During Spring Break mid April, 2019, we visited Monica, grandma as we called
her, a family friend of 20 years. The last time we met was almost 10 years ago.
We flew to Seattle and drove across the border to White Rock, British Columbia.
The trip was smooth until the last turn toward her apartment. At the lights, I
decided to wait for one more round as I saw the left-turn arrow under the green
light was dark. Left-turning cars queued up behind me and, as the light turned
red and then green, a motor-cycle came up from behind. The rider looked furious
and he shouted at me (Tim said he called me a retard), made a U-turn in front of
me, shouted again, and rode away. That was a surprise as I thought I was doing
the right thing waiting for the green arrow. But more surprising was that I felt
no emotion during the whole scene which lasted about one minute. The arrow
finally flashed at the end of the next round and I made the turn. As I parked, I
commented that the motorcyclist did not look fit and I hoped the agitation
didn't give him a heart-attack. In the past, my blood would boil and I would
have shouted back. I seriously believed that his anger hurt him, as the Buddha
This was also the first time I checked in an AirBnB. Yvonne and Bill were our
hosts for the two nights and gave us a warm welcome. Early next morning, as we
went out, I saw a bag hung on the door knob and a note said it was for our day
trip to Victoria. Inside were three home-made muffins: raisins, banana, and
The three of us arrived in time to catch the 9:00am ferry to Vancouver island.
Monica was worrying that the weather wouldn't play along but I told her we were
already happy. And she was fit! She must be over or close to 90 and she walked
faster than us on and off the ferry stairs. She ran or walked daily and could do
30-sec plank. She lost some hearing but retained mental sharpness. With families
close by, she lived alone and still took care of her rental business. I could
not help thinking of dad, who would turn 80 this year and struggled even to put
on his pants.
It took one and half hours to cross the waters in chilly winds under a cloudy
sky. Once landed, Scott and Lori, Monica's nephew and his wife, picked us up to
visit Buchart's Gardens. A cheerful lady, Lori had curly black hairs and big
black eyes. Scott was a jovial gentleman in his late 50s, tall and with a ruddy
face and steel blue eyes. We had a lot to talk about, from diet, exercise, to
martial arts (their daughter, Helen, practiced Mixed Martial Arts with a
well-known UFC figher.) and culture. Scott was trying to lose weight and
interested in my experience. When I told about my friend L's recent 100-mile
race, all seemed impressed. The couple were very articulate and knowledgeable
about the plants in the famous gardens and were the best guide we could hope
for. In addition to a variety of Japanese maples, I learnt about two flowers:
the Chinese magnolia and the hyacinth, and connected the name heather with the
actual plant for the first time. While we were examining the manicured gardens,
the sky turned blue and the sun came out. This was welcomed by everyone.
Grandma took us to lunch at the elegant garden dining room. I first chose to
join the ladies for the English high tea but chickened out at the last minute
and switched to salmon, daunted by the many unknown words on the tea menu. It
proved to be the right choice. There were so many sweet treats accompanying the
tea and half of them were left. Tim and I gladly helped. During the meal,
Scott, Tim and I discovered we all loved the Dick Peneke story of living in his
cabin in Alaska.
Downtown Victoria was a clean and beautiful place. Mid-April, visitors were
already taking over the streets and the legislative assembly building as the
island was heading to tourist season (starting the next week). Old buildings
were gutted from inside for renovation. The facades were kept for their
historical look. At a local shop dated back to mid 1800s, Rogers Chocolates,
grandma gave everyone a sweet treat.
Next, our hosts took us for a 10-mile drive along the coast. In the summer, we
were told, pianos would be placed along the trail and people are free to play.
I wouldn't have given it much thought had no one played. But it occurred to me
that someday Tim might walk down the path with his future girlfriend and, when
feeling like it, sit down at a piano, facing the ocean, and play a nice tune.
We stopped at Mt Tolmie Park close to the University of Victoria before heading
to their home.
Scott was great at caring for pets and raised pythons for a hobby. He bred a
rare species that do not grow too big (as those Burmese pythons in the
Everglades) and sold them to mostly Japanese customers. Tim got a big kick out
of holding one of the reptiles. "It was four feet of pure muscle." he declared.
The two had a piano competition and our host played guitar before sending us
back to the returning ferry. The three-hour round trip over water was itself a
tourist attraction and we had two pleasant meals aboard.
The third morning, Tim and I visited Tim Horton's, the Canadian counterpart of
Starbucks, before joining grandma for breakfast. It was a special shop for me
as I have six years of good memories of going there for coffee and donuts.
Coming back to SJC was smooth, too, although we lost the two oranges grandma
packed to border customs and the bottle of maple syrup she bought us to the
airport security. Tim took the latter loss very hard and I seriously thought we
might drive all the way next time.