Seventh Month Theme: Mishmash

Hey everyone, didn’t know how to title this theme even though I gave it a lot of thought. It’s really been a mishmash!

Health is A Factor:

A week after I got my COVID-19 shot, I had gum graft surgery. Fortunately, the pain was FAR less than it was the first time I got it and I recovered faster! I have been super happy with the healthcare I have received in Calgary so far, and this was no exception. At least during my recovery, I was able to let my immunity develop after getting the shot without having to worry about going outside.How do I feel now that I got my first shot? Weird. There is a certain mental block I have after getting it. When the pandemic started, I got the attitude, “I’m not f***ing around with that s**t!” and I would overthink following COVID protocols. Now, even though I do still follow them, I don’t worry if I make a mistake. Even the best of us screw up sometimes, but the shot gives me peace of mind that I didn’t have before when I screwed up. Also, I read this New York Times article about languishing. Wow! Nailed it! There are lots of things I want to do, but I guess I have been locked down too long. I’ll get past it though.It doesn’t help that cases have been exploding in Alberta. I was recovering from surgery when new restrictions came in. My reaction was, “Fine with me! I’m home anyway!” I’m glad that vaccine eligibility has been expanded. Still, if you need tips, feel free to read my post about getting my shot!

Travel Update:

Thank you to everyone who gave me some travel recommendations last month! Word is that the Calgary Stampede is going to happen. Considering the current COVID-19 situation, it’s like “Oh no!” The plan is to definitely get out of dodge. I know how international events can take over cities. I was in London when the 2012 Olympics happened and there wasn’t a pandemic on top of it. Plus, there might be trouble if there are restrictions on the event because of COVID-19, so I feel it’s best to step away this year.So far, I am in the planning stage of a trip, and I don’t think anything will be finalized for a while. Restrictions keep changing all the time. At least I will be able to travel a bit (safely, of course) and hopefully, be able to see my Dad! Hopefully, next year will mean better times, and I will be able to see what the fuss is about with the Stampede.

More On Cultural Adjustment:

Normally, after the honeymoon period, there is a phase where you don’t like your new home. I found out I was going through that this past month. It’s one of those things I haven’t mentioned before in the past for various reasons, but I am breaking this cycle. There are many misconceptions about this phase, so let me clear some things up.

  1. As a general rule, this phase is really nothing personal against a new country. On the other hand, after this phase, if you STILL don’t like your new home, there is something more going on than meets the eye.
  2. You can tell when you’re going through the phase if your feelings are going to be temporary or permanent.
  3. This phase is completely normal! A country can be absolutely perfect for you and it will still happen!
  4. When you are feeling bad about your new home, it’s not necessarily what people say or do, or things going on in the country. Anything can set this off. Of course, things like the pandemic don’t necessarily help.
  5. You can get it with reverse culture shock too.
  6. A certain amount of homesickness contributes to it.
Case in point

I know I am going to get past this, and once I do, I am going to love Canada more! I saw the movie, Brooklyn recently. It’s so real about moving to a new country! My Irish side was saying, “I’m not crying! You’re crying!”

Some Other Cool Cultural Things:

Note the featured photo on my post. I find it touching how people are still saying “Welcome to Canada!” to me even after several months. I have also learned more about foods in Canada after watching the Great Canadian Baking Show. Despite my current phase of cultural adjustment, I am still trying to find hidden cultural gems!Funny story, I was with my Mum in Uber once and the driver asked us, “So where are you ladies from?” I don’t know if I have said this before, but TCKs have a weird relationship with that question. We can tend to dread being asked that. The general advice is to have a short version answer, a medium version answer, and a long version answer. What I tend to do is start with my short answer and if I get a good response, expand on my medium or long answer. I vary it depending on how people respond to me.This time, I gave my long response. My long response includes that I moved to Canada because the situation was getting pretty desperate in the USA. The Uber driver was very direct with how he felt about the USA and I took it. I said I completely agreed, but also added, “Having lived in other countries, I do understand those sentiments, and it’s okay with me.” I can’t believe I had never said anything like that before, but then again in England, there was a lot about American culture I didn’t know because of growing up there. Although I had some variation on that phrase, it fell flat.I think now that I have actually seen how American culture is after being away for so long, I can imply that it’s okay to say how you feel about the USA to me. I can also implicitly slide in the warning, “Don’t treat all Americans this way!”

