COVID-19 Shot #1: All Pfizer-ed Up!

I got the COVID-19 shot! Get my pun about being all Pfizer-ed (fired) up? I thought of it while I was waiting in line. And yes, I got Pfizer.

I am writing this because I believe my experience is applicable regardless of the country you live in. Disclaimer: I know vaccination is a sensitive topic, but please keep comments respectful. Please see my page My Site is A Safe Space for more information.

Pre-shot Information:

I initially thought I would be one of the last people to get the shot. Then, as things started to progress with the vaccine rollout in Alberta, things changed.

I knew some people who got the shot early on for various reasons. I know it’s normal to have vaccine hesitancy with this COVID-19 shot because it was developed so fast. However, I do appreciate there has been a lot of information out there to dissipate people’s fears.

Then the Rollout Changes Happened:

On March 30, Alberta started Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout. It includes anyone between ages 16 and 64 with eligible health conditions. I disregarded it. I want to mention by then, I knew that systems about being contacted for when it’s your turn to be vaccinated were useless!

My Mum was eligible for Phase 2D, which include people between 55 and 64. We initially thought she would get her shot in May and I would get mine in June. Then, the AstraZeneca shot came on the scene. They started booking by birth year in late February, so I was on standby for news for them booking my Mum’s birth year. I read COVID-19 updates for Alberta every morning. One day in early March, I saw on the news that people of my Mum’s birth year could book the AstraZeneca shot! So, my Mum had a choice of AstraZeneca immediately or Pfizer/Moderna in May. She chose AstraZeneca immediately. And no, she didn’t get blood clots. Do you know what the sad thing is? My Mum never got an email notification saying she could book a shot. I only knew about it because I saw the news update.

Meanwhile, I understand that the US was in a similar situation. My Dad had signed up for vaccine alerts, but they never happened. It got to the point that friends my age were getting vaccinated there and he wasn’t. We had to tell him to keep calling about a vaccine appointment. My Dad got the Johnson and Johnson shot at the end of March. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t told him to be proactive about it.

Then, I had An Idea:

I was concerned about getting gum graft surgery without getting the shot. My Mum and I started talking about upping our game with hygiene protocols during my recovery period. I decided on a whim to email my periodontist’s receptionist to ask if it was possible for me to get the shot before my surgery. 

As a bit of a backstory, my Mum always told me to get to know receptionists and show them appreciation. Receptionists carry around SO much information and they can pull strings for you! I have worked as an office assistant during my university career, and I can verify that if you’re nice to people who have a lot of information at their fingertips, they help you. If you aren’t nice to them, well, let’s just say revenge is a dish best served cold.

My periodontist’s receptionist had helped me a lot with all this crap of getting my dental records from the US. So, I gave her some macarons from my favourite patisserie to say “Thank you!” I love talking to her when I am waiting for my appointments at the office as well. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask her if I could possibly get the shot before my surgery.

Surprise, Surprise:

She told me I was eligible under Phase 2B. I don’t have a full-blown condition, like the ones listed. But I do have a problem that is a precursor to one of the conditions though. I never thought having precursors to eligible conditions that you have to medically manage qualified. This is why you ask the receptionist!

One tip my periodontist’s receptionist gave me was to try going to a pharmacy after about 8 pm. She said that pharmacies may have spare shots at the end of the day. Vaccine vials come in packs of 10 and they have a finite time on them once the pack is opened and kept at refrigerator temperature. So, some pharmacies have some spare vials at the end of the day if people don’t show up for their appointments.

I tried going to my local Shopper’s Drug Mart and they said they don’t have spare shots at the end of the day. It was fairly recently when pharmacies started booking appointments for shots. Now, they are so swamped that they don’t even create waitlists. I tried to get onto the waitlist for my local Shopper’s Drug Mart, but I couldn’t. My periodontist’s receptionist encouraged me to keep trying to go to the pharmacy after 8 pm. I guess the strategy is to wear them down. In the end, I decided to book the appointment through Alberta Health Services.

Ethics:

I can’t write a post like this without saying something about vaccine rollout ethics. I noticed that there were articles and social media posts questioning whether people were just jumping the line to get the shot. Vaccine shaming was becoming more of a thing, and in the US there were vaccine shortages. One important thing to remember is that the majority of disabilities are invisible, and it’s important not to judge people for that. Actually, what I said about my eligibility before applies in this situation. I don’t look like I have a precursor to an eligible condition because I am managing it medically and it works beautifully.

