War in Ukraine

I’m sure by now, you all know what is going on with Putin declaring war on Ukraine. I felt it was time to share some things I have learned about Russia and Ukraine from being in Russian ballet and being part of the Russian community in London.

About Russia:

Yes, I speak Russian. Yes, I love their ballet and theatre. No, I do not agree with what Putin is doing now. I was doing Russian ballet in the 2000s and became part of the Russian community. There were no oligarchs in that community. They were normal, everyday people like you or me. Among the Russian community were people from former Soviet countries who grew up in the Soviet era. Even though there were some awful things about that time in history, ballet flourished. People from former Soviet states wanted to appreciate Russian culture through ballet. Russians living abroad still have great pride in their ballet, and for good reason.

Russia has a 300-year ballet history and developed ballet technique and artistry that is only matched by France. Russian ballet gives me hope because it survived the Russian Revolution, the Soviet era and it WILL survive Putin! If you ever go to Russia or have an opportunity to see the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi or the Eifman ballet companies when they are on tour GO FOR IT! I promise you that you will not regret it! I am proud to have been part of something so beautiful for a significant part of my life.

As time went on, I noticed a lot of people had left Russia or former Soviet states because of the rise of Putin. They knew 10-20 years ago what people are realizing now about Russia, but they weren’t being taken seriously. If you say Putin’s name around a Russian, look at their face. You can’t ignore the fear you see in their eyes, even if they don’t say explicitly what’s going on. They might not say what is going on for fear of retribution, but IYKYK.

I learned about Ukraine from my Russian Teacher:

When I was learning Russian, my Russian teacher was great at informing us about Ukraine and other former Soviet states and their relations with Russia. One of her parents was Ukrainian as well. She said that if you travel to Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine is more accepting of people speaking Russian, and there are a lot of Russians who live there. If you go to Western Ukraine and speak Russian, they will treat you like a terrorist. Can you blame them? I don’t. In general, my Russian teacher encouraged us not to speak Russian if we ever travelled to a former Soviet country, unless we are certain that it’s still an acceptable alternative to Russian. That’s a fair thing to say.

Additionally, she said that it is common for kids who move to Russia from former Soviet countries to be bullied because they are from those countries. Ukrainian kids seem to have a particularly hard time. She isn’t the only person that I have heard that from. It seems like Russian kids pick up on this narrative that they are superior compared to people from former Soviet countries. I can’t help thinking that this kind of bullying has led to what is happening now. My self-defence teacher said, “Wars can be traced back to someone being rude to the waitress.”

As Time Went On:

David Cameron became Prime Minister of the UK in 2010. One of his stupidest moves was to allow Russian oligarchs to buy prime property in London, and their kids got automatic admission to top private schools. There was a fear in the Russian community because they knew these oligarchs were capable of real damage. I felt sorry for them and frustrated that no one believed them when they shared what was happening. Over time, the oligarchs started buying prime property in other countries as well, but London was the most obvious choice. I am completely unsurprised that war in Ukraine is happening because of what I have seen.

If you want to know more about Russian financial systems and human rights abuses, I recommend reading Red Notice by Bill Browder. I am following what he has to say about the war in Ukraine as well. I feel he’s the best person to inform others of what is happening.

It became clearer to me that I couldn’t live my dream of dancing in Russia one day, and politics was one of those reasons. There was no denying that Putin had a pathological need to go back to the old days using brute force. A word of caution, it’s important not to underestimate Putin. He’s a master tactician. It’s like what Yoda says, “Do not underestimate the power of the emperor or suffer your father’s fate, you will.” I believe that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is the best person to lead Ukraine to fight against Russia. He’s Jewish and he had relatives who died in the Holocaust. Plus, his father fought against the Nazis. Zelensky is also a standup comedian, which pisses Putin off. That’s a great quality to have and I wish him well!

My Future Suggestions and Final Thoughts:

It’s time countries start rethinking their citizenship by investment laws because billionaires are running roughshod over major cities. Those laws were created to appeal to foreign billionaires and not to encourage everyday immigrants to buy property.

I’m going to say this again. Read Red Notice by Bill Browder. He’s a capitalist turned human rights activist who has been trying for years to make Western politicians aware of Russian financial corruption and human rights abuses committed by Russia. Putin gave Bill Browder the Red Notice because of what he’s doing. CW: His friend and fellow advocate is murdered by the Gulag.

Get to know Russians, Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans and hear their stories. If they trust you enough, they will share their experiences with you. Don’t listen to news that says that Russians are responsible for this. No, it’s PUTIN doing this on his own! Be aware though that Russia has an abysmal civil rights record and people may not want to talk about it for fear of retribution. I’ll give you an example. It’s common knowledge that in the West, half the men in ballet are gay. That’s not true in Russia. They are either in the closet or they move away. Additionally, I have heard a lot about racial and ethnic discrimination within Russia. When one groups’ rights are threatened it has a snowball effect, so it’s hardly surprising.

