Medical Emergencies while Abroad I: My Story

Whew! I have a lot to say on this subject. Dealing with medical emergencies while abroad is one thing in life that I wish came with an instruction manual. I’m coming down from dealing with a medical emergency that happened right before I marked my first year in Canada. For those of you who don’t know what happened, my mother got appendicitis. I mentioned it in my One Year in Canada! post. What I haven’t talked about is that she had a rare complication a week after her appendectomy. Fortunately, she’s home and recovering well. Here’s my story, which I wanted to write while this was still fresh in my mind.

I will do another post or two on tips for current and prospective expats on dealing with emergencies while abroad. I wish I could provide a rulebook, but I hope sharing my stories and personal tips will help. My posts will also include tips for native-born citizens who want to know how best to support migrants when they are dealing with emergencies.

Please note, I am going to be brutally honest here because this subject is not often discussed. If you don’t wish to continue reading from here, I won’t hold it against you. Disclaimer: I will be discussing medical things and mental health problems that some people might find disturbing. That being said, if this post helps someone else through an emergency while they’re abroad, I will have done my job!

Some Relevant Things I want to Mention:

I had appendicitis a few years ago, and I still remember vividly how it presented. It was my first hospitalization experience and I had trauma to work through in counselling afterwards. I learned the hard way that you MUST go to the Emergency Room if you have abdominal pain! If you talk to anyone who has had appendicitis, you will see that they have an intense fear in their face. Appendicitis generally happens when you’re under 30 years old and it’s normally someone’s first hospitalization experience. It sure was with me, anyway. So, I’m not surprised to see people who are part of the Appendix Free Club look scared when they remember their experience.

A month ago, the hospitals in Alberta reached a breaking point with the Delta variant. They were short-staffed and the military and Red Cross were called in to help. Additionally, when Alberta introduced a proof of vaccination program, Covidiots were protesting outside hospitals! Fortunately, that was made illegal, but it wasn’t done out of concern for people on hospital premises. Anyone who wishes to rant about this in the comments, please do! Mum and I decided to be vigilant because we didn’t want to have to go to the ER under those circumstances.

How Things Started:

Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 11. Mum and I had a great day cooking and listening to music from Canadian singers while we worked. It perplexed me though that Mum didn’t feel like eating much. The next morning, Mum thought she had a stomach ulcer, but the things we tried didn’t work. Later that day, I called the nurse at our family practice for a phone assessment. When Mum said the words “abdominal pain” and described certain symptoms, a warning bell went off in my mind. Even though the situation in the hospitals had improved a bit, I felt like I needed to talk to the nurse before taking Mum to the ER for abdominal pain! Under normal circumstances, I would have taken her as soon as she said the words “abdominal pain” HANDS DOWN!

The nurse told me to take Mum to the ER and I asked her which one is best to go to, considering the circumstances. She assured me all the hospitals have super strict triage protocols. We almost felt bad for imposing on an already strained hospital system, even though it was a genuine emergency. When I took Mum to the ER, they told me I couldn’t go in with her because of COVID-19 protocols. I had a hunch Mum had appendicitis though, so I encouraged her to ask to be tested for it. She’s not in the normal age range for it, but it’s not unheard of for older people to get it. I have said many times though that appendicitis is a young person’s disease. This study says the same thing.

I know some older people who have had appendicitis and they have struggled with it or were misdiagnosed at first. That was not happening to my mother!

Called It!

My hunch was correct! To be clear though, I have no medical background at all. I just have vivid memories of my own appendicitis experience. Plus, I have had a lot of conversations with others about appendicitis. We got the diagnosis late at night and Mum was in surgery the next day. I wanted to visit her, but I couldn’t. They would only allow me in if it was an hour before surgery, but we had no idea when that would happen. By now, my Fuck This Pandemic List was a mile long! I know we all have our lists these days, but I was so livid that I threw something across the room! That never happens. Let it be known that the Covidiots, who find new ways of acting entitled, took away my opportunity to be with my mother when she needed it most!

I was able to bring Mum home the same day she had surgery! Sometimes, things just work! I bought a cake for the ward that took care of Mum to thank them. If I said I was ecstatic, that would have been an understatement! I was proud of Mum for not only going through this but doing it during a pandemic when I couldn’t be there to hold her hand! There was a certain amount of guilt and flashbacks too. I have often said how grateful I am that I didn’t have appendicitis during the pandemic. I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with it. At this point, I was also hoping Mum wouldn’t have any complications because of the hospital situation. I threw myself into taking care of her and decided to deal with any mental health repercussions later.

Things Were Only Beginning

After Mum got home, we discussed whether we wanted my Dad to fly in to help out. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t need him to come unless something else went wrong. At first, things seemed okay, but there were some warning signs. I was confused about what to do sometimes, and Mum kept asking me questions about my own experience. I could tell she needed major reassurance. We called this 24-hour line where you can speak to a nurse, which, in retrospect, we did too early. A week after she came home from the hospital, we had to call our family practice nurse again. Mum mentioned something that set off a warning bell for me. Plus, our doctor calling us back didn’t help.

I spent the night trying to help her with the concerning thing. I knew if it didn’t work, it was back to the ER. The writing was on the wall though, because since she had got home, she had barely eaten and was tolerating liquids at first, but then that stopped. I was considering force-feeding her, if necessary. The dread I felt when Mum went back to the ER was penetrating. Mum tried to reassure me by saying, “Think of me just going to Banff for a weekend.” Or, “I likely will only be in the hospital for a day.” Somehow, I knew that wasn’t true. I felt terribly guilty like I had let her down.

The Next Day:

I was able to visit my Mum the next day for an hour. The nurse said the current diagnosis was a paralytic ileus and Mum had a nasogastric tube to drain her stomach and relax her digestive system. Yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Plus, she couldn’t wear a mask. Surgery was a possible treatment option, but we didn’t know if that was necessary. Mum was super happy to see me! It did us both good to see each other. I asked her if I should tell Dad to fly in to help us, and she said yes. I was already about to tell my Dad we needed him anyway, but I wanted to make sure Mum wanted it too. As soon as I left the hospital, I called my Dad and told him to come as soon as possible.

Later on, Dad said that he would arrive in two days and stay for a week. He had the option of extending it if he needed to. I started counting down the hours until I saw him again! He called me later to tell me he had a problem getting a required travel COVID-19 test before flying though. Apparently, it’s hard to get COVID-19 tests for travel at such short notice. For a minute, we thought Dad would have to change his flight. I contacted my friends in my TCK group and one of them told me that SFO was doing rapid COVID-19 tests that met the requirements for international travel. After grumbling about the fact that SFO charges a premium on their travel tests, Dad decided to go with that. As he said, “They wear you down into paying the costs.”

Then, It Got Serious:

I went to see Mum the next day. She had a CT scan and was awaiting the results. She seemed emotionally better, especially after seeing me the previous day, but I was concerned that physically, there was no change. I hoped the CT scan would give us an answer. She seemed happy when I told her Dad would be coming in less than 30 hours. She knew what I was up against with logistical problems, so she encouraged me to prepare for Dad’s arrival and pick him up at the airport. By the time I left the hospital, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her the next day. So, I said a variation of Mama Imelda’s line from Coco, “Mum, I give you my blessing to get better, be strong, and never NEVER forget how much your family loves you!”

There were some nice things that happened that day. I called my Dad in the afternoon to update him, and our neighbour was over talking to him about looking after the cat, so I talked to her too. Later on, my aunt surprised me with a phone call! We talked for about half an hour. That made my day! She and Mum email each other frequently, and she got worried when she didn’t hear from Mum for a week.

I was happy for a while, and then Dad called the hospital that night. They found out Mum had a hernia and she was about to have emergency surgery! Then, everything good about the day came crashing down around me.

An Emotional Day and The Worst Night:

That day was a super emotional day. I had been hiding my feelings behind a wall for so long, and then it broke like the Oroville Dam. Before I saw my Mum, I had a chiropractic adjustment and then started crying. One of the receptionists at the chiropractic office gave me a hug. At this point, I was like, “To hell with COVID-19! I NEED a hug!”

That afternoon, I didn’t know how to feel about seeing my Dad again after a year apart. I watched YouTube clips from movies about kids seeing their parents again after such a long time apart. I needed some tearjerkers. The one that REALLY got me going though was a music video from one of my favourite bands. It’s SO TCK!

I’m not crying, you’re crying

To those of you who are either experiencing an emergency while abroad or have done so, this music video is for you!

