Fifth Month Theme: Spring? What? Confusion All Around!

This is my weirdest month so far! Plus, I had some culture shock going on. Read on to find out more!

What is Spring Like?

How do I answer this? People ask me about spring, but I can’t give direct answers. The best I can do is send photos. The river started melting and I got snaps of its progress. I’ve included ones from last month to show the progress. I feel like sometimes I’m snapping the receding ice shelf in Greenland.

February 15:

February 28:

March 10, 13:

There was a big melt and we decided to call it the Canadian Slush Fund. Then it froze when the temperature dropped. At least the city cleaned it up so it wasn’t so slippery.Β 

After the big melt, grass shoots started growing! We were stroking them lovingly. I didn’t realize how much I was craving the sight of green, living things. Although, my favourite shirt to wear at the moment is green with flowers and paisley. Plus, when I went to get some clothes for warmer weather, I gravitated to ones with flowers on them. Now I know to get house plants next winter. Evergreen doesn’t satisfy my needs for seeing green, living things because let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t look green.

What can I say about the temperature? It gets erratic. The hottest it’s got is just between 10 and 20 degrees C, which is typical for cold weather in California. Then all of a sudden, it’s subzero again. At no other time has the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” been more applicable.

It makes me laugh how there’s “spring” here just like there’s “winter” in California. One minute, I am walking in the sun, getting warm weather clothes, seeing grass shoots and nesting birds. The next minute, it’s plunged into snow!Β 

How do I Feel About Snow Now?

This video sums it up. I’m going to watch comedy until spring comes back!

My feet are a mess after shoving them into boots for five months. I am glad I used to be a ballet dancer though because I know how to take care of my feet. However, I have had to change up how I take care of my feet and I am still learning. Does anyone have any tips for that? I am so glad I got a footbath for my birthday! Right now, I feel like I need a major pedicure. Recently, I saw a comedy skit that talked about winter foot. Okay, too much!

I have been making a point of staying warm during these erratic temperatures so that I don’t weaken my immune system. I will be getting the COVID-19 shot in either May or June. Yes, I have pandemic fatigue, but I keep telling myself I need to hold on just a bit longer.Β 

A few days ago, I woke up, saw it had snowed and said, “I knew it!” I said it while laughing but felt annoyed too. Sometimes, I am quoting the above video so I end up saying, “Oh F**K!!” I took a photo of the snow, sent it to my friends with the following caption:

I did not photoshop this!

And Now:

I am writing this when there are warnings for both high wind and a snow squall for the next 24 hours. I hope this is just March going out like a lion. One thing has made my month. I found Cadbury Creme Eggs! They made my Easter back in England and it’s been 8 years since I have had them! Sugar binge!

It helps to laugh at this situation though. I have heard this season being described as “After Winter” or “False Hope”. I have created responses to the question “Is it spring?” according to how certain politicians would spin it. It’s all in good fun. When you get a situation where you don’t know how to answer, it’s funny to remember people actually make this their existence. I heard this is the warmest year on record, so sometimes I wonder if I am in for a shock next year?

Some Things to Look Forward To:

Once my feet recover a bit and the warm weather stabilizes, I am going to get out more and enjoy nature. The other day, I was in NW Calgary near the Bow River. I don’t see as much of the Bow River as I would like. I frequent the Elbow River more. Anyway, I saw what I think was a hawk there! It was hard to see or get a good photo of it. Plus, I heard a lot of geese and ducks calling. The Bow looked really beautiful at this time when the ice was melting.

I want to explore more of the Bow River. Plus, I hear that bald eagles are starting to next at certain points of the Bow. Additionally, golden eagles will be migrating back to Alberta soon, and I want to see them too. Watch this space!

Immigration Was Weird Too:

I applied to extend my stay here this month. This is the first time I have had to deal with immigration paperwork completely online. When I applied for UK citizenship, I did it on paper. It was only a couple of years after the first iPhone came out. Life was just starting to go digital, but the Home Office hadn’t caught on yet. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer pen and paper.

