Showing posts with label vancouver. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vancouver. Show all posts

October 11, 2011

The Aviator

I have been aboard many commercial flights and even dabbled in the odd hot air balloon ride, but I had never piloted my own aircraft until a sunny summer's day in Vancouver came along. I arrived at King George Aviation's flight school along with fellow daredevil Sri and his spectating wife. The airfield was composed of grass and several bales of hay. As we waited for our planes to arrive, Sri and I inspected the light aircraft in the hangar and became increasingly nervous.

A true hero faces his fears courageously. I encountered a brief bout of uneasiness upon seeing the aircraft in which I would be flying and rushed to a portable toilet I sighted nearby. I was stymied by the combination lock affixed to the door handle of the outhouse, when an employee told me that is where they stored petrol. By now our flight instructors, a man and a woman, had arrived.

After perhaps making a politically incorrect statement about women pilots that enraged Sri's wife, I volunteered to fly with the female instructor to demonstrate my unbiased nature. The bright yellow plane had two seats and also two sets of controls. I put on my headset and buckled up, as the instructor tested the radio. Since it would be very loud once we were up in the air, all communication would be conducted via the headset.

The instructor would be in control during landing and takeoff, while I would get a brief chance to pilot the winged marvel once we were safely airborne and away from population centers. Within minutes we were soaring over the coast of White Rock. She steered the plane over the water, gave me a brief explanation of the maneuvers I could make, and handed over the controls to me.

The aircraft was surprisingly easy to pilot and I quickly got the hang of it. I made course corrections to keep tracing the coastline below. When we headed overland, we hit some turbulence. The instructor was back in the pilot's seat for the remainder of the session. We circled back to the airfield and made a smooth landing, bringing an end to my exhilarating fifteen minutes of flight.

Some photos courtesy: Sri


I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
- R. Kelly

October 06, 2011

Grouse Grind

After completing one of Vancouver's classic rites of passages in Stanley Park, I set my sights on Grouse Mountain for my next challenge. The mountain on the North Shore is home to the infamous Grouse Grind, dubbed "Mother Nature's Stairmaster" for its punishing steepness. The grueling hike from the base to the peak of Grouse Mountain covers a height of 853 meters. The trail is 2.9 km long and has 2830 stairs in total, making for an average grade of incline of 17 degrees or 31%.

Wearing black track pants that accentuated my firm buttocks, I blazed through the Grouse Grind in two hours*. I was powered by chocolate bars, several litres of water and Gatorade, and a desire to reach the summit. I enjoyed the view from the top while catching my breath. My t-shirt was soaked with sweat, looking more like a greasy napkin used by a customer at KFC than a fine piece of apparel. Going down the Grind is not allowed, so I descended to ground level via the aerial tramway.

*The official record is 25 minutes and the average person takes 90 minutes to complete the Grouse Grind.


"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life." ~ Steve Jobs

October 02, 2011

Stanley Park Seawall

Although I grew up in Vancouver, I had never circumnavigated Stanley Park's seawall. Upon my return from China, I finally got around to it. I caught a bus from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park. I assumed the bus would drop me off at the seawall, but the last stop was in the center of the thousand acre park. I followed my instincts to reach the coast, and commenced circumnavigation.

The pathway on the perimeter of the world's most beautiful urban park is popular with locals and tourists alike. Whilst enjoying the scenery, pedestrians must keep an eye out for rash cyclists and rollerbladers who barrel down the path. The stroll took me a couple of  hours and one bottle of Gatorade to complete.

I walked past the park's famous sites - totem poles, a gun battery installed to ward of a possible Japanese attack during World War II, the lighthouse at Brockton Point from where large piles of sulphur can be seen across the Burrard Inlet, and a mermaid-like sculpture set on a stone out in the sea.

As I was alone and did not appear to be in any rush, I was frequently stopped by tourists. I functioned as their principal photographer whenever they wanted group shots taken. I went underneath the mighty Lions Gate bridge and then stopped for a few moments at a one of the beaches along the coast of Stanley Park, before closing out the day at English Bay.

