Total Solar Eclipse in August 2017

Hi everyone! I decided to share one of my travel stories about seeing a total solar eclipse. Originally, I was planning to travel to see this annular eclipse in Northern Ontario/Quebec in June. Let’s just say it’s not going to work out. So, I wanted to share the story of how I officially became an Eclipse Chaser, plus my recommendations if you ever travel to see an eclipse. Read on to find out more!

Before I start though, I wanted to say that there was data out of sync on my site, which is why my posts haven’t shown up in Reader. Tech support said that you might need to refollow my site, but let me know if this post shows up! Sorry for the inconvenience!

Before The Eclipse:

The eclipse I am talking about happened on Monday, August 21, 2017. Six months before, my Dad noticed that the eclipse would reach totality in Oregon, but sort of disregarded it. When the eclipse date was a month away, we decided to see it reach totality. Planning got a little tight! After all, it’s a major event and people travel all over to see it, so it can be a pinch to get accommodation at the last minute. We figured this might be our one chance to ever see a total solar eclipse. The eclipse was projected to reach 70% totality in the SF Bay Area. Not good enough. We wanted to see 100% totality!

We decided to leave a few days before the eclipse so we could see some sites along the way.

Friday, August 18:

First day of our road trip! We drove from the SF Bay Area to Redding. Our road trips within Northern California generally seem to start by going to Redding first, with the exception of Yosemite. It’s like a base camp for just about everywhere else in the most northerly part of California.

I’m going to cut a long story short about my driving history because it spans different countries! That’s a whole other post. By the time we did the eclipse trip, I had been sharing the driving with my Dad when we did road trips for over a year.

It only took a few hours to get to Redding. We got to our motel and then decided to drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park since it was mid-afternoon. Note, it’s a long, windy road to Lassen from Redding! It took a couple of hours to get there. We didn’t get back to Redding until 9 pm! You might think this was the longest drive we had done this trip… Think again! I love how Lassen is significant both as a volcano and shaped by glaciers! How often do you get that?

We tried this restaurant near our motel that was open late, and ended up loving it! If you are staying in Redding go to Lumberjacks Restaurant after a long day of travelling! Their meals are hearty and warm and their service is great. Since repatriating to the US, I had a problem with restaurants serving large portions. I CANNOT eat everything on my plate in a US restaurant! If you’re looking for a restaurant that doesn’t overload you with food because you can’t get a doggy bag, Lumberjacks is the one! Plus, we appreciated the added benefit they are open late in this instance.

Saturday, August 19:

Today was exploring day! We slowly made our way up to the Oregon border and stayed in a motel in Yreka. Don’t confuse it with Eureka! They are both in the far north of California, but Yreka is closer to the state line. By the time we got to our motel in Yreka, it was becoming clear that things were getting busy because of the eclipse. Our motel was completely full, which never happens! Also, the restaurant we went to that night was bursting at the seams! Let me get back to the things I saw that day though.

Oroville dam:

I get an eerie feeling whenever I see dams in California. Water wars are legendary there. Little known fact: Most of the energy produced by the Oroville Dam is used to raise water 2,000 ft to go over the Tehachapi Pass and provide water from NorCal to SoCal. California has to think of more sustainable water systems so that there isn’t this war between NorCal and SoCal! Plus, it’s an enormous energy waste!

Six months before, the Oroville Dam had a failure that caused almost 200,000 people to be evacuated. The event was not far from peoples’ minds and there was a lot of talk about it. I have visited dams before, but this one felt different because of what had happened. As I was walking along the dam, I looked into the valley and I saw how exactly the dam failure could have been far more disastrous. I do like walking along the top of dams and taking photos of things as I go. This time, there was a lot I couldn’t see because there was a wildfire going on nearby and the smoke was obscuring the view.

During my walk on the dam, I saw a bird of prey happily eating a fish. The bird looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. I looked it up after my trip and found out it was an osprey! Also, I saw a number of them flying around looking for fish. It made me feel better about the dam seeing that animals are thriving there. I spent a lot of time just watching the osprey eating the fish and it was so close!

First sighting of the osprey!
Wish I had seen it catch the fish!
Ospreys are cool!

Burney Falls State park:

Next stop: Burney Falls! It was a welcome break from California water wars, drought, and wildfire. The sky was clearer there and the falls were full! After a drought, it’s refreshing to see the falls being so full! It was one of those places where I could stay all day! I couldn’t get enough pictures! I highly recommend walking the park trails too. They are just as lovely as the falls.

I took a photo of the sky with all the smoke. There was smoke going on in Oregon too and we wondered about our chances of seeing the eclipse. Luckily, we planned to see it in eastern Oregon. We hoped it was far enough east to be away from the smoke.

I hate wildfires!

Sunday, August 20:

It was time to cross the state line into Oregon! My Mum explained that state lines tended to be based on natural features, and this was no different. The marker was the Cascade Mountains. I should mention that I have this CD of theme songs from Western movies that have the best arrangments. So, I was driving when we were going over the mountains and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme song was playing! That’s one way to remember your experience driving over mountains!

Here’s one important thing I have to say about the Cascade Mountains. If you cross them on Interstate 5, it can be rather hairy, especially in the wintertime. I hadn’t had too much experience driving in mountains, so I stayed cautious as I went over the Cascades. My uncle once hauled a load over the Cascades in the middle of winter and he said, “Never again!” My uncle’s an excellent driver, but he reached his limit there. Plus, he saw more than one truck that had jackknifed on the road. It’s rainy, slippery, and steep and if professional drivers are jackknifing, yikes! Regardless, I would rather drive the Cascades on Interstate 5 than any other road.

The Motel Situation:

Before I talk about what touristy stuff we did, I want to say something about the motel situation we found ourselves in. Because we were so late in planning the trip, motels near Portland were absolutely packed! The one motel we could find was in Shady Cove, Oregon and that was a 400-mile drive to the nearest point in the totality zone, in John Day. The eclipse was about 10 am on the 21st, which meant we had to drive ALL NIGHT from Shady Cove to John Day! That was a lot to plan! Additionally, the motels were STILL full the following night, and we had to go back to Redding to stay the night. That was another 400-mile drive. We were talking about driving over 800 miles in one day!

Crater Lake National Park:

We checked into our motel at Shady Cove and then drove to Crater Lake National Park. It was a beautiful park, but the smoke from the fires was obscuring the view. It was kind of a letdown, so we decided to drive along and see if there was anything else fun that we could do. I have to make sure to NOT visit Crater Lake during fire season next time!

We decided to meander back to Shady Cove along the Rogue River, and then we came across this area by the road called Natural Bridge. It looked woodsy and beautiful, so we stopped and walked around for a bit. We were not disappointed! It was a loop path and the river was pretty calm in that area. The peacefulness was indescribable! I soaked it up considering what was ahead of me (a night and day of tag-teaming with my Dad on driving and sleeping). If you’re in Oregon, it’s a place worth seeing! I love gems that are off the beaten path!

And then… surprise!

We were driving back to Shady Cove when we came across a place where we could go river rafting! We hadn’t had the chance to raft before because the drought made California suspend all rafting. Now, the Rogue River was full and we thought, “Why not?!” We booked the raft for an hour though because we did need to plan for a nap.

I didn’t get any photos of rafting because I didn’t want to get my tablet wet. The river was full and fast and there were some hair-raising moments where you had to react quickly! Okay, I am not the best at paddling. It takes me a while to get the hang of it. Still, it worked out and I was able to react quickly when needed. I wish I had known the term “Send it!” at the time! The only problem was getting out of the raft at the end because the water was super fast. My Dad got soaking wet because he had to jump back in and stop my Mum from floating down the river! Overall, it was an incredible experience. It’s days like this that are going to drive people to do something about the drought and wildfire on the West Coast.

preparing for the main event:

Once the rafting experience was over, it was all about preparing to get to John Day that night. We got back to the motel, and after showers and food, we double-checked everything we needed for the trip and packed our bags. One part of the plan was to take gas cans for the 400 mile drive. The car we rented was the most fuel-efficient car we could get, but even that would have just BARELY got us to John Day on its tank of gas. We would be driving through the boonies and we weren’t entirely sure of the gas station situation. I will say more about this later because this is not a strategy I recommend. After my Dad filled up the car and the gas cans, we took a LONG nap!

