Yes, families live here,
Yes, families live here,
In 1981, they’re finally realizing a long-held dream—a trip to San Francisco. Their hotel is half a block from Union Square, an ideal location to visit and appreciate much of what the city has to offer—Pier 29, Lombard Street, the Exploratorium which delights the adults as much as it does the kids, the cable car museum. Of course, they’ve ridden the cable cars several times.
Today they hop on a bus to another museum, only to arrive and find it closed. Not a big problem. They’ll take the bus back downtown and check out some of the stores.
A few minutes later, they begin to think there may be a problem after all as they don’t recognize the route. Another few blocks and they’re the only whites on the bus. Then the driver stops, gets off and a black driver gets on. The streets they pass are rougher and rougher with each turn of the bus wheels. Much too late to get off now so they stay where they are nodding politely as passengers pass down the aisle.
Within a short time they are the only passengers on the bus. The view out the window is of derelict houses, broken windows, weeds, and little sign of habitation. The driver stops and turns to look at them.
“You’re not from here, are you?”
They shake their heads.
He grins. “This is the end of the line. Cross the street.” He points to another bus stop. “Catch the next bus to get back downtown.”
They thank him and do as they are told. On the way back the black/white driver exchange occurs again. All of it such a foreign experience for this Canadian family.
WE’VE ALL ENCOUNTERED THEM, the tourists who don’t speak the language and keep repeating themselves at ever increasing volume when the waiter or clerk doesn’t understand. We’ve seen these tourists try speaking slower, enunciating every word and then turn to their companions and complain about the stupidity of the waiter before they yell, “Checko!”
Then there are the ones who don’t try to communicate verbally. Instead they pick up their empty coffee mug, rap the bus boy on the arm with it and hold it up for a fill. Yep that’s the way to make yourself look good.
Tourists are obnoxious in other surprising ways. We arrive at our place in Mexico and begin setting up for the winter which entails many repairs (tropical climates are harsh in their own way), and setting up the satellite, etc. In the process we discover that our Internet isn’t working properly.
Our caretaker/manager tells us that last year a guy staying next door told her that the owners of the house were friends of ours and that we said he could hook into our wi-fi, which he did because our caretaker took him at his word. When my husband saw the man, he set him straight and asked, “Would you do that in Canada?” to which, he answered no? So what is it about being away from home that gives some people permission to cross lines?
Ostensibly, we travel for new experiences, so what’s with the tourists who arrive at their destination and complain bitterly. “The Internet connection is sporadic.” “The Internet connection is slow.” “The …” Lady, did you ever think you’re lucky to have the Internet connection in a country that has much bigger concerns for its citizens. If you want everything to be as it is at home, stay home.
But, wait, there’s worse to come.
While we were in the fruiteria an old male tourist came in asking for snow peas. He waved a scrap of paper that had something written on it at the young lady behind the counter. Not surprisingly, she looked puzzled as I could see the words made no sense in Spanish or English.
When that didn’t work, he made crude gestures of peeing to try to get his message across. What would make him think that the words peas (chícharos) and pee (pis) would be the same in Spanish? And what would make him think his gestures would be acceptable here anymore than at home?
I was furious that he would be so crude with the two young girls working in the store and let him know exactly what I thought of his behavior. I didn’t want to let him get away with it and I wanted the girls to know that I, for one, would defend them.
This particular episode got me to thinking of the times I had witnessed the ugly tourist and hadn’t spoken up. I won’t make that mistake again.
The tourist, who came to their little town every winter, walked with a cane. She didn’t know why, but each day he came into the little store where she worked to get his groceries. He spoke a little Spanish and she spoke a little English—enough that they could have small conversations.
One day he came in and saw her son.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“He was born that way,” she said. From what she understood, there was a problem with the tendons in his ankles. The boy couldn’t walk as his ankles turned in. “His dream is to play soccer,” she said.
He gestured to his cane and nodded. “I understand that,” he said. “I knew a boy back home who walked the way your son does. It can be fixed, you know, with surgery.”
“Um hum,” she said. Just where did this man think she would find the money for such surgery?
The man went back home and she thought no more about the conversation.
Then one day the phone rang. “This is Dr. X. from the Shriner’s Hospital in Mexico City. Please tell your friend to stop emailing me. I will examine your son at the end of January and we will see if we can help. Oh, and just so you know, our services are free.”
“You did this?” she asked, when she next saw the tourist.
“Yes, I’ve been emailing and phoning the hospital about your son for the past year.”
“Thank you,” she said. She wanted to say more, but was stymied by language and emotion.
He nodded. He understood.
Friends and family donated money for the bus fare. They stayed with relatives in the City. The young lad had his surgery. The operation was a success.
We’re here! Living in the city again and what a city it is. Victoria, British Columbia—buzzing with tourists and citizens. Cruise ships, water taxis, and float planes dot the harbor. History and modernity comingle in the downtown core.
An online search will tell you that: Victoria, capital of British Columbia, is known as “The Garden City” due to the abundance of gardens and city parks, Victoria also has an impressive selection of historic sites and heritage architecture. Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s.
Museums in Victoria cover everything from Aboriginal culture to science and nature. This is also the home of the Royal BC Museum and the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
See floral displays year-round or wander through a castle. Take a Victoria whale-watching tour to enjoy the natural surroundings and to look for Orcas, sea lions and more.
What the descriptions can’t give you is the sense of excitement, the bustle of activity, the air of adventure … everything from the Butchart Gardens to zip lines, from the IMAX to miles of bike trails, from Fishermans’ Wharf to the Bug Zoo.
Go whale watching, take a horse drawn carriage ride, dine in one of the many fine restaurants and bistros, high tea at the Empress Hotel, coffee at Murchies …. Festivals and concerts abound—something for everyone.
Yes, we love it here already.