I went to bed knowing my Mum was having a life-saving operation. I had questions floating around my head and I was shivering. Even though I had tried everything in my anxiety toolkit, it got to the point nothing worked. I was alone in a foreign country worried that I would get a call from the hospital in the middle of the night. My sleep was interrupted by panic attacks. At 3:30 in the morning, a few of my friends in my TCK group were having a call and I jumped on. I am not the only one in that group that’s been going through something lately. So, we all just talked and held space for each other. I don’t know what I would do without that group sometimes! Once I hung up, I was able to get some sleep.

Emergencies While Abroad My Story
The perfect quote

And then…:

When I woke up, I called the hospital. I told my Dad to call me from SFO so I could give him an update on Mum. When the nurse spoke to me in a happy voice and told me Mum was stable and recovering well, I was fighting back tears of joy! She had made it! They were going to take the nasogastric tube out later! YAYY!! I also talked to Mum and she was already sounding better. I told her to sleep and that I would visit her the next day at the hospital, possibly with Dad!

Mum told me to get some treats at our favourite patisserie for the ward and the surgical team that saved her life! I did it without hesitation! You would not know that the hospital staff were under so much pressure with COVID-19! Any time my Mum said that she or I were vaccinated, the response was always, “Thank you!” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Whenever Mum felt right, she would always have words of gratitude for her healthcare heroes. They truly ARE heroes doing what they do during a global pandemic and being screwed by the institutions they work for and people who deny there is a pandemic! I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am to the heroes that saved my Mum’s life!

I did a dance for joy and suddenly had a burst of energy for the rest of the day! It was quite a coincidence that it happened the same day that my Dad was due to arrive. I happily relayed the news to Dad when he was at SFO and told him I would meet him at YYC! Then I set to work preparing for his arrival.

A Note about Logistical Problems:

Every emergency has logistical problems. I had to plan my day when I called the hospital in the morning. I had some logistical problems with getting to the hospital. When you’re a caregiver, time is of the essence, so I would Uber there. I didn’t even have the bandwidth to check public transport options. Plus, the first time we went to the hospital, we had to go on one of Calgary’s famous trails. The trails are connecting roads in the city, which turn into mini-freeways. I find using public transport to be difficult when trails are involved. Either you get windy routes or infrequent service. That’s not good if you’re a caregiver. Every day, I wondered if Mum going to have surgery, or if I would be bringing her home. If either of those answers was “Yes”, I wouldn’t visit her.

I didn’t know if I was going to get my Dad from the airport until the morning of his arrival. I didn’t know if I would be visiting Mum the same day Dad arrived or have other stuff to do for her on top of preparing for Dad’s arrival. By the time my Dad arrived, I had been in limbo and running on empty for over 10 days, even before Mum went back to the hospital. I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for Dad to arrive either. Fortunately, Dad said that if I didn’t have everything done, he would help me when he got there! The relief!

Ready or Not:

Thank goodness for that burst of energy that I got that morning! I had less than 8 hours to set up our small apartment to fit another person before I had to leave for the airport! Mum and I were planning to do a massive clean of the apartment, but then she got sick. So, I had to improvise, find stuff that I needed in the weirdest places in the house, stress over whether we had too many plastic bags, and move everything to a convenient location.

Meanwhile, I kept checking the time, my text and email messages, and the real-time flight tracker. I kept making sure I had the route to and from the airport planned out. It rained the whole day and I was hoping it would clear up before Dad got here! No such luck. I tried to rest because I had time to do so. Nope. Too excited and wondering what would happen to have Dad here. Finally, it was time to leave.

I took two buses to get to the airport and whenever I was at a certain point in my journey, I would take a guess on where Dad was flying over. That’s one excuse to keep looking at a flight tracker, I guess.

When I got to YYC:

I hadn’t been to the international terminal before. I had arrived at the domestic terminal when I moved to Calgary because of doing a layover in Vancouver. Therefore, I had to take a photo of this beautiful glass sculpture of the Canadian Rockies! It calmed me a bit too. I had a certain amount of nerves about seeing my Dad again. Fortunately, I was texting with my friend Hilary Tan from Sereneluna! I want to give her an extra special shoutout for her unconditional support during this time! At one point, I said, “Fuck COVID! I’m hugging my Dad!” She said, “Do it!” I am so grateful for you continuing to check in on me and being there to text whenever, Hilary!