Since my Mum and I were applying together, we had a joint online application. We had to apply to extend our stay 30 days before our status expired. It was over a month ago when we started preparing our documents. Then, all of a sudden, the system wouldn’t let me upload my application form. I tried different solutions to figure out what was wrong. I must have refilled my application several times and checked it over several times a day. Anyone who knows me knows nothing gets me testier and worked up like immigration paperwork. Every day, I reached an impasse. We tried to find out how to do a paper application, but the IRCC website was super cryptic. Plus, the IRCC has to grant you permission to do a paper application. It didn’t help to email them or call them either.Β 

I didn’t think to Google the answer. I assumed because it was a secure system that tips for applying online weren’t allowed to get posted on the internet. Then, the last day to apply came around and we were just about to give up the online application and send a paper application by courier. Out of desperation, I Googled it and realized I had ticked the wrong box on my form! The relief!

And Another Thing About Immigration:

I know six-month cut-offs for certain visas are a common theme around the world. Here’s why I hate it. It’s like governments know that around the six-month point, you’re likely reaching a low point with adjusting to a culture. Therefore, they require you to apply to extend your stay when you’re already under a lot of pressure. I knew in February that I was going to hit that low soon. It hit me when we were struggling to apply to extend our stay. Fortunately, it’s not the first time I have been through this, and my Mum was supportive. She let me vent, cry and have some time to chill. Then, the next morning, she asked me, “What happened?” That question was a great way to unpack everything. I’ll be doing the same for her someday.

Right now, I’m not ready to say exactly what happened, but I will do a post on how to survive that culture shock dip. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some Cadbury Creme Eggs and watch Canadian comedy while waiting for the weather to pass.

Women’s History Month 2021: One Letdown After Another

Hi everyone, I have been feeling the need to vent about gender inequality of late. The pandemic has exposed rampant discrimination towards women and there have been SO many failures especially during Women’s History Month.

One thing I wanted to mention is I changed my site from UCan2 to Third Culture Kid Can in case you got confused. It’s still me!

Note: I am going to share my own personal experiences of discrimination, particularly as an expat.

Content Warning: Gender and racial-based violence.

Harry and Meghan Interview with Oprah:

After living in England for 13 years, I could write an entire post about the Royal Family. I can say where I was when (insert here) happened. Let me give a summary here. The interview confirmed what I already knew about the Royal Family. Combine Wallace Simpson with Princess Diana. Add a dose of racism. Voila! The racism part was only new in the sense that it’s a new tune than it’s been. After all, no person of colour has ever married into the Royal Family before.

In case you missed the interview, here’s a link: http://box720p.com/play.php?movie=tt141172ttttt88

I was able to see what my friends in England were posting on Facebook about the impending nuptials. There were articles that weren’t making it into international news. My friends were commenting on how disgustingly racist and xenophobic those articles were. The bottom line of our views was, “It’s the 21st century! Stop this crap!” I hope someday, racist and xenophobic media lose their credibility. This interview exposed what media sources we shouldn’t trust. Look for the temper tantrums and ignore the source for good!

My American friends know that I am seriously disillusioned with the Royal Family. One of my friends told me, “I watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding.” I said, “Okay.” That was the end of that conversation. I don’t mind hearing about the Royal Family per se. People know that I only talk about them if I want to talk about them. It’s a mixed bag for me. I do keep up with what’s going on in the UK because it is my passport country. On the other hand, you can only hear so much about the Royal Family. Although, these days I feel it’s important to have these conversations, especially after the interview.

Sexual Harassment Statistics in the UK:

UN Women UK released a statistic that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. I’m one of them and I certainly believe it when they say how rampant it is. Please note, the following is my own personal experience, but I honestly believe I am not the only one who has experienced these types of harassment. I am talking about this because this is NOT okay!

I was a pre-teen when I moved to London. Within my first year, I had to be careful of what I said or did. I could just be minding my own business, and somehow that showed a guy I was into him and he would totally hit on me! This happened so frequently and it confused me terribly. I was going through culture shock at the same time. I found myself wondering, “Is this normal in England? Or is it normal everywhere?” I didn’t tell my parents what was going on because the shame was overwhelming!

Fortunately, my Mum figured out what was going on. One time at school, this boy in my class called me a “Stupid American Bitch”. I didn’t even know what that word meant at the time. My Mum called the school to yell at them and eventually pulled me out! Later on, she noticed guys would make eyes at me and she would give them dirty looks.

