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Observation, exploration

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” — TS Eliot

As ignorant, naive, or inexperienced as this is about to read, it has taken me a trip to the other side of the world to begin to recognize and appreciate what makes my home in the Metro Vancouver area unique.

Living in a modern, developed, and Western country, I guess I went about my day-to-day activities believing that the sights, sounds, and smells of everyday life there, would be similar in many ways to daily life in other modernized, developed, Western countries. Really, I was so entrenched in a culture with its own identity crisis that I didn’t observe how home would be different from others’ homes abroad.

I guess it was one of those things that I simply didn’t know I didn’t know. And after being asked, here in England, what Vancouver and Canada are like – and being forced to mull it over – I think I’m starting to find some answers.

But what’s more interesting to me at this moment, is what makes Preston different.

In my meanderings about town, I’ve come to look forward to the unpredictably wobbly cobblestones and concrete slabs that make up streets and sidewalks. I’ve grown accustomed to looking right and then left before crossing the street. (I still struggle with the concept of whether I am supposed to walk on the left when passing people walking towards me, or if that even matters.)

Like my experience in New York, people charge across busy streets despite the red stop light when the coast appears to be relatively clear. When it isn’t, the roads are filled with quiet cars, Fiats and Peugeots, and seldom any SUVs.

Whenever I have ordered a coffee at a diner, it has usually come in the form of a cappuccino or with milk, straight out of an automated machine.

Food and drink go hand-in-hand with travel. Apart from the culturally diverse options nearby – ranging from Moroccan to Indian, Italian to Ecuadorean – the local joints offer the typical English breakfast: Eggs, stewed tomatoes, beans, sausage, bacon, potatoes. The last on that list is a big staple. Today, I walked by a food cart selling fried potatoes, hot dogs, something about crispy peas and a special involving onions.

I opted to try mince meat pies for the first time, bought fresh from a £1 bakery. A big believer in butter tarts, I almost choked on the strength of the clove and cinnamon. After a few bites, I kind of began to like it.

Two more quotes to finish this off, because it’s been that kind of a day:

“A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” — Moslih Eddin Saadi; “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller

PS – Hi Grandma.

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