Vancouver's summer

After a week in Vancouver, I'm starting to wonder if this is the same city I visited a few months ago. It's been sunny and very hot for seven days in a row and more of the same on the way. Normally, the city has moderate temperatures and lots of precipitation. Many homes and apartments don't have air conditioning. In the morning, standing at water dispensers in cool office buildings, people have been sharing their insomnia woes. Fans and air conditioners have been flying off store shelves.

Sleepwalking or not, it's still a great time for those who like to hang out at the beach.

But for some, the heat and dry air have been bad news: forest fires in the province's interior and in the mountains have forced residents to leave their homes. The fires have been sparked by lightning strikes, mainly. While crews have battled flames non-stop in the wilderness, including a fire at Blackcomb, near the site of the Winter Olympics, here in the city there is no sign of rain.

We have had artificial fires, mind you, with the HSBC Celebration of Light event, which is an annual fireworks competition on the waterfront. This year it featured teams from South Africa, Canada, the U.K. and China. You can get an idea of what it's been like by watching this casual YouTube video, posted by a local resident.

To the newcomer, Vancouver stands out for its Anglo-Asian-Aboriginal ethnic mix; but it's also a city of many languages. Like Toronto, this city is a true cultural mosaic. In addition, cruise ships arrive at dawn and discharge hundreds of tourists and shoppers fill Robson Street and the downtown core. I've heard Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Farsi and a whole range of other languages in my walks downtown. The 2009 World Police and Fire Games are being held in nearby Burnaby, and this has added even more visitors to the streets, as groups of fit-looking people (mainly men) wander in groups wearing their national colours. Coincidentally, it's also time for Vancouver's gay pride parade. I'm not saying the two things are related, of course, but you get the picture.

Vancouver is also very cyclist-friendly, with many biking trails in town and near the seawalls. Lots of people also commute to work on their bikes. They've inspired me, and I have bought a bicycle of my own.

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