We knew we had to leave by midnight at the latest if we were going to get to John Day in time. I set an alarm for 11 pm, but we all agreed that if one of us woke up before then to get the others up too. I woke up just after 9 pm and noticed my Mum was up, but like me, my Dad was awake but staying in bed as long as possible. The two drivers need sleep after all!

Since I felt pretty fresh, I decided to take the wheel first. I hadn’t driven at night since my driving lessons, so I had to readjust. Luckily it was country roads. I had the idea of if it was an 8-hour drive, my Dad and I could switch off every 2 hours. Of course, plans never work out that way. Environments don’t work in your favour.

Monday, August 21, 2017:

I handed my Dad the car at midnight, according to my plan. By then I could tell that my schedule of sleeping and eating was going to be thrown off. We stopped along the road at one point and had some food. It was then when we saw the Milky Way! I was mesmerized! I might have seen the Milky Way as a child, but I don’t remember it. The night was still and pitch black because there was no moon (my Dad said that makes sense for an eclipse). When we got back on the road, I continued napping. I tried to drive at one point because I was pretty restless, but it didn’t work. I needed more rest.

Here’s why you don’t carry gas cans with you:

It was between 4 and 5 am when we arrived at this little town to try and fill up on gas. As we suspected, there were no name-brand gas stations around and the local ones are not 24-hour ones. This little town had a population of 7 and its distinctive feature was a gas station. That made it the perfect place to try and fill up! Lol. So, we were trying to fill up the car with limited instructions, no internet to help us find any further instructions during a COLD night with no moon in the boonies! It was a perfect recipe for an Eclipse Flambe!

We realized we didn’t have a necessary piece of apparatus to help us with filling up the car. Because we had some spillages, we ended up needing to keep the gas cans and try to find a gas station that had graveyard shifts. So we were driving in a car that stank of gas fumes with cans in the back HOPING we wouldn’t get pulled over or go up in flames! I took the wheel because I drive more attentively and felt able to keep my eyes peeled for a gas station. Every street I went on I kept thinking, “Please have a gas station!” I found one in a larger town when we were almost running on empty after 8 hours of driving. I honestly never thought I would be happy to see a gas station!

The sun was rising as I was cruising down the road to John Day. I drove with a certain spring in my step! We had cleared the major hurdle of having enough gas and we made it to the totality zone!

We got to john day!

I thought I was going to explode with happiness when I saw the sign that welcomed us to John Day! I drove around to see where we could get breakfast and scored an ideal parking spot! The spot overlooked this grass space surrounded by a fence and you could see the sun clearly! As long as I live, I will never forget that I scored a perfect parking space for a total solar eclipse!

We got breakfast at The Outpost Pizza Pub and Grill. It was exactly what we needed after driving all night and eating car trip food. Sometimes, only tasty, hearty grub will do! The atmosphere was electric with anticipation for the eclipse and there was an Eclipse Menu!

We finished breakfast around 8 am and we decided to lie the car seats back and sleep for a bit. The relief of an uninterrupted 2-hour nap surpasses all understanding. I woke up at 9:30 am, saw my Mum was already awake and acquainting herself with other people around the area. I decided to join in and wait for the eclipse to start.

The Best Half hour ever!

Even though I knew the timing of the eclipse stages, to see it actually happening was exhilarating! Just before 10 am when I saw the moon start to go in front of the sun and I squealed! It was really happening! If you look at the sun directly, the moon was starting to go in front of it from the top right corner. We dug out the equipment we were going to use to see the eclipse stages. My Mum had brought some lenses to project the sun onto the ground. We didn’t have eclipse glasses, but someone offered some to us. They sounded as rare as gold dust and my Dad was skeptical if they were any good. We gave up Mum’s scientific experiment and tag-teamed on the glasses.

As the eclipse got closer to totality, I could feel the excitement building! It was about 70% totality when it became clear on earth that the moon was going to blot out the sun. You know when the sun sets, the temperature drops a bit and there’s a little wind? That was the first thing to happen. We looked on the ground and noticed the leaf patterns were semi-circles, which is another sign of an eclipse on a grand scale. Not a lot of people know that unless they have read how astronomers describe eclipses, so we went around pointing out the leaf patterns to people. I didn’t have sophisticated camera equipment to photograph the stages, so this was the best I could do.

and then…

Once the eclipse reached 90% totality, massive changes occurred! The light began to dim and it felt colder. A street light came on right before totality. Birds were flying back into the trees. You instinctively keep thinking the sun is about to set, and you have to fight with yourself on that.

Yep, one of those photos was from Day 6 of my 10 Day Travel Challenge!

Suddenly, the sun was completely blotted out and there was no need for eclipse glasses! A hush fell over the crowd like everyone was holding their breath. Then the diamond ring happened, which was more brilliant than the crown jewels! Everyone cheered and clapped! The sun appeared and that was the end of totality. Was it worth all the trouble to drive to Oregon, freak out about enough gas and drive all night? You bet your life it was! Once the euphoria wore off, we hit the road. I was amazed to see this massive line of cars leaving John Day.

The long and winding road:

I drove at first, and then the fatigue hit, so my Dad decided to take over for a while and let me sleep. He did tell me to be prepared because when the roadsigns showed certain distances, he stated how far he could make it. I joked that of course I was exhausted, it was a night without a day and a day without a night. Get the Ladyhawke reference?

I passed out so hard, nothing could have woken me. I happened to wake up when we were driving along this cliff face and I was amazed that we had driven that area at night! Sometimes it’s better to drive at night so you don’t see how treacherous the landscape is! I was happy to pass out again.

After stopping to have lunch, I took over driving so my Dad could sleep in the back seat. I was concerned because I had never driven while I was on the verge of exhaustion. Normally, I don’t drink coffee, but I had to have some of my Mum’s coffee beverage at lunch and at the wheel. I kept the radio on low so something could keep me awake. Plus, my Mum was willing to keep a conversation with me. I was hoping to make it all the way to Redding, which was about 230 miles from where I started driving, but it didn’t work. I had to switch with my Dad 30 miles before Redding because my legs hurt. My penguin walk became iconic.

The end:

We stopped at Lumberjacks in Redding for dinner. Mum kept thanking me and Dad for doing all the driving and kept saying how she was proud of me. It felt like that scene in The Incredibles when Dash and Helen/Elastigirl work together as a boat to get to shore. She says, “What a trooper. I’m so proud of you!”. I felt exactly like Dash when he says, “Thanks, Mom!”

After dinner and showers, we turned the TV on briefly to see what they said about the eclipse. We saw that the photobomb of the day was the International Space Station in front of the earth when the eclipse was being photographed from space! We must have passed out for about 12 hours. The only comparable fatigue was a transatlantic flight. I woke up and said, “Let’s go home!”

Final Thoughts:

I knew people who were excited to watch the eclipse on HD or were content with 70% totality. Call me old-fashioned, but technology is not going to replace the experience of seeing an eclipse. One science magazine said that if you aren’t sure if you have seen a total solar eclipse, you haven’t seen it. We’re talking the stuff of folklore and superstition in ancient civilizations here. There’s a reason why there was a fear surrounding eclipses before science advanced and explained everything. Even if you know the science behind it, all the science in the world can’t replace the sense of awe you get when you see an eclipse.

Before I give you my personal tips on seeing an eclipse, let me emphasize that you HAVE to go see it for real! You really do! I tell everyone I know they have to go see one! Now, I am officially an Eclipse Chaser. After reading my story, can you blame me?

Tips for Travelling To See A Total Solar Eclipse:

  1. First and foremost, remember this is a major event and people are going to be visiting in droves!
  2. Don’t see it in a city. There are fewer people in the countryside, and traffic won’t be nearly as bad.
  3. Find accommodation early and be aware that prices are going to increase because of the eclipse. I heard that accommodation in John Day was between $500 to $1000 a night right before the eclipse!
  4. If you can’t find a motel, keep your eyes peeled for other alternatives. Apparently, a school in John Day was renting tents for people to sleep in on their sports field! We didn’t know that, or we wouldn’t have driven all night!
  5. If you are in a situation where you have a long drive to the totality zone, rent the most fuel-efficient car you can get, and prioritize fuel stops if you’re driving in the middle of nowhere. You don’t want to run out of gas and not make it to the totality zone. Don’t do what I did and get gas cans full of gas though! Eclipse Flambe is not a worry you should have!
  6. Be aware motels are going to be packed the night following the eclipse as well, so be prepared for a long drive.
  7. Switch off driving!

Have you seen a total solar eclipse? Are you planning to see one? Let me know in the comments!

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.Β 

Looking forward to hearing your recommendations!

 

 

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.

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!

Weird Winter in Calgary so far. Um, what? Normal, hey? πŸ€”

I wonder if this post will bust some stereotypes about Canadian winters. So, here goes!

Before I Moved:

Okay. I admit it. I fell for certain stereotypes about Canadian winters. Living in California for seven years after living in London didn’t help me to challenge those stereotypes. When I did tutor training, I watched this TED talk called The Danger of the Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched it again after I moved because I knew I was going to have experiences that challenged my preconceptions about Canada. What really resonates with me is how honest she is about the times she has fallen for the Single Story. She also talks about how she has been treated because other people had a Single Story in their minds. Here’s the video of The Danger of the Single Story below if you’re interested.

What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:

Okay, a disclaimer before I show these photos! It doesn’t help stereotypes to always have snow in memes when you’re talking about Canada!

Expectation:

Expectation of Canadian Winter
Source: Facebook

Cold right? It’s also funny!

Reality:

Source: Buzzfeed

Okay. 5 degrees isn’t exactly shorts and sandals for me personally. I can go out wearing a down jacket and carrying a sweater with me just in case it gets colder. There was no need to layer up though. I was rather proud of myself for taking the garbage out in my hoodie at -10 degree weather during my quarantine period and I wasn’t even cold! My friends in California balked when I told them! I did think that winter was going to be constant sub-zero temperatures. My imagination told me I would need to layer up every time I go out, and that there would always be thick layers of snow. Boy, was I wrong! 😱 One good thing is that I have friends in Calgary who did tell me a bit about the winter before I moved. They didn’t tell me everything though, which I appreciated because I wanted to discover some things on my own. I knew about the need to layer up when it was subzero though. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject. My friends talked about chinooks too but didn’t say too much about them. I learned more after moving. Read on to find out what I have learned so far this weird winter!

October Weather:

As many of you know, I arrived in Canada in mid-October. You can read my first impressions of Canadian winter in my following posts:

Flying Internationally and Locally during COVID-19

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

After I arrived, it snowed for 3 days straight! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t go out for a walk to enjoy it because I was in my mandatory quarantine period! I figured there would be more big snowfalls later on, BUT so far, there haven’t been any other snowfalls as big as that! If you have questions about driving in the snow, I can’t answer them right now. I made the decision to not drive this winter. First of all, I have to figure out the process of getting a driver’s license. It’s dependent on your immigration status. Second of all, the only time I drove in the snow was when I spent a Christmas at Yosemite. My plan is to get used to driving in Canada in the “summer” (such as it is)πŸ˜‚. That should give me time to learn about things I need to do before winter hits again.

November Weather:

After my Mum and I were done with quarantine, we had to pick something up at Best Buy. The guy who helped us noticed we had US government I.D. He welcomed us, asked where we moved from, and then asked how we liked the weather. I said it was beautiful! He said, “You like our weather? Wait 20 minutes.” Now I know that’s a common thing to say in Calgary. He ended up talking our ears off about the weather and climate in Calgary and Alberta! The main points were that he has seen it snow in July, and people sunbathing in November. This was the first time we found out that chinooks can give you migraines because of the sudden change in barometric pressure. I got him talking about the weather in Alberta when I told him about this reel I found on Instagram!

He said Lake Louise gets much deeper snow than Banff. I am hoping I can experience all of that and more in the winter soon! The snow that fell during my quarantine stayed for a long time, and we did get a bit more snow in the second week of November. Here are some more snowy November photos, but they weren’t taken all at once.

My favourite time was when I was taking a morning walk and the trees were covered in hoarfrost!

What I really love about Calgary is it’s sunny! I wasn’t expecting that as much because Calgary is 51 degrees North. It’s the same latitude as London and I would describe that city as anything but sunny. If the temperature is low, it doesn’t really have an effect on melting the snow. I was at the Co-op once and I saw this bit of clever advertising from Cal & Gary’s. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Later in the month, I was kind of curious why we weren’t getting as much snow as I thought we would. My Mum and I went through a rough time in late November. It would have been super nice to have had some snow to make things beautiful!

December Weather:

The month changed and I was still incredulous about the weather. Were we going to get snow soon? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin is simply desperate for snow! I read this article about speedskaters practicing on a lake in Alberta, and I thought, “What?” There was no sign of it snowing in Calgary, much less the river freezing!

Then, I remembered that Calgary has its own microclimate that has actually been significant in its history. The Blackfoot and the MΓ©tis would hold gatherings where the Bow and Elbow rivers intersect. If you think about the rest of Alberta’s climate, you begin to understand why they chose this nice little microclimate!

In the first week of December, we had a chinook! I’m not kidding. I used to think they happened in the spring, but apparently, there were some warm temperatures around Canada that week. The temperature broke an 81-year old record. I heard that in general, Calgary gets 2 or 3 chinooks in a winter. Last year, I heard they got about six chinooks. I feel sorry for the people who get migraines! I personally don’t get migraines, but my Mum does. I get ear pressure though, which is pretty painful! During the chinook, I popped my ears and got a nosebleed. I kid you not, AccuWeather has a migraine monitor. I find it useful to look at even if I don’t get migraines because I can plan for ear pressure too. It did eventually snow, but it wasn’t a long snow shower. The overall temperature is colder now though.

Final Thoughts:

A friend of mine told me there are four seasons in Calgary: Almost Winter, Winter, After Winter and Roadworks. I would say after December’s chinook that we went from Almost Winter to Winter. There is a standing joke here about only being able to tell what the weather is going to be by looking out the window. Okay, I don’t really get it right now, so bear with me, please!

I got some weird questions about life in Canada during the winter after I moved. I never miss a chance to nicely tease my California friends for asking me those questions though! 😏 One of my theories for this weird winter is that I brought some California weather with me to hold us for a while! To my fellow Calgarians, you’re welcome!

I have learned not to say anything about future weather predictions, particularly for snow. No jinxing for me! Any time someone says we’re expecting some kind of weather, I say, “What are you talking about? What… (fill in the blank with either chinook or snowfall)?”

A Word on Canada Geese:

I thought when I moved here that the geese would have migrated and I would miss seeing them. Not true. There are still some geese here who haven’t flown south yet. Don’t believe me? The photos below were taken this month! The reason why I thought they would be gone was that in the movie Fly Away Home, they go south with the geese in late October.

I often take walks along the Elbow River, so I see geese congregating there before they fly south. What’s really strange is I hear them going south when it’s dark out, and I’ve only ever known them to be diurnal.

I love seeing the city wildlife here! I’m actually doing an Instagram series of photos and videos of what I see. Follow me @winteroseca or follow my hashtagΒ #discoveringcalgarywildlife you can see them!

So, there you have my weird and wonderful Calgarian winter! What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!