International Terminal at YYC

PSA for international travellers! Even if this might not be applicable to every travel situation, take note! I had told my Dad that I would meet him at the baggage area, but when I got to YYC, they had a COVID-19 testing line and I couldn’t go past it. At the time, I didn’t know what that was for since they don’t even let you on the plane if you don’t have the required tests to enter a country. I kept hoping, “Dad! Please put two and two together here!” Fortunately, he did because I saw him in the line to go past security. I jumped and waved to make sure he saw me! When he saw me, he told me he had been selected randomly for a COVID-19 test. Because of course, he did. I hung around all irritated that I had to wait to greet my Dad properly.

FINALLY!!

I gave Dad an extra long hug!!! And then on the way home, we didn’t stop talking. We were like the magpies we feed every morning having their little corvid party… Lol. It was getting dark as we left the airport, but I was still able to point out a few things, like Chinatown and the Calgary Tower. Dad insisted on calling it the Space Needle. Oh well, we’ll get there, eventually. It was after 8 pm when we got home. When I called Mum in the hospital, I told her no, even with today’s technology, I didn’t do a three-way voice call using my cell phone and our home phone with Dad. He was really here! Even though it was a long day, I still had to go over living logistics with Dad. We relaxed with the first two episodes of Schitt’s Creek before going to bed.

Mum said later on that she was moved to a private room before surgery. She had tested positive for MRSA. The room overlooked the city and the night Dad arrived, she felt well enough to watch the sunset. She watched the time knowing that Dad was arriving and I was picking him up at the airport. Somehow I knew that Mum was there with us in spirit. That was a tissue moment when we shared that!

Visiting the Hospital… With A Twist

Dad was able to visit Mum with me! They asked him a few more questions at the screening area and he had to show his documentation. I also brought the treats that Mum told me to get. I got a lemon meringue tart, a box of 24 macarons and some little boxes of chocolates at my favourite patisserie! When I dropped them off at the nurses’ station, the looks on their faces were priceless! I also told them to pass some on to the surgical team that saved Mum’s life. I wasn’t allowed to hug Mum because of the MRSA, but I was happy to see her eating and looking MUCH better! There was talk of her being discharged the next day!

Then, I told Mum I had a surprise for her and went to get Dad. We were only allowed on the ward one at a time. I let them catch up for a while. In the last ten minutes, I talked to Mum and she told me why she was in emergency surgery. Apparently, her bowel had got into the area where they had removed the appendix and started twisting. It’s a rare complication that has only happened four times in the history of the hospital! The surgeon that saved Mum’s life said he had only seen it once before.

Dad said he was able to walk around and see the views from the hospital. There was the city on one end and the Canadian Rockies on the other. I knew he couldn’t leave without seeing that! He’s SUCH a Montana boy! When I shared the photos below with my friends, they asked me if the hospital rents out rooms!

Mum’s Finally Home!

I was able to get Mum the next day! I felt like I was about to explode! When I was pushing her in the wheelchair out of the hospital, I calmed down though. As my Dad said once when he was pushing me in a hospital wheelchair, “Let’s try not to break any speed records here!” I added another phrase to use when going into an elevator, “Excuse me, precious cargo here!” I didn’t get to use it this time though.

For the next 5 days, Dad helped me out with whatever major chores I needed help with and tag-teamed with me on caregiving duties. Whenever we had some quiet time, we either watched Schitt’s Creek or slept! We managed to get through all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek before Dad left! I can’t tell you how grateful I was that Dad dropped everything and came to help out! He could only stay a week though because our cat is living with him and she gets separation anxiety if we leave her too long. There are times I wish he could have stayed longer though. We’re still exhausted from this experience, and I estimate that it’s going to be at least a month before my Mum even starts feeling normal again.

We’re getting to the point though that people assume we aren’t struggling anymore. In reality, we still have problems. When you’re going through an emergency, people who normally give you toxic positivity cool it for a bit, but then when the danger ends, it resumes. People ask me if I have any fun plans coming up, and I say not for a month at least and move on. That being said, I am still super grateful for the outpouring of love I have got from family and friends!

Final Words:

I wanted to give a shoutout to my TCK community at TCK Global and my followers here and on Instagram for their support and love! I know I said I am taking a break, but I wanted to write this post and share it with you all.

One important thing I forgot to say is when my Dad was visiting the hospital, he was enjoying the views from an empty room. He told me that someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with comments such as “Lies, lies, lies!” and “Covid is a hoax!” Now that you have read my story, look me in the eye and tell me that! If you had seen our healthcare heroes go out of their way for their patients to give them quality care despite being screwed by Institution X and Covidiots, you would have more respect for them than ever! You would not know they were under so much pressure and risk. I may never meet the people who saved my mother’s life, but my gratitude for them will stay with me forever!

What was even more touching was giving the ward and surgical team treats to say thank you. Mum said that after I did that, the surgeon who saved her life came up to personally thank her! Apparently, the box of macarons went to the surgical team and the ward had the cake. I don’t know who got the chocolates. As Mum says, “It’s not every day when someone saves your life.”

To those of you who are struggling with a medical emergency while living abroad, my heart goes out to you. I hope this post gives you strength and peace.

My Most Canadian Story (So Far)

Hey all! Been taking a break right now to focus on my health so I have been slow in coming up with posts. But I had this moment that just hit me as the most Canadian story I have had so far. Read on to find out what it is!

How Things Started:

I had been recovering from my second COVID-19 shot for a few days. My main problem was fatigue, but I was slowly recovering from that. I wanted to go on a short walk at one point, so my Mum said she wanted to show me this little place by the Elbow River. Lately, when I walk by the river, I have been finding these little hidden spaces where I can just stay and watch the river without any interruptions. I am really into that! So, Mum decided to show me a new place by the river that she found and I was excited to check it out.

One significant part of the story is that my Mum took her cane with her on the walk. Remember the cane! We were about a block away from the river when we heard some geese calling. It was a constant call, so we didn’t know what to make of it. We’re used to hearing magpies having corvid parties, so we thought the geese were just having a party on the river.

Then It Got Serious…:


As we got closer, we saw two adult geese by the fence in front of the bench that overlooked the river. They were the ones constantly calling. When we saw some goslings in the river, we pieced it together that these adults were the parents of these goslings and were trapped. They were pacing up and down alongside the fence calling to their babies.


On the left side of the fence, there was a tree that blocked any immediately visible view of the riverbank, so the geese thought they had no way to get to the river. On the right side of the fence, there was a gate to someone’s backyard, which we thought at first we couldn’t open. The geese couldn’t squeeze between the bars of the fence or under the fence either. The parents couldn’t fly because the space was narrow and geese need a sort of “runway” if you will, to take off. 

Those parents clearly didn’t want to do anything that would make them lose sight of their babies, even for a moment. I don’t know how they ended up there, but we knew we had to do something to try and help. What was fortunate for the goslings was that there were other goose families near where they were swimming on the river. The other geese weren’t too close, but they were close enough in case something happened to the goslings. 

The Plan:


Normally, I save the phone number to an animal rescue place as soon as I move someplace new in case I see a sick or distressed wild animal. I found out after moving to Calgary that it’s not possible to call an animal rescue place right now. They are all closed due to the pandemic. So, I knew that wasn’t an option to help these geese. Plus, the longer the parents were from the goslings, the more distressed they got. So, Mum and I began to think of a plan. It was so lucky Mum had her cane with her. She let me take it and get closer to the geese to try and herd them. Mum stayed back to make sure the geese couldn’t get into the road. They could have hurt her more easily than they could have hurt me.

I approached carefully because every Canadian knows this hard and fast rule: our geese are assholes. I tried to herd them around the tree a couple of times, but it didn’t work because they were between the bench and the fence. The goose closer to me did hiss at me when I approached, but it wasn’t too bad. I backed away at first, but then I kept trying. I was wracking my brain for other ideas.  

Then Help Arrived:


There was a guy across the river who was watching this thing unfold and he called to us, “Go, girls!” or something like that. I assume he was trying to think of something to do about the geese before we arrived. Then, this woman came out of the apartment next to the river and tried to help us. She stood at different places to help me herd the geese better. One of them walked around the tree and found its way back to the goslings. Mum noticed the goslings crowded around its parent. The second goose was trickier. Eventually, the woman helping us opened the gate to the person’s backyard and the goose walked in and found a way to the river!


I was so glad that worked! How many Canadians does it take to herd a pair of geese? I was afraid I was going to have to pick up those geese to let them fly over the fence! That thought was especially scary because 1. They bite. 2. Those wings are strong enough to break your arm. I don’t underestimate how strong wild animals are and I just got over the geese hissing at me thank you! The only reason they did a “light hiss” was that I was nowhere near their babies. Plus, they didn’t have the room to lunge at me.

Afterwards, I felt like I just performed First Aid or something. Mum and I decompressed by watching Fly Away Home. That really has been a significant movie for us, especially for this move to Calgary!

Final Thoughts:


This could have been so much worse if a predator had got either the parents or the goslings. Or, what if it was the goslings behind the fence? It’s clear that imprinting goes both ways. It’s not just the parents imprinting on the babies, but vice versa. After the parents joined the goslings, they all swam down the river with their babies as if nothing happened and Mum and I sat on the bench and watched them.

Do you know the expression “herding cats”? Well, I have officially started saying “herding geese”. When I was trying to herd the geese, I tried to think of how they herd the geese in Fly Away Home. Then I realized, they make herding geese look easy! I’m glad I didn’t have to touch them.

One time I was at a beach in Santa Cruz, California eating a sandwich. This seagull came up right behind me and stole my sandwich! The one time I’m mugged is by a seagull! The seagull gave me a dirty look like, “This is MINE now!” Anyone who has seen Finding Nemo knows that to be true. The thing that I remember was the seagull brushed me with its wings. Don’t take “brushed” lightly. I felt how strong that bird was! I don’t underestimate wild animals, even small ones.

This is the most Canadian I have ever felt. I saw comedian Dave Hemstad talking about the news item about the Newfies saving a shark who was choking on a piece of moose. Best Quote: “An Inuit and a Quebecois would have to make love in the prairies on a bed of maple leaves using Tim Hortons as lube to have a more Canadian moment!” Nailed it! The routine is on CBC Gem if you can access it.

Last Note About Wild Animal Encounters:

I am not advocating that you should always try to help a wild animal in obvious distress by yourself. I already said I didn’t have the option of calling a wildlife rescue place. One thing I have found to be significant about Canada is you live in closer proximity to wildlife, even in the cities. So, it’s even more important to know what to do when you have a close encounter with a wild animal, especially one in distress or pain.

I know there are hard and fast rules about what to do when you see a wild animal that’s distressed or hurt, but sometimes, you have no choice but to step in and help. There are basic things you can do without training, like what just happened. I have found Canadians seem to have a better idea of how they can help wild animals because they encounter them frequently. That’s not to say stupidity doesn’t happen though. I am thinking of learning more about what I can do in case I ever need to help a wild animal again and I don’t have the option of calling in the experts. And okay, I know geese are jerks that crap everywhere, but I couldn’t stand by and watch those goose parents distressed being away from their babies.

Was this story Canadian or what? Let me know in the comments!

Seventh Month Theme: Mishmash

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

Health is A Factor:

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

Travel Update:

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

More On Cultural Adjustment:

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

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

Case in point

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

Some Other Cool Cultural Things:

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

Canadian Country Music In Time for Summer:

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

Spring!!

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

I saw a bobcat!

I want to take the black bunny home!

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

Winter: London vs. Calgary

I get so many questions about what winter has been like in Calgary compared to London, so I decided to write everything about it down. That way, if anyone asks me, I can be like, “See my blog post!”

Did You Know?

London and Calgary are both 52 degrees north. I’m not kidding. The fact they are both so different just shows me how our world is unique and beautiful! It hit me that I was going that far north again when I was flying from YVR to YYC. The plane was flying north for more than half the flight and I thought, “Okay, this is real!” So, what are the differences in winter between London and Calgary? Read on to find out!

Sunrise, Sunset:

I looked up differences between sunrise and sunset times in London and compared them to Calgary. It just seemed a little off compared to what I knew in London. The sun rises and sets a half-hour later in Calgary. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma why that is if they are both 52 degrees north.

Before I moved to Calgary, I mentioned to a friend of mine here how I struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder in London. My friend recommended buying special lightbulbs, aka SAD lights. It was like this moment in Legally Blonde.

I'm sorry. I just hallucinated.

How could I have grown up in London and NEVER found out about this?! I don’t think SAD lights are a thing there! Talk about a stiff upper lip. Lol.

