My Symphonies: Morning Light by Courrier | Will You Be By Me by Wallpaper Airplanes
[Vancouver, British Columbia]
“Today I decided to say goodbye to Vancouver, my home for the last 16 years. This city and this country has been so good to me, yet I always felt that something was missing. It took me a while to figure it out, and I finally realized: it is the feeling of connection. I found it difficult to make friends here, to connect with like-minded souls who would be there for each other. I had no family in Vancouver– many acquaintances, but only one or two real friends. I find Vancouver and all its beauty a very lonely place. So Vancouver, it’s time for me to go. But know that I am likely one of the many who feel the same way.”
[taken from the ‘Confessions’ section of Georgia Straight, volume 46]
I have called Vancouver many things; today, I call it emptiness.
I have been here in British Columbia for a little more than ten months now. Yes, ten months is not such a long time. But in this province, ten months can feel like a decade of pure desolation. And as much as I hate writing about things I’m not happy about, I just feel the urgency of letting this one out once and for all.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, don’t get me wrong. But really, looks can be very deceiving. Before I came here, this city appeared in my dreams like a shining, glittering piece of hope for great beginnings. I came from a country and from a city which I then considered incapacitated. The Philippines is the place where I spent 18 years of my life, and Bacolod is the city in which I made lasting memories, both good and bad. And everytime I think about my hometown, I can’t help but realize that I have so much history there. Those 18 years hadn’t been dormant. In fact, those 18 years are still so full of life, energy and charisma that it doesn’t even feel like the past. It’s all still there, lingering. And so while I am in this foreign country, I am bound to feel like I have left a very big part of me behind, and now I am forcing myself to continue breathing in a significantly thinner amount of oxygen. And I was fine with that. I was fine with moving on. Damn, life made me move on quite a lot in the past. And I didn’t mind walking on a different road, sleeping in a different bed, drinking from a different source of water and seeing a different horizon. I was fine with that, until my heart cracked open.
The thing about Vancouver is, there is an underlying gap between expectations and reality. It disappoints. Underneath the marvelous mountains, stunning lakes and oceans, marbled walls, vaulted ceilings and glamorous way of life, people here are living in the chaos of a social discord. And they don’t even know it.
Living here for almost a year, I learned that I am not willing to succumb to the depressing weather and the wet, gloomy streets of this province (except for a couple of weeks in August, during which it’s really amazingly sunny). I don’t know, I’m just not wired that way. I miss the hot air in the tropics, and how I had to sweat just by crossing the street. I miss jumping up and over upon seeing an ice cream cart being pushed and pulled by a sidewalk vendor. I miss those days when I could wear flip flops and board shorts when I just wanted to roam around the neighborhood. Mostly, I miss the warmth not just of the weather, but also of the people. And I am gonna miss all of this even more if I stay here for the remainder of my existence. I am one of the many people who admire white sand beaches, coconut trees, mojitos, reggae music and the sun. And I do love the city living. City living is the best for me. But Vancouver isn’t the kind of city I want to stay in for a long time. Here is the kind of city living that triggers all sorts of emotions, but on most occasions, sadness… and the feeling that something is lacking. And for someone like me, that is a total hell.
Aside from the obviously dull and dark weather conditions, another thing that makes me fall out of love with this city is the fact that it is, as a matter of fact, a dazzling epitome of the failed Canadian multi-cultural project. Because really, this country isn’t multi-cultural at all. It is bi-cultural. The population is divided into who are “natives” and who are “immigrants”. And as far as I know, multi-culturalism is essentially impossible. People will always be who they are, but society will keep on seeing it not as different, but wrong. It sucks for some of us, but that’s just the way it is. And yeah. It sucks.
This is a city where it rains eight times a week, and most people hate that. But there’s something worse than the weather and the social condition, and that is the people themselves. This place is too cold, too rainy, too expensive, too unfriendly and too disconnected. And all of these too’s are referring to the general Vancouverites, not the weather and the living condition. It is frighteningly weird that this place has a great scenery, but has no character.
Living in Vancouver is like having a very hot, very good-looking drop-dead gorgeous boyfriend/girlfriend with absolutely no personality– vapid. It will keep you hanging around for a while but I mean, at the end of the day, this city has good looks and that’s all. Most of the people I have encountered here almost seem soulless. They have nothing to say, they have no depth, no spirit, no genuine aura, no sense of being alive. Everybody just seems so worried about succeeding, and fitting in, and getting richer, and looking cooler. They would keep you company, you would laugh together, eat together, talk about deep things, get drunk and get down but very rarely does it evolve to something bigger than that. Each conversation is nothing less flat than the other, each moment is nothing less shallow than the other and each day is no different than any other. People keep on saying that this is a beautiful place to live in, but that is a resounding no. To me, the idea that Vancouver is beautiful has begun to appear as a piece of spin that has no foothold in reality. And this is because as I grow up, I tend to define the term “beauty” very differently. It just seems so ridiculous to me how this place is being immensely overrated. I was one of those people who worshiped this city. But then again, humans never get contented. And I guess right now, this is me being a human being– always wanting what he doesn’t have, and always longing to be elsewhere. Hence, the discontentment.
The only thing that keeps me from evacuating this province soon enough is my school and the few amazing people I’ve known there. It’s like as soon as school is over, and as I head back home at the end of each day, it sort of feels like a wooden coaster ride– you feel so happy and so alive while you;re up there, but as soon as the ride is over you get down on your feet and feel empty again. And then you just feel dizzy and you just wanna vomit. That’s how I feel at the end of each day here. Clearly enough, I am not happy.
It may seem unfair and irrational for me to blame it all on the people, but that’s just how I feel it. I am a very social person, and all of my old friends know that. But here, no matter how hard I reach out to people, the connection I foster is never good enough to last for more than three or four months. And even when I observe the relationships of people in this city, I can see how evanescent all of it is, and how everything seems so temporary and shallow. And now that I have declared my utter dislike of this place, I probably won’t last long here. And so I just wanna say in advance, to the two or three people whom I have considered real friends here, that I love you, and I will miss you in the future. I mean, I know there’s no telling. The future is quite uncertain, but all I know is that right now, I am decided that Vancouver is not the place I want to spend the rest of my life in.
This city has taught me many things. This place has a lot to offer. But a couple of things this city doesn’t have are heart and soul. And I might regret saying this a couple of years from now, but here goes…
I can’t wait to be elsewhere.