I went to a girls’ school for a while because I didn’t want to deal with boys. It wasn’t any better because they were bullies in their own way. Plus, they just accepted sexual harassment from boys and men as normal and I didn’t. I developed the attitude, “I don’t care if this is culturally acceptable! This is not okay!”

It Never Got Better:

As I got older and began to look more like a woman, the harassment came thick and fast. Guys kept making eyes at me or whistling at me whenever I was out. I was walking down my street and I got hit on SIX TIMES by SIX DIFFERENT MEN! I turned around and went home ready to punch any guy that hit on me again!

One time, I was at the pharmacy picking up medicine for my Mum and the guy serving me hit on me! I refused to go to that pharmacy again. Another time, this homeless guy grabbed me after he asked me for money. Fortunately, I broke free and ran away! There were a lot more incidents where that came from.

The only support I could rely on was my Mum. My friends told me I should be flattered that I get hit on so much. I developed my own survival skills. If anyone tried to stop me in the street, I would either outright ignore them, or yell, “NO!” before they had a chance to say anything. I know now that sometimes, it was rude because the person meant no harm. On the other hand, I was traumatized. I developed my “DON’T MESS WITH ME” look and used it all the time when I was out.

Then I Started Working As A Chef:

Sexual harassment got absolutely brutal once I entered the workplace! Plus, being in a kitchen where there are hot and sharp things, you fear for your safety if you speak up. One time, I used physical force on a guy who was sexually harassing me at work, and who got disciplinary action? Me. By now, I was on medication for panic attacks. The trauma from harassment had compounded after several years. I eventually stopped working as a chef because I learned sexual harassment and assault is an occupational hazard for female chefs.

Here’s one of the biggest ironies I learned. The most significant change I had made as a teenager was to dress in bulky clothes and look ugly. Okay, I know now it’s an outdated view that women’s clothes provoke men. I thought the people who were slut-shaming me were right. I’m not saying they were right, but I will say this. Dressing down definitely reduced the number of street harassment incidents I experienced. I was willing to do it as long as it happened less.

Trouble is, I HATE wearing bulky clothes all the time! It makes my body hurt and sometimes, I just wanted to wear a dress or take my sweater off or something. I mean, come on! Just let women wear what they want! Their clothing is NOT their consent! When I moved to California, I started to relax more with my clothing.

After I was sexually harassed at work, I knew the clothes assumption was wrong. I wore chef whites like everyone else and I was still harassed! Now, I just wear what I want. I have my own style and I’m proud of it!

When I Repatriated:

I learned the hard way how American guys were toxic. Culture definitely influences toxic behaviour patterns in people. I was used to how guys were toxic in England. Guys in America seemed to have a more violent side to their toxic behaviour. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that guns are legal in the US.

Additionally, it was surprising to me to learn that women in the US are far more supportive of each other than in the UK. It was hard for me to develop close female friendships in the UK. Plus, I feel women in the US are aware of how toxic men can be, and they know they have to stick up for each other. I was in two abusive relationships after I repatriated. It was out of the frying pan and into the fire for me. Fortunately, I learned to develop close female friendships and that helped me heal. I don’t like Madeline Albright per se, but her quote that I used for my post is so right!

I decided to apply to go to Mills College in Oakland because I needed a safe place to continue healing. It worked! It was the best decision I could have made and it has set me up with a lot of skills for life. That was why I was so upset when my senior year got cut short because of the pandemic. See my previous post, COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

And Then This Past Week Happened:

Last Tuesday, there the shootings in Atlanta happened where six Asian sex workers were killed. When the domestic terrorist blamed his violent actions on his sex addiction, uh no. Just no! Other people deal with addiction and they aren’t out and about shooting people. Also, yellow fever much? I thought this was about the worst it could get with Women’s History Month. I was wrong.

The next day, I got an announcement that my beloved Alma Mater is going to close. I was inconsolable. I know that universities have been suffering because of the pandemic, but Mills was suffering financially even before the pandemic. The amount of information I have about why Mills is closing is a whole other post. Basically, Mills was in financial trouble a few years ago. Therefore, the vultures descended and finished the school off. I have been getting information the last few days that makes me angry and sad and hurt that the president and Board of Trustees have killed Mills. It’s like in Guardians of the Galaxy when Rocket yells, “You killed Groot!”

