To all my followers, I want to say thank you for following my journey! It’s been an absolute pleasure to share my experiences with all of you!
Speaking of sharing my experiences, I am still on a hiatus right now. I am dealing with a family emergency. My mother got appendicitis and things are going to be a hot mess for while. So, if I don’t comment on your posts, you know why. To those of you for who I have said I will do guest posts, I will email you soon.
I am going to do a post in the future about dealing with emergencies when you live in another country. Plus, I have some other posts planned. Yes, this emergency means I am on a hiatus from my Calgary Parks Challenge as well.
I will celebrate my one year in Canada later on, but I am still taking a moment to celebrate! To those of you who know about my mother, thank you for all your support!
Before I start this post, I wanted to say that it’s officially my blogversary! Yes, my blog is one year old and I have 100 followers too! I keep thinking back to a year ago when I was preparing to move to Canada. It was at that time that I was discovering what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. This move has been a journey of self-discovery for me and I feel doing a blog has really helped with that. I’m not kidding, there is very little stuff out there that talks about being a TCK. Okay, I have to ask, and please be honest, how many of you knew what a TCK was before you read my blog? If you didn’t know what that was, how much do you think you have learned from reading my blog?
Anyway, I wanted to talk about what my experience was with my second COVID-19 shot. Plus I have an update on the virus situation in Calgary. I haven’t been up to posting as much because of my health. I am getting ANOTHER dental procedure soon and I am SO done with this! This dental procedure will mark my TENTH appointment at a dentist’s office for this past year. I know a lot of people who have postponed their dental appointments this past year or so because of the pandemic. I can honestly say there was nothing to worry about. They are super careful at dentist’s offices because they know patients can’t do masks and social distancing while in the appointment.
Second Shot Logistics:
If you didn’t read my post about my first shot, here it is. Due to supply issues, Canada was prioritizing first shots over second shots, and extending the time between the doses. I wasn’t expecting to get my second shot for 3-4 months. At first, I was concerned about the time frame. Thankfully, my Dad is a scientist, so he knows how to read and interpret scientific studies and can cut through the crap. After I consulted my Dad, he said it’s okay to extend the time between doses. I did research too and agreed with that too. He taught me well!
On June 1st, Alberta opened up second doses to anyone who had their first shot in March. It was in March when the province announced they were stopping second doses, and my Mum got her first dose right of AstraZeneca right after that. At the time, I had to wait until June 14th to book my shot. Canada had just announced that you can mix and match shots, so my Mum decided to get an mRNA shot for her second dose. She got Pfizer at the TELUS Convention Centre.
A Word About Healthcare Here:
I got a surprise right after that. My periodontist’s receptionist contacted me because the local pharmacy had got a supply of Pfizer shots. She wanted to know if Mum and I were interested in getting an appointment. Here’s where it got awkward. When I gave her our information to pass onto the pharmacy, she asked for our Alberta Health numbers. I told her we have temporary ones because we haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. Even though we have temporary healthcare numbers, we couldn’t get the shot through the pharmacy. Our only option to get the shot was booking through the Alberta Health system. We were really bummed out. Still, it was super kind of my periodontist’s receptionist to try and help us.
I have certainly found some things can be awkward when you haven’t qualified for healthcare yet. We’re in a weird situation in terms of qualifying for healthcare. Even though we have lived here for over 6 months (which is one requirement), we’re still on visitor’s status. The other requirement is to have certain work visas to qualify for healthcare. Okay, I completely understand why Canada has the 6-month residency requirement. A lot of Americans travel to Canada to get cheaper healthcare and/or prescriptions, so of course, Canada’s going to have a residency requirement for healthcare. At least I haven’t heard any propaganda here that immigrants are bankrupting healthcare as I have heard in other countries where I have resided. Healthcare eligibility requirements for immigrants aren’t perfect in a lot of countries, and that needs to be changed.
My Mum’s Experience:
When my Mum got AstraZeneca, she didn’t feel any side effects at all. Adding the Pfizer shot 8 weeks later was a different story. I had heard of the second shot causing a lot of fatigue, but my Mum slept for 21 hours with a few breaks in between! I was able to talk her through the other side effects because I had already had one dose of Pfizer. It took her a few days to feel normal again, but she has been keeping up on sleeping.
I wrote my post about the first Pfizer shot very shortly after getting the shot, so I didn’t include the fact that something happened to me four days after the shot. I don’t want to say what it is, but I do want to say that I couldn’t ignore it. Seeing my Mum go through the side effects reminded me of what happened to me. I realized I needed help with getting the second shot. I’m not kidding, I was THIS close to saying no to the second shot!
