I break rules, and deviate from guidelines. Just the other day I crossed the street while ‘Don’t Walk’ was flashing. My student was by my side, and she looked at me inquisitively, but kept on walking with me. I told her, “Sometimes you need to use your own common sense.” Same goes for following guidelines — some work, others don’t, and it’s okay to pick and choose. I’ve joined NaBloMoPo 2014 over at BlogHer and there are guidelines or rather writing prompts for blogging during the weeks of November. Some of the prompts are great and they are there to inspire, but I’ve decided not to use them. They remind me too much of the random 365 days of Q & A I tried in 2013. However, if you do want to get to know me a little more, you can take a peek at my ’13 things I’ve learned in 33 years’ series: Farewell 2013, Happy 2014, Let’s Be Honest, and Lessons Learned at Home and Abroad. So maybe I’m not really breaking any rules, I’m just choosing not to consider any of the prompts because my common sense is saying, “Buckle down! Get off the random trail.”
My students are helping me make sense of my life in the west. They’re inspiring me to look at the world around me with fresh perspectives. Glimpsing at the world through their eyes, I see all the beauty and novelty that surrounds me. And their enthusiasm for chasing novel experiences, makes me want to do the same. Victoria isn’t necessarily a place just for the newly wed and nearly dead. Over the last year or so, I’ve made physical and mental lists of places to visit, places to get caffeinated, and places to meet new people. I’ve shared these lists with my students, and have also taken my own advice.
Places to Visit. The Oak Bay Marina is a great place to enjoy a morning coffee or an afternoon walk. Not only can you admire the beautiful yachts and dream a little, but you can feed the chubby seals and snap some pictures. And Oak Bay doesn’t feel like Victoria; there is this old, quaint feeling to the place. It is surrounded by the beach, neat houses with manicured lawns, and a main strip of boutiques, cafes, and senior strollers. The neighbourhood moves at a slower pace, and for anyone who has spent time living in a big city, this is refreshing. To juxtapose this energy you have Chinatown. The pace is much more lively. You won’t find any Canada Dry here, just green tea, Thai curries, Asian fruits, and Chinese dumplings. The other day I bought some Kimchi from a Chinese grocery store with my student. And again she looked at me inquisitively — this time it was because we both didn’t understand the exchanges going on around us. I told her, “You’re not alone. We’re in the same boat.”
Places to get Caffeinated. As a freelancer, I know my coffee shops, and naturally I have a few favourites. Kate’s Cafe in the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is the ideal place to do some morning reading, of newspapers and books, or people watching, of locals and hotel guests. Union Pacific Coffee Company in Dragon Alley, Chinatown, has a unique industrial feel with its high ceilings and brick walls. It’s an ideal place for coffee meetings, first dates, and group projects. Finally, an under-rated just-for-coffee place in Cook Street Village is Bubby’s Kitchen. No need to order a meal, just perch yourself on a stool with a warm beverage. Their chocolate chai lattes and double chocolate chili and sea salt cookies are spectacular.
Places to meet New People. I’m a big Meetup fan. I’ve made many running buddies (literally and metaphorically) there. The beauty of Meetup is that you can also start your own group if none of them call out to you. It’s an awesome way to try new things and connect with new people. Speaking of connecting, volunteering is the perfect way to connect with the community. Volunteer Victoria has been a helpful resource for me over the years.
The list of cool things to do in Victoria doesn’t stop there, but these are just some ideas for keeping a fresh perspective on life. The novelty of living in a foreign land is washed away when you move back to your hometown, but you can seek new friends and opportunities to bring that spark back. If you put yourself out there, you’ll get the thrill of new experiences, and connect to the world around you. After a while, you won’t feel like such an alien, and you might even welcome some routine in your life. Keep things fresh….break the rules occasionally and use your common sense!