Well, not really, that's kinda mean but really it's crazy! I don't think there's even that much going on inside the tents! But then I wouldn't know. I'm not prepared to wait. 

The atmosphere downtown, however, is still buzzing. Everyone's happy in the sunshine, enjoying the many free events, chatting to people, finding people from countries they've never heard of, people from their own country (particularly exciting if you are from said country no-one has ever even heard of.) Friday was, of course, also the day Team GB actually stood a chance of winning a medal- and a gold one at that (our first in 30 years). I had to find somewhere goodto watch the Women's Skeleton, and decided at the last minute to jump on the Seabus and head over to the North Shore, so I could watch the sun setting over the skyline at the same time. Well, I ended up in a food court with one big screen that hardly anyone was even watching, and that you couldn't hear the sound on. I was the only Brit there, so when we won gold I had to use every ounce of my British restrain and just smile politely, inwardly jumping around screaming! Of course, I could have whooped and clapped and cheered at the TV, but what example would that be setting the Canadian/Americans of our stiff upper lip? 

It wasn't until I wandered back over to the SeaBus terminal at the end of the race that I realised the severity of my error. 5:45pm on a Friday, during the middle week of the Olympics, trying to get on the one and only ferry that runs takes you across the water to central Vancouver... not good. The line stretched out the ferry building and around the block. So I just about managed to navigate the buses, and arrived home an hour later. Could have been worse.

Saturday was relaxed. The sun was shining, I sat outside and read my book, coffee in handed and shaded by the blossoming cherry tree (seriously. It's February!) The best bit was, this was work! We spent the afternoon at UBC (University of British Columbia) and Regent College, a bible school that runs on the campus. They are in the prime location of mid-way between the bus stop and the rink where the women's ice hockey games are playing- and so set up free internet/coffee/washrooms/face-painting/welcome desk. It was our job to catch people as they walked past and direct them inside. Not many people walked past for the first 3 hours, hence the book-reading. But then just as the sun went down and I started to freeze, fans poured out of the stadium, so I jumped (OK, was dragged) into action. Standing on your own, half-heartedly trying to give out leaflets to people in a rush to get to the bus is not much fun. There's nowhere I'd rather be less. I kept thinking 'OK just get past this group of people, then run inside. Maybe no-one will see'. Pathetic, I know. But I stuck it out, and eventually joined Bobby and Rebekka upstream a little, which made things a lot more fun. We spent the next hour trying to sell people these leaflets. "Come get your FREE piece of blue paper". "Top Secret information on this flyer." "Perfect reading material for the bus." "The secret to happiness is on this paper" (well, if your idea of happiness is watching a hockey game on a giant screen in Regent College.) It went pretty well, and at long last I had given away my 200 flyers and was able to scurry inside to warm up. I couldn't quite face going back out, so stayed inside until we were ready to go!

Today has been interesting. I had a busy morning with yoga and church (not at the same time, I hasten to add) before we all went down to False Creek for a silent protest. (YWAM is turning me into an activist before my eyes...) Today we were joining with 40 or so others (mainly from YWAM) to protest against prostitution. Whenever an Olympic Games takes place, the demand for sex workers leaps. This demand fuels the sex industry, and the trafficking of thousands of women and children (and oftentimes, men) from around the world into the city. Buying Sex is Not a Sport ( aims to raise awareness of this issue and to challenge the men and women who do so to stop. The aim is not to criticise or judge prostitutes and escorts, many of whom say they 'choose' to do what they do but to address the problem at its roots. Remove the demand, remove the problem. And it is a problem- the majority of the world agreed with the abolishment of slavery: buying and selling people as a commodity. I would argue that prostitution is no different. 

So the 50 or so of us donned colourful T-shirts with the slogan plastered across the front, walked down to BC Place (where the Canada v USA ice-hockey game was soon to start) and stood, silently in a long line against the fence. Thousands and thousands of people walked past in the hour we stood there. 95% read and took note of our T-Shirts. Who knows how many people in that crowd have or would pay for sex? Either here or in one of the many, many countries represented here. Hopefully we have made just a few of them- and indeed, a few of the other passerbys stop and think for a moment. The responses were varied- everything from a sarcastic 'What? It's not a sport?!' to rounds of applause. Most people seemed genuinely interested- and there was such power in standing there silently, almost as a silent vigil for all the women trapped in the sex industry who have no voice. The hour passed quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to regroup and de-brief. I don't think any of us will forget the experience. 
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