I went to my doctor about my concerns and he assessed whether it was too risky for me to get the second shot. In the end, he said it was minimal risk, so I was happy about that. When I was studying econometrics, I learned about this study a university did on their students to assess how to boost vaccination rates. The study compared a group who were given leaflets about vaccinations versus a group that got a vaccine consult. They found the vaccine consult group had a much higher vaccination rate. Seriously, if I was in charge, I would incentivize doctors’ offices to prioritize vaccine consults for patients. There is no shame in needing a consult.
So I Booked My Shot:
Alberta opened vaccinations to people who got their shot in April four days earlier than they originally said. I booked mine as soon as possible because the first shot rate was pushing 70%. Once the vaccination rate reached 70%, it would start a two-week countdown to full reopening in Alberta. My goal was to be fully vaxxed (antibodies kicked in and everything) by the time reopening happened. I went to the TELUS Convention Centre for my shot again. I thought I was going to have to wait in line for an hour like I did last time. Appointments for second shots were increasing like crazy, but it didn’t affect waiting in line at the TELUS Convention Centre. My Mum wasn’t allowed to come in with me, for some reason. It probably depends on who is the security guard at the door.
I had the best nurse that I could have asked for with this shot! I was honest with her about the problems I had with the first shot, so she did the shot in a private area in the clinic. Lying down while getting the shot was a new experience. I highly recommend it! The nurse stayed with me for the 15 minute period after the shot as well. When I said Canada is the fifth country I have lived in, she said, “I’m curious now! Where have you lived?” I gave her the long version of my TCK story. She had some cool stories too. She had been travelling around to different vaccine clinics in Alberta and told me about a bear in the clinic parking lot in Banff.
Side Effect Time!:
I was feeling happy after my shot. I’m glad that even though the TELUS Convention Centre is a mass vaccination site, they take care of patients who have problems with the shot. After an hour though, I started to feel it. I went home and slept it off. Before I got my shot, I took two ibuprofen. It helped immensely because the nausea wasn’t so bad and it stopped my arm from hurting so much. I have never had a shot hurt my arm more than the Pfizer shot. The other side effects lingered for about 36-48 hours, but the fatigue stayed. At first, I thought I was okay, and then I had to SLEEP! It took me NINE days to feel normal again!
I have a theory why the fatigue lingered though. I have had a major viral infection before, as well as a major bacterial infection. When I was at university, I got hand foot and mouth disease at the time when outbreaks were happening on university campuses. Plus, I have had appendicitis. Both those things took a LONG time to recover from! I get impatient when I’m sick and when I got impatient with the above health issues, I physically crashed. I’m pretty sure my body remembers that, so it was telling me to sleep off this shot. Am I glad I got the shot? Yes! Am I ecstatic that I got through a pandemic without getting sick? I can’t even describe it!! Am I enjoying the amazing wifi thanks to the 5G implant from the shot? Heck yeah! You know I just trolled a conspiracy theorist there right?
A Reflective Time:
Now that I’m fully vaxxed, I have been reflecting a lot on what I want to keep from the pandemic and what I want to reject. On June 18, Alberta announced that it hit the 70% first dose rate, and it’s now in the two-week countdown to reopening. The announcement went like this:
How do I feel about that? Well, cautiously optimistic. The Calgary Stampede is happening as scheduled from July 9-18 and who knows if the vaccination rate will be enough? The Delta variant has already hit Calgary. As far as I know, it’s under control, and cases are still going down. Even so, experts are saying it’s too early to have the Stampede. One singer who used to be a pediatric nurse said he won’t perform at the Stampede until it’s safe.
What’s the best thing about being fully vaxxed? I can now explore Calgary more! In fact, I am doing a challenge. My idea for this challenge came from a talk about how Calgary was designed for walking. Parks and green spaces are a point of pride here. When I looked at the city of Calgary website, it said there were 73 parks in Calgary. So, my challenge is to see a new park every 7-10 days. I am going to randomly select (when possible) where to go next and once I have done the walk, I will do a post about it. I just went to a new park and I will be posting about it soon! Watch this space!
Cultural Adjustment Update:
Remember how I said in my post about my seventh month that I was going through the phase where I don’t like my new country? Well, it went on for about two months. I did what I could to help myself through it and gave myself space to think through things. Even so, there was only so much I could do. So, I was waiting for a moment that would let me know that things would be okay here. I kept waiting and trying to be patient. Then, when I helped those goose parents reunite with their goslings after they were stuck, I realized that was the moment that made everything okay.
