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A few days ago, at the park, I watched my son playing amongst the neighborhood kids, laughing, climbing, and digging into the sand without a care in the world. We must have been there for hours. At first, it didn’t dawn on me how quickly our lives have changed in a 6 short months, but it was a chat with a Mom, dressed in workout gear, sitting in sand, that I realized how extremely happy this move has been.

Four years ago, arriving in Vancouver, newlyweds, living in a small condo in a hip neighborhood, 2 careers and busy lives. We were happy, spending weekends exploring new territory, hiking, checking out the nightlife, and  eating out. Vancouver couldn’t get any better than that. Fast forward to the first few months of our pregnancy, after a wild amount of searching for a perfect home, which didn’t happen, and will have to be explained at a different time. We decided to stay in the tiny 750 sq ft condo in the downtown neighborhood of Yaletown. It wasn’t bad, in fact, living in a small space was wonderful, we were close to a great community center and the sea wall. I spent hours walking around when my son was an infant. It had never dawned on us to leave.

It wasn’t until he became mobile, and his schedule had been cemented into a 6am wake up, that I began to go to various parks in the downtown core, how bad could it be, take the dog out, then grab a coffee and head out to the park. Every morning at 8am, I went to the park under the Cambie bridge, it was a sweet park, there was rubber instead of sand, and there was graffiti, but it was fine. We never met another soul at that hour, but it was great one on one time. One morning I got to the park and found garbage and 2 people sleeping under the play structure. The homeless situation had gotten bad, but in the yaletown area, you rarely saw people sleeping in the parks. I called the police, and then had to bring my child to the coffee shop to wait until they left.

Most people would think, o.k, go wake them up or play around them. Not really something you do in Vancouver. For the week before that, I was finding needles all over the playground, and each morning, had to call the needle pickup. Heroine is the norm in Vancouver, and you quickly know who is on it, and to never get in anyone’s way who is high on it, or even coming down off of it. I looked at the two people covered in garbage, packs tied to the leg of the structure, faces not visible,  just two lumps cuddled up. I was beginning to get used to the heroine problems and the homeless issues.  It was always in your face, so, naturally, you get immune to it. As a Mother, I my immunity, slowly turned into anger.  These issues were taking away the joys and innocence out of my childs playground time, and he wasn’t even one. I had to constantly scour the playgrounds before taking my son out of the stroller. Three weeks into doing this everyday, I met a Mother with her 3 year old, she had just moved to Vancouver from California, she was trying to grab her child , before she darted onto the looming structure, and screeched that there were a couple of needles on the ground. In tears, she looked at me and asked who to call. I already had the needle pick up on speed dial. It was getting worse, 8am, and there we were, screaming children and a mother who was in deep culture shock. I offered her to join me for a coffee, she tried breathing deeply and sucked back tears. She turned to me and asked “Does this happen often?. I wasn’t sure if I should tell her the truth, but yes, sadly, I was having to call every morning. We waited for an hour, and watched the police drive by. The playground was clear again.

I began to resent the life in Vancouver. Terrified to leave my child with anyone, and began to get tired of having to call a hotline for needle pickup, as well as local police. We were so tainted by this life, that when I first started to take my son to the park here, in Montreal, I scoured the park, looking for signs of needles. My husband was shocked that I had become this person, he hadn’t realized that Vancouver had been that stressful, or that I had become that guarded.

I now go to the playground, and watch all of the kids play, without fear, with complete abandon, their parents only reminding them to be polite. No one fears needles here.

Now I look back onto our time in the beautiful city of Vancouver, and think, what happened? When and where did it go so wrong?

Travel Lady with Baby