What I Learned After a Year of Living in Victoria

They say it takes a village to raise a child. So how many Victorians does it take to educate a newcomer? It’s not as straightforward to simply relocate across the country. The theory that all provinces are alike is misguided, even though we do share two uniting forces in this great country — ice hockey and our health care system. How different is Victoria from let’s say Winnipeg, where I last lived? On Sept. 3, it will be one year since we moved to our Victoria house — here are my observations on embracing an the lifestyle:

“Thump.” What’s that sound?
One day, while in the kitchen, I heard a loud thud and upon a quick panicked look around for signs of an earthquake, I realized it was simply the mail coming through the slot in the wall. I’ve been used to the superboxes in Winnipeg for the last 12 years and was numb to friendly personal contact. How interesting. Door-to-door service still exists… at least until 2020. I’ll enjoy the “indulgence” while I can.

What’s a composting bag?
Once our household contents were unpacked, I noticed in the garage a small white container with a handle. Parked outside the house stood a tall green storage bin on wheels, and while it said kitchen scraps on top, I wondered if there was a connection to the two receptacles. I proceeded down to City Hall and was informed you need composting bags for one which you then transfer to the other that is then picked up every two weeks. Simple tasks are not always straightforward it seems.

Helloooo pedicab!
With my purse strapped across my chest, I pressed my newly purchased recycling bins against the front of my body, while balancing the umbrella that was perched inside. I hoped for the best in my daunting 45-minute walk home. However, at the harbour I was exhausted and hesitated about jumping into a pedicab. Once negotiated, I was embarrassed to admit I was not a tourist, and pretended to have a meeting at a nearby hotel (with the blue boxes!). Upon arrival at the fake destination, I darted around the corner for the two-minute walk home, relieved my ploy was not discovered, my self-respect intact and my arms still attached.

Fortis who?
In Winnipeg, all gas and electricity bills are covered under one hydro bill. After living in our house for four months, I took a closer look at the BC Hydro invoice and realized we had not paid our gas bill. Again, assumptions were made that one utility company took care of it all. I was wrong and hurriedly called FortisBC upon discovery of their faux pas in not contacting us.

I can see clearly now
Once the leaves fell last November, I was expecting a weekly pick-up by the curbside of our yard waste as they did in Winnipeg. And so I purchased a handful of large brown yard waste bags and piled the mounting detritus inside, only to discover it needed to be stored in clear composting bags. I now understand you can drop off all yard waste at Garbally Rd. (once you pass the U.N. type security check point) in whatever container you wish. Hindsight is 20-20, although not necessarily so clear.

Is that a garage?
When you live in -45 Celsius for the last 12 winters, the garage becomes your best friend for not only storage but ensuring a warmer ride to work. After emptying the storage boxes we arrived with, I was proud to show off our newly cleared space to neighbours, only to be informed that no one parks in the garage. No frostbite warnings here? Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus and your driveway is safe to use!

A man without ice is no man at all!
My husband Mark is athletic and ice hockey is one of his favourite sports. You can imagine the euphoria when he found three different recreational hockey teams. One evening he went to meet his line mates, all dressed in hockey gear and helmets, and was introduced to two gentlemen, one named Mark. After exchanging pleasantries, my husband looked at his namesake and announced: “I know you. You’re my neighbour!” As in prehistoric times, neighbours will continue to bond, even on the ice rinks of Vancouver Island.

Last word
We purchased bikes to further explore the city and trails and one sunny day, as we rounded the bend near the busy intersection of Belleville and Government, hugging the curb, we heard honking from an irate driver. Not believing that cyclists and drivers need to respect each other’s right to both be on the road, the lady rolled down her window and yelled: “Go home you stupid tourists!” Stunned, I wanted to take off my mask to reveal my identity as a local, but it was fleeting as we clung desperately to our bikes.

After living here for a year, I can proudly call myself a Victorian, especially when the temperature hovers below double digits and I think it’s too cold outside!


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About Lisa Abram