Additionally, I saw this comedy routine from comedian Darryl Lenox that really hit home for me. As someone moving from the USA to Canada, there were some things that were just so real! I can’t find the routine on YouTube though, so I have to tell you what it said that was so relatable.
Darryl Lenox was talking about how he learned this calmness that Canadians have. He saw this news story in Winnipeg about this young guy who was raising dangerous snakes. One day, a snake went down his plumbing and ended up in the toilet of this guy who was about 65 or 70 years old. The reporter asked the older guy what he did when he saw the dangerous snake and the guy replied, “Close the lid”. Darryl Lenox talked about how that phrase became a metaphor. Sometimes you just have to close the lid. He also did a story about how things would have been completely different in the Bible Belt of the southern USA.
What I Learned:
I keep watching that comedy routine whenever I need it, but even before I saw it, I started closing the lid. I don’t engage with trolls or any insulting or spamming comments on my blog or my IG page anymore. You want to unfollow me? Bye! I’m just going to close the lid. I got to the point I can’t live in this state of constant anxiety anymore and I had to detox from that as well.
Darryl Lennox describes how this NFL player got hammered drunk at a Kenney Chesney concert and started a racist rant. He said thanks to his new prairie found calm, he was able to think through how he felt about it more clearly.
Even though there are tough things going on in the world, sometimes the prairie calm is the best thing to do. The important thing to ask is, “At what point do you just close the lid?”
Latest News from Canada:
Before I proceed, here’s a heads up. I am going to talk about finding these mass, unmarked graves of Indigenous children from residential schools. So, don’t feel like you have to read about that if you don’t want to. That’s a content warning in its own right. Additionally, please keep comments respectful on this subject. We’re talking child victims of cultural genocide who died of grievous abuse here.
Last month, a mass, unmarked grave of 215 Indigenous children was discovered near a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Since then a few more mass, unmarked graves have been found. The latest one was in Saskatchewan of 751 children, which brought the total to 1,323. After the Kamloops discovery, there were vigils around the country and flags were lowered to half-mast. Plus, there were lots of other calls to action.
There was a vigil site outside Calgary City Hall. My Mum and I went there to pay our respects. We agreed when we were there we would do a two-minute silence as we do on November 11 at 11 am. There were poems, signs and 215 pairs of children’s shoes. The report said the kids in the Kamloops grave were between 2 and 15 years old, and the shoes fitted that typical age range too. I thought the shoes were a good touch. When you looked at the shoes, you get an image in your head of children running, jumping or moving around like kids do. It was like seeing the ghosts of children who never met family members in their community and parents that never got to see their children doing kiddy things. I didn’t take any photos of the vigil site out of respect for the situation.
A Seismic Cultural Shift:
I have experienced enough cultures to know that Canada is in the middle of a seismic cultural shift here. Usually, cultural shifts happen gradually, but sometimes, they can happen like a volcanic eruption. The eruptions happen because the country has been suppressing something for too long. Ergo, when it explodes, it EXPLODES! This is like Krakatoa here.
Last I heard, the International Criminal Court has taken a case to investigate Canada and the Catholic Church for cultural genocide of Indigenous people. I guess we’ll find out soon how this will go. Additionally, Canada Day is coming up on July 1st. A lot of areas have cancelled their celebrations out of respect for this time of mourning among First Nations. Other people are planning a day of reflection out of respect, and that’s what my Mum and I are doing too. There is a certain amount of resistance to cancelling or changing Canada Day celebrations. At first, I didn’t know what to think because this is my first Canada Day and I am still learning the norms, but the culture is changing, so I decided to roll with it. It’s not the first time I have had to adapt to something like this.
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!
After the euphoria of the first month wore off, some things went upside down for a while. Here’s what really stood out:
Even if everything went perfectly with the move, I still would have had a meltdown eventually. It happened when I moved before and I know different things have the potential to set it off. For me personally, it’s normal for me to have a meltdown after a month or so in a new country. I can’t speak for other expats though. I think there should be more transparency about the are ups and downs in the process because immigrants aren’t robots.
My first post-international move meltdown was two months after moving to England. I was in school and I hated it because I was being bullied for my accent. I didn’t expect to have a meltdown after repatriating to the USA because it was my home country and I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock. Soon after I wrote my post about the theme for my first month here in Canada, I had a meltdown.
