Merry Christmas everyone!

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

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Where I stayed
Commercial Drive

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I arrived back at the apartments to find them all deserted- which, to be honest, was quite nice! I had an hour or two to unpack, and settle back in before the big reunion with Trix, Rebi, Ancel, Bobby and Heidi. It was so good to see everyone again! In Vancouver, most churches have their Christmas services on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, so we all went to a candlelit Christmas service at Coastal at 4:30pm. It was lovely to sing Christmas carols together, and I enjoyed sitting there in the dark with all our candles lit, but I nearly fell asleep whenever we sat down! So so tired! But from there we went straight to Randy's house for an international pot luck.

Pot luck is a bit of a Canadian (maybe North American?) tradition where everyone brings a different dish, and you see what happens! Since we are such an international crew, we decided to each bring a different dish from our own country... and the results were delicious! We had pork pie from Quebec (Canada), Pineapple chicken from the Philippines, Homemade sushi from Japan, Raclette from Switzerland, Carrot and rice casserole from Finland, Subways from USA, Cassava cake from Philippines, Christmas biscuits from Switzerland, Stripy Shortbread from Edmonton (Canada) and from England drum roll please.... Christmas pudding and Trifle, neither of which are on the regular Christmas dinner menu over here! Nor do they have crackers- or pigs in blankets (which is a travesty). Unfortunately I had had to try and make the trifle in the few hours between getting back from Whistler and going to church, so the jelly hadn't really set... and the whipped cream all slid down into the trifle... but it still tasted great- and for people who've never had trifle before in their lives, everyone loved it!

Christmas Day was a little strange. It's the first time I've been fully away from home and all the English traditions, family and weather over the festive period. The only thing we had planned for the day was Christmas Dinner- in the evening, and we decided to do presents after that. So the rest of the day was all fairly average! Everyone wanted to just have a lazy day, not doing very much- while I wanted to go for a long walk, play board games, go ice skating... something festive! I ended up going for a very nice walk on my own around Trout Lake (accompanied by about 100 dogs and their walkers), enjoying the beautiful weather. I did the customary Skype/pass the phone around the table back home- and was able to call my grandparents too. It was so good to speak to everyone and it felt for a moment like I was back home! Then in the evening we went back over to Randy's for a Christmas Feast! Turkey and all the trimmings (well, minus the pigs in blankets, parsnips, brussels and bread sauce) and an amazing Mississippi Mud Pie made by Pam, another YWAMer. I sat around the table with Randy's family, Pam, and Randy's mum- while somehow the other DTSers ended up next door sitting in the kitchen. It was so nice to be in that family Christmas environment, and really made it feel like Christmas. And then the day got better and better! We returned to our apartments to exchange our miniscule gifts with each other (v.tight budget here) before Bobby disappeared into his bedroom... He told us he'd secretly contacted each of our parents months ago to get them to send a box of presents out for us to open on Christmas day... So I had a big box of presents to open! The best bit was that it was a complete surprise, none of us were expecting it at all, and it was a joy to watch each other open their cards from home, receive their favourite sweets/chocolate and get excited like a kid opening a stocking on Christmas morning!

We finished off the day with an impromptu screening of The Snowman- several people had never seen in before, so I insisted it would make Christmas- and it really was the perfect end to the day.

Boxing Day, we dragged ourselves out of bed at 7am, exchanging loaded glances that screamed 'what on earth are we doing, are we crazy?!' We had made the brave decision to hit the sales. And what sales they were! Some stores discounted 50% off their entire stock- including sale items that were already 50% off. I don't normally have much luck in the sales, finding that I'm picking through season leftovers- but on Saturday I found something in nearly every shop- good for my wardrobe, not good for the bank balance! But the main thing is, I saved $500(!!) So plenty of bargains to be had.And it wasn't even that busy- no worse than any Saturday on Oxford Street. We were completely spent by 2pm, so returned home for a night in with nachos, It's a Wonderful Life (Heidi's contribution to Christmas) and popcorn.

I had a relaxing day on Sunday, strolling up The Drive with Bobby and Rebekka- and getting the bargain of the year! In Mintage, this cool vintage shop, they advertised everything as being between 50 and 100% off- yes, the first ever 100% off sale I've seen, where if you manage to find an item with a Free label on it, you got it! Since I was there the day after boxing day, I thought my chances of finding such an item were slim- and I certainly wasn't going to spend the whole day trawling the whole shop to try and find one. But I was trying on a couple of leather jackets, and lo and behold- I spotted a Free label. And even better, it was on a beautiful brown leather jacket, that fitted me perfectly. I love it! So I took it to the counter, and the assistant just gave it to me. Goooood start to the day. I continued up to go for a coffee with the morning papers, Bobby and Rebi. I ran a few errands in the afternoon- and when I returned, Taylor was back from the States. Later that evening Nathan, Jenny and Alex also returned- so at long last, the gang was back together. We celebrated with a cheese fondue, made by Ancel as his Christmas present to us. Amazing but I ate far too much! 

The last 3 days have been spent preparing for Montreal- we fly tomorrow morning, and are there for 5 weeks. There hasn't really been much preparation needed, so it's all been fairly chilled out, easing us back in gently, which is good. So it's farewell to Vancouver for the time being- and Salut, Montreal!
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