During my quarantine period after moving here (see my Quarantine Diaries I and II), the clocks went back. There was no way I was waking up before 8 am! I then went to Canadian Tire (which I love more than Home Depot) and got some SAD lights. Voila! Cleared my fatigue right up!

As I got older in London, SAD got worse for me. It didn’t matter what I did (walks, Vitamin D, etc). Nothing worked. I got to the point I couldn’t stand another English winter and moved to Sunny California! My thing to say was, “Ask me if I miss London!” So, you can imagine how pissed off I was to know that the constant fatigue I felt in London could have been remedied with SAD lights!

Temperatures and Humidity:

Zero degrees Celsius in England? More like Absolute Zero. Yep, the humidity was such that I could feel the cold cut through me. I knew people in England who would buy cold-weather clothes from other countries because what they had in England was not sufficient. Don’t even get me started on shoes. When someone in England says it’s cold, believe it. I read Canada by Mike Myers, and he described the cold as bone-chilling. Okay, it says a lot if a Canadian describes English temperatures as bone-chilling. I knew people from other cold-weather climates think it was much colder in London than it actually was.

On the bright side, I became a big tea drinker. Nothing like a cup of tea to warm me from the inside out. No wonder that became a cultural thing! Here in Calgary, sometimes the heat in my apartment can be too much because it’s not humid. In London, it would be sheer bliss!

Dealing with Snow:

In February 2009, there was a massive snow dump of 8 inches in London (more in other parts). I kid you not, the city completely shut down. It was fun to get a couple of days off, but it made the UK look like a laughing stock to other countries. I mean, it’s not LA. You would expect the largest city above 50 degrees north to not shut down over a little snow, but it did. It snowed some more the following year and things were only slightly better.

That wasn’t even the whole story. People didn’t know how to shovel their front walk or said they wouldn’t do it because they were afraid of being sued for doing it wrong. So many people ended up in emergency rooms with broken bones because of it. My Mum ended up being one of them. She blamed herself because she didn’t grow up around snow. I don’t think she was to blame. It can happen to anyone. It’s even more likely if your country doesn’t handle snow properly. Our friends who were from northerly climates were the most sympathetic about what happened.

I reached the end of my rope with London when it came to snow. Plus, it knocked the confidence I had from living in snowy climates. Therefore, I was rather dubious about ever living in a snowy climate again. It took me a while to get my snow confidence in Calgary, but it did come back. If anything, I have learned more here than I did in other snowy climates, but that’s a whole other post. I will say this though, I wasn’t expecting to feel like hibernating when the temperatures were the lowest in February.

Staying Physically and Emotionally Healthy:

I didn’t know what it was like to be really sick with a cold or flu until I moved to London. After that, I just accepted the fact my immunity was bad. Even though I did everything I could to boost my immunity, it didn’t work. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I realized my body was feeling like it was constantly fighting infection. I don’t know what it was about England that made my immunity worse, but I know I wasn’t unusual. I knew other people who moved to England and felt it impacted their health. The most famous example is Srinivasa Ramanujan who died of tuberculosis after living in England. It’s not usually that extreme though and everyone is different. In contrast, I felt like my health got better in Calgary.

I have noticed big cultural differences in other factors like obtaining good quality fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods, and winter activities. It almost surprised me how good produce is readily available in Calgary. Plus, I feel like the level of food quality is higher overall than both the US and UK. Even though I haven’t participated in winter activities in Canada just yet, I am excited about doing so! I noticed that in London, there weren’t any activities that I could label as “winter activities” like they do in more Arctic climates. It makes me wonder how that impacts well-being too.

Overall, I would say that Calgary winter is much better for me. My tricks for combating SAD work. I have had to get my mind around the fact that it’s actually really sunny here. I don’t think I am really built for England. What do you think about what I said about my winter comparissons?

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

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

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

Pre-shot Information:

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

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

Then the Rollout Changes Happened:

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

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

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

Then, I had An Idea:

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

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

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

Surprise, Surprise:

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

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

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

Ethics:

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

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

So, I Booked My Shot:

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

The Day of My Shot:

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

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

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

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

Technology Stories While Waiting In Line and Some Other Things:

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

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

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

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

How I Felt Afterwards:

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

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

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

How do you like my trolling?

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

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

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