I’m glad that finally, the West is catching onto Russian financial corruption. However, if other countries are going to cut Russia from SWIFT, they must exercise caution and careful planning. The economic sanctions imposed before have really not done anything about the oligarchs, and we need some solution that will hold them accountable.

Anyway, that’s my experience. What do you think?

Best Winter Humour

Humour never fails to keep me going during winter! There are lots of things that one can do to stay physically and mentally healthy during winter. This winter, I haven’t been able to do a lot of those things. One thing I know I can always rely on is humour. I did a previous post about humour, but this one is more about winter humour that I have found in Canada.

Since moving to Canada, I have discovered the joy of Canadian comedians. In this movie “Being Canadian”, one of the guests had this line (and I’m paraphrasing), “Sweden has long winters and they come up with Death Metal. In Canada, we came up with comedy.” Another line is, “heat kills comedy”. Although, I am not sure about other northern countries and their humour (except maybe Russia). Russia is not on the same level as Canada when it comes to comedy. Here’s my list of countries and what I believe their Arctic-like winters have created. Please feel free to add to any of this.

Canada: Comedy.

Russia: Literature.

Finland: Saunas.

Norway: Death Metal.

Sweden: Tomten.

Iceland: Bathing in hot springs.

Scotland: Bagpipes, especially if you combine winter with the highlands.

I have noticed that these countries have a lot in common when it comes to winter activities, but I particularly chose things with a cultural element.

Without further ado, here are my favourite videos of winter humour from Canadian comedians. Please enjoy!

This Hour Has 22 Minutes:

For those of you outside of Canada, This Hour Has 22 Minutes is the political and news satire show here. It’s like Saturday Night Live (US) and Have I Got News For You (UK) had a baby.

In honour of the Winter Olympics, here is some curling humour.

A former 22 Minutes presenter, Shaun Majumder would make fun of a racist stereotype with his character Raj Binder. Here he is talking about ice fishing.

You can find more of his Raj Binder skits on YouTube.

Additionally, here is why the Vikings left Canada

Comedy Routines:

Here are my favourite comedy routines about winter.

And of course, combining winter humour with cultural humour is gold!

Thank goodness I have a VPN, so I will be able to access the funniest CBC shows no matter where I am in the world! It’s not like it was before where I would leave a country and miss their humour. I would love to shake hands with the person who invented VPNs because I can access BBC comedy shows from the UK as well! Okay, I’m spoiled. Lol. But I admit, it’s better than missing your favourite things about a country.

Still to come, more posts I want to do about Canada before I leave!

And the Answer is…

πŸ‡³πŸ‡±πŸ‡³πŸ‡±πŸ‡³πŸ‡± The Netherlands! πŸ‡³πŸ‡±πŸ‡³πŸ‡±πŸ‡³πŸ‡±

Here are my answer to Clue #3 and Clue #4.

The Netherlands Should Get First and Second Place!
I mean, even the Dutch army don't wear orange.
Sergeant Hurd is the BEST!

I have to admit any time I see Dutch athletes, I always say, “Even the Dutch army don’t wear orange!” The Olympics is so fun!

Congratulations to all who guessed correctly on my round of Where to Invade Next! You guys are good!

Some Other Updates:

The Netherlands isn’t going to be a permanent solution. It’s the best option in the EU for now. The Netherlands has the Dutch American Friendship Treaty which is a good pathway into migrating to the EU. I guess you never know when one of your passports will come in handy. I want to get my EU citizenship back, and the Netherlands doesn’t allow dual nationality. While I am living there, I will be able to assess different countries in the EU that do allow dual nationality and move to one of them someday. It shouldn’t be too hard to get permanent residence in the EU either. They might take into account that we have lived in the EU (including pre-Brexit Britain) for about 15 years. So, we might get fast-tracked to permanent residence. We are building a strategy, but we know laws can change at the drop of a hat.

I can’t say for sure when we will be moving, but it will definitely be sometime this year. Additionally, my Mum needs a hip and knee replacement this year. We are going to go to another country to get it because there is no way my Mum can get that surgery in Canada. There is a two-year waitlist, which she can’t get on yet because we don’t qualify for healthcare and she can’t wait that long to get it.

We also found out even Canadian citizens have to pay about $28,000 CAD for orthopedic surgery. Note: Other surgeries in Canada are paid for through the healthcare system, but orthopedic surgery has recently changed. It’s the most expensive type of surgery and now requirements for paying for it out-of-pocket are being implemented. We met someone recently who had gone to Lithuania for a hip and knee replacement at a fraction of the price and two months after the surgery, he was walking in the snow and ice!

Another note: this information keeps changing and it’s what we have found out right now. So, don’t take it as the Alpha and the Omega.

