With just under a month before I can have permanent plans to work with, my first point of order is to find a job. Canada is expensive, and my savings are starting to fritter away. Luckily, due to the time of month, the Samesun hostel is looking for staff in quite a few areas.
Here’s the thing about Canada – working for accommodation is technically illegal, so hostels have to pay you. It’s minimum wage, but there are a lot of additional bonuses, including a reduced rate for staying at the hostel. Not that this will be much use to me come May, as the Samesun increases it’s prices for the Summer then, and again in June. Even with the discount, 20 hours a week won’t cover the rent, so I’ll have to find somewhere else to work.
I end up getting a job in the kitchen, working the Breakfast shift. The hostel offers a free breakfast from 7:30-9:30, and with the traffic coming through the hostel, they need 2-3 people working each day. Breakfast consists of bread, bagels, muffins, fresh fruit and oats – at 7am we have to bake the bagels (technically cooked, but we put them in the oven for 10 minutes to give them a freshly baked feel) and then make the muffins (which do come out of a mix and need at least 20 minutes to cook). The first hour and a half is usually pretty calm, but between 8:30-9:30 the hostel really wakes up, and it’s all hands on deck. Afterwards, we clean up and spend the last 90 minutes cleaning up the kitchen and bar for the evening staff. It’s a steady 4 hours of work, and gets me 20 hours a week at least, as well as giving me most of the afternoon to explore Vancouver.
The hostel helps with that, by offering a daily tour each day to a different part of Vancouver. The weather’s not great right now, so I skip a few of them until it clears up (also, some start at 10am and I’m still working). The ones that start at 12 however, I can make.
The first place I head to on a tour is Granville Island. The is the second most popular tourist spot in all of Canada just due to the amount of traffic that comes through. It’s biggest draw is the floating houses, the only place people can live on Granville Island (due to the loophole that the houses ‘technically’ aren’t on the island), and the giant market. This hosts a food court, fresh produce, jewellery and other knickknacks, most of which are excellent quality (got my eye on some incredible antler/bone jewellery that’s pricy but oh so beautiful). The island also has a lot of speciality stores, such as the broom store and glass blowing shop.
Another day I head to Chinatown and Gastown, two very old neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Chinatown is fairly similar to the one in Toronto, but Gastown is fairly unique. It’s actually the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver, with a funny story regarding its growth. There were many people who worked in the area, but it was decided there wouldn’t be a tavern – if they wanted to drink, they had to go to a pub several miles away, so it was an 8 hour journey to get a drink.
The owner, quickly realising an opportunity, came to the workers with a keg of beer, and told them if they built him a pub in this area, they couldn’t have it.
The bar was built in 24 hours, and the area soon became a functioning town. It burned down in a fire many years ago, but there’s a statue in honour of the man who began it all.
The other most iconic item in Gastown in the steamclock, which plays a song every 15 minutes. On the hour it plays the complete medley after playing the first three segments throughout the hour.
Both of these tours go to areas in walking distance of the hostel so are free. However they also offer tours with a private bus which cost $8 in order to pay for it. These usually head to hiking spots, like Capilano and Lynn Canyon, but leave at 10am so I need to wait until I have a day off to head to them.
Come May, I get my job offer for Whistler! I’m going to be a Food Service Attendant at the Rendezvous Restaurant on the mountain. The job doesn’t start until June 19th though, so I need to hang around Vancouver a little longer.
Thankfully, I’m getting another boost to my finances. The cleaning crew are desperate for someone to help out until they got someone long term, so I get several additional shifts each work to increase my wage. Just in time considering the hostel price is about to go up.
Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it for more than a few days. Since I don’t want every penny I make going straight back into the hostel (seriously, considering hostels were limited to 16 hours a week in Australia for room and board, it feels more criminal for Canada to pay their staff and still not make enough to cover rent in that time bracket). Right now I pay about $155 a week, but come May it goes to $200, and then up to $250 in June, and that’s WITH the discount. Most of the backpackers working hear quickly go looking for different accommodation, so I started searching Craigslist and Roommate websites for short term options.
I REALLY luck out when the very first place I view decides to take me then and there. I’ll be sleeping on a couch in a one bedroom apartment with a Canadian girl in the Commercial/Broadway area. It’s five minutes from the sky train station, 15 minutes from work, and will only cost me $450 for the month. The couch is also relatively comfortable, so it’s a good deal all things considered. My co-workers are having to pay about $700 for their rooms.
It’s also a relief to get out of the hostel and it’s constant epidemics. I’ve been backpacking long enough to know that staying healthy is next to impossible. Constant travelling and migrant populations in a closed area means that if one person gets sick, EVERYONE gets sick. My entire room is infected in varying stages of cold and flu, and I’m not much better. This is right after recovering from an ear infection, so I’m not in good shape.
As an added bonus, the day I think I’m almost completely over whatever was infecting me? I get hit with a different strain and get knocked out for ANOTHER week. Positive it was a different strain as the symptoms were very different both times. The second strain comes with a cough that I STILL haven’t managed to shake. Not great now that I’ve also got more shifts to work. The second week I work cleaning, I’m working a full five shifts and it nearly kills me. Thankfully the next week I’m down to two, and I start to recover for good. All I have left is the cough.
…So naturally this is the point my teeth decide to be irritating and give me a near constant toothache. It’s bad enough I actually fork out cash for the dentist to make sure there’s nothing seriously wrong. The good news? There’s nothing bad or dangerous happening. The bad news? They have no clue what’s causing it. Current diagnosis is that I’ve started grinding me teeth and I’m inflaming my gums because of it. Naturally a professional mouth guard will not be covered by my insurance and would set me back $400, so I’m making do with a pharmacy brand one just to see if it has an effect (it does, and teeth are fine now). And after that financial setback? My illnesses mostly clear up, except a cough that WILL. NOT. DIE.