July 25, 2011

ARNABlades of Glory

Expo 86 shaped the Vancouver of today, leaving behind BC Place, Canada Place, Science World, and the SkyTrain as significant parts of its legacy. For the 2010 Winter Olympics, one of these legacy projects was the Richmond Olympic Oval. On December 12, 2008 the oval was opened to the public. As part of the opening ceremonies, the masses were invited to skate on its icy surface or merely admire its form and function.

I entered the oval, briefly gazing at the sleek wood paneling on the roof, before turning my attention to the sheet of ice before me. I took a deep breath and sat down on a bench to put on on my skates. The sinews of my arms rhythmically stiffened and loosened as I laced my ARNABlades on. I stood up to test that the skates fit snugly around my ankles so that they did not wobble and hinder my balance. Satisfied that they did, I pulled off my blade covers and and ran my fingers gently across the edge. Both the tips of my blades and my eyes sparkled as I stepped onto the oval. It was unlike any ice rink I had skated on before.

I glided around the smooth surface of the track, effortlessly sidestepping any toddlers, novices, or Olympic mascots that were not keeping pace. I completed several dozen laps of the oval before calling it a day. The facility was impressive from top to bottom. Apart from the speedy ice surface, which could be replaced with turf or ball courts as desired, the roof was another attention grabber. Its rippling wooden roof was constructed in the shape of a heron's wing in recognition of the Salish people who had first inhabited the area. Giant sky lanterns artfully adorn the exterior of the complex. These nets, made out of polytetrafluoroethylene mesh, change shape in concert with the wind.


"I was more interested in skating and the girls and traveling than I was in calculus." - Scott Hamilton 

June 19, 2011

Vancouver Riots 2011

They were the best hockey team throughout the season by a large margin. They never trailed a series in the playoffs, and leading 2-0 in this one. Yet, the Vancouver Canucks lost in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Final. Soon after the lovable losers failed to secure Lord Stanley's Cup for the 41st consecutive year, the rioting began. The crowds that had gathered on the streets to watch the game became unruly.

Although no stranger to danger, I was not involved in this particular riot. The mob consisted primarily of young white males. They set cars on fire, hurled insults and garbage at police officers, engaged in fisticuffs, and looted stores. The police methodically cleared out the streets of rioters as quickly as they could. As darkness fell in a city, it was clear that it had lost a lot more than a championship.

The world's most livable city showed its better side the next morning. Hundreds of volunteers helped to clear the streets of the debris left behind from the mayhem of the night before. Outside the Bay's flagship store, which had been pillaged by the Vancouverioters, an "Apology Wall" came into being. The shattered windows of the storefront had been boarded up with plywood, and Vancouverites had started writing messages on the wooden planks. The notes stated how sorry the people were for the behaviour of the rioters and expressed dismay and anger at the ugly turn of events in the Olympic city.


Gone the city, gone the day,
Yet still the story and the meaning stay:
Once where a prophet in the palm shade based,
A traveler chanced at noon to rest his mules.
“What sort of people may they be,” he asked,
“in this proud city on the plains o’erspread?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the packman scowled; “why, knaves and fools!”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
Another stranger in the dusk drew near,
And pausing, cried, “What sort of people here
in your bright city where yon towers arise?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the pilgrim smiled, “Good, true, and wise.”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
-— from Edwin Markham's "The Right Kind of People"

June 15, 2011

We Are All Canucks

With Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final, the whole city has been in high spirits since my return. Fans, old and new alike, have donned Canucks jerseys as they gather in public spaces to watch the games on large screens. The streets of downtown Vancouver near the main branch of the public library have four sets of screens in one square block, which are closed off to vehicular trafic several hours in advance. Most of the revelers gather here, with faces painted and flags in hand. They are ready to burst into raucous celebrations immediately following a Vancouver victory.

For those who want a more relaxed environment, comfortable seats, and unobstructed views, Rogers Arena telecasts games taking place in Boston on its giant screens. 20,000 fans wave Canucks towels and stand for the national anthem in unison. During the intermissions the ice girls skate out with Fin, the mascot, and launch prizes into the stands. A team of toddlers plays an action packed game of exhibition hockey during intermissions. It almost feels like being at the actual game.

The best celebrations happen in the most unexpected of places. In the Indo-Canadian suburb of Surrey, cars start honking their horns as soon as the final whistle blows after a Canuck win. Whole families, from preschoolers to grannies, come out to celebrate on the streets. Scantilly clad girls dance in the middle of a boulevard, vehicles tooting their horns in appreciation from both sides of the street as they pass by. The icing on the cake are the pickup trucks carrying dhols, large Indian drums, which are beat as rhytmically as the Canucks' opponents. Win or lose, the way that this city comes together in times like this is truly amazing.


"Even when you've played the game of your life, it's the feeling of teamwork that you'll remember. You'll forget the plays, the shots, and the scores, but you'll never forget your teammates." ~ Deborah Miller Palmore

June 11, 2011

Flame On

The most popular sports franchise in the city, the Vancouver Canucks, stood atop the National Hockey League's standings at the end of the regular season. It entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as the top ranked seed and one of the favourites to win the coveted trophy. After battling through three best-of-7 series, Vancouver claimed the Western Conference crown. In the finals they would face the Boston Bruins, winners of the East.

My return to Vancouver after 15 months away coincided with the return of the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals after 17 years. The city was in a jubilant mood at this pleasant turn of events. Once the hockey team had secured a 2-0 series lead, provincial politicians felt it was an appropriate time to to relight the Olympic Flame. It was fenced off during the Winter Games, so audiences could not get too close to it. The barricades had long since been removed, so this time around there was a clear view of the torch being lit.


 "If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire." — Charles Bukowski

January 06, 2011

With Glowing Hearts

For years, Vancouverites eagerly anticipated the 2010 Winter Olympics. Time passes swiftly though, and a memorable month of February came and went in what seemed like a blink of an eye. The city and the people of Vancouver hosted a marvelous Games. I was in my hometown for this once in a lifetime event, and the story could not have been written any better. For 17 days, the streets were jam packed with enthusiastic fans of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Strangers passing by high-fived each other in downtown Vancouver. During hockey games, whenever Team Canada scored a goal cheers would resonate through the downtown core like a Mexican wave.

The athletes also did not disappoint. Wayne Gretzky lit the flame to signal the start of the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Early on, Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first ever gold medal on home soil. Canada owned the podium, winning the most gold medals ever captured by a single nation at a Winter Olympics. On the final day of competition, a hockey mad nation watched the final of men's ice hockey with bated breath. Overhead satellite views of cities across Canada would show almost no cars on the street. The Games had a fairy tale ending, as Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal against the United States in sudden death overtime.

The Olympic schedule happily coincided with the Chinese New Year, so I combined the national holiday with my personal vacation days. During my month off, I met my friends and family after almost one year in China. A day after the closing ceremony, I was at the airport to catch my flight back to Beijing along with members of the Chinese contingent. I flew from Vancouver to Beijing, from one Olympic city to another, both changed forever by a few special weeks.


I believe in the power that comes
From a world brought together as one
I believe together we'll fly
I believe in the power of you and I
- Olympic theme song 'I Believe'

July 28, 2010

Arnab and the Sedin

Henrik Sedin led the NHL in scoring and captured the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player for the 2009-2010 season. Before his breakout year he was mostly known for being identical twins and lifetime linemates with his brother Daniel Sedin. Taken one spot after Daniel in the 1999 National Hockey League Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, he was supposed to be the playmaker while his brother was to be the scorer. He came face to face with another rising star in 2008 when he crossed paths with me.

Source: Canucks Army

I had just left my job at ResponseTek and was about to embark on my oriental oddysey. I met him in GM Place, the home of the Canucks. Preparations were under way for Vancouver fan favourite Trevor Linden's retirement ceremony. His #16 jersey was to be raised to the rafters the follwong night, so no one was allowed onto the skating surface of the arena as rehearsals were taking place. We chatted briefly outside the team dressing room and posed for some photographs, before I was herded off to the press room and he went off to do some exercises.


"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." ~ Wayne Gretzky

July 12, 2010


I cook very rarely. If I have to, it means that I have no family, friends, or females around who will make me food or go to a restaurant to eat with me. On the rare occasions that I do enter the kitchen, I am sure to deliver a feast unmatched in taste and texture, untried by the common chef, and untainted by prior cooking experience. I use a combination of heating techniques such as baking, microwaving, burning, grilling, boiling, and toasting to prepare the courses. A pathfinder in the culinary arts, I deliver dishes that the world has not seen before. Since I only cook for myself and never repeat a dish nor write down a recipe, I capture the moments of edible euphoria on camera.


"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~ Luciano Pavarotti

June 19, 2010

The Olympic Flame

A cross country Olympic Torch relay culminated in the hockey god known as Wayne Gretzky being revealed as the final torchbearer of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. The opening ceremonies were held under the domed roof of BC Place Stadium, so the Olympic Flame was to be lit in a separate outdoor location for the first time. As Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and presented it to mortals, so too did the Great One as he ignited the Olympic Cauldron to the cheers of thousands.

Unfortunately, a chain link fence was quickly erected around the site of the Olympic Flame. This was to prevent visitors from being engulfed in the flames if they got too close. Inaccessible to the public, it was hard to get an obstructed view of the flames flickering against the night sky. The unwashed masses jockeyed for position in front of a hole in the fence, so they could capture a clear snapshot of the cauldron without being incinerated.


"A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark." ~ Dante Alighieri

June 17, 2010

Salad Days

"I don't see this 'ballooning' weight. However, I know FOR A FACT that drinking 1 million sugar-packed juice boxes and other similar beverages, and 3 days a week worth of fruit (although natural sugar, still sugar) is INCREDIBLEY fattening. If I did that I would 'balloon' as well… you should try giving up the juice boxes and drink a lot of water, and instead of only doing fruit try and have a nice complex salad and one piece of fruit on those days. I can guarantee you will notice significant changes in your weight and how you feel!" exclaimed my beautiful secretary to me.

She provided the friendly advice after I complained that I was going through a period of significant ARNABloating at ResponseTek. After shedding some extra pounds in India following the infamous Satyam Diet, I had started re-inflating my spare tire at my job back in Vancouver. With a world of dining options in the downtown core, I explored a new restaurant every day. The possibilities were limitless - Monday sushi, Tuesday fish and chips, Wednesday pizza, Thursday burger, Friday burrito!

After my secretary's sound salad advice, I tried alternating salad and eating out for a couple of weeks. I bought a large bag of salad into the office and left it in the freezer. On the first day it tasted fine, although incredibly bland. I could not add dressing as that would neutralize the health benefits of eating the salad. After a few bits of vegetable accidentally fell into my cup of hot chocolate, I tried mixing the salad with chocolate milk to add some flavour but the results were unsatisfactory. Two days later when I returned to the refrigerator to retrieve my salad it was completely soggy. It had become frozen solid while in the freezer and then thawed out in the fridge, leaving it a wet inedible mess. Despite good intentions, my salad experiment had ended in failure.


"You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100." ~ Woody Allen

The Sport of Kings

The thoroughbred was met with silence as he entered the race track. I looked around and noticed the audience was largely made up of senior citizens who were there to gamble away their retirement savings and government pensions. Through the centuries, the popularity of the equestrian sport has always been tied to betting on its outcome. I took a seat in the grandstand right in front of the finish line. The tag line of Vancouver's Hastings Racecourse is "Bred for Excitement", but I had no idea what to anticipate in my first live horse race.

With one devastating injury all that separates them from life and death, the careers of race horses are thankless and short lived. They are given mildly amusing monikers such as "Hoof Hearted" and "Gotta Pee". The horses were escorted to their starting gates where they calmly took their position. A shot rang out and they were off, their powerful legs picking up speed as they galloped around the race course. The diminutive jockeys did their best to guide the noble steeds to the finish line, but only one would feel the thrill of victory.