Future Posts:

Before I leave, I will do my best to finish my Parks Challenge. Additionally, I have a few other posts about Canada and expat/TCK life that I still want to do. I will also be doing posts on learning Dutch. I know that they learn English to a high level there, but so what? Moving to another country and not bothering to learn the language, or travelling without trying to learn some basic words and phrases of their language is rude. That’s a universal rule. Frankly, people like that get on my nerves and I question their upbringing.

Note: I am going to be honest about why we have had to leave. When I hear the Canadian government talking about how they want to welcome more immigrants, I laugh! There are problems on provincial and federal levels! We just got a survey from Statistics Canada about healthcare, and my Mum and I let them know if they want highly skilled migrants, they need to do a better job! Highly skilled migrants know how to compare countries and they will go elsewhere!

That being said, some of my readers seem to be under the impression that I don’t like Canada anymore. That’s absolutely not true! My emotions have been rather intense since concluding we had to move. It’s not the people or the culture that’s the problem. It’s immigration, healthcare and economic systems that are not in our favour. Although that seems to be true for anyone in Canada, regardless of whether they are citizens. I am going to come back to Canada for the eclipse in 2024, and for other things. Canada is one of my homes now, and I have no regrets at all about moving here!

Hope you are all doing well!

Trying Hard to Feel Anything But Devastated

In the movie Julie and Julia, Julia Child talks about trying to feel anything but devastated when she and her husband leave Paris. Why did I choose this quote for my title? Because I will be leaving Canada sometime this year. We made the decision recently that Canada isn’t working out for us, and we’re going to move somewhere else. There comes a time when a country either works, or it doesn’t, and unfortunately, this hasn’t worked out. I’m not shaming myself because I know this can happen to anyone. Just like Julia Child, I’m trying hard to feel anything but devastated.

One thing that makes me feel better is this amazing quote from Call the Midwife. She’s so correct!

Trying to Feel Anything But Devastated
Trying to Feel Anything But Devastated

Feeling Devastated is Normal:

I have felt it every time I have had to say goodbye to another country. It’s a loss, like leaving a relationship. And in that vein, you can describe a country like a person that you are in a relationship with. I’m glad I was too young to remember leaving France. I’m sure it would have been breaking up because circumstances drove us apart, like Ted and Alexis in Schitt’s Creek. Leaving the US the first time was like leaving a comfortable relationship because you wanted more. The second time was more like going back to that comfortable relationship, only to discover that the person had become openly hostile and violent. Leaving the UK was like getting out of a relationship that was underhandedly abusive like being in a frog in boiling water. Leaving Canada feels like being in a great relationship, but there are too many problems.

I read the article “30 Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know By The Time She’s 30” by Glamour Magazine. Item One on that list is one old partner you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come. It’s true for countries as well. The countries I can imagine going back to are France and Canada. The ones that remind me how far I have come are the US and UK. Thank you, next.

What Happened:

As many of you know, we had some major medical drama around Canadian Thanksgiving. Suffice to say, our struggles were just beginning. Financial concerns, medical concerns, a two-year backlog on immigration were compounded by a new Alberta law. This law says that you can’t get covered by provincial healthcare while you are waiting for permanent residence. We still haven’t been able to apply for permanent residence because the application process is backed up too. It’s expensive, and now there is no guarantee we will get it. That was the final nail in the coffin.

Bottom line: When you move to a new country, you shouldn’t be put in a position where you have to suffer. Medical problems and financial problems are already tough enough when you’re abroad without it being compounded. When I say “tough enough”, I mean when you move to another country, you already have to deal with money and health problems on a whole other level because of adjusting to new money systems and a new healthcare system. If systems don’t work in your favour, it’s terrible! It’s days and nights of stress and lack of sleep, crying and tempers (even if you have good communication within your family). I wonder how many people who moved to Canada are in the same position as me. There’s more to the story, but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.

If you’re going to ask me if the Trucker’s Convoy has anything to do with my decision, I’m going to say, “You mean the Fucker’s Convoy!” And secondly, I really can’t deal with that right now. I have too much going on.

Anyway, where am I moving next?

Let’s Play Where To Invade Next:

Like Michael Moore, I am using the phrase “Where to invade next” satirically. If you have seen the movie, you know what I mean. So, without further ado, let’s play Where To Invade Next!

Clue #1: It’s an EU country. So now your odds of guessing correctly are now 1 in 27.

Clue #2: It’s a country that colonized other countries during the Age of Exploration.

Clue #3: After Donald Trump’s Inauguration, other countries made introduction videos welcoming The Donald in his own words. The hashtag #everysecondcounts was trending. The last line of the videos always says, “Listen Donald. We totally understand it’s going to be America first, but can we just say our country second?” It was a satirical rush for second place. What country started the trend of videos vying for second place?

Clue #4: Fill in the blanks for this line from the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. “Even the (blank) army don’t wear (blank).” IYKYK.

If you know the answer, write it in the comments!