Additionally, you can find from a Google Search how there have been distribution issues. The trouble is so many shots go to waste when there are problems with distribution. You know the thing I mentioned about going to a pharmacy after 8 pm to see if they have spare shots? Well, that’s how Millenials and Gen Z over 18 have been getting shots, even if they aren’t eligible yet. Deena Henshaw, the doctor for the government of Alberta has said people shouldn’t do this. Um, if you have a distribution issue that is causing vaccines to go to waste, sort that out first! You can find a lot of news articles about how medical professionals realized vaccines would go to waste if they didn’t use them up so they found a way to do so. I say good for them! Healthcare workers have seen the havoc this pandemic has wreaked.

So, I Booked My Shot:

I do want to say when I booked my shot, I did worry about whether I was jumping the line. My Mum assured me that my periodontist’s receptionist thought I was well within my rights to get the shot, or she wouldn’t have told me the information I needed to get it. I made sure to have paperwork on me about my eligibility, just in case. Early in April, the TELUS Convention Centre opened a clinic in its building for mass vaccination. At first, not a lot of people showed up there. I booked my shot at that location, and when I double-checked my booking, I was able to bring the appointment forward by 3 days. Pfizer was the only shot available for my age group, which I was happy about.

The Day of My Shot:

I was more worried about having my paperwork in order than I was about the shot. I got to the TELUS Convention Centre right before my appointment time. There was a long line outside, which I was happy to see. I realized I had underdressed for the weather because it snowed a bit when I was standing in line. I felt so Canadian!

Then, I got inside and I realized there was another big part of the line. We had to zigzag between two or three large rooms and then go upstairs. The stairs were for people who could manage them and the escalator was for people with mobility issues. I don’t know if there is an elevator for people in wheelchairs though. Once we got to the second floor, we had to cross the pedestrian footbridge, zigzag again and finally, we could get into the final zigzag line!

One of the people doing crowd control said it takes less time to get through this line than to wait at Disneyland. Never been to Disneyland, but sounds very helpful. Conversations in the line were cool. In the final zigzag line, we sanitized our hands, changed our masks, and sanitized our hands again. 

The nurse did check my eligibility, but I didn’t have to prove it. It took longer to do my paperwork because I’m not on Alberta Healthcare yet. The nurse who checked me in said that they don’t refuse people shots at the TELUS Convention Centre after they have waited in line for an hour. I didn’t even feel the needle when the nurse injected me. That was a first! So, after waiting 15 minutes, I left. I grabbed two bottles of complimentary hand sanitizer on my way out! All Pfizer-ed up and ready to go!

Technology Stories While Waiting In Line and Some Other Things:

There are some tech things I should note about getting my shot at the TELUS Convention Centre. There was a playlist you could download to listen to while you wait. I didn’t take advantage of it, but I kind of wish I had. 

Inside the building, I saw these posters on the wall with these factoids about the world. I have to say, I do admire how TELUS is creative. For my non-Canadian readers, TELUS is a cell phone provider in Canada. TELUS has a building in Calgary that has a light show every night. It’s amazing to see what they come up with for the light shows. Now, I can remember my shot with facts about the world’s shortest novel and also that turkeys blush.

Another thing they did tech-wise was when you were waiting, they had you scan a QR Code to do your pre-shot questionnaire. So I am glad I didn’t forget my cell phone!

I noticed the majority of people there were probably between 18 and 50. Right before my appointment, Alberta lowered the eligibility for AstraZeneca to age 40 and now bookings are going like hotcakes. I don’t know how much that had to do with it though because I had to wait 2 weeks for my appointment. The day I was there, 5,000 people had been vaccinated. Word in the line was, they don’t check your eligibility. Not entirely true, but okay. As I said, I am among those who have invisible eligibility in Phase 2B. If other Millennials and Gen Z are jumping the line, so what? There’s a mass vaccination site now. I could tell the nurses there were just happy to get shots in arms.

How I Felt Afterwards:

I had a sore arm for about 36 hours. I made a point of resting for a couple of days and kept drinking water. One thing I regret doing is making a shopping trip to Safeway the day after my shot. It wiped me out. On my second day, I took a long nap. How much of the fatigue was emotional though? I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I posted on IG that I got my shot and have been encouraging people I know in Calgary to go to the TELUS Convention Centre for their shots. 