I am working to fight against this along with other alums. To me, Mills is forever! Plus, after all the crap that has happened during Women’s History Month, Mills’ work is FAR from done! Mills closing is just another reason why I never want to live in the US again. Someone said to me that it’s super expensive to live in the Bay Area now and he doesn’t see how any school can survive there long-term anymore. I definitely agree. Income inequality is through the roof there and it’s hard to see it getting better any time soon!

Okay, rant over. What are your thoughts on Women’s History Month this year and progress on women’s rights?

COVID-19: One Year On. What’s My Story?

One year ago, it was my last normal week before going on lockdown in California. What happened to me? Read on.

Before The Last Week Hit:

There were signs that the pandemic was on the way. At the time, I was still in my last semester at university. I had BAD senioritis! Plus, I was trying to deal with the rest of my required classes, and having as much fun with my friends as possible. I had done my senior thesis the previous semester. The topic was the opioid epidemic, and after all my research, that was the only epidemic that was on my mind.

I had my plans for after university. I was in the process of looking for a job. My parents were going to move to Calgary. I decided to stay in the US but move out of California because it was too expensive. After all these international moves I had done and living in countries where I didn’t fit in, I didn’t want to go through that process again only to have it not work out. Anyone who knows me knows my favourite dog ever is the black labrador. I vowed to get one after I graduated and I was excited at the prospect!

Then it all went to hell, and I don’t want to talk about what I wanted before anymore.

Whispers of A Nameless Fear:

I had heard of COVID-19 in almost a mythical sense. I think there was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for a while. My professors said faculty had to be prepared to change their lesson structure in case classes went online. I didn’t want to believe it at first. As a student, my main transport method was BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit. Not Bart Simpson. Yes, I get that joke a lot!). During February, there was a steady trickle of people wearing masks on BART trains.

I heard people talking about COVID-19 on campus. It was almost laughable when we got a notice about how cleaning procedures had changed because of COVID-19. People were thinking, “Really? You’re taking cleaning seriously?” My campus was rather small and isolated, so the mindset was more of, the virus is “out there”. Although, when people went off-campus, they started taking more precautions. News travels fast on a small campus, so when I heard that someone who was sick sat at a certain place in the cafeteria, I was like, “I hope it’s not what I think it is!” I had been keeping up with news on COVID-19, but it just sounded like something that was heard on the news. The craziest news story for me was all the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship getting infected with COVID-19.

Monday, March 9, 2020:

By now, the WHO had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. I woke up to the news that the Diamond Princess cruise ship with all the infected passengers had docked in the Port of Oakland. That was not too far from my school! I felt panic on campus that day. Suddenly, the likelihood of getting COVID-19 had become real. It was like in the Two Towers when Faramir takes Frodo and Sam to Gondor. The Nazgul arrive and Frodo says, “They’re here.” Even though there were cases of COVID-19 in California already, the Diamond Princess cruise ship was our symbolic Patient Zero. The question on everyone’s minds now was, “what’s going to happen?”

I overheard someone say this about the person who decided to dock the ship in the Port of Oakland. “Why don’t they just admit they’re racist?” I have to agree with that statement. I saw a video from a dockworker who said that the cruise ship workers tried to evade hygiene protocols and I wasn’t surprised by that. Was there any other port they could have chosen that was not in a predominately POC area? I wish I knew that off the top of my head.

I should also mention that I had been trying for a long time to schedule wisdom tooth surgery. My insurance finally approved it and I was good to go for surgery in two days. Additionally, my parents convinced me to get the surgery ASAP because we didn’t know if I would get another chance. I spent the rest of the day getting ready for my impending surgery.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020:

I didn’t know this at the time, but this was the last day I saw my closest friends. Plus, it was my last full day on that campus before I graduated. I had lunch with three of my friends that day. Coronavirus was not far from our minds. We talked about our concerns if classes didn’t go online. The administration was certainly dragging its feet. Other local universities had already gone online. While we were eating lunch, we got an email from the administration. They weren’t going to move all the classes online. Only classes with 30 people or more would move online. We were appalled at the administration’s response! Their solution wasn’t going to do anything to stop the spread of the virus! The vast majority of my university classes were less than 30 people!

