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!

Third Month Theme: Rest, Reflect and Observe New Things

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

Calgary Baptism of Fire

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

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

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

Everything Else is Boring by Comparison

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

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

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

I Admit That I Wished for Snow

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

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

A Word on How I Feel About US Politics

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

Had Another TCK Moment about US Politics

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

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

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

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

Push and Pull between Cultures

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

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

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

A Note on Peer Pressure

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

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

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

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

A Word on Getting Settled in A New Country

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

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

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

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

Before I Moved:

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

What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:

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

Expectation:

Expectation of Canadian Winter
Source: Facebook

Cold right? It’s also funny!

Reality:

Source: Buzzfeed

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

October Weather:

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

Flying Internationally and Locally during COVID-19

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

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

November Weather:

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

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

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

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

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

December Weather:

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

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

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

Final Thoughts:

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

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

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

A Word on Canada Geese:

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

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

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

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