I have an interesting part-time gig. When not clicking away on my keyboard as a freelance journalist, I zip into a phone booth and quick-change into a newly minted ambassador — make that student ambassador — at Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECUAD) in Vancouver.
The school — which I've attended part-time for so long the running joke is will I graduate with my own teeth still in my head? — has observed over the years that quite a few students, especially international ones, can have a hard time adjusting to life on campus and to life in Vancouver. This also holds true for other students from "away," as they say in Newfoundland, even if they're from Red Deer, Alberta, or Fort St. John.
We student ambassadors are meant to help our new fellow students feel comfortable in their new setting, and no small part of the orientation is how to cope with Wet Coast winters.
If you've lived here a while, you know the drill: when the skies close over with a such a thick, wet blanket of grey for days, weeks, what seems like centuries on end, you fear you'll suffocate. Then just as you think you'll go mad, or at least murder your roommate, it breaks, the sun shows its almost forgotten face, and you remember once again why you love to live here.
This explains why any signs of summer's end — a yellow leaf or two, frighteningly chipper "back to school" flyers, Labour Day weekend or, horror of horrors, actual rain — send us West Coasters into paroxysms of dread much more intense and horrifying than those borne by other Canadians.
Now try to imagine your reaction if you've just flown in from Indonesia, which enjoys an average of 8.2 hours of sunshine every day, or from Qatar, where the average rainfall for January, the rainiest month of the year, is 14 mm, or about five millimetres less than what we experienced last week alone when those new students were going through their first days of orientation.
That's why ECUAD started a program of fellow student ambassadors armed with advice like, if you see a glimmer of sun, stop whatever you're doing, unless you're in class or having surgery, and get your lovely self outside for as long as you can. Nothing beats rubber boots and an umbrella. And, yes, on Georgia Street you can catch the bus to Whistler, where at least the precipitation creates a winter wonderland.
As for the rest of us getting glimpses of summer's end, I say, buck up. Buck up and put away that pasta and shepherd's pie recipe at least for now. Yes, we'll need a stew and all that comfort food soon enough, but to me there's nothing more depressing than abandoning all our summer habits at once because it's "back to school."
I know, I know — no matter how many sparkly new outfits or iSomething gadgets you've treated yourself to in compensation, the phrase alone carries a certain amount of anxiety for us all, even if you slammed your last school book shut 30 years ago. All the more reason not to succumb to "normal" cold turkey.
And with that perfect segue, may I introduce my three best tips for keeping the summer dream alive on your plate, even if it's a plastic container in your lunchbox at school or work: