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 Servidão, 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

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

Quarantine is done and my Mum and I are officially healthy and cleared to go out and explore! The first thing we did when we got out was to start our treatment for chronic pain. Not exciting, I know, but anyone who has dealt with chronic pain or a serious illness knows that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have ANYTHING!

Still, our first appointment went very well, and we have a treatment plan in place. I explored the area where my new chiropractor is, and got a cool introduction to Canadian co-ops! We also went out for a walk to find our nearest Canadian Tire that night and we officially LOVE how Calgary is at night! More on all of that later though.

I wanted to say that I’m SUPER grateful to the people we have met so far who have been so welcoming and friendly! We have a few friends in Canada, who have been so happy to share their country with us and guide us through the bumps, and that’s the best! We weren’t sure how we would be received since we had moved from California, and Election Day just happened. One of my friends has affectionately referred to the US as “that shitshow down south” and I couldn’t agree more! When I meet people, I say that I moved from California, but this is the fourth country I have lived in. If they want to know more, I elaborate. I think it helps. The people at our new chiropractic office were really cool and welcoming. We had to stop at Best Buy to pick something up, and the guy who helped us talked our ears off about the climate and weather!

I finished my last post Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1 on a dramatic note! Will I get my mattress? And from where? Read on to find out!

On our eighth day of quarantine and sleeping on the floor, we were anticipating our mattress delivery from Amazon that I had ordered the night before. I had paid for 2 Day Shipping, but anyone who has had a bad experience with it knows that even if you pay for 2 Day Shipping, there’s no guarantee Amazon will keep their word. Another reason to hate them. 🙄

Additionally, there is NO WAY IN HELL I’m ever getting Amazon Prime! John Oliver did a show about Amazon Warehouses and that turned me off Amazon Prime for LIFE! The way I see it, there’s ALWAYS another option out there!

By now, Mum and I had learned our lesson with ordering from US companies. Now, we’re ordering from Canadian companies, or, if necessary, international companies where the delivery does NOT have to come from another country! Okay. Rant over.

I am thinking of doing a post about international trade sometime. It will be both my perspective as an economics major mixed with my expat experience, so watch this space!

By now, the snow was definitely melting and I saw our front yard for the first time! 😄 I felt kind of sad though, like I used to feel whenever snow melted 🙁

I lived in Colorado a long time ago. We used to get this kind of “fog” sometimes if it wasn’t snowing. I saw it again here in Calgary and it covered the tops of the skyscrapers I can see from my window that make up the Calgary skyline! That was nostalgic!

Calgary Skyline Not Visible

When I took a nap, I was HOPING it was my last time sleeping in the bathtub!

I found a 10-second video of Justin Trudeau talking about COVID, saying “This sucks… etc” and at the end, he gave a smirk! It made us wonder if he knows whether Trump will be defeated! We thought that before Election Day though. Now, we’re not sure.

Okay. Yes, I have a celebrity crush on Justin Trudeau! But 1. Can you blame me? 2. Who doesn’t? Of all the politicians who run the countries I have lived in Trudeau and Obama are tied for my Best Looking Leader award!

I’m not saying I idolize Trudeau though. I don’t like that he did blackface when he was younger, or that he has supported oil companies and pipeline expansion. However, there is a lot of good stuff he has done, and I can see he has tried making amends for his blackface scandal. Ultimately, I feel like he’s a good leader and we’ll see what he does in the future. Plus, as I said in the photo, it’s nice to have a leader who I can healthily disagree with, instead of finding everything he does utterly repulsive.

Day 9 meant waiting for deliveries because it’s easy to miss them in our situation. By now, we were positively ACHING for mattresses!

It was a nice wait though. We observed the magpies that have been stopping by our yard for food. Suddenly, we had a surprise!

I didn’t know that grey squirrel species evolved extra melanin further north as an adaptive quality! I read an entire Wikipedia article on them while waiting for the deliveries and it was fascinating! I think this squirrel is one of the rare jet-black squirrels the article talked about because I saw a squirrel that looked more mixed and it was lighter than this squirrel! I got a video of a magpie chasing this squirrel, but it’s not letting me post it.

We were expecting other packages as well as the mattresses. At one point, I got a text from Purolator saying that they tried to deliver the packages, but I wasn’t there! What a load of tripe! We could see the delivery guy didn’t even TRY! I rescheduled the package deliveries for the next day, and still kept an eye out for the mattresses.

By the afternoon, we were still waiting for the mattresses. We were also doing an Instacart order (our 3rd one since we’ve been here) and I kept my eyes peeled for a same day delivery slot. Instacart was busy that day, so the slots didn’t appear right away.

I don’t normally do same day Instacart orders, but since moving, I have done it twice because we really needed stuff! Anyway, I eventually found a late afternoon delivery slot, and figured it might come at the same time as our mattresses.

In the middle of the afternoon, I checked Amazon and found they had changed the delivery day to the next day! We were FUMING because we had paid for 2 Day Shipping! We called Purolator though and told them we needed the mattresses because we had been sleeping on the floor for over a week! Fortunately, the woman who helped us was really understanding and said she would notify the driver.

We waited about an hour after the call, and then… OUR MATTRESSES ARRIVED!!! They happened around the same time our shopper for Instacart was shopping, so we were disinfecting things and organizing our space for the mattresses. The mattresses were vacuum sealed, so we had to unroll them and let them gain their shape. We had planned to eat after getting our Instacart delivery and then go to bed.

I could feel myself getting tired as I was dealing with the above and the Instacart notifications that kept coming up. It felt like all day, I was chained to my phone! I have definitely been umbilically attached to my cell phone since moving here because of the deliveries, etc. That’s why I’m so responsive on here right now! Lol. I couldn’t WAIT to put the phone down and have a good night’s sleep on my new mattress.

After getting our Instacart delivery, disinfecting everything (including ourselves), and dinner Mum and I were like:

Source: Google

We crashed about 6:30pm 😴😴😴.

I woke up from the most wonderful sleep on Day 10, but still knew I had a certain amount of fatigue to sleep off.

We got the rest of our deliveries without a hitch, which was another relief.

I had to find out what was going on with our internet service because we hadn’t had many updates on it. After a few live chats, we realized we didn’t have Wifi and we needed a new router from the one they sent us. Since it was a Friday, we knew we weren’t going to get anywhere, and by now, I was SO sick of contacting customer service, regardless of the reason! I managed to unwind by taking a long nap though.

Day 11 was Halloween, but no celebration for us. We didn’t even get candy to hand out, since it’s not a good idea if you’re in a mandatory quarantine period after travelling. We did watch a few YouTube videos on Halloween stuff though.

I needed a Me Day on Day 12. Mum and I have had to set rules on privacy in this small apartment. I’m glad we did, because I hadn’t had a Me Day for a while now.

Spoiler alert: It reminded me of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot when Kim has to get out of Kabul after ditching her boyfriend. It was so relatable when she said to Fahim, “I need Me Time, exactly! I told you that Oprah magazine would increase your understanding of women!”

It was the first day of the time change. In general, those days are a royal pain for me! So, I tend to make an easy day of it anyway.

Day 13 was a nice, warm day and I SO wanted to go outside! I asked, “Are we allowed to go out yet????” It was a rhetorical question I knew the answer to, but the point is, I was tired of quarantine. By now, I was emotionally exhausted from dealing with customer service. Had to call the internet company again and then I took a LONG nap on my wonderful mattress!

It’s getting dark around 5pm now, and it reminds me of London. So far, I’m just tired, but I used to have bad Seasonal Affective Disorder when I was living in London. It made me leary of moving to a sub-Arctic climate again. I’ve learned from my mistakes though, and I plan to do better now. I’ll write a post comparing my experiences with SAD sometime.

On Day 14, I woke up and was elated that I have had NO COVID SYMPTOMS AT ALL these past two weeks! Same with my Mum too! It just goes to show that if you take every precaution you can while you’re travelling, the only thing that can possibly derail it is if you are in contact with someone who has COVID! We did it! We are officially cleared to go outside, but still taking appropriate precautions, of course. We celebrated that evening by going for a short walk because we hadn’t seen our neighbourhood yet. We also had some junk food on hand because it was Election Night. Even so, we were feeling pretty good about it.

I remember Election Night in 2016 vividly! I felt sick that afternoon and asked my Mum if it was normal to feel that way on Election Night. It was my first presidential election as a voter while living in the US, so I didn’t know if that was a thing. Mum assured me it’s definitely a thing! In 2016, one of my friends said she nearly threw up after voting because she said, “Both those candidates suck!” That made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

I didn’t feel sick this time, but I wondered if it was because I am not in the US. There was only one way to find out, and I didn’t want to find out right away. I stayed off social media and news sites all day. I know some people did that too. My plan was to find out by accident what the results are. Even so, before I signed off, there were a lot of tips going around for election self-care and staying safe, which was nice. I think people now realize they shouldn’t underestimate a time like this.

Coming up: New Calgary adventures! What will they be? Who knows?

Culture Shock/Reverse Culture Shock

Update: I may be moving soon! Haven’t set a definite date just yet, but watch this space! My passport took 4 months total to process, thanks to COVID-19, but it finally happened and now my plans can move along!

Something that has been on my mind while preparing to move is culture shock. The last time I went through culture shock was when I was 10 years old, and before that, I’m not sure what I went through as a little kid was culture shock or reverse culture shock. I was born in one country and ended up in my parents’ country, but my parents were going through reverse culture shock, so why shouldn’t I? On the other hand, French culture had stuck with me. There should be another form of culture shock for kids born in one country and moving to another when they are too young to remember it, but it still affects them. I might call it child culture shock. I definitely went through reverse culture shock when I moved back to the US. 

When I was little, I didn’t understand why I spoke French and no one else did. At my US school, I didn’t know why everyone called me “the French girl”. I loved and hated French throughout my childhood because my parents kept putting me in French classes. On one hand, French classes gave me a sense of belonging somewhere. On the other hand, I hated speaking French at home because no one else did and it was embarrassing if my Mom spoke to me in French in public. I just wanted to fit in. Eventually, I got so rebellious, my mother said if I can learn another language, she would stop making me learn French. Challenge accepted, Mom. I jumped at the opportunity to learn German in secondary school in the UK, much to my Mom’s chagrin. She argued I didn’t have a good reason to learn German, and I had to compromise and take a French class as well. When I finally chose Russian as my language to pursue, my Mom was good to her word and let me give up French. In retrospect, I realize that my reaction to French was going through some kind of culture shock, and dealing with teasing and not knowing what it was or what to do about it. I love French now!

I definitely went through culture shock when I moved to London. When my parents and I were looking for an apartment, the estate agent said to us that if we chose the place we did, we would be living among English people! Well, yeah. Where did she expect us to live? An American community and end up not experiencing anything about England? No thanks. 

When I went to school, I crashed. The English kids would get me to say things only to make fun of my accent, and they would ask me questions and then laugh at my answers. That was worse than being called “the French girl” and being teased for speaking French. Little did I know that this was a normal thing for immigrants to England. I thought a country that had a lot of immigrants would have citizens who knew better than to do things like that, and would teach their kids how to behave properly with immigrants, but I was wrong. I had a friend at my first school who was from South Africa and she had similar struggles. My first school had this contest about who had the coolest accent, and the students voted me as the winner. I didn’t care about that contest and my Mom found out about it through my friend. In retrospect, that contest was a signal to bullies to go for me as a target. It also translated into a lack of success in preparing for my future endeavours. The same kind of bullying happened at my second school and continued even after my experience in school. Fortunately, my Mom figured out what was happening and homeschooled me after that whole experience. After my experience in school, I knew I didn’t want to live in England for the rest of my life. Somehow, I ended up staying in England for over a decade, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to work out for me. Not all was lost though. 

I became involved with the Russian community though because I fell in love with their ballet and started training to be a professional dancer. I didn’t like England, but I didn’t want to go back to the US, so I thought if I became good at ballet, I could go to Russia to dance. That’s how I became proficient in Russian. I didn’t make it in the end, but that’s another story. Also, I would deliberately hang out with other immigrants. I felt more at home with them. The best thing about having friends from other countries was I could find some way to relate to them culturally and we would share stories. For instance, I could relate to people from India on celebrating our independence from England. Immigrants from Caribbean countries and Canada made me feel closer to home. There are many other examples besides that as well, but it would take too long to write.

When I moved back to the US with my parents seven years ago, I naively thought I would not experience reverse culture shock. My Mom warned me that reverse culture shock can be just as bad, or worse than culture shock. She had a hard time of reverse culture shock when we moved from Switzerland and a lot of it had to do with her not wanting to go back to the US. I thought that because I wanted to return to the US and England hadn’t worked out for me, that I wouldn’t have as hard a time adjusting to the US. There were struggles that I didn’t anticipate. I felt embarrassed asking someone to repeat something they said because they were talking too fast. I thought people would appreciate my perspectives on a subject, but that was not always true. If anything, I would be shot down for sharing my points of view. I was told once to “give up the London thing”. How? I lived there for a good portion of my life! I can’t just let it go! I have a big mouth because I’m not afraid to speak out against something that is very wrong and violates human rights. That has got me in trouble way too often since moving back to the US. As I lost my British accent, I lost the one clue that I had that I am multicultural. I look and sound American now and no one can tell that I have lived overseas. I was put in a box and I didn’t fit there. 

When I was living overseas, I saw that the US was becoming increasingly polarized politically. Despite that, I moved back to the US because I did need to go home for a while. The moment when I realized that I wanted to move to Canada was a culmination of hurts I have suffered since moving back here and not being appreciated for what I have to offer. Additionally, I can see the US is falling apart thanks to all these toxic systems that created the country and the pandemic is exposing those toxicities. This is not my country anymore. I can’t put my name to Donald Trump’s actions and atrocities. I see how far-right movements are springing up in many countries and the US is the perfect example of what happens when it gets out of hand. I think because I was away from the US for so long, the polarization hit me the hardest. It was a shock to see how much had changed since I last lived here. I read that a lot of expats move overseas again after they return home, and that doesn’t surprise me. If you see how much has changed in your country, it can be harder to cope with that change and you can feel like you don’t belong anymore.

A wise friend once told me that there comes a time when you’re living in another country where you realize it’s either going to work out for you, or it isn’t. There’s no shame in a country not working out for you. It doesn’t mean you are prejudiced, or there’s anything wrong with you. It’s just a fact that sometimes, things don’t work out. There are a lot of clues that can help you in deciding if a country isn’t going to work out. One thing I see people get wrong is time spent in a country is NOT a determinant in deciding whether a country is going to work out! I lived in the UK for over a decade and got citizenship, but that didn’t make me any less miserable. I lived in the US for half my life and it hasn’t worked out, even though it’s like anyone who knows me would expect it to work out for me. I never thought that moving back home to the US would not work out for me. There was a part of me that desperately wanted to go back. As you can see, a country working out for you or not is a purely subjective thing. No one can decide whether or not a country will work out for you, except you. It puts a lot of strain on families if there are some members who the country is working out for and some who want to go back to their home country. Family problems are often exacerbated by culture shock, and tensions can be on a whole different level. You have feelings you never thought were possible. The best solution I have is to develop close friendships with expats, regardless of whether or not they are from your own country and third culture kids. They are the best friendships you can have.

As I’m preparing to move, I am able to think about my past experiences and how they have prepared me for whatever lies ahead. It’s no less scary to move again, and there is a fear that things might not work out. The best thing is that I feel more prepared for this move than I did for the other ones and in my post Visas, I quoted Winston Churchill. It’s basically a mantra for moving overseas in general, not just for visas and culture shock.