The thing that set me off was: a toxic American. It hit me that Trump has brought out the absolute worst of Americans. It takes different forms, but the fact of the matter is, it’s been traumatizing dealing with it for the past four years. I got to the point it’s been hard to distinguish rhyme from reason. I have lost friends who I initially thought were good people, but then it was like they had turned bad almost overnight. People aren’t who they say they are. That’s what you get when you’re part of an entire culture of people who are hurting for one reason or another.
I’m not saying I’m perfect though. I have lashed out too. Generally, I like to be low-key and get on with life. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I have forgiven the people who have hurt me though, and even though I wish I could be forgiven for my mistakes, I have accepted it might not happen.
It hurts me to see a country I used to love imploding. I asked my Mum, “Why does this hurt so much??” And she said, “Because you care.” I never thought of that before. Even so, I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with toxic Americans. I have put up my own personal boundaries and I. AM. DONE.
The most important thing I can do when I’m having one of those meltdowns is to listen to what my intuition is trying to tell me. For example, when I was in England, my intuition was saying to me, “I don’t want to stay here forever.” When I repatriated to the US, my intuition said to me, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” Now, when I had a meltdown, my intuition said to me, “I CANNOT go back to the USA! I just can’t!” And get this, my intuition has ultimately been right. I didn’t stay in England forever. It was a bad idea to repatriate. And now, I have been thinking about what I can do so that I don’t have to return to the USA. While I was going through the meltdown, I didn’t have the room in my feelings to say that I love Canada. Once I felt better, I was able to express the fact that I genuinely love it here and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stay!
I was also incredibly lonely. It’s not like I can go out and meet people because of the pandemic like I used to before. I missed my friends and just being around people.
I’m going to be real with you. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled in a new country! I kid you not, it took almost a year to feel settled when I repatriated to the US. Of course, there is more to getting settled in a new country than meets the eye.
Getting settled goes faster if everyone involved pitches in and helps. If you have a job or have to study, it goes slower. Even though getting physically settled makes a difference in how you feel settled mentally, there is a mental side to adjusting to a new country that takes a lot longer.
I have been taking advantage of counselling services this time while I’m in transition. I have never done that before, but I knew I had to this time. Since I’m new to Canada, I am still trying to figure out what services to find and where. I was able to find crisis counselling where you get six free sessions. My counsellor has told me how I can find expat resources and other important information that citizens use too.
When you’re getting settled in a new country, there is a considerable amount of running around and doing chores. During our mandatory quarantine, we had to buy everything we needed online which was less tiring but also had its disadvantages. Once we got out of quarantine, we were going outside almost every day. We were feeling under pressure to get things done because we had no idea how COVID restrictions were going to change. Even the days we’re at home, there are still a lot of chores to do online.
Additionally, I have had some issues going independent on my blog, so I’m going to take some time to improve it when I’m laying low. I’m hoping I can do some posts and also work on the book I hope to publish in a year! We’ll see though. I need to do some improvments.
Speaking of COVID, if the pandemic situation in Calgary was as bad as California, it would have taken a lot longer to get settled. Since starting my pain treatment, I have had to go out a lot more, and my treatment plan has been switched up so I am seeing more healthcare providers. I don’t worry about COVID when getting treatment. It’s just that usually we stop at stores to get whatever we need. Although, I am happy that I will be getting a bit of a break for treatment soon. In some ways, these restrictions are going to affect my treatment, but I’m okay with that.
Since the end of our quarantine, my Mum and I have had a couple of scares where we thought we might have been exposed. My biggest scare happened when I went to the post office. The guy at the desk said he didn’t normally work at that branch. He had been called in because a couple of days before, the post office had to close because one of the regular staff had contracted COVID. I was glad I had my KN95 mask on. When I left, I went to the nearby mall and practically washed the skin off my hands!
Now, we’re prioritizing our outdoor chores more carefully. We decide if we both need to do them and we spread out the time between them.
I will say this about dealing with the pandemic in California. My family had some emergency N95/KN95 masks on hand long before the pandemic because we’ve been getting once-in-a-generation wildfires every year! Who wants to breathe that crap from the fires or contract the virus? Not me!
I have noticed my bandwidth has been a lot lower overall from getting settled. Someone hacked one of my social media accounts because I didn’t spot the warning signs. Normally, I don’t fall for scams, but I guess this was a clue to how vulnerable I was. I found myself checking the weather forecast a lot during this time because I kept thinking, “Where’s the snow? I need something beautiful!”
Last week, we had a chinook that broke an 81-year-old temperature record! Did I bring California winter with me?
And then we finally got a bit of snow! For me, that’s a better end to a rough month! Will there be a White Calgarian Christmas? Watch this space!
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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: