Days 163-169: Friends in Whistler

I met Brittany during a nightclub crawl and a daytime brewery tour. We agreed to have some sushi over lunch one day. She’s 30, fit, and has long dark hair. When I arrived, Brittany was already sitting at a table so I joined her there. I couldn’t help but notice the green painting on the wall by our table. It was the same painting that Josh (a guy I had meet the week prior) had waited for two weeks to have added to his snowboard and ended up living in Whistler.

Brittany told me about the separation with her husband. They had been together for eight years and married for about three of those years. They had been separated for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to filing. In Canada, you have to be legally separated for 12 months before you can file for divorce.

Brittany realized they were more friends than romantic partners. She is still friends with her ex, and even invited him and his new girlfriend over for dinner. She said one of the reasons it ended was because he was so into rock climbing that it became an obsession. I understand the feeling of drifting apart and feeling like you’re just friends.

While enjoying some sake and sushi, Brittany and I talked about how neither of us wanted to have kids if our marriage wasn’t strong and in a good place. I told her about the lies that my ex-husband told me over the years and she listened intently saying, “It’s like a Dr. Phil episode!” It was nice having a friend to hang out with. Brittany had to go to work so we parted ways.

A few days later, I saw there was a trivia night at a local pub and I asked Saya if she wanted to go with me. Saya is from Japan, is in her early 30s, snowboards, and was in Whistler for a one-year working visa. I had met her at game night at the library. I was able to snag a table right by the stage. The place was packed with teams.

Saya brought her friend, Boram, who was also from Japan. We had a great time attempting to answer the trivia questions and drinking some beer. There were a few categories and we struggled the most on the music category. We didn’t do very well with our answers, but I used the excuse that it was because none of us were from Canada.

The next night, a local bar was hosting Bingo. I met Saya and her friend Serena there. It was packed and we waited in line in the cold for 30 minutes before we could get inside. We were able to snag a tall table that had a couple of guys getting ready to leave. We missed the first round, but we were able to join in the second round.

A few of Saya’s friends joined us, like Misato. I had met her at game night at the library as well. She’s in her late 20s, from Japan, and was also there for a one-year work visa. I talked with her about dating apps because we had both tried Tinder. We agreed it was fun, but often times frustrating. We drank wine and had a great time hoping we’d win something. The girls even made some amazing origami out of old score cards!

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There was another game night a week later at the library, so I went there again. This would be the third and final game night I’d be able to attend before leaving Whistler. This time, I was playing with Saya, Misato, Kristina, and a new girl, Lucy.

At 6’5”, Lucy was very tall, had blonde hair, and was in her early 30s. She had visited Canada 10 years prior and loved it. This time, she had a two-year work visa. However, she said she was missing her boyfriend in France and didn’t want to stay for two years. Kristina was not happy about this and said, “It’s not fair. We can only get one year visas and you get a two a year visa and don’t even use it.”

The five of us played a train game called Ticket to Ride. We were all learning so it was slow going at first. I thought I was doing pretty well, but once it ended and we calculated points, I was not even close to winning.

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On another night, I wanted to go to Bingo night at Tapley’s bar. It would be the last one I could attend because I would be leaving in a few days. Saya and Misato met me at the entrance and we only had to wait a few minutes before we got inside. However, once we got inside, it was packed! We looked around for a table or any spot where could share a table.

As we searched around, a guy said we could use his table. He had offered it to two other guys as well and they scooted over to make room for us. The tall, rectangular table had a few bar stools and there was a ledge where two people could sit on one side of the table. Misato and Saya sat there and I stood at the corner.

The guy, Trevor, who originally offered the table to us was on the opposite side of the table and called me over. He was very tall, had an average build, had brown hair, and was 37. I was not physically attracted to him. He asked me my name and then gestured towards Misato and Saya saying, “Are you their tour guide?” Offended, I said, “Excuse me? They’re my friends.” I already didn’t like this arrogant guy who thought he owned the place, but I needed the table.

We got score cards and talked with the two other guys. They were from Vancouver, but were in Whistler for work. They were friendly to talk with and were respectful. Trevor on the other hand, was a jerk. He kept putting his arm on my back and then would slowly run it across my butt. He gave me one of the other guy’s bar stool and made that guy stand. I figured maybe the touching would be better if I was sitting down.

I was wrong – he started to rub my leg, going up my thigh. Multiple times, I pushed his hand away, made a face, and started turning my body against him. I could only turn so far and he continued to touch me on my back and leg. At one point after I moved his hand off of my leg, he asked, “Is it ok that I’m touching your leg?” I replied, “No,” but it didn’t stop him.

Over the next hour and a half, Trevor told me that he’s from Whistler and works in drywall for multimillion dollar homes. One of the guys at our table won a game and got a free pitcher of beer for our table. The place was loud and busy, and our table was close to a register with a server station. Trevor knew all of the servers and kept calling them over for different things. He was making it clear he was an important, well-connected person. Then Trevor casually mentioned that he can’t leave Canada. I asked why and he quickly said, “I was sent to prison after tying some people up in their home.”

Trevor called a waitress over and ordered some drinks as if nothing had happened. Once the server left, I said, “I’m sorry, what did you say? You tied people up?” He told the story, “Well, I was 19-years old and me and my buddy were breaking into houses in Whistler to steal stuff. When we got into one house, we saw there was a husband and a wife and we didn’t know they were home. So we tied them up. You know, what else are you going to do? Well, it turns out that they had set off their alarm and the cops caught us. I spent four years in prison and now I’m not allowed to leave Canada.”

I stared at Trevor in disbelief and disgust at his casual telling of the story. I said, “You broke into their home and tied them up?” He responded, “Yeah, whatever, I was only 19. I’m very successful now.” He went on to describe how his mother is wealthy and owns a lot of hotels in the area, but he assured me he doesn’t take her money and earns his own.

Trevor won bingo and got a ski hat that said “Whis Life” on it. He immediately gave it to me and I like hats, so I put it on. He said, “Wow, you were pretty before, but you’re even prettier with that hat on.” I cringed. Misato and Saya couldn’t hear a lot of what Trevor was saying and they were talking with the other two guys. But they could tell by my body language that I was not enjoying him. At one point when Trevor left the table, I leaned over to Saya and told her he was a creep. She agreed.

For 20 minutes, Trevor kept saying he was going to leave and go to some exclusive place. He wanted me to go with him and I kept telling him no, I was staying with my friends. He made me put his phone number in my phone and send him a text message. He said I’d have to text him so I could get inside, otherwise the line would be too long. To get rid of him, I kept telling him I’d meet up with him after bingo. He kept pressing me to leave right then and then he said he thought we should just have sex. I declined his offer and kept trying to focus on Bingo.

I kept pushing him away from me and wondered why he wasn’t picking up on my very obvious body language that I was not interested. I also wondered why I was putting up with it and not just telling him off. It’s strange. Even in the moment, I thought, “Why don’t I walk away from this guy?” But I needed his table because there was nowhere else to go. He also knew all of the servers there. He was tall, domineering, and aggressive. It’s astonishing how much power a man can hold over a woman, treat her poorly, and get away with it. But no matter what I did or said, he wouldn’t stop touching me.

Finally, Trevor left. Shortly after, the other two guys left. After the last game, Misato went home because her throat was hurting. Saya and I decided to walk to Brickworks so we could actually hear each other talk.

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We talked about relationships and she told me about her ex-boyfriend who she hiked with in New Zealand. He was Australian and they looked like a really cute couple. But they fought a lot and it didn’t work out. I could tell that she was still hurt by the breakup and I completely understood. She’s a snowboarder and an active, adventurous person. It’s hard to find someone who sets your heart on fire and who has similar interests.

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Saya and I had more drinks and had a really fun time. Then I walked through the village with her until I had to take a different path to the bus stop, and we hugged goodbye. The friends I had made in Whistler were genuine, adventurous, friendly, and open. I think Whistler attracts a certain type and I felt like “my people” were there. They had left their home country or home city to explore the world on their own. I have a lot of respect for them and felt profoundly grateful for their friendship.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Days 155-162: Whistler Film Festival

After not getting much sleep the night before, I took a nap and then talked with my best friend, Misty, on the phone. I looked out the window as we talked and could see that snow was falling! I had been waiting for this day for nearly a month.

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The next day I walked to the gym and worked out. The walk was always beautiful, but it was definitely colder outside.

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It was Monday night and time for another free game night at the library. I arrived and saw my two new friends from Japan who I had met at game night two weeks prior. There was another girl from Japan, a guy from Germany, and a girl from Germany who joined us.

We decided to play Monopoly since the girls from Japan had never played before. The girl and guy from Germany had played before, but not a lot. I grew up loving that game, so I was pumped to teach new people how to play.

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Kristina was from Germany and helped me teach the others. Saya, Misato, and Serena from Japan were quick learners. Kristina was in Whistler with a one-year working visa. She was working at a hotel in housekeeping. Misato and Saya were also there for a one-year working visa. We didn’t get a chance to talk too much because we had to play the game.

We were only allowed two hours and by the time we started to play, we had an hour and a half. After an hour, I realized all of the properties were sold, but not many people had a set. They couldn’t buy a house or a hotel, so each time someone landed, it was only $15 for rent. I told the group they needed to start trading, negotiating, and making big moves because we only had 20 minutes left to play. The game can take many hours, so I helped facilitate trades to move it along. Even though we were allowed to stay a little later, we had to quit playing before someone actually won.

We finished around 9:30 pm and I walked over to Brickworks, a pub, to get a drink and some food. When I sat down at the bar, the Irish bartender asked me if I wanted the same beer that I had two nights before when I was there with Josh. I thought it was awesome that he remembered me and my drink – I was definitely feeling like a local.

I spent the next few days writing, working out, and living in my little studio. On the city’s website, I saw that the Whistler Film Festival was in town. I bought a ticket to a few showings and was looking forward to watching some new movies.

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My first showing was on day 160 at 9:00 pm. The movie was called Stockholm and featured Ethan Hawk. The only other film festival I’ve attended was Sundance in Park City, Utah, several years ago. I saw the movie Boyhood, which also features Ethan Hawk. The movie was great! It is about how the phrase “Stockholm syndrome” came about when an American robbed a bank in Stockholm and held hostages. The movie was well done and entertaining. Once it ended, the director was there to answer questions from the audience.

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The next evening, at 9:30 pm, I took the bus to the village and walked around. The funny thing about Whistler is that it seems most people are in their 20s-30s, but there are hardly any children around. It often feels like living in an international college town full of snowboarders and skiers who love to party. I ended up at Blacks to listen to some live music. I sat alone at a tall cocktail table and enjoyed the one-man band.

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The next morning, I had my next movie showing: Untogether. The movie is about relationships and was ok. The Executive Director was there and talked about how dramas don’t make a lot of money at the box office, so they need people to support them at festivals.

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I walked over to Portobello’s for lunch. At the register, the girl told me that she also saw the movie Stockholm. She said her boyfriend was bummed that they didn’t have cocktails and she didn’t know it was based on a true story until I told her. Clearly she didn’t stay for the Q & A.

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I walked around the Fairmont Chateau and then down the street to the Four Seasons Hotel because they had a Festival of Trees. Outside, frost covered the ground. Each blade of grass and fallen leaf was covered in crystals. It was a cold walk over there and my nose started to run.

Inside, there were several Christmas trees beautifully decorated in the lobby. Downstairs, there was a tree-decorating competition, which included a tree surrounded by hockey sticks and an upside-down tree.

In the afternoon, I headed to another theater that was playing An Audience of Chairs, a film about a woman struggling with mental illness. The movie was very well done and I couldn’t help but cry throughout it. I was embarrassed when they turned on the lights for the Q & A with the director. However, the entire theater was full of tear-streaked faces and sniffling noses.

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I walked around the village afterward and it was now dark outside. I was thankful for the darkness so my puffy eyes could be concealed. As I walked back towards my car, I saw a sign for a showing of The Radicals. Tickets were still available so I bought one and stood in line.

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The documentary touted itself as “environmentalism meets action sports,” so I thought it would be interesting. It was made by some locals in Whistler and I sat next to the director in the packed theater. The documentary was just ok. The problem with it is that they had two themes going on: the beautiful shots of snowboarders flying down the mountain in the powdered snow; and the activists fighting against the salmon farms and BC hydro for limiting water in native villages. I understand they were trying to connect it because some snowboarders have become activists, but I felt like the movie should have focused on one of the topics.

After the movie, they had around eight to ten people at the front to answer any questions. Most of them were the native tribe leaders who were interviewed in the film. Unfortunately, nobody was doing a good job of moderating and a couple of people told extremely long-winded stories, often repeating themselves. It took about an hour to get through the stories and monotoned pleas for activism. I wanted to get up and leave, but I’d have to walk in front of everyone, so I just sat there.

Overall, the film festival was great and I had a chance to support independent artists and their films. If you’re ever near a film festival, I encourage you to buy single tickets and see the films you’re interested in seeing. It’s a great way to help ensure the production of movies other than big box-office hits.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Days 141-144: Game Night and Beer Tour

I spent day 141 hungover after the night club crawl. I talked with my cousin on the phone, worked out, and worked on my blog. The following morning, I spent hours on the phone with my doctor in Los Angeles, the pharmacy, and my medical insurance. The pharmacy filled a 90-day supply, but my insurance only allows for 30 days at a time. It was infuriating that I had to spent hours rectifying this and explaining to all parties involved what happened.

That evening, I was looking for things to do that would get me out and about. It was dead season, so there was not a lot going on. On the Whistler community website, I saw that they were hosting a few game nights over the next several weeks on Monday evenings at the library. It was free and I love board games, so I was sold.

The library was closed, except for the room near the entrance that was hosting game night. Volunteers were helping explain the games that people weren’t familiar with and handing out cups of popcorn. I was intimated walking inside because I didn’t know anybody. There were probably around 25 people there, already divided and playing games. I was only five minutes late, but clearly these people all arrived early.

I saw a guy and a girl sitting together and they hadn’t picked a game yet, so I asked if I could join them. They said I could and then three girls walked in late. They joined our group and we looked through all of the large plastic bins of games to find one we wanted to play. One of the volunteers, who owned all of the games and was letting everyone use them, helped us pick a game. He was tall and sort of nerdy. Let’s be honest, it’s a game night at the library, we were all sort of nerdy.

The volunteer recommended we play a game called Dix It because it was good for non-native English speakers. In our group, we had one girl from Taiwan, one guy from Chili, and three girls from Japan. Their English was good, but they were still learning. None of us had played Dix It before, so the volunteer helped walk us through the instructions.

As we played, I got to know a little bit more about the players. The girl from Taiwan worked with the guy from Chili. Two of the girls from Japan were roommates, and they had just met the third girl from Japan right before they arrived.

All of them, except for one, had a work visa for one to two years. They were relatively new to the area and still getting used to where things were. One girl from Japan who was sitting across from me said she was just there to vacation and snowboard. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any snow.

The girl to my right, Saya, was from Japan and had a one year work visa. She started in Vancouver, but several friends told her about Whistler because they’re all skiers and snowboarders. She came to Whistler a few months prior, got a job, and decided to spend the rest of her year there. She works two part-time jobs in a kitchen and a bakery.

Saya and her ex-boyfriend hiked most of a popular trail in the south end of New Zealand in 2016. We bonded over hiking and I told her I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2016. The year she hiked in New Zealand, they were having a horrible summer with constant rain, so they didn’t complete the hike.

In two hours, we played two games and Saya won them both. It was really fun! Sometimes the guy from Chili had to look up words to see their meaning. It was a good game for them to practice their English, and it challenged me to find ways to explain certain words. They mentioned they were all going to a free English class later in the week and asked if I wanted to go. I laughed, “I’ve had enough English classes in my lifetime, I’ll pass.”

Once game night was over, I walked over to a bar that I saw had a trivia night. I was too late to join in, so I sat at the bar and had a beer while I listened. I was bummed that I didn’t have friends to join me and regretted not asking my new game-night friends if they wanted to go. Sometimes it’s hard to put myself out there. Even with friends, there’s a fear they’ll reject me.

I spent the next day working out and writing. On day 144, it was time for the afternoon beer crawl. I met up with the hosts, Brittany and JD, who I had met at the nighttime club crawl. Brittany was 30, fit, with straight, long dark hair. She’s from North Vancouver, but was currently living in Squamish (about 45 minutes south of Whistler). JD appeared to be in his late 20s, was tall, and had light brown hair. He is from Tasmania, lived in a few other Canadian cities, and now lives in Whistler. They were both really friendly and helped to make the time enjoyable.

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In the group, there were two customers: Abbie and Caleb. Abbie was 28, tall, thin with long blonde hair, and was from the U.K. She spent eight months in Australia, but her work visa expired so she figured she’d go to Canada or New Zealand. Canada is closer and friends told her about Whistler. In May, she found a job and a place to live, so decided to stay until her visa expired. She doesn’t see herself living in the U.K. and said, “I’m 28, maybe I should be applying for permanent residency and put down some roots.” Abby told me that one time she went to the south in the U.S. and the waitress kept wanting to hear Abby talk because she had never met someone from England. Abby couldn’t believe someone could be 60-years-old and not have met a person from England before.

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Caleb was in his 20s, was a around 5’9”, and had dark blonde hair. He was from Australia and had been in Whistler for two years. He works at the same hostel as Abby. I mentioned my board game night and Caleb said he used to be part of a monthly board game club.

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I was happy that our group was small enough that we could get to know each other better. We went to four different bars, sampling lots of beers. Brittany and JD provided a lot of good information. At one point, Brittany’s roommate, Dan, joined us for part of the tour. We had a couple of appetizers at one place, but over the course of a few hours, we had a lot of beer.

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Brittany and JD had a meeting to attend so they took off, but Abby, Caleb, and I were hungry and needed some food in our stomachs. They said there was a local wok restaurant that had a half-off special for locals since it was dead season. We walked over there, loaded up on food, and got really  tired.

The three of us walked to the hostel where they worked. The upstairs has a restaurant overlooking the sidewalk in the village. It was much nicer than what you’d expect for a hostel and they had board games in the corner. We grabbed Uno and started playing with a few other people. There was one girl there who kept changing the rules of Uno to suite her, which was frustrating.

After Uno, a few of us played Settlers of Catan. It was my first time playing, but I had heard a lot about it. They taught me how to play, and it took me awhile to figure out a strategy – I did not win. While some of the guys were getting drinks, Abby told me about her relationship with the manager there she’d been dating for the last few months. He was temporarily back in Spain and she was feeling distant. I totally understood her concerns and how hard it was to find someone who had the qualities she kept looking for, but struggled to find…until she met her current boyfriend. Once you find that, the fear sets in that you’ll lose it.

I went home after the board games and was starting to feel like I lived there. I was getting discounts for locals and the people I met lived there, they weren’t tourists. Whistler was such an international city. I loved that I was meeting people from all over the world. I was starting to see myself there for the long-term.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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