Enjoying Sports as A TCK

Hey everyone! In honour of the Tokyo Olympics coming up, I wanted to share some stories about international sporting events that I have seen in my life. People ask me questions about it, so here are all the answers! Please note, in this post, I refer to soccer as football, unless I specify that it’s American Football. It’s easier to say football in this case because it’s better known that way globally. But before I start, I wanted to talk about something important to know about TCKs.

Divided Loyalties:

This is a thing that is common with TCKs when it comes to cheering on sports teams or athletes. Sometimes, it’s hard to say who we support in sporting events because of our many cultures. There’s no rule that says we absolutely have to support certain athletes. I hear a lot from native-born citizens of countries that they feel patriotic when they see their athletes performing. I do feel that way, but with a twist. Some great athletes are just amazing to see and it warms your heart. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where they are from. You’re just happy to see them do well.

I don’t identify as Swedish or Romanian, but I absolutely love Carolina KlΓΌft who won gold for Sweden in the women’s heptathlon in Athens 2004. One of my favourite gymnasts is Catalina Ponor from Romania. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live in the London 2012 Olympics. Other athletes I love include Usain Bolt, Russian pairs skaters Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Maranin, Svetlana Khorkina, and I loved seeing Chantal Peticlerc even before I became Canadian! Although it was conflicting with my support for Tanni Grey-Thompson, it was nice to see she and Chantal Peticlerc got along really well. I also LOVE American gymnast Shawn Johnson! I wasn’t the only one either. She was one of those people who gets to know everyone, even on the other teams and everyone loved her.

Additionally, thanks to the fact I trained in Russian ballet for years, I know why Russian and Eastern European gymnasts, skiers and ice skaters are so good. They train in the Russian ballet system, so they have my unconditional support! Okay, I already sense some future divided loyalties between supporting Russia or Canada in the Winter Olympics lol!

Funny and Amazing Divided Loyalty Stories:

It’s actually comical sometimes whenever I see two or more countries I identify with competing together in the same event. If it’s a football game in either Euro or the World Cup, I like to see things unfold first, especially if they are two very strong teams competing.

One time, I saw a women’s track final at the Olympic Games that 6 out of 8 of the runners were either British or American! I was officially beat! I didn’t know who to support! In the end, I was just happy to see the race and happy for the winners. In the 2006 Winter Olympics, I was supporting Lindsey Jacobellis of the USA in the women’s snowboarding final. She fell after she grabbed her board, and was beaten by Tanja Frieden of Switzerland. Wow! Divided loyalties I didn’t expect!

Additionally, there were a lot of Jamaican people where I grew up. When Usain Bolt won his gold medals, my neighbourhood ERUPTED!! I happily joined in the celebrations! If my friends support different athletes than me, I’m happy for those athletes too. I want to say more about divided loyalties in general, but I will save that for another post.

UEFA Euro Cup:

Before I start, I wanted to say that I don’t like football, but I do love seeing major international tournaments. I couldn’t understand why England was so obsessed with their national sport. I have never known Americans to be as obsessed with baseball or American football and Canadians are definitely not as obsessed with hockey. Even though football is popular around Europe, I found the obsession with football in England to be a little over the top. Then again, whenever I see something is over the top, I don’t get into it. I think that’s where I learned it from.

That realization of the English obsession with football hit me when England was playing in Euro 2004. It wasn’t as safe to go out when England was playing a game. Whenever I was out, I did my best to avoid the areas with pubs (not always easy in England). One time, England lost a game and there was a riot. As time went on, I realized that riots were normal if England lost a major football game. Whenever I was out at that time, I had to plan even safer routes than I normally would.

I would see things in the news about English football fans causing trouble if they travelled to a country hosting a major football tournament. Fans would get arrested or fined or held accountable in some way for doing the same crap they always do after a game, except in another country where it’s not acceptable. Any time I heard about football fans being disrespectful to another culture, I would roll my eyes! As a TCK, my number one rule is to always make an effort to be culturally respectful. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, but I try to the best of my ability.

And Then Euro 2020 Happened:

Before 2020, I did continue to watch Euro until I repatriated to the USA. I checked the results of Euro 2016 online though. I hoped the most recent Euro would be broadcast on CBC. No such luck. Still, I found a way to see the match highlights and keep up on the news and support England, France and Switzerland! I was stunned to learn that Euro 2020 was at Wembley Stadium! I move from London, and then England gets to host it! Darn! I had some concerns though because there was already news of English football fans being culturally disrespectful to the other teams. They booed during the Italian national anthem and even physically attacked fans supporting other countries. Although my Mum and I were happy that England made it to the final, we suspected that if England lost, there would be a massive riot with a prejudiced twist.

Sure enough, England lost and racist English fans were blowing up social media. That was due to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed penalties that could have won the match. Black people in England started being violently attacked for a couple of days afterwards. Mum and I hate that we called it.

Additionally, because I have close contacts in London, I am privy to more insider information there. A contact sent me this thing that was circulating around Snapchat that was a scoring game for committing certain racist attacks. I’m not going to share it because it’s the most unconscionable, diabolical thing I have ever seen! I have seen people make racist comments on social media, but this is above and beyond! Fortunately, people started to move on a few days later, but racism in England still has a long way to go. So NOT surprised by this!

More on Microaggressions in Sports:

After what happened in England, I wonder if they will be banned from the World Cup in 2022, or from future Euro tournaments. Their participation was already controversial because they left the EU. Although, Russia is allowed to participate in Euro and they aren’t part of the EU. Still, I would support UEFA if they banned England from Euro. Heck, they banned Hungary at Euro for racist and homophobic attacks. I admit I am glad that international sports organizations are catching on that they need to hold teams accountable for microaggressions.

As time has gone on, I have seen more and more athletes stand up to the rampant sexism in sports. I’m cheering on the Norwegian and Australian beach volleyball teams for refusing to wear bikinis. Beach volleyball was clearly instituted by horny old geezers in the IOC. Additionally, the Canadian Olympic team has been making accommodations for athletes who are mothers. It’s so amazing to see. I saw this series called Sports on Fire on CBC, and one of them is about the history of genetic testing in sports and discrimination against women who are XY or genetically different from the imposed sex and gender binary. I’m glad that there is more advocacy for change and the wheels are in motion for that change. It’s a stark contrast to when I started watching major sports in the early 2000s.

How It Used to Be:

The most memorable incident of violence I witnessed was in the Football World Cup in 2006. Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane of France headbutted Marco Materazzi for calling his sister a w***e. English newspapers claimed Materazzi called Zizou, “You son of a terrorist w***e!” Granted, both of those are disgusting and I’m glad Zidane headbutted Materazzi. But who got red-carded and penalized? Zidane. Super unfair. I think if it were to happen today, Materazzi would be more likely to be penalized. What’s more violent? A slur against someone’s sister, or headbutting the perpetrator who said it? I’m going with the slur. Plus, it says a lot about Zidane to stand up to toxic masculinity like that. One of my favourite movies is Bend It Like Beckham, and one reason it stands out for me is how they deal with slurs towards players.

I would advocate that athletes who play on the international stage need to have training on how to be culturally intelligent and respectful. Even the best of us make mistakes sometimes, but it’s getting to the point that when mistakes do happen, there needs to be culturally intelligent solutions. We’re just a day into the Olympics and I have already seen more Olympians who have multicultural backgrounds than ever before. Of course, not everyone has that privilege, especially if they are from countries that aren’t as open to other cultures. Bottom line: our world is more open and interconnected, so cultural intelligence is becoming paramount for everyone. One change I’m happy to see is that there is now a Refugee Olympic Team. Plus, whenever presenters talked about certain athletes’ backgrounds and said they had lived in different countries, I’m like, “Yep, possible TCK there!”

Anyway, I have some more to say about the Olympics.

How the Olympic Games Have Followed Me Through My Life:

I was living in France when the 1992 Winter Olympics were being held in Savoie. When we were in the US in 1996, the Summer Olympics were in Atlanta. Both times, we missed out on seeing them. Then, we heard London was going to bid for the 2012 Olympics, and in 2005, we waited with bated breath. The day we got the news that London would host the 2012 Olympics was amazing! Plus, we got the news within a week of the terrorist attack on July 7, 2005, and it felt great to have a boost like that. I found myself wondering how the city would change due to the Olympics. We decided it was worth making the effort to stay in London to see the Olympics.

There was a ticket lottery to see the Olympics. Okay, England didn’t do a good job with tickets, and there were definite problems with bookings. My parents and I decided to enter the lottery to see diving, Artistic Gymnastics apparatus finals, fencing, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. We thought the only one we were least likely to get was the gymnastics. We knew the Paralympic events would be easy to get because they aren’t as popular. When I got the email that we were going to see the gymnastics finals, I must have read over the email 5 times before I believed it!