Oh, and you know how Brazil’s President Bolsonaro said people turn into crocodiles with the Pfizer vaccine? Well, it happened. This used to be me, and now I’m a crocodile. At least I’m friendly.

How do you like my trolling?

In Summary, My Personal Tips For Getting A Shot Are:

  1. If you’re having trouble getting a shot, ask a receptionist you have a good rapport with.
  2. Even if you have a precursor to an eligible condition, you’re still eligible.
  3. See if you can get a spare shot leftover at the pharmacy.
  4. If the pharmacy doesn’t work, go to a mass vaccination site.
  5. Don’t do anything unethical to get your shot.
  6. Drink lots of water for the next two days.
  7. I forgot to mention this in my post, but if you’re a person who has periods, try not to get your shot the week of your period. It can make your symptoms worse, but the research is inconclusive on that. I have mainly heard about this from other friends of mine.
  8. Be proactive about getting your shot. Don’t rely on email alerts or pharmacies.
  9. Troll President Bolsonaro with a photo of you turned into a crocodile.
  10. Take care of yourself after your shot physically and emotionally.

Have you got your shot yet? How did it go?

Sixth Month Theme: Slow Spring and Time for Health. Plus, asking for Travel Recommendations

After I published my last post, I found out my stay in Canada got extended! Here was the surprising thing: I didn’t even need to apply to extend it. Apparently, because of COVID-19, the IRCC has been automatically granting extensions. At least they have my updated information though. Feel free to congratulate me on being in Canada for six months! My Mum and I are going to get some nice food to celebrate!

My next step is to get the entrepreneur’s visa. They aren’t being issued right now, but I am staying on top of updates.

Spring has Sprung!

Okay, it hasn’t been that fast. It’s quite pleasant to see spring creeping up on you. My Mum and I call it a slow spring. In California, it’s hot by mid-March. There’s a part of me that says, “Okay, too fast!” when that happens.

Last month, I saw these traces of grass. Now there is more grass! This past week, I saw a hyacinth outside my window! The deciduous trees are still bare, but I see buds there and on the bushes.

Another thing I did lately: I went outside with spring clothes and only a sweater as backup! I could tell by the fact I got two compliments on my shirt in one day that other people are happy the weather is warmer. Okay, we still get some snow and/or rainstorms, but it’s not too bad and they clear up fast enough.

A couple days ago, I sat in the warm sun at a war memorial behind a library

Now, I’m actually writing this when we’re getting a snowfall. That’s April Showers for you! Although, it is good that it’s the only one to happen so far.

I have been incredibly surprised and impressed about how sunny Calgary is! Yes, you get storms, but it’s amazing how fast the weather clears and stays that way for a while. When I moved back to the US, one update from the UK I could absolutely rely on was when it was sunny. I’m serious. ALL my friends in the UK posted on social media about sunny days! I was surprised, “It’s sunny in the UK!” wasn’t a trending topic on Facebook. Okay, I have posted about it being sunny in London too. Guilty as charged. Just goes to show how unusual sunny days are there.

Health is Wealth:

One reason why I haven’t posted as often is I am focusing on my health right now. I am getting gum graft surgery at the end of April. Plus, my Mum and I are doing our own personal lockdown (again)!

Eventually, you get to the point where you start to realize whether certain restrictions are enough. Restrictions tightened in Alberta over a week ago but it’s definitely not enough. I have been warning everyone I know about the B117 variant because I also know about how it affected the UK. The good thing is I think the new restrictions have been a wake-up call. Shops were busy when the restrictions were announced, but now it’s quieter. I live near a main road and the traffic is a lot less lately.

I was talking to my periodontist’s receptionist lately about the restrictions. She talked about how if she had her way, it would be a six-week lockdown. Plus, I told her how I learned to be extremely careful in COVID-19 prevention after living in the US.

Asking for Travel Recommendations:

Let me explain. There is word on the grapevine that our world-famous Calgary Stampede is going to be happening in July. If it does, it sounds like the city will have a major superspreader event. Alberta is planning to have every adult vaccinated by June 30. How realistic is that? I don’t know. Under normal circumstances, I would love to see the Stampede. It tickles a TCK nerve for me. However, I don’t want to sacrifice my health. So, we invited my Dad to visit and go on a road trip together.