It was awkward thinking of how to say goodbye to my friends. I said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t know if I will be coming back after my surgery, but take care!” Then, I hugged them for the last time. I went home that night because I had to be in surgery early the next morning. I took Lyft home because I was scared of possibly contracting COVID-19 on BART. My university wasn’t distributing masks, so I could only get a mask at home. Luckily, we already had a stash of KN95s. We had them for whenever a wildfire hit. It was a happy accident we had them for the pandemic too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020:

My parents and I travelled to UCSF early in the morning for my surgery. We were on BART and there were a lot more people wearing masks. It was the first day my parents and I started wearing masks. While I was waiting for surgery, I got an email from my fellow students petitioning the administration to move classes online. I signed it while fuming because I couldn’t believe it had come to this.

My surgery went pretty smoothly, even though I didn’t have sedation. I was only getting my upper wisdom teeth out, so it didn’t take very long. The surgeon had to really dig to get my right tooth out. I felt like my head was going to split open afterwards.

We took Lyft home and I was cradling my head the whole way. We passed by the Port of Oakland and this silence fell over the car when we saw the Diamond Princess cruise ship. I managed to take a couple of photos of the ship so that I can honestly say that I was in California at the start of the pandemic when the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked. My Dad made a cross with his fingers at the ship. If I hadn’t been in pain, I would have said, “Dad. That only works in movies.”

We watched movies that night so I could distract myself from my head throbbing. I was living on painkillers at this point.

Thursday, March 12, 2020:

I rested all day thanks to my head still feeling like it was going to split open. I got an email from my uni administration saying that classes were going online. Apparently, there was going to be a shelter-in-place announcement for the state of California. I know putting classes online was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t stop crying.

The week before, I had ordered my hood and stole for Commencement. I received them now and I couldn’t look at them. My last year was cruelly snatched away and I had no idea if Commencement would take place. That moment when you’re in physical pain and then you get emotional pain from bad news on top of that is the worst!

I continued to have moments where I mourned this loss of my school experience. I savoured every moment at that beautiful campus and made some wonderful friends. Later on, we found out Commencement wouldn’t happen. I still don’t know if it will happen. The alums sent my class messages of encouragement and that was another waterworks moment.

Friday, March 13, 2020:

Friday the 13th. What else is new?

Did you know you can get a black eye from upper wisdom tooth removal? Yes, I got one. No surprises there! My head was still throbbing from the surgeon digging deeply around my right tooth. You should see the other guy!

I began to feel better about my classes going online. I got some nice messages from my professors. Classes were resuming on Tuesday. Monday was the day the faculty had to test run the tech they needed for their classes. Glad I got an extra day to recover! One of my professors sent a friendly class invite that said, “Join us for puppets and fun!”

California went on lockdown. We got a phone call outlining details of the shelter-in-place order. I can’t even begin to describe how eerie it felt. You think of shelter-in-place for times like WWII in London during the Blitz or for global thermonuclear war.

The Next Three Days:

My recovery went well. I didn’t get a follow-up appointment because UCSF locked down. At least I didn’t have any complications.

My parents and I began to prepare for the shelter-in-place order. And no, we didn’t buy out all the toilet paper in the store. This was our new life now. I was scared, but now I think that fear has been helpful. Neither I nor my parents have got COVID-19. It doesn’t hurt that my parents have science backgrounds and I studied Data Science. So here’s what I think when I hear about reopening too early.

Well, that’s the story of my last week before lockdown a year ago. What’s yours?

Fourth Month Theme: Okay, It’s Cold! Wake Me Up in Spring!

I just lived through temperatures in the -20s and -30s for the first time ever! How did it go? Read on to find out.