Was it worth it for London to get the Olympics? I shall say that in another post! Meanwhile, “Go Canada Go!” πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦

Women’s History Month 2021: One Letdown After Another

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

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

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

Content Warning: Gender and racial-based violence.

Harry and Meghan Interview with Oprah:

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

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

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

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

Sexual Harassment Statistics in the UK:

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

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

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

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

It Never Got Better:

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

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

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

Then I Started Working As A Chef:

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

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

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

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

When I Repatriated:

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

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

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

And Then This Past Week Happened:

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

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

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

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

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!

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

Marda Loop Justice Film Festival

In mid-November, I got a library card at the Calgary Public Library! One way I feel like I’m really settling in somewhere is when I’m at the point I can get a library card! Because of COVID, I can’t go to any in-person events they have, or volunteer. However, they do have some online events I can participate in. The first event I participated in was the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival. They showed a movie every day, and at the end of the movie, they interviewed one of the people behind the creation of the movie. Here are the movies they showed for the week, as well as my personal commentary on it.

Warning: Contains spoilers!

Content Warning: War, enslavement, animal harm, rape, displaced people, AIDS.

Safe Haven:

This movie struck a lot of personal chords with me, especially because I’m new to Canada. They interviewed Vietnam and Iraq War veterans who sought refugee status in Canada to escape the draft (for Vietnam) or resist the horrors of war. The Vietnam War veterans had better luck with their refugee status than the Iraq War veterans.

During the Harper Administration, some Iraq War veterans were deported and had to spend months in prison under inhumane conditions. The movie talks honestly about the struggles Iraq War veterans faced with their immigration and the ensuing social activism to protect them. There are some things that I don’t feel I am in a position to comment on at this time.

I want to give a shout-out to the fact that social activists mentioned a lot of these veterans are LGBTQIA+. Additionally, the movie showed what the Vietnam veterans have been doing to contribute to Canadian society. A majority of them ran for office, and one of them is a judge who advocates for Indigenous communities. Of course, one of the veterans couldn’t be interviewed because he had severe PTSD, but you felt sympathetic about it.

The movie ended by saying that tens of thousands of US citizens moved to Canada in 2017 after Trump got elected. I know I moved later, but it still hit me hard that so many US citizens feel the same way I do. I think this movie is honest in talking about the past. Plus, it makes you think about what Canada can do to help US citizens who have recently emigrated and don’t feel they can repatriate.

I think the parts that resonated with me the most were how the veterans talked about adjusting to life in Canada. My own adjustment period has been up and down emotionally, particularly because I’m detoxing from a toxic country. Like those vets, I feel less American as time goes on. It gave me hope though that I will adjust. I’m determined to have a life like those Vietnam vets! I will become a productive citizen and give back to a country that I love that welcomed me when I needed it!

Servitude:

Servitude, or ServidΓ£o, is about human trafficking in Brazil. It was a thoughtful and thorough examination of Brazil’s history. Apparently, it was legal to keep those of African descent enslaved in Brazil decades after other countries had made it illegal. After enslaving people became illegal, corporations in Brazil found a way to keep millions of citizens working below poverty wages. Not only does this keep people in poverty, but those people are under orders to do tasks that destroy the rainforest, which creates its own social issues. Human trafficking clearly needs to be part of the discussions on how to stop deforesting the Amazonian rainforest. Now, I realize that stopping deforestation is much easier said than done.

Fortunately, there were organizations that resisted human trafficking and got millions of people out of enslaved labour. Unfortunately, when the far-right government was elected a few years ago, people were being trafficked again.

There was an interview with the director, and they asked him what he thought of the history of enslaved people in the USA compared to Brazil. I think he answered it as best he could, but he definitely got a couple of facts wrong. I also think it was an unfair question because I could tell from his answer that Brazilians know just as much about the US as Americans do about Brazil. I think more than anything, this movie showed the importance of understanding a country’s history before judging them for issues like destroying the rainforest. After all, several wise people have said those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Sockeye Salmon, Red Fish:

This movie showed sockeye salmon are being overfished and illegally poached. It explained how large corporations that fish the salmon and poachers affect the ecosystem of the Kamchatka peninsula and the livelihoods of local fishermen. The group that filmed the movie do a lot of education and outreach to the citizens of the Kamchatka peninsula, particularly the children. I wasn’t too familiar with the issue of disrupting salmon migrations and how it affects local ecosystems. The person they interviewed at the end was a biologist in British Columbia who studies the effects of disrupting salmon migrations and climate change. She was brutally honest about the fact that farmed fish is not a good solution to the problem of overfishing and declining salmon populations.

From Durban to Tomorrow:

The International AIDS Conference started in Durban, South Africa in 2000. Mass advocacy for universal access to AIDS treatment started then and continues to this day. The movie interviewed five people who are on the front line of advocating for universal access to healthcare in South Africa, Guinea, Spain, India and Hungary. The activists spoke honestly of the social stigma of AIDS and what social structures are affecting access to healthcare. I felt the saddest thing was in South Africa, women are highly likely to become infected with HIV by the time they are 16 because they are more likely to be raped by that age.

Additionally, US drug companies are withholding their newest treatments and finding ways to defund healthcare systems in other countries. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised by that because I know what is happening with England’s healthcare system. The movie basically sent the message that citizens need to start advocating to keep their country’s healthcare systems providing equal access to quality healthcare.

Alice Street:

This movie was another one that I got a lot of feels about because my university was in Oakland. The movie talks about how the racial and ethnic diversity in Oakland has given the city its unique identity. The community worked with artists who wished to celebrate that identity on a massive mural. After the mural was painted, some Karen decided to protest it by having a temper tantrum at city officials and media. Additionally, gentrification started happening because of tech workers moving into Oakland. The mural was one of the driving forces behind the movement against gentrification.

When I was at university, the activism against gentrification was in full swing. I have seen the mural with my own eyes, and it’s one of those things that I like to stop and admire and consider the messages behind it. I had to leave my campus quite suddenly because my classes went online last March thanks to the pandemic. I do miss Oakland, and I am keeping up to date on what’s going on there with the anti-gentrification movement.

Never Going Back:

Never Going Back or Para No Volver is about this Honduran family with two girls who seek asylum in Mexico. It was an honest portrayal of culture shock and missing your home. I admit though, I had to stop watching it at one point. The family tries to enter the USA and they know they risk being separated. Anyone who has read my past posts knows how I feel about those deplorable Trump Administration policies that separate families, so I won’t repeat it.

Indebted to All Women:

Indebted to All Women or En Deuda con Todas is about the social effects of El Salvador’s laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Many women are interviewed in this movie who have done time for having babies who were stillborn. They were prosecuted for killing their babies when in reality, their bodies were just doing their job. These women almost died themselves giving birth but the law completely ignored that. Additionally, the lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare has disproportionately affected low-income girls and women. More girls get pregnant because they were raped and the rate at which they are raped is disgustingly high! This movie is another example of expanding equal access to women’s reproductive healthcare that must include ending rape culture and toxic masculinity. From Durban to Tomorrow had the same theme.

Overall, I think the festival did an excellent job of showing documentaries that covered a range of social issues. These movies made you think about how they were relevant to other countries, not just the ones portrayed. Since these documentaries are portraying stories of human suffering, I think they were tactful and respectful in their interviews, visuals and information. I have seen documentaries and TV shows that weren’t so respectful and I don’t think that’s an effective way to help your audience learn. Disturbing things can turn your audience off and documentaries can walk a fine line with portraying their subjects. I find documentaries that decide what are the points of the movie, portray their points clearly, succinctly and respectfully, and then move onto the next point are more effective in helping me learn about what’s going on. I have seen gory and disrespectful portrayals in documentaries and shows that just keep making the same point over and over. That makes me think, “Was that necessary?” Ultimately, I would find another way to learn about the subject.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised that the film festival had a clip of Land Acknowledgment before every movie. I have noticed Land Acknowledgment is more of a thing here in Canada. I didn’t even know what Land Acknowledgment was until 2018 when I transferred to university. My university did Land Acknowledgment during their ceremonies. Apart from that, I never noticed it at all during my time in California. I think the prevalence of Land Acknowledgement in an area or region is a sign of the prominence of social activism. I’m not saying things are perfect, but I am saying there is more of a respect for social activism when you see little things, such as practices like Land Acknowledgment.

Overall, I think the festival had a great selection of movies that covered a wide range of issues. I also noticed this festival is only a few years old. I found movies they have shown in previous years. If I can’t find them online, I will make a point of watching them once I can watch DVDs again.

If you are interested in seeing what movies were shown in the previous years, please click the following links:

MLJFF 2019

MLJFF 2018

MLJFF 2017