I wonder how many Calgarians will have the same idea as me?

What I am Looking for in Travel Recommendations:

  • Either within Alberta or some interprovincial travel, as long as the regulations for that work in our favour.
    • Note: We already have Yellowknife in mind. Going north is definitely on the table.
  • A mix of touristy and non-touristy places. I figure if the Stampede happens, the tourist places might be busy. Jasper, Banff and Edmonton sound nice, but I wonder if people will bring COVID-19 there around Stampede time.
  • We don’t want to go to Ontario or Quebec at this time, for obvious reasons. That means we can’t go to the Atlantic provinces either. 

Looking forward to hearing your recommendations!

 

 

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?

Finances: Part II- In Transition

Hey everyone! I just wanted to say before starting this post that I have had trouble with my self-hosted website system. So, thanks to those who have notified me about not being able to interact on my blog. I will be switching to a new host soon, so bear with me! Fingers crossed it works out this time!

This is a continuation of my posts on expat finances. I am learning a lot as I go, especially now that I’m an adult and have more financial responsibility than I did when I previously moved to another country. See my previous post Finances: Part I- The Basics for my first post on this subject. Now, without further ado, let’s bust these money taboos!

Previous Experiences:

I was really young with my first two international moves. However, when I was old enough, my parents told me stories of their money experiences while transitioning and adjusting to a new culture.

When I repatriated to the US, things were relatively easy for me. I didn’t have assets in the UK, so I decided to move all my money to the US. Additionally, the exchange rates were favourable between the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling at that time. 

Financially Transitioning to A New Country:

There is a common misconception that Third Culture Kids are wealthy because of their mobile lifestyle. Family wealth is not always a factor in being able to move overseas. There are a variety of factors that make a mobile lifestyle possible. Companies can pay expenses for transitioning overseas, and include other perks for expats, so that’s a big deal. Additionally, it depends on where you are moving and how you move. Believe me, moving across an ocean and most, or all of another country can really compound the costs of moving. Plus, everyone’s situation is different, and people handle money differently.

As an example, I had to cancel my cell phone number in England before I moved. So far, I have been able to keep my US number while living in Canada. I had to upgrade my cell phone plan to allow calls within Canada and also be able to call the US when I have needed to do so. My initial plan was to change to a Canadian cell phone number after a month. However, Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans of any country, and I still have to make calls to the US now and then. I decided to keep my US cell phone number for a little while until I feel more financially stable.

Open A Bank Account Before or After Moving?

That’s a critical decision. When I moved to the US, there was no urgent need for me to have money there, so I waited until after I moved to open a bank account. However, with moving to Canada during the pandemic, I knew that I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I needed to be sure I had a bank account there. My Mum decided to wait to open one until after we arrived.

I bank with HSBC, so I was able to set up a bank account in Canada to be ready for when I got there. I had to go through an application and setup process that took some time, but it was worth it. Plus, I was able to sort out any problems before I moved! On the other hand, I couldn’t get a debit card for the account until I had arrived in Canada. After quarantine, I had to go to my branch to sign a couple more papers, and then I could get a debit card.

We realized later that I had the right idea all along. Additionally, we learned that the finances with moving to another country never really end, and it’s too much for one person to bear. Mum decided to take on extra tasks with moving so that I would have more bandwidth to deal with the finances. The reason why the situation ultimately worked out was that my Mum and I communicate well. 

Striking A Balance:

When you’re in transition, it’s not a time to cut corners. If you need to pay for something, suck it up and do it! I’ve had to pay more for my US cell phone plan, but so what? It works here in Canada and that’s all I ask! Plus, in my Quarantine Diaries Week 1 and Week 2, I talked about my Mum and I not getting our mattresses from Overstock. I caved and ordered them from Amazon because we had been sleeping on the floor for NINE days! We needed mattresses so badly we didn’t care about buying them again. Overstock delivered the mattresses a month later.

At the same time, unimportant costs can add up. As I said in my Finances Part I post, you are one decision away from making a financial mistake. I learned over the years to save any potential discounts for a time when I might really need them. There is no better time to use discounts than doing an international move. 

Want to know how much it cost me and my Mum to fly from San Francisco to Calgary via Vancouver? Nothing. We saved our credit card points for a time we really needed them. Of course, I offset our carbon emissions, and I was happy to put a little money towards it. My attitude was, “Sorry Mother Earth! I know you’re hurting, but my Mum and I need to get out of a crappy situation! Here’s a little something for you to say thanks.”

