The metropolis nestled in the southwest corner of the Canadian mainland of beautiful British Columbia isn’t what it was in 1988. Well, neither is any place else. But Vancouver was not as exuberant as we had remembered from our previous trip three decades ago.
We flew non-stop from Honolulu to Anchorage, a 6-hour flight over the North Pacific. This was a fulfillment of a long time dream to see Alaska up close and personal.
I had transited the airport in Anchorage a half-century ago when I was in the U.S. Air Force and remember seeing the snow-capped mountains from above. But, never got the chance to get beyond the airport at that time. My wife is from the Philippines and this was her first Port of Entry into the United States at a time when they used to issue green cards right on the spot.
On this long-awaited adventure, we attended her 54th High School reunion on the scenic Kenai Peninsula, arranged by her classmate in Anchorage. Before that, we had the informative and pleasurable opportunity to visit the Native Alaskan Heritage Center in Anchorage. A highlight of our time in Alaska was the Wildlife Tundra Tour at Denali National Park.
We then boarded a cruise ship at Whittier bound for Vancouver, with photogenic visits to the Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay, followed by Ports of Call in Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan.
Much, much more could be said about our fascinating time in Alaska, but my intention here is not just to provide a travelogue. Alaska entered the union early in 1959 just a matter of months before Hawaii.
The Last Frontier lives up to its reputation as a starkly harsh but entrancing wonderland. Virtually every friend and tour guide has a story about surviving the most brutal frigid winters in the sub-Arctic.
All In all, Alaska not only lived up to but exceeded our expectations.
After plying our way down the foggy Inside Passage, we disembarked at Vancouver. The first day, the temperatures were above 80° F but moderated over the following days.
Over 30 years ago, when we were living in Southern California, we made a very long round trip drive to Vancouver and back. That was in 1988. I have long recalled it as a very interesting and enjoyable brief time just north of the U.S. border.
Vancouver at that time seemed to be a vibrant city with a bright future ahead. But, today, it felt more like a stagnant metropolis in the mode of Los Angeles.
There are certainly beautiful oases within and around Vancouver, including Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Gardens. I got a lot of excellent photos from both as we had also done from our days in Alaska.
I have always thought that Honolulu is a very expensive city which makes life difficult to afford for local residents. That indeed it is. But I am now told that to buy a family home in Vancouver can run you well over $2 million.
Most of the houses we saw are relatively small two stories, with minimal yards around them. There are also numerous crowded condos with no atmosphere or ambiance. There surely must be affluent neighborhoods with flowing lawns for the wealthy. But that is not what one sees in Metro-Vancouver. Affordable living would be at least an hour’s drive outside Vancouver.
The city streets felt a lot like L.A., flashing green lights notwithstanding. But, in Canada, Vancouver is a mecca for people from other parts of the dominion.
For one thing, it is the only city in Canada with a moderate Pacific maritime climate. Like Alaskan winters, we have all heard both testimonies and tall tales of the cold Canadian winters.
During our first visit many years ago, Canada had a rather homogeneous composition. I am a full believer in reasonable immigration. But Canada, like the United States, has not really been reasonable.
Perhaps you can use the mot du jour: intersectionality. There is rivalry among and occasional animosity against various multiple ethnic groups and nationalities in this newly cosmopolitan environment.
Not talking about the feelings of Canadians of northern European ancestry whose families have been there for generations. Rather, the clash for instance of Middle Eastern cultures with those from East Asian countries.
In many Arab countries, the dominant group expects and mandates that everyone else accommodate themselves to the majority with no need to respect the minority lifestyle. As we have seen this playing out in the United States, so it does in Canada as well where immigrants from the Eastern Mediterranean expect everyone else to become like them.
Canadians in my estimation for the most part are historically a very open and amiable people. But, they truly need to rethink their immigration apparatus to encourage those who will respect traditions of Canada and not try to bring a foreign template with them.
SUMMING IT UP
These have been just the opinions and reactions of a longtime observer of our Northern Neighbors. That term, in and of itself, could apply both to Alaska and to Canada. But the mindset appears to vary greatly from one to the other.
I must with a little levity admit that I met absolutely zero persons in Alaska with the accent of Sarah Palin. We actually stopped and ate at an excellent Mexican restaurant in her hometown of Wasilla. They said she comes in with her family occasionally. But I heard nobody who talks the way she did during the 2008 campaign.
Basically, Alaskans appear very forward-oriented and comfortable in their own skin, be they indigenous or otherwise. Vancouver feels more like a city on the verge of major social disruption.
As we focus so much on border issues here in the United States during this marathon presidential election campaign, let’s be sure to keep a watchful eye on our nearest neighbors to the north. For all our differences, Canadians and Americans have so much in common. Our mutual border is not the hostile environment that we have with Mexico. For that we should be duly appreciative.
The photo at the top of this article is of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Pre-Clearance in Vancouver. We were checked and admitted there for our flight to Seattle with connection to Honolulu where we live. It was a very comfortable and non-stressful process.
My recommendation is that all Americans should at some point in their lives spend time in Alaska and in Canada. But I would recommend Alaska first.
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JD Rucker – EIC