“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”
~ Ovid ~

March 09, 2010

Higher Learning

ARNABlog began to chronicle my globetrotting adventures after I graduated from Simon Fraser University. The campus was located on top of Burnaby Mountain, giving it the nickname "high school on the hill". The dull grey buildings and the isolation from the society below also gave it the moniker of "Simon Fraser Minimum Security Facility". Every day, I would join busloads of diligent students on the trek up to the peak. If it snowed just the right amount classes would not be canceled but the buses would not make it all the way up the steep incline, depositing students midway to their destination. We would trudge uphill in snow with heavy backpacks full of textbooks and notepads, leaving our bodies exhausted but our minds still thirsting for knowledge. 


"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." ~ William Butler Yeats

March 08, 2010

Imagine 2010

Five years ago, the Olympics were still a faraway thought in the minds of most Vancouverites. The Imagine 2010 launch event at GM Place introduced the general public to what was about to come in the years following. First Nations hosts, RCMP officers, and Cirque du Soleil performers all appeared on stage before the new Vancouver 2010 logo was officially unveiled.

An inukshuk sporting the five Olympic colours was chosen as the symbol of the Winter Games. The stone landmark was primarily used by natives of Canada's Arctic regions as a point of reference and food cache in the frozen tundra. The precursor to modern day GPS markers, inukshuks show the way ahead while providing hope of better things to come.


This is the moment we have dreamed of all our lives
We'll be the change we wish from others
We'll stand tall for what is right
And in my heart there'll be no doubt
The arms of the world will come reaching out
- Olympic theme song 'I Believe'

March 27, 2009

Shop Talk

While I worked as a primary developer of product releases at ResponseTek, several new terms were introduced into the technical lexicon:
  • ARNABranch - Whenever features, changes, or bug fixes had to be developed, I requested a branch of the code base to work on.
  • ARNABuild - As I made rapid progress on my project, I would roll out incremental packages tot the quality assurance (QA) team so that they could validate and verify my work.
  • ARNABug - Occasionally an ARNABuild behaved in an untoward manner. These ARNABugs were not necessarily introduced in the current ARNABranch, although they were detected in it.
  • ARNABeta - When software is ready to be tried by its users but is still not ready for the big time, a 'beta' label is slapped on it. ARNABetas looked very good but rarely worked.

January 02, 2009

Vaisakhi, Vancouver Style

In the month of Baisakh in 1699, the first Sikhs were baptized and became known as the Khalsa ("pure"). Vaisakhi is celebrated by Sikhs around the world every year as they come together to observe this occasion. Around the same time Bengali's celebrate their new year, Naba Barsha. The first time that crops can be harvested in the season also occurs around this time, so everyone is generally in a good mood.

In Vancouver, it is not just Sikhs who come to to celebrate Vaisakhi. Around 100,000 people showed up for the annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver's "Little India". Hymns were sung as part of the street procession, an activity called Nagar Kirtan. Main Street was filled with revelers who watched floats pass by as they munched on tasty snacks provided freely by the Sikh community. The food was as diverse as the parade participants, ranging from pakoras to pizzas. Among the local celebrities in attendance was photogenic TV personality Tamara Taggart, who waved at me.


"Share our similarities, celebrate our differences." - M. Scott Peck

December 28, 2008


A burger is a special type of sandwich composed of a bottom bun, one or more patties (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable mishmash, etc), other secondary ingredients (cheese, bacon, tomato, pickle, etc), condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc), and a top bun. The bread, the patty, and the eater are usually circular in shape.

Vancouver has its fair share of burger joints. Vera's Burger Shack offers high quality burgers at a modest price. The BC Burger at White Spot is a personal favourite of mine. Fatburger, the "White Castle of the West", is not very impressive. Other outfits, namely Burger Heaven and Hamburger Mary's, offer an unique selection of meats including elk, kangaroo, and ox. Before shutting its doors to the public due to increasing costs, Wally's was another prominent figure in Vancouver's burger landscape.

A low price point and decent taste were Wally's hallmarks. A steady stream of people, some tearful regulars trading nostalgic tales and some just wanting to try it once while they have the chance, were in the line up. I was in the latter category, seizing a chance to savour this portion of Vancouver's burger lineup before it was removed from the roster.