Canadian Country Music In Time for Summer:

I stumbled on the following song and had to look it up!

How perfect that summer is coming and found the song. Killed the replay button! I’m starting to learn more about Canadian country music (hey, I’m in Calgary)! Is it different from American country music? That’s a big yes! I am listening to Dean Brody as I write this post. I like his song Canadian Girls as well. One of my biggest hopes is that I will see Dean Brody perform (hopefully at the Calgary Stampede)!

Spring!!

I can’t get enough green things now!! I have waited 7 months for blossoms to appear! Lately, I have gone crazy with the camera photographing flowers, baby bunnies, goslings, and other signs of spring!

I saw a bobcat!

I want to take the black bunny home!

Right now, Victoria Day weekend is about to happen, and the weather has turned. It’s now what I call snailing: a mixture of snow, rain, and hail. Only hardcore campers go camping this weekend. This is apparently the last gasp of winter and then June 1st is a whole different story!To my fellow Canadians, have a nice Victoria Day weekend!

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.

Crossing A Border? Here Are Some TCK Pro Tips!

Who has had a supremely pleasant experience crossing a border where the officers are kind, welcoming and let you in with no problems? No? Me neither. Let’s just say, there’s a reason comedians make fun of border patrol and airport security. I included my favourite comedy routines on the subject in this post to help lighten this heavy subject.

I grew up between two of the most hostile countries when it comes to border patrol and security. So, I got really good at dealing with it. My parents said France and Switzerland border patrol care the most about paperwork. As long as you have that in order, they are usually okay with you. That sounds mild compared to my passport countries. Okay, Napoleon, I don’t appreciate the paperwork headache, but as long as I don’t get a hard time at the border, thank you!

Whether you are crossing a border for travel or immigration purposes, it’s helpful to know how to deal with border patrol. I will include tips on dealing with airport security too. Border patrol and airport security is a content warning in its own right. However, I want to mention I will include some examples of stories that people may find disturbing.

Before You Leave:

Do any necessary paperwork. I know that doesn’t sound like fun, but it will save you an enormous headache later. Make sure your passport is still valid too. If it isn’t or if you have less than 6 months on it, renew it! Being born in Switzerland and living in France, it was my birthright to learn how to fill in paperwork properly. It was one of those cultural things my parents made sure to teach me. That served me well when I moved to England and I expect it will serve me well here in Canada too. I remember when I was old enough to do paperwork, and my Mum gave me practice forms to fill in. She made me practise… and practise… and PRACTISE until I was almost tearing my hair out.

My Mum was sympathetic but also strict about the fact that I needed to know this. She told me stories later about how she learned how to deal with paperwork in France/Switzerland. This was before the internet really took off too, so hey, I learned paperwork from a master!

This is why I love Roz’s character from Monsters Inc. Every scene with her makes paperwork and border patrol a little easier to handle.

It really helps to think of border patrol officers like Roz, or even like in Life is Beautiful, Guido and Joshua call the concentration camp guards, “Mean Guys Who Yell.”

One More Thing:

Check the laws, regulations and rights when you cross the border. I’m serious. Anyone can get stopped at the border and you have to be prepared in case it happens. Additionally, if you are arriving in a country that has questionable (or dare I say abusive in some cases) human rights practices, you have to be even more prepared. More on that later.

Check requirements for airport security and customs too. If you’re in doubt about taking something with you, either don’t take it or ask at security or customs if it’s allowed. I heard a story once about this elderly German guy who was flying into the USA. He brought baking soda with him to brush his teeth. He was detained for hours while security tested it. They came back and said, “it’s baking soda.” Um, they could have figured it out by pouring apple cider vinegar on it and creating a mini volcano!

Case in point: what happens when you take fruit across the US/Canada border.

Now that you’re prepared, here’s are my tips when you are going through security or crossing the border.

Golden Rule: Do NOT Use Humour!

Just DON’T! When I was younger, my Mum told me this story to remind me not to use humour. Groucho Marx said that he was a smuggler when he went through the border. They detained him even though they knew who he was. Plus, the previous video with Leland Klassen conveys that message of not using humour too.

One time, my Dad used humour with Border Patrol. We had just got permanent residence in the UK, and my Dad was arriving back in the UK after a trip to the US. He was having his papers checked at Border Patrol and they asked him how he got permanent residence. Side Note: One of our family discussions at the time was about this guy who gave Β£1,000,000 to the Labour Party to obtain UK citizenship.

Anyway, Border Patrol asked my Dad, “How did you get your permanent residence?”

He joked, “I gave Β£1,000,000 to the Labour Party!”

The woman questioning him looked blank and said, “Good for you.”

Okay, that worked out in the end. Still, I don’t advocate using humour. Border Patrol has NO sense of humour! They just get on with the job.

Honesty is the Best Policy:

If you are familiar with typical questions you are asked, I suggest you practice your answers if you have ANY uncertainty of what you are going to say! Border Patrol may try to throw you off with an atypical comment or question. It’s normal to freeze when that happens. I don’t have any right answer for when that happens. Just be kind to yourself, especially if you say something that you feel like you shouldn’t have said in retrospect. Frankly, I get panic attacks when that happens. Sometimes, I can come up with a good save in answer to an awkward question, but it takes practice. It didn’t happen overnight for me.

Here’s something people don’t often tell you. Sometimes, you have to tell the border officers which law(s) is/are applicable to your case. Border officers have to keep track of MANY different laws. I had a situation once where I had to tell the border officer the law that applied to me. Sometimes, you wonder if they really don’t know that law, and it’s true that it can be the case. Other times, it can likely be just needing to know all these different laws and it’s hard to recall them at the drop of a hat.

I’m glad Trevor Noah makes the situation lighter in this video.

If You Make A Mistake, Own It:

You might make a mistake in your paperwork or answer a question wrongly. In that case, admit the mistake. Don’t try to flatter the officers, like how Mike Wazowzki tries to flatter Roz. Yes, there will be consequences. I made a mistake once. I thought one regulation applied to me, but it turned out there was a new one. Because I was preparing to move I didn’t check for updates. It takes a while to go through those regulations, and it’s one of those things you only want to do once when you move.

Decide Which Information is Important to Share and Which Isn’t:

To be clear, I’m NOT saying you should hide information! Far from it! What I am saying is you should prioritize what information you should share. When I got dual nationality, I learned that I have to decide on a case by case basis whether I should disclose it. I don’t say I’m a dual citizen if I am entering one of my passport countries. They don’t need to know that. They just need to see my passport. I disclosed my dual nationality to Canadian immigration when I moved. When you look at immigration forms, they ask if you’re a dual citizen. Canada’s the first country I have seen who does this! That makes me very happy that they are recognizing that a lot of people are dual citizens.

When I repatriated to the US, my Dad sat me down and had a serious talk with me about being careful who I tell that I’m a dual citizen when I’m in the US. Basically, if anyone asks me if I’m a US citizen while on US soil, I have to say yes. You’re considered a security risk if you’re a dual citizen in the US. Honestly, I find that completely disgusting and backwards! There are more TCKs in the world than ever before because of globalization and more people are getting dual nationality than before! Frankly, the US and other countries need to catch up!

Know Your Rights:

This is where it can really get ugly. Your rights can still be violated if you’re a citizen of a country that you are entering. My uncle re-entered the US after a trip to a country in South America that the US deemed a security risk. They threatened to do something that would have violated his rights as a US citizen. He said, “I’m a US citizen. You can’t do this to me!” It worked because my uncle knew his rights. If you don’t know your rights, it’s easier for border patrol to exploit you!

Here are two more tips I have. First, check if you can ask to speak to a lawyer at no extra cost to you before you leave. Certain countries are legally required to provide you with a lawyer at no extra cost upon request. Check if that applies to the country you’re entering. I only recently learned about this. I had problems entering Canada. My Dad said, later on, I should have asked to speak to a lawyer. Glad I know that for future reference!

My second tip is to find out their discrimination laws. If you can find a reason why they can’t discriminate against you, use it!

Other Stories:

After 9/11, border patrol and airport security in the US got even scarier. I vowed to myself that I would visit there as little as possible. This wasn’t something that would calm down after a few years either. There were a lot of personal stories going around of US border patrol and airport security being more abusive overall. Things only got slightly better because of people complaining about their experiences.

I have heard of UK citizens being stopped at the border if they are naturalized citizens and questioned about the legitimacy of their citizenship. That’s one reason why I am leery about entering the UK again. Additionally, I have heard stories of Canadians who are Muslim being stopped at the US border because of Trump’s Islamaphobic travel bans!

Take Care of Yourself Afterwards:

I’m serious. In my post, Flying Internationally and Locally During COVID-19, I describe how I was feeling after going through Border Control. My Mum and I had to make our flight to Calgary right after that! Adrenaline was pumping SO hard then! I thought I was either going to throw up or pass out! I had to use the flight to Calgary to recover from that ordeal. The airplane views were beautiful, so I watched out the window.

If I hadn’t had to catch a plane, I would have taken care of myself. First, I would have gone into the bathroom to come down from the massive panic attack I was having. Then, I would have drunk a lot of water and maybe had some food once I felt better.

My point is that your body is going to respond to the stress of going through border patrol. It’s important to do whatever you need to do to manage it.

Laugh About It:

At some point, I can’t take what happens too seriously. I also remember that these border officers are people too and sometimes, you can see their human side. Then, it’s almost comical when something is way too easy. Listen to this last comedy routine to find out why!

What do you think of my tips and stories? Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Third Month Theme: Rest, Reflect and Observe New Things

I’m about 80% settled here! There’s more time to relax! I can reflect more on how the last three months have gone. It was kind of been a blur up until Christmas. This is the point where I can observe and absorb my new country now.

Calgary Baptism of Fire

Here’s another weird Calgary weather story! I had to go out at about 8 am in mid-January. I checked the temperature on my phone and didn’t see indicators of the previous day’s forecast of snow in the morning. It was still, clear and looked like it would be sunny later. Yes, in mid-January, the sun STILL rises late! It wasn’t too cold, so I was on the fence as to whether I needed my down parka. I decided not to wear it and left my hat behind too…

Ten minutes out the door I was suddenly hit with this bone-chilling Arctic wind and hail! “HOLY S**T!!!” was my first thought! It was too late now to go home for my parka! Fortunately, I had a cashmere sweater that I pulled over my head as I walked. The blast didn’t last too long though. Calgary had JUST avoided a blizzard! The temperature dropped too. In other words, I saw an immediate barometric pressure change firsthand!

Okay, what just happened? Was this a baptism of fire for living in Calgary or something? What did I learn from this? Check the radar map too if I’m going out! Checking the current forecast, temperature and windchill are not enough! Weather reports are never entirely reliable, especially on a cell phone. Regardless, I need to know how much to layer up. I learned the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” within my first month here. You can replace “don’t” with “do” in that sentence too. I laughed before. I have actually lived it now! It’s VERY real for me!

Everything Else is Boring by Comparison

Just kidding! The temperature is dropping more. We’re in the -10s and sometimes the windchill makes it feel in the-20s at this point! I hear a lot about the -30 degree temperatures but haven’t experienced it yet. Watch this space! Walks help me learn what I should wear at what temperatures before I have to go do chores. One example was when I took the photos for this post. It was -14 degrees with a windchill of -18 and it was hard to leave my gloves off for more than a minute or two! I tried buying gloves that had a grip on them for your cell phone screen, but it was a rip off!

Recently, we got a dusting of new snow along with hoarfrost. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful! When I walked by the river, there was a stretch that was completely frozen. The river gets more frozen by the day. I have never lived anywhere where the river freezes before. I was tempted to walk on it but decided not to. I’m not fully Canadian yet, so I don’t have the intuition to judge ice thickness.

I see SO many geese flying over every day to congregate at the river! It’s crazy! Why haven’t those birdbrains flown south yet?

I Admit That I Wished for Snow

Be careful what you wish for, hey? In Calgary, you’re more likely to get it! There was a reason I wished for it. I had a flashback to a time in London that was an incredibly stressful and miserable time in my life. I feel like I can heal from it now that I’m in Canada partly because there is snow that makes everything beautiful. My Mum said it says a lot about Canada if I feel safe enough to think through this garbage and heal from it. I agree with her on that.

Additionally, I was exhausted for a few days, so I stayed in bed. It was due to my move. There comes a point after moving overseas where I have had to sleep it off! It doesn’t happen right away. It creeps up on me. There are some stressors that don’t end for a long time (if at all). Once there’s a time to breathe a bit more, the fatigue hits! It was time to press the Reset button! I was so tired I didn’t give a crap about Inauguration Day in the US!

A Word on How I Feel About US Politics

Honestly, I’m still numb. I still have this strong part of me that says “I do NOT want to talk about it!” When I moved to Calgary, I had to be strict on that boundary. I broke that norm when I did my post Storming the Reichstag 2.0. My personal boundaries on talking about it still stand. I’m feeling more emotionally resilient than I was when I first moved here though. I am in a new country though and I want to respect their own cultural norms when it comes to politics.

Had Another TCK Moment about US Politics

I was 10 when I moved away from the US for the first time. Politics was boring adult stuff for me. 9/11 happened and I learned of ripple effects from the US around the world. Then, I came across a challenge that many TCKs face.

Politics didn’t come up a lot while I was living life outside my home in London. UK politics doesn’t get discussed nearly as much. I didn’t fully understand how UK politics worked, frankly. News shows were cryptic and I gave up learning it after a while. When I studied for my citizenship test though, it finally made sense to me!

My Dad has always talked about US politics incessantly at home. It gets so tiresome! Because of the cultural conflict between my home and life outside in England, I didn’t understand it. When you’re having a conversation in the US, sooner or later, you will start talking about politics. I didn’t realize that until I repatriated to the US. There is an unhealthy obsession with politics in the US. People from other countries really don’t understand that. A friend of mine pointed out that the US stands out in the world as an exception to the norm. She’s so right!

I think other cultures making politics a taboo topic can be healthy under the right circumstances. People have been taking breaks from politics because of the amount of depressing stuff going on. Cultural structures can act as pre-imposed boundaries on the amount of political discussion. I am breaking my habit of talking about US politics because I’m not there anymore. I do feel peer pressure from other Americans to talk about politics sometimes. My response is, I am in another country, and we aren’t obsessed with politics. Being a TCK can be a powerful thing.

Push and Pull between Cultures

When I move to a new country, I get this push and pull effect between my last country and my current country. As a TCK, I need to reconfigure balancing all my cultures now and then. Moving to a new country is one of those times to reconfigure.

Here’s one example. I have been loving the winter SO much! There are different things that are new to me about a sub-Arctic winter! There’s a push from the US and a pull towards Canada. That feeling is strong and deep! I am bracing myself for someday needing to go to California. I have to sort through a room full of stuff that I left behind. When will that happen? No idea. People I know have false hope that I’m returning for good. I have to squash it.

Sometimes, you get updates from your loved ones in your last country that make you wish you were there. That’s the biggest pull of all. Problems can be increased in severity by a factor of 10 when you’re overseas. Other times, people from your last country can say things that feel like peer pressure to return.

A Note on Peer Pressure

A word to the wise: if you know someone who is living overseas, please don’t ask, “when are you coming back?” They either might not know, or they may not want to do so, or both. Additionally, please don’t say, “when you come back”. I have had people do both to me and I hate it!

I am understanding of people who do this because they haven’t lived overseas. They don’t know how things work. Things can get complicated or plans can change for whatever reason. Take my situation about needing to go to California someday. I thought that was going to go back in April. Now, I know I can’t, and I have to apply to extend my stay. I don’t want to go to California until I know for sure that I would be allowed back into Canada. I told people in California that I would be there in April, but I didn’t know my situation would change.

What I hate though is people being unsupportive. I can tell the difference between someone not knowing how things work and them being unsupportive. The best example I can think of this from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Okay, spoiler alert: Kim Baker breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. He blames the fact she’s been in Afghanistan. That hits home! I saved her line of, “Go to (insert something bad)! It sucks! You’ll fit right in!” It’s EXACTLY how I feel at moments like that!

People who have been the most sensitive are the ones who let me talk about my situation first. If they ask questions, they do it respectfully. If I mention that I might be visiting, we can randomly say we can do some fun things when I do. That is the best!

A Word on Getting Settled in A New Country

The question, “Are you settled yet?” is rather disconcerting for me. I’m going to do a more detailed post about what getting settled in a new country really means to me. I will probably stay at 80% settled for a while, frankly. There are circumstances beyond my control that will keep me from being 100% settled. Additionally, if my immigration status isn’t what I call solid, it’s hard to feel 100% settled.

That’s it for now. What do you think of what I said about my expat/TCK life here? I’m open to discussion! Any further tips on sub-Arctic winter would be welcome!

Second Month Theme: Hot Mess and Confusion

After the euphoria of the first month wore off, some things went upside down for a while. Here’s what really stood out:

Meltdown:

Even if everything went perfectly with the move, I still would have had a meltdown eventually. It happened when I moved before and I know different things have the potential to set it off. For me personally, it’s normal for me to have a meltdown after a month or so in a new country. I can’t speak for other expats though. I think there should be more transparency about the are ups and downs in the process because immigrants aren’t robots.

My first post-international move meltdown was two months after moving to England. I was in school and I hated it because I was being bullied for my accent. I didn’t expect to have a meltdown after repatriating to the USA because it was my home country and I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock. Soon after I wrote my post about the theme for my first month here in Canada, I had a meltdown.

The thing that set me off was: a toxic American. It hit me that Trump has brought out the absolute worst of Americans. It takes different forms, but the fact of the matter is, it’s been traumatizing dealing with it for the past four years. I got to the point it’s been hard to distinguish rhyme from reason. I have lost friends who I initially thought were good people, but then it was like they had turned bad almost overnight. People aren’t who they say they are. That’s what you get when you’re part of an entire culture of people who are hurting for one reason or another.

I’m not saying I’m perfect though. I have lashed out too. Generally, I like to be low-key and get on with life. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I have forgiven the people who have hurt me though, and even though I wish I could be forgiven for my mistakes, I have accepted it might not happen.

It hurts me to see a country I used to love imploding. I asked my Mum, “Why does this hurt so much??” And she said, “Because you care.” I never thought of that before. Even so, I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with toxic Americans. I have put up my own personal boundaries and I. AM. DONE.

The most important thing I can do when I’m having one of those meltdowns is to listen to what my intuition is trying to tell me. For example, when I was in England, my intuition was saying to me, “I don’t want to stay here forever.” When I repatriated to the US, my intuition said to me, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” Now, when I had a meltdown, my intuition said to me, “I CANNOT go back to the USA! I just can’t!” And get this, my intuition has ultimately been right. I didn’t stay in England forever. It was a bad idea to repatriate. And now, I have been thinking about what I can do so that I don’t have to return to the USA. While I was going through the meltdown, I didn’t have the room in my feelings to say that I love Canada. Once I felt better, I was able to express the fact that I genuinely love it here and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stay!

I was also incredibly lonely. It’s not like I can go out and meet people because of the pandemic like I used to before. I missed my friends and just being around people.

Getting Settled:

I’m going to be real with you. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled in a new country! I kid you not, it took almost a year to feel settled when I repatriated to the US. Of course, there is more to getting settled in a new country than meets the eye.

Getting settled goes faster if everyone involved pitches in and helps. If you have a job or have to study, it goes slower. Even though getting physically settled makes a difference in how you feel settled mentally, there is a mental side to adjusting to a new country that takes a lot longer.

I have been taking advantage of counselling services this time while I’m in transition. I have never done that before, but I knew I had to this time. Since I’m new to Canada, I am still trying to figure out what services to find and where. I was able to find crisis counselling where you get six free sessions. My counsellor has told me how I can find expat resources and other important information that citizens use too.

When you’re getting settled in a new country, there is a considerable amount of running around and doing chores. During our mandatory quarantine, we had to buy everything we needed online which was less tiring but also had its disadvantages. Once we got out of quarantine, we were going outside almost every day. We were feeling under pressure to get things done because we had no idea how COVID restrictions were going to change. Even the days we’re at home, there are still a lot of chores to do online.

My Mum and I have been efficient at getting chores done, but we also realized we burned ourselves out. We’re deliberately going to have a low-key, quiet Christmas and make a point of taking a break for a while. COVID restrictions have tightened in Alberta anyway, so we think it’s best to lie low for a while.

Additionally, I have had some issues going independent on my blog, so I’m going to take some time to improve it when I’m laying low. I’m hoping I can do some posts and also work on the book I hope to publish in a year! We’ll see though. I need to do some improvments.

COVID-19:

Speaking of COVID, if the pandemic situation in Calgary was as bad as California, it would have taken a lot longer to get settled. Since starting my pain treatment, I have had to go out a lot more, and my treatment plan has been switched up so I am seeing more healthcare providers. I don’t worry about COVID when getting treatment. It’s just that usually we stop at stores to get whatever we need. Although, I am happy that I will be getting a bit of a break for treatment soon. In some ways, these restrictions are going to affect my treatment, but I’m okay with that.

Since the end of our quarantine, my Mum and I have had a couple of scares where we thought we might have been exposed. My biggest scare happened when I went to the post office. The guy at the desk said he didn’t normally work at that branch. He had been called in because a couple of days before, the post office had to close because one of the regular staff had contracted COVID. I was glad I had my KN95 mask on. When I left, I went to the nearby mall and practically washed the skin off my hands!

Now, we’re prioritizing our outdoor chores more carefully. We decide if we both need to do them and we spread out the time between them.

I will say this about dealing with the pandemic in California. My family had some emergency N95/KN95 masks on hand long before the pandemic because we’ve been getting once-in-a-generation wildfires every year! Who wants to breathe that crap from the fires or contract the virus? Not me!Β 

I have noticed my bandwidth has been a lot lower overall from getting settled. Someone hacked one of my social media accounts because I didn’t spot the warning signs. Normally, I don’t fall for scams, but I guess this was a clue to how vulnerable I was. I found myself checking the weather forecast a lot during this time because I kept thinking, “Where’s the snow? I need something beautiful!”

Last week, we had a chinook that broke an 81-year-old temperature record! Did I bring California winter with me?

And then we finally got a bit of snow! For me, that’s a better end to a rough month! Will there be a White Calgarian Christmas? Watch this space!

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

Self-Care