What You Need to Get Settled:

Again, it depends on your personal circumstances. You need to decide how much furniture you need to get and whether you actually need it. If your place is already furnished, great!

Sometimes, you can’t know what you need until you actually get there. My Mum and I had to buy PROPER winter clothes when we arrived. When my Mum was talking about getting winter clothes in California, I said, “You don’t go to California to get winter clothes.” Get what I mean?

Additionally, you have to get used to what shops are around when you move to a new country. I had to ask a Canadian friend what the difference is between Canadian Tire and Home Depot. Plus, when I discovered Co-ops in Calgary, I felt like a kid in a candy store! It was the best Co-op I had ever seen! Your general daily expenses are not going to settle until you decide where you like to shop and for what.

A Note on Healthcare:

Getting used to a new country’s medical system is something you need to budget for! Different countries have different rules for when new immigrants qualify for healthcare. That is if they have a government healthcare system.

In the UK, it took about a year to qualify for healthcare. Although, from what I saw with my family and friends, they don’t give quality healthcare to new immigrants until they have paid taxes for a while. In the US, you have to pay ALL medical bills until you get insurance! You absolutely MUST read the fine print of what your insurance covers! Plus, medical costs there are sneaky! You learn a lot of soft skills to save money on healthcare costs. For example, I decided early on what hospital I would want to go to if I had an emergency. I was certain of their quality care, but they didn’t charge me any out-of-pocket costs for using their resources like a hospital gown, or soap. It pisses me off that hospitals charge unreasonable costs that your insurance doesn’t cover!

How I feel when I hear about being absurdly overcharged for out-of-pocket costs:

Canada has a law that you cannot enter without health insurance. Plus, you have to live there a minimum of six months and one day to qualify for their government healthcare. That system works well because it’s a good time to get acquainted with a healthcare system before you qualify for care.

There are Cultural Ways of Dealing with M0ney:

You CANNOT ignore this! Countries will have different ways of banking, managing and transferring money and you have to work with it. It can feel overwhelming at times. 

Before my Mum and I moved to Canada, we had to put a deposit on our new apartment. The landlord told us how to send the money, but at first, I didn’t understand the instructions. I thought it was a simple wire transfer and the instructions didn’t make sense. Google didn’t help too much when I tried to find “what does ______ mean??” I figured because my ISP was in the US, I couldn’t access it. 

Eventually, I figured out the banking feature I had to use was called Interac eTransfer. Even though I had my Canadian bank account, I hadn’t really explored the features since I was busy moving. Then, I suddenly had to do a rent deposit and I was FREAKING OUT!!!! Plus, it seemed counterintuitive to me that there is actually a banking feature that doesn’t charge you fees for using it?! What kind of a country IS this where they don’t charge you for every banking service you use?! After a failed attempt at the Interac eTransfer the first time, I was going to blow like a volcano! Finally, I found a page on HSBC Canada about Interac eTransfer that explained it. 

Mum said, “you’re going to love this service someday!” She was right. There was so much stress the first time, but now I love it! Now, I look back on this story and laugh. That story is another reason why I was glad to open a Canadian bank account before I moved there. I don’t know what I would have done about the deposit if I didn’t have a Canadian bank account!

Final Notes:

Bottom line: It takes a MINIMUM of a few grand per person to get settled in a new country. The more you move to a new country, the better you get at making financial decisions. Mistakes don’t completely go away, but you’re less likely to make a serious one if you go by past precedent.

Additionally, it was a lovely surprise to find the best French patisserie in Calgary. Whenever someone does something nice for me or my Mum we get a box of macarons. When you’re an expat, you need a lot of help, and it’s really touching when people come through for you. There’s no better reward than seeing their faces light up when we give them macarons. You’re probably asking, “You have money for that?” The answer, “Yes, I have money for that.” I’m new here, and I’m building connections. Sometimes, I have moved and really been thrown into the deep end because people weren’t willing to help. Canadians are among the most generous people I have had the pleasure of living with, and I have given out a lot of boxes of macarons to say thank you!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what I have to say about finances as an expat?

My First Holiday Season in Calgary! And it was beautiful!

My Mum and I knew from the day we arrived in Canada that my Dad couldn’t come to visit us for Christmas. We had tentatively talked about it before, but then we got through Border Control and everything changed. They asked us if we had any future travel plans, and we mentioned my Dad might come for Christmas. After we said that, we knew that it might not work, and that could get us in trouble. We called my Dad to tell him, and he said he wouldn’t try to visit us for the sake of not jeopardizing our chances in Canada. Comedians often joke about their immigration experiences, which I enjoy. However, some things can’t be joked about because it’s too insensitive. I honestly can’t see myself joking about my experience with Border Control this time.

It was a mixed bag of emotions knowing that this would be my first Christmas without my Dad. I felt like it would be an interesting experience to see what my Mum and I did together to make this season special. Plus, I didn’t want to feel too sorry for myself. I don’t want to get into my relationship with my Dad either. That’s something I save for those near and dear to me. Although, I will say that before I left, there were some things he did that were very hurtful to me emotionally. Part of me was glad to leave and is still glad that I didn’t see him for the holidays. On the other hand, I really missed him on Christmas Day.

And then there was the COVID situation:

Another reason I didn’t want to feel too sorry for myself is that the holidays weren’t going to be normal for anyone this year. We have all had a bad year, and we have all had a loss in one way or another. Some of us have suffered worse than others though. If I think about it, I haven’t suffered as much as others I know. I have been processing my losses because it’s mentally healthy and I can be there for people who have suffered greater losses. The best thing I could do was to send love to the people I know. Love is the main thing we need right now. It’s easy to give and receive it and costs you nothing, but it’s important to take care of yourself too so you don’t exhaust yourself.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we had a COVID scare! We needed some emergency plumbing done. Then, the plumber who worked on our place was exposed to someone who was also exposed to someone who had COVID. That made me and Mum level 4 of possible exposure! We decided to buck the trend if any. The best thing we could do was a semi-lockdown. We decided to stop going for our chronic pain treatment and limit going out for a while. Luckily, we didn’t get sick. I think it’s good we kept a certain amount of the paranoia we got from living in California during the first part of the pandemic. It would be the biggest irony of all to get sick after leaving a country whose COVID cases are off the charts at this point!

Then, We Had A Wonderful Surprise!

We got 10 inches of snow a few days before Christmas! A couple of days before the snowfall, we got a snow warning. It said to let someone know if you plan to go out and carry a cell phone with you. At that moment, I knew, “Okay. They are not messing around here!” My Mum said, “There’s winter. And then, there’s Canada.” She’s so right! On the day the snowfall started, we were in the southern part of Calgary. Aka: Any further south and we would have been out of the city on the way to the US border. I will talk about Calgarian suburbia more in a future post.

We were travelling home (by public transportation I might add) at the time when it started snowing. It was beautiful to see the snow falling, but I was grateful for being so well bundled up! Plus, visibility was disappearing from the snow fog and the setting sun. We proceeded with caution near the roads. People were driving home in droves. I learned that it can take drivers a while to get used to the snow season, and accidents can happen. We saw a driver nearly get rear-ended because he stopped for us to cross the street and the driver behind him had underestimated the stopping distance! Still, I’m a Londoner and a Public Transportation Odessey never hurt me. I’ll say more about days with deep snow in a future post, but I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed it!

Also, even though it was -8 C, I was able to go outside without gloves! Not bad, hey?

Jazz Hands!

Christmas Eve

We have a tradition on Christmas Eve that we open one present. I chose a present that was both for me and my Mum, which was reading socks! I had stumbled on them as I was discovering the delights of Indigo bookstore (sp: !ndigo). Mum was delighted! We discussed the fact that you don’t really notice that your feet can get cold while reading. Also, this was definitely a creative moment with cultural significance. You’re more likely to notice things like cold feet when reading in a cold-weather/sub-Arctic climate, and someone was creative enough to find a solution for it! I love my reading socks! I’m wearing them as I’m writing this!

We watched some videos of the Halifax Comedy Festival before going to bed. I’m starting to develop a love for Canadian humour, and this has been a great introduction to it.

Christmas Day:

It was another beautiful day! My Mum was elated by the presents I found at !ndigo. I got us a crossword puzzle book of Canadian things as a family present. I feel like this will help us get a better understanding of the culture. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with different cheeses and charcuterie. Then, we had a panettone for our dessert. I wished everyone I knew the best Christmas possible. We have all had a hard year this year, but some have had a worse year than others. That night, we stayed up late and watched a new TV series. I’m not sure about this, but from what I have observed, Christmas night is the big night in Canada. In both the US and UK, it’s Christmas Eve. I guess I will find out more the longer I stay here.

After Christmas:

I started feeling depressed. In 2020, I struggled with depression on and off because of deliberately locking down for seven months. A fact about me as a person is that I love to get out and stay active. If I am forced to remain indoors from either illness or injury, I get depressed. So, naturally, 2020 was a hard time for my depression.

I found myself questioning everything I do during the day and feeling overloaded. It didn’t help that something happened that made me wish I was back in the US! It’s amazing how it’s easy to feel overloaded when the internet and media constantly demand your attention. One of my reasons for moving to Canada was to have a more deliberate life. Living near Silicon Valley felt more like System Overload Valley. Then, I remembered that this year, there is going to be the launch of The Great Reset Initiative. So, I said, “I need a Great Reset for my life!” One reason why I was taking a break from posting is to figure out what I need to do for my Great Reset. More on that later.

By the way, I’m not trying to say that I blindly agree with everything UN institutions are doing. One thing I did at university in my International Finance class is to study how UN institutions work and debate what they do. It was extremely informative, and it’s a practice I still continue today. I subscribe to World Economic Forum newsletters for precisely this reason. Honestly, I developed a passion for economics early on in my studies because of how it opened my world. I chose a fun major and a practical major. Even though Economics seems like my practical major at first glance, it was actually my fun major!

So, I decided to act on Past Precedent:

Next week is my birthday, but I made a decision to delay celebrating it until I felt ready. Sometimes, it can be hard to have a birthday soon after Christmas because you can overwork yourself. Additionally, I remember three years ago, I had appendicitis right before Christmas. My parents basically dropped everything to take care of me. I was home for Christmas, but the day wasn’t much because I was still very sick. We decided to celebrate Christmas on a day that I felt better. I learned that there can be too much pressure to celebrate things on the day. It’s okay to celebrate things later if you physically or mentally can’t do so on the day!

New Year’s:

I started feeling better on New Year’s Eve. A year ago, we started a tradition of doing stand-up comedy during the holiday season. This year, I got my first audience apart from my family! I’m part of this TCK community, and I did my routine for them! My theme was being a TCK, and also Canadian life so far. I am starting to learn what I can use as a common theme in my comedy.

There was something I was NOT looking forward to on New Year’s Eve: Brexit. I heard it was customary to say, “Happy Brexit”! Okay, do NOT say that to me please! Just don’t! I feel this so hard because I went to all this trouble to get dual nationality. I voted to stay in the EU to maintain my citizenship rights and I knew that it would be a big mess if England DID leave the EU. Now, I’m not an EU citizen and it turns out I was right! The only thing that makes me feel better about it is this:

Actually, John Oliver makes me feel better about Brexit in general. I recommend watching his three shows (so far) about Brexit! He can summarize the mess up better than I can!

There is one thing I can celebrate though. Today, I am 10% of the way to permanent residence in Canada! I’m not leaving anything to chance though. I have a plan for staying, and I’m just hoping it works. This month, I have been thinking about how much I have learned about life in Canada so far, and it’s amazing! Multiply that by 10 and who knows where I will be by the time I get permanent residence!

Resolutions:

I’m not one for making empty New Year’s Resolutions or trying to hold myself to impossible standards. I do make resolutions I believe in, but I am also accommodating of obstacles along my way. Some of these have to do with being new to Canada. The others have to do with my own Great Reset. Let me share a few:

  1. Explore more of my beautiful, new country! Whenever I move to a new country, I make a resolution to see more of it! Of course, it depends on the COVID situation, but I do have plans for a trip this summer!
  2. Improve on Canadian French. I am familiar with French French and Swiss-French, but this is a whole other dialect!
  3. Finish the draft of my book by the end of the year. Watch this space!
  4. Learn to drive in Canada. I have driven in England, and in California, but driving in Canada during the winter is a whole other set of skills to learn!

One last thing: If you haven’t filled out the survey for my blog, can you please do so? I am closing the survey on January 15th. Thank you to all of you who have filled it out! I appreciate your feedback!

https://forms.gle/UdcZMnoiaXnDqfjm7