My Winter Project:

People have told me to start a project in the winter because there is a lot of time to work on it! It does help to get settled in a new country during a long winter. I decided to start thinking of a business idea during the winter. One reason I wanted to move to Calgary is that it’s an entrepreneurial city. When I got here and saw how popular small businesses are, it made me want to get in on the action. It took a while to find an idea for a business though. Eventually, I found something! Right now, I am in the creative process and I need to get through some roadblocks with immigration. All I will say about it is it’s a business to provide a service to expats. I am SUPER excited about it!

Personal Anecdotes During The Cold Snap:

There was a cold snap for about 10 days where it stayed in the -20s. Windchill was in the -30s. The first day of it was a blizzard and I had to go out! It actually went better than I thought, but I was glad I wore a minimum of two layers of everything! Kind of funny that there was talk of double masking at that time too because of the new COVID variants.

I didn’t take many photos during that cold snap because I refused to take my gloves off! Although, here’s one that I managed to get.

Windchill was -35 C ish! No outdoors for me!

Yep. I made a point of “hibernating” for a while. There was a point where it felt exhausting to go out, and I didn’t see much point in going out if it was for less than 20 minutes. I discovered it takes a LONG time to layer up for these conditions. That’s why I decided not to go out if I was only going out for a few minutes.

Another day that I went out in these temperatures was when I had to go to my physiotherapist. At first, I thought about going on public transportation because I’m a Londoner (wink!). Then, I decided to Uber, and I was glad I did! I had my gloves off for two minutes to get Uber and my hands got PAINFULLY cold! That wasn’t the first time I misread the signs. I was taking the garbage out and I didn’t take my gloves. The bins had a HUGE amount of snow on them, which I had to wipe off with my bare hands! I almost doubled over trying to warm my hands up. The night before, we had got the cold weather warning that said the words “frostbite” and “hypothermia” in it. When I saw it, I admit I did get a little cognitive dissonance about it. After the garbage can incident, I thought, “Okay! They are NOT messing around here!”

Here are the only photos I was brave enough to get with my gloves off for a couple of minutes.

Frozen River with Footprints

Facts About Extremely Low Temperatures:

I was glad to wear a mask (or two) in these low temperatures. It kept my face warm. Plus, using logic and a little common sense, I figured that if there was any risk of getting COVID, it would be during a cold snap if I didn’t keep my immune system primed. I had heard all about breathing in and your nose getting frozen shut at -30 or below, but I figured that wasn’t going to happen this year. Then, we absolutely HAD to open a window because our apartment was overheated. I put my face near the window, and guess what? My nose practically got frozen shut! At least I was able to get the idea of it in the privacy of my own home and I wasn’t weakening my immune system.

One thing that surprised me was when it wasn’t snowing, but still freezing, cars were driving at pretty much normal speeds. It wasn’t like getting a big dump of snow and cars getting stuck all the time. Also, when you put salt on the pavement, it doesn’t melt the snow when it’s in the -20s/-30s.

Now I can expect to feel sluggish and SAD-y when it’s an extreme cold snap. Still, I would rather deal with that here than in London. Overcast, high humidity, no snow AND cold? No thanks! I’m definitely happy about the sunnier, drier, snowier climate. Honestly, Calgary has surprised me with how much sun there is. Whenever it’s sunny, carpe diem!

I did take some other photos to illustrate how cold it was.

YYC Hot Chocolate Fest:

I discovered another thing that is super cool about Calgary! During the month of February, local businesses sell hot chocolate as a fundraiser for Calgary Meals on Wheels. It’s called the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest.

This is the 10th year this has happened and there were over 40 small businesses participating. I suggest following them on social media too. If there wasn’t a pandemic on, I would have gone to a lot more businesses to try their hot chocolate. Next year! I did get hot chocolate when I went to my favourite patisserie though because I know they really try to keep customers safe. It had passionfruit in it and it was to die for! They also had a gift card giveaway every week, and I won one of the gift cards! Can’t wait to use it!

To die for!

Note to my readers outside Canada, YYC is the airport code for Calgary International Airport. It’s a thing here to refer to cities by their airport code. I have never seen a country do that and I am learning the airport codes for the different cities in Canada so I don’t get confused when I see YVR or YEG. I know, it’s weird to me too. Would I see something in San Francisco referred to as SFO, or London as LHR or LGW? That would be a no. And if London did do that, how could they decide because it